Performance commission for Tate St Ives at the Barbara Hepworth Museum ( Art Cornwall Now, February 2007)
Playing with the expectations and context of the historically and politically correct museum tour, an alternative tour was created that responded to the contradictions and tensions in Dame Barbara Hepworth’s life, spaces and oeuvre.
As a humorous and critical intervention that played with the persona and performance of the museum guide, it was intended to be banal, esoteric, slightly irreverent and absurd, as well as informative. Miss –Readings re-interpreted history, place, and gender.
It included live recordings of Hepworth talking about her work, a feminist review of her achievement according to the Guerilla Girls, an introduction to the ‘stereophonic’ nature of her work, the relationship of her work to her lived reality of motherhood, and playing Hepworth sculpture ‘top trumps’.
Bringing the space to life and contemplating Dame Barbara’s achievement, Hepworth succeeded, in spite of, being female and a mother, in spite of being an established revolutionary, in spite of male critics, in spite of comparisons to her arch-enemy and friend Henry Moore. Engaging the public in new dialogues and possibilities for site and history, in a personal and textual exchange, contrasts and strips away layers of public expectation and preciousness about museum spaces, and potentially brings down ‘false’ icons, to a level that we can enjoy and really appreciate them.