Performance commission for Tate St Ives exhibition Art Cornwall Now 2007
Miss-Readings at the Barbara Hepworth Museum
As the title Miss –Readings indicates this performance intentionally re-interpreted history and place whilst exploring equality and gender issues for women artists. Subverting expectations and context of the historically and politically correct museum tour, an alternative tour was created that responded to contradiction and tension in Dame Barbara Hepworth’s life, space 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. 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’.
Engaging audiences by bringing the museum space to life and contemplating Dame Barbara’s achievement with new perspectives, it looked at how Hepworth succeeded: in spite of. In spite of being female and a mother, in spite of male critics, in spite of comparisons to her arch-enemy and friend Henry Moore.
My work often explores new dialogues and possibilities for thinking differently about women and representation. I hoped to strip away layers of public expectation and preciousness about museum spaces and introduce new ideas about Barbara Hepworth’s phenomenal contemporary success.
I also explored the relationships between of her sculpture work of babies, and holes and her (possible) lived reality of motherhood. I wanted to bring the context of the museum and the space to life. Dame Barbara’s achievement was in spite of: she 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.
Performing a personal and textual exchange with audiences creates new dialogues with our past and the way institutions present history. It strips away layers of public expectation and preciousness about museum spaces and allows us all to enjoy and appreciate them differently, as well as understand how some women succeed and many don’t.
Have a read of a recent review of work by Martin Holman: Miss-Reading: Delpha Hudson
Look at more performances that use alter-egos and masquerade to satirise women’s position in society.