Modernism, Feminism & the Arts

In 2017, we hosted a two-day conference on the topics of modernism and contemporary craft.

‘For me, there is no gap between my painting and my so-called ‘decorative’ work. I never considered the ‘minor arts’ to be artistically frustrating; on the contrary, it was an extension of my art.’

    Sonia Delaunay

Decorating Dissidence took an interdisciplinary and intersectional approach to the work of female artists, designers, and writers to reassess the place of domestic art, craft, and the decorative in modernism. Building on recent scholarship and exhibitions that have highlighted the work of women such as Sonia Delauney, Eileen Grey, Hannah Höch, and the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, this conference offered new approaches to marginalized female modernists and their intermedia art practice. It invited discussion of the ways that modernist experimentation with domestic arts and the decorative influence contemporary art; it was interested in exploring the political, aesthetic, conceptual and material qualities of craft and the decorative in modernism’s longue durée. We are reminded of: the negative space in Kara Walker’s paper cuttings, the embroidered experience of Agnes Richter’s jacket, narrative threads woven by Faith Ringgold and set designs by Es Devlin…

Bringing together different perspectives on the intersections between modernist female craft, domestic arts, visual arts, and literature, the conference had a broad impact on contemporary modernist studies. As the conference sought to redefine the spatial and temporal boundaries of modernism, we particularly encouraged papers that addressed non-European modernists in relation to dissident craft-making from across the C20th and C21st.