Making, Place & Protest

Building on our conference in 2017 – ‘Decorating Dissidence: Modernism, Feminism and the Arts’ – this one-day symposium connected PhD/ECR students with academics, artists and curators who are working to expand definitions of the decorative in their fields. Keying in to East London’s radical history as a site where creativity, feminism, and activism meet, the event explores making place through art, craft and the decorative in modernism’s longue durée.

We explored the links between historic and contemporary decorative/craft practices to reassess their value in the worlds of art, design and literature. The symposium looked at site-specific works and identity to explore how decorative craft-makers might engage with protest in the artworld and beyond…

The symposium asked questions such as: What does it mean to make artworks that challenge concepts of ‘place’? Can the decorative be political? How might craft disrupt the gallery and museum space? What might a feminist genealogy of decorative art and craft look like?

Talks on the day included: 

  • Enam Gbewonyo (artist/curator): Yarn, power and patriarchy: a painstaking exercise in unravelling the seams of oppression
  • Claire Mead (curator): Disruption and Collaboration: collectively queering the museum and archive through craft
  • Dr. Hope Wolf (Sussex): ‘Womb Life’: Portraits of Grace Pailthorpe and Reuben Mednikoff at Home
  • Priya Khanchandani (writer/curator): Decolonising Culture
  • Dr. Megha Rajguru (Brighton): ‘Constructing modernity: The Indian home in the Vistara exhibition’.
  • Professor Sanja Bahun (Essex): Lyubov Popova, Varvara Stepanova, and the Female Artist as Producer of Reality
  • Dr. Rosemary Shirley (Manchester): Festive Landscapes: Well-dressing and place in contemporary rural Derbyshire
  • Madi Acharya-Baskerville (artist): ‘Walking through the forest, Searching for the sea’: Finding, Collecting and Making
  • Dr. Louise Purbrick (Brighton): Rags and Resistance: everyday protests around the twentieth century
  • Kasia Jezowska (Oxford): ‘Too tentative.’ On the reception of Polish exhibitions at the Milan Triennali during the Cold War.

The day ended with a screening of “The Famous Women Dinner Service”: In Conversation with Contemporary Art, followed by a Q&A with Dr. Hana Leaper led by Jenni Råback.