Decorating Dissidence: Modernism, Feminism & the Arts (3rd-4th November 2017, Queen Mary University of London)

‘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 takes 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 offers new approaches to marginalized female modernists and their intermedia art practice. It invites discussion of the ways that modernist experimentation with domestic arts and the decorative influence contemporary art; it is 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, this conference will have a broad impact on contemporary modernist studies. As the conference seeks to redefine the spatial and temporal boundaries of modernism, we particularly encourage papers that address non-European modernists and intersectional speakers in relation to dissident craft-making from across the C20th and C21st.

Topics included, but were not limited to:

  • Fashioning & refashioning the self
  • Weaving text(iles)
  • Craft as political protest
  • Women of the Bauhaus
  • Craft as self-care
  • The Interwar Period / ‘Domestic Modernism’
  • Functional decoration
  • Costuming
  • Modernist makers and modernist objects
  • Little Magazines / DIY publishing / Zine-making
  • Decorative texts
  • Queer crafting
  • Recrafting / redrafting
  • Craft collaborations
  • Domestic interiors / interior design
  • Socialism & craft
  • Representations of craft in novels
  • Intertextual Relationships