My attempt to establish meeting places for women through cultural activities

And I’ll do anything to get girls into my bedroom
We had been friends at college, and we had even lived together for two years. Since then our friendship had waned for one reason or another. I wanted to find a way to regain her trust, and let her know that I wanted to be friends again. I decided to invite her to exhibit some of her video work in my bedroom, which at the time (1996) was on the 17th floor of a tower block in South London. She agreed, we spent some time discussing the idea, she came to stay, made suggestions about how best we should set up the room, we swapped books, made cards to advertise the show etc. I helped to shoot the film that would later become her installation on video. We got along really well and became good friends again.

I decided that this was a good way to offer something to women, who’s work I like and wanted to show them that I respected their work. I wanted to express myself as a feminist, and place certain demands upon myself with regards to solidarity and action.

I lived in that apartment for another two years, in which time I tried to present work by women artists each month. We would have gatherings each month, to discuss the progress of the project and if participants (not just the artists) had suggestions we would discuss them at these meetings. Men were not excluded from these meetings, but I have to admit I did discourage them. I began to feel less isolated through these actions, but still within my own particular set of circumstances, which I have always felt determined to retain and value, rather than try to change them, in the hope that I could find something ‘better’.

This is a list of the participating artists as far as I can remember, some of whom made work, which I have attempted to describe here, for the lack of documentation.

Michelle Naismith: ‘If you lived here you’d be home by now’ Two video monitors, with a single mattress in between, and ‘top to tail’ pillow arrangement. On one monitor is a close up, fuzzy black and white image of a woman lying on a bed. She is wearing rabbits ears and reading a book of Rembrandt paintings. On the other monitor, there is the same woman, with her hand down her underpants. Kate Belton: Three Cibachrome images mounted on thin aluminium. Kate’s photo’s are taken from painted, cut-out and constructed arrangements, she makes in miniature. Two are of a woman’s head, almost covered by a sheet, and one is a small portrait of a naked figure, rolling back in a pose, legs in the air, with a smile. Moyra Derby, Jennifer Williams, Claudia Lee, Jyll Bradley: A Poetry reading, for one evening only. Helena Goldwater: A Performance installation, for one night only. Emma Leslie and Krista Bagnell: Video and music designed to put on when I was getting dressed in the morning. Janine Rostron: Her own Music on a walkman. Angela Basson: I would like to come to your place and film myself throwing a bag of feathers out of your window. Sofia Hulten: Sofia made a bed that floated in the room, using helium filled balloons and a sheet.

There was a group show called ‘It’s been so long since I’ve seen you, so much has changed, It would be great to see your face again.’ Which included Photographs by Kristin Lucas, Fran Gore, Niamh McMann, Virginie Amant, Paula Roush, Soozi Mead, Anna Lucas, Sandra Hedditch and Vivian Berardinelli Galvagna.

Moot Point
Bettina Wilhelm, Nicoline Van Haarskemp, Yoko Hata, Janine Rostron, Runhild Wirth, Anna Lucas, Claudia Lee, Angela Byrne, Janette Parris, Rayna Nadeem, Maritxu Ontondu, Kathy Williams, B+K, Paula Roush, Oreet Ashery, Helga Oskadottir and Emma Hedditch.
I was asked by Bobo’s, which was a small gallery in Peckham, run by Mike Wilson, to curate the final show in the Autumn of 1999. I liked Mike enough to say yes. I invited the women artists above and one psychiatrist to meet up and talk about something we could do together, or that the idea would be that we should make a project in which we all try to engage in each others work as much as possible, on a really conscious level. We met seven times before the show, each week in a different place. I hadn’t anticipated more women getting involved, but a few people invited friends along and this seemed to work out, as other people I had initially invited dropped out. Once we met at my flat and I made tomato soup, another time in a cafe. Bettina made a Swiss fondue in the Belt Space, run by her friend, I can’t remember the name of just now. I just remember seeing my old friend Alison again, which was wonderful. Alison once made this beautiful film about a girl who is in the back of a big old car, playing with a necklace that is made from cotton reels. The man driving the car keeps stopping and sometimes he reaches into the back of the car and takes out a large black bag. Since then Alison had a baby and moved to Cumbria.

By the time it came to moving into the gallery, we almost didn’t want to be there. Paula and I really wanted to do something about the area where Bobo’s was. We met a woman and her mother who ran a market stall nearby, and got involved in a whole conversation about how the council was trying to evict her. So we decided to make a video about it. Oreet wanted to make a campsite, in the communal garden at the back of the house. Yoko’s friend came and convinced everybody that she was pregnant. We did all of this, we even made a picnic in the gallery with coffee and different foods from the take away shops along the street.
On the night of the camping we built a bonfire and sat talking until late. It was during the Kosovo conflict and I imagined us as refugee women. A couple of days later, I remember walking through Central London and there were many protests happening. I felt like giving up. The next day everybody decided to go to an exhibition at Camden Arts Centre and I couldn’t understand why they wanted to go. I felt upset about the whole thing and refused to go.

I had been involved in ‘Women in Black’ who are an international women’s peace group for about two years. They hold monthly vigils in Trafalgar square, previously they were campaigning against sanctions in Iraq, and now they were turning their attention to the situation in Kosovo. My friends from Bobo’s got interested and came to support the vigil that evening, held banners and gave out leaflets.

The Sewing Circle
The Sewing Circle happens on the last Thursday of each month. It is an evening for Women Only, in a small cafe, above a large cinema in Brixton, South London. Here it is possible for women to meet, listen to music or DJ, discuss their work and lives, drink and eat. The most interesting part of the evening for me is that we are able to show 16mm films made by women from the Lux Distribution Archive, formerly the London Film-makers Co-op. The films are selected by myself, Chloe Stewart, who also operates the 16mm projector and Jemma Burns, who works at Lux Distribution. I had always wanted to see more of these films and learn about the film-makers and this seemed like the best way to make that happen. The films are for the most part experimental, and so far have included works by Shirley Clarke, Jayne Parker, Barbara Hammer, Vivienne Dick, Sharon Sudunsky, Betzy Bromberg and Tanya Syed. At some point during the evening, we turn off the music, and turn our attention to the big white screen. Then we are all learning together, about the history of experimental films made by women.

Emma Hedditch, Copenhagen May 2001.