Showgirl Manifesto, Exhibition Notes
This exhibition emerges from the recently published book Viewing Pleasure and Being A Showgirl, How Do I Look? by Alison J Carr. In the book, Carr contextualises showgirl experiences, framing their relevance for contemporary feminism as well as artists and performers. Accessibly written, the book interprets a range of live performances to develop a bold, original approach to bodily display and pleasure. The book’s conclusion, ‘Showgirl Manifesto’, forms the inspiration for this exhibition. Presented on the wall of the Market Gallery, the affirmative text presents the sisterly connections between viewer and performer.
Sophie Lisa Beresford, Pizza Shop Dance, 2008, video
Pizza shop dancing is something I used to do when I lived in the centre of town in my student days. The owners really encouraged it, sometimes with free pizza. I danced and continue to dance because all the world is a dance floor. And our public dance floors need some reclaiming. Sometimes we would have a full on party in a certain pizza shop at night. At the time Bravo Pizza in Sunderland was one of the best after party places in town.
Alison J Carr Ascending A Staircase, 2018
A series of photographs of theatre interiors. I compose photographs looking for the stairs that lead onto the stage. In this work I consider the kinds of access women have had to performing onstage. How have they been enabled or constrained?
Felicity Means Happiness, 2018
In the thirties, Felicity was one of the ‘Bluebell Young Ladies’. She toured France, Germany, and Italy until WW2 was declared in Italy. Felicity Means Happiness includes Felicity, telling her stories, with the artist Alison J Carr showing Felicity her own artworks as inspired by 1930s dancers, including footage of an Austrian film that Felicity was in. The piece is as much about the connection between interviewer and interviewee as it is about the realities of dancing and travelling.
Julie Cook, ELSC Files, 2018, photographs
A collaborative project by photographer Julie Cook with the East London Strippers Collective. This work presents a body of evidence of the social activism of six women, juxtaposing this with the language of photographic portraiture.
Presented within the format of the police file, the content includes not just portraiture, but data harvested from social media as a site for participation, communication and public event organisation – challenging the historically conservative stigma and stereotypes that have characterised the public perception of this industry.
The work is important in the context of the loss of London subcultures and gentrification of Shoreditch, Soho and other less well-known contexts for public erotic entertainment for both men and women. The work builds on the theoretical and aesthetic interests of Cook and how women address a culture where public nudity is encouraged commercially on the one hand, but venally criticized on the other. Cook believes that striptease culture can support amateurs; encouraging the performance of sexuality and engaging with the complexities of voyeurism and contemporary issues of the female gaze. It is also a space for the public to see imperfection, rather than some far removed, digitally re-touched, virtuality.
Nwando Ebizie as Lady Vendredi, Let Go
Extending Afrofuturism into new and highly-charged myth-zones, this music video, directed by Meena Ayittey Lady Vendredi, channels high-energy synth-pop in contrast with its lyrics which chart a depressive spiral, delivering an anthemic call to let go.
Alice Finch, Working in Heels, 2018, A1 Line drawings with Brusho pigment
A timeline of Finch’s stripper 9 to 5 day. Examining the ordinariness of the industry and the humanity that lies at the centre of her experience as a stripper.
Laura Gonzalez, A Case of Seduction, 2009, photographs
These photographs are the remnants of a woman’s hysterical journey through contemporary shopping arcades with their obscene displays. She is seduced by the objects she photographs. Seduction eludes the grasp of those that confront it directly. It is always a matter of two and involves the getting of another to do what it wants; force and coercion are not part of its work and, instead, play with woman’s free will. Sometimes, it is pleasurable.
Lucy Halstead, 2018, framed collage
Halstead’s collages are hand cut, there is often a visceral response to the found image that provokes an attempt to describe the sensation. The themes of the work are based in gender and the physical experience of the body. Fragments of narrative frequently appear and relate to her love of cinema and myth.
Sharon Kivland, Ma Nana, 8 framed letterpress prints on fair calfskin, 2004
The descriptions of the eponymous ‘heroine’ of Émile Zola’s novel Nana are printed on fair-calf leather, the animal leather that is closest to human skin. Fair calf is smooth and the surface is absorbent. It is sometimes called bookcalf. They are the size of a carte de visite. Nana appears on the stage of the Théâtre de Variétés, as Venus, and though she cannot sing or act, there is something most captivating about her. In a series of hallucinatory pages, the audience notes her attributes with a heady passion. Kivland has taken these physical observations / descriptions of Nana, changing ‘her’ for ‘my’, ‘she’ for ‘I’. The descriptions of the transgressive body of that natural woman of the demi-monde, Nana, are returned to her through a simple change in pronoun – yet one also takes them for oneself, in an internalised reading.
Britten Leigh, Noella Deville, Buxom Blaze Burlesque Festival, Austin TX, 2018
Mone’t Ha-Sidi, Buxom Blaze Burlesque Festival, Austin TX, 2018
Chloe Nightingale, The Pole, 2018
Nightingale has created a piece of work that is a celebration of women’s strength, determination and teamwork.
Isabella Streffen, extract from Fabulae: How It Begins, 2018
All of the things that stories conceal: they seem to lead one way, but actually lead another. They are never about that thing you thought they were about. The direction of this talk bends that way, and meaning slips along another path. Fabulae is a re-reading of classical mythology, with Roberto Calasso as Streffen’s intimate guide.
Sophie Lisa Beresford
Sophie is a professional artist living and working in North East England. Her contribution to North East Culture has gained her two Journal Culture awards and International recognition. She creates art objects, music, performance & delivers inspirational speeches & workshops.
Alison J Carr is an artist and writer. She studied at the California Institute of the Arts, absorbing both the critical dialogue and the lure of the Hollywood facade. Following her sojourn to LA, she returned to Sheffield to do a PhD at Sheffield Hallam University where she had gained her undergraduate degree. She is a contemporary art and illustration lecturer at the University of Huddersfield.
Julie Cook lives and works in Wales and is an artist whose work is photography based. For over 20 years Julie Cook has engaged with issues of voyeurism within personal and public spaces of the city. The E.L.S.C. FILES follows a number of books and work around the subject of the female gaze. This includes the award winning Baby Oil and Ice, Striptease in East London, the Las Vegas Diaries, Some Las Vegas Strip Clubs, Beauties of Today and Olympia Moments Ltd. Julie Cook’s work was recently included in a group show, Paris Texas, with Ed Ruscha and Robert Rauschenberg in Dallas. The E.L.S.C. FILES is publicly available as part of the V&A National Art Library Special Collection.
Lady Vendredi is artist Ebizie’s neo-pop shamanic, multi artform exploration into Afrodiasporic ritual and long form mythopoesia. It has included works of gig-theatre, music releases, ritual happenings and curations from Tokyo to Rio de Janeiro.
Alice Finch is a final year BA (Hons) Contemporary Art student at the University of Huddersfield.
Laura González is an artist, writer, Athenaeum Research Fellow at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and an Ashtanga yoga teacher. Laura creates performances for galleries and festivals (Unfix, Buzzcut, Glasgow Open House and Market Gallery). She is the author of several books (including the monograph ‘Make Me Yours, How Art Seduces’) and has performed with various dance companies, including Michael Clark. Her work explores knowledge and the body of the hysteric.
Lucy Halstead has previously studied BA Visual Culture and MA Illustration at Falmouth College of Arts. She is a practicing artist based in Bloc studios Sheffield. She has taught Fine Art and Graphics at Chesterfield College, and currently teaches yoga.
Sharon Kivland is an artist and writer working in London and France. She has exhibited widely in and North America. Publications include A Case of Hysteria, Book Works, London, 1999, a work that led to many other books. Filigrane Editions, France, published a small book on her work Le bonheur des femmes, which began in the perfume departments of the grands magasins of Paris, where she retreated after walking the streets in pursuit of Marx and Freud, in the shadow of Lacan. It is a practice of refinement, enacted in archives, libraries, the arcades, and in the intersection of public political action and private subjectivity.
Britten Leigh is a photographer, ecdysiast and performance artist based in Vermont, USA. She is the Oral History Coordinator for the Burlesque Hall of Fame and is currently working on a photo series of rural burlesque artists in Vermont. Her book FLATLAND will be published in December by BronzeMan Books. She holds an MFA of Photography from Illinois State University, but is most proud of the “MFA in T&A” that the world of burlesque has provided her.
Chloe Nightingale is a final year BA (Hons) Contemporary Art student at the University of Huddersfield.
Isabella Streffen is an artist who creates encounters with heritage sites through the intersections of art, literature and technology. She has illuminated Hadrian’s Wall from end-to-end, flown prototype drones inside the Library of Congress, camouflaged tourists in Monet’s garden, followed Sophie Calle around Venice, performed in cabaret en unicorne and gifted golden fruit to the deserving. She has a monthly column GardenLust with MAP Magazine, and is contributing editor for non-fiction at 3AM.