Exhibition – A Feminist Space at Leeds: Looking Back to Think Forward, 24 November – 17 December 2017


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A Feminist Space at Leeds: Looking Back to Think Forward addresses the formation of The Pavilion Women’s Photography centre. Opened in 1983 in a renovated park pavilion on Woodhouse Moor, The Pavilion was initiated by three women graduates from the Department of Fine Art here at the University of Leeds.

Against a backdrop of miners’ strikes, deindustrialisation, and Thatcher’s dismantling of the welfare state, The Pavilion workers sought to make an intervention into the social and political sphere and the lived experiences of women in its immediate local community. The outcome was a decade-long radical programme of photographic exhibitions that centred women’s positions and practices while investigating urgent theoretical questions about the relationship of art to our social relations.

This exhibition re-presents some of the work shown at The Pavilion between 1983 and 1987. The work of Jo Spence, Marie Yates and Maud Sulter reveals the distinct ways in which artists were ‘feministing’ photography was being ‘feministed’ during the 1980s. These art practices did not use photography simply as a fine art medium or as straightforward documentary. Instead, photography became a site to make a radical inquiry into the way in which representation is productive of oppressions on the grounds of sex, race, class, gender and sexuality.

My doctoral research has been catalysed by my own work with Pavilion over the past nine year years. Thus, ‘looking back’ at The Pavilion’s founding moment has not only been an art historical investigation but a productive tool through which to think about the potential for art to articulate urgent political questions in the present-day.

The close of this exhibition coincides with a symposium on 16 & 17 December organised by friends and colleagues here at the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies. In the context of Griselda Pollock’s 40 years of teaching at Leeds, this event aims to think through the theoretical, political and institutional conditions necessary for feminist critical and constructive interventions past, present and future.

Curated by Gill Park in partnership with Pavilion. Supported by AHC Faculty Graduate School, Arts Council England, Estate of Maud Sulter, Richard Saltoun and Tate.

24 November – 17 December 2017.
Open Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm

Project Space
School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies
University Road
Leeds LS2 9JT