It Takes a Million Years to be a Woman: feminist communities & living otherwise
Exploring alternative feminist communities and their legacies in contemporary artistic practice, through three moving image works that investigate different ways of being together:
Vivian Ostrovsky’s Allers-venues (France, 1984, 16mins) is an experimental film documenting a group of friends (women, chickens, dogs and cats) during a month in the French countryside over the summer. It was made on Super 8 and blown up to 16mm.
It Takes a Million Years to be a Woman (Sisters of Jam, Sweden, 2011, 14mins) is an experimental video installation on communal life at the Kate Millet Farm, an art colony for women in Poughkeepsie, USA, set up in 1978 and operational until 2012. Whilst Millet is best known for her ground-breaking 1970 book Sexual Politics, which became a manifesto for the 1970s Women’s Liberation Movement, she largely withdrew from public life, plagued by mental health issues for many years. Sisters of Jam visited the farm in 2010, writing: ‘A close friend of Millett told us that The Farm was a workshop of Kate’s mind’.
National Unity of Women (Azadeh Fatehrad, Germany, 2016, 20mins) is a documentary film which explores the activities of the feminist communities that emerged and developed following the socio-political changes in 1979 Iranian Revolution. It focuses on the National Unity of Women, the community led by Shahin Nawai that fought particularly hard to ‘rescue’ women and their status in Iranian society.
The screenings were followed by a discussion with Azadeh Fatehrad (RCA), Ros Murray (King’s) and Amy Tobin (Goldsmiths).
Image: Kate Millet Farm, © Sisters of Jam, 2010, USA. Photo: Jane Winter
Sisters of Jam started in 2008 in Stockhom by Mikaela Krestesen and Moa Krestesen and have since then have been working in interdisciplinary art projects using multiple media – photography, video, drawing, installation and text – in an ongoing investigation of community, solitude, historiography and continuity. They stand by, use and explore sisterhood as an artistic strategy within their art projects. Their work seeks to address a feminist dialogue over generations and geographies. Sisters of Jam use collaborative work methods to overcome boundaries of genres and become wider, greater and stronger. They have presented their work in solo and group exhibitions and as public art. 2014 they published the book A PIECE OF LAND: Voices, Photographs, Bits, Pieces from Kate Millett Farm.
Born in NYC (1945), avant-garde filmmaker Vivian Ostrovsky made her home in Paris for a number of years. Charming and humorous investigations of everyday events, her films combine aspects of personal journal, travelogue and collage. Ostrovsky’s use of single-frame photography and melodramatic music add to the playful and engaging quality of her films. Works such as Movie (1982, 10min), Copacabana Beach (1983, 14 min) Allers-Venues (1984, 15 min.) and Eat (1088, 15 min.) have been shown in festivals worldwide (Toronto, Berlin, Locarno, Rotterdam, Tribeca, Viennale and others), in cinemas and in art fairs such as the São Paulo Biennale and Arco, Madrid among others.
Dr. Azadeh Fatehrad is an artist and researcher based at the Photography Programme of the Royal College of Art, London. Her research engages with the feminist history of Iran from 1909 to the present. Her projects explore still and moving image archives, investigating the ways in which the feminist movement has been expanded among urban middle class women in her home country of Iran. Fatehrad is currently working on her monograph titled Photography, Desire and Resistance in the Lives of Women following 1979 Iranian Revolution. As part of her research, Fatehrad has curated a series of public programmes, symposiums and exhibitions, including the recent exhibition Hengameh Golestan: Witness 1979 at The SHOWROOM London, as well as The Feminist Historiography’ at IASPIS, Stockholm (2016). www.azadehfatehrad.com
Dr. Amy Tobin is a Lecturer in the History of Art department at the University of Cambridge. She is the recipient of a Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art Postdoctoral Fellowship and a Henry Moore Visiting Fellowship. Publications include articles in MIRAJ, Tate Papers, and Feminist Review, chapters in Other Cinemas: Politics, Culture and Experimental Film in the 1970s edited by Sue Clayton and Laura Mulvey (I.B. Tauris, 2017) and A Companion to Feminist Art edited by Maria Buszek and Hilary Robinson (Blackwell, 2017), as well as the monograph 14 Radnor Terrace: A Woman’s Place (Raven Row, London, 2017). She is also co-editor of London Art Worlds: Mobile, Contingent and Ephemeral Networks (Penn State University Press, 2018) with Jo Applin and Catherine Spencer.
Dr. Ros Murray is a Lecturer in French Studies at King's College London. She is currently working on a monograph on French feminist film from 1968 to the present, with a particular interest in alternative formats and portable technologies such as video (from Portapak to digital) and super 8 and 16mm film. Her monograph Antonin Artaud: The Scum of the Soul came out with Palgrave Macmillan in 2014.