DAYLIGHTING was a collaborative platform curated by artists Madeleine Hodge, Clare Qualmann and Amy Sharrocks that took place over four days at Wellcome Collection in October 2018 as part of the Bloomsbury Festival. It was a programme that responded to the Wellcome Collection as a store house of biological knowledge and asked how we might breach or intervene on archives and systems of knowledge to change narratives and amplify new voices. At its core was the production of DAYLIGHT, a collaborative artwork in the form of a newspaper that explored the presence of womxn through their art, thinking and speculations.
DAYLIGHTING sought, in Adrienne Rich’s words, to imagine “the faint, improbable outlines of unaskable questions” and attempted to make them more manifest in our current landscape, to phrase them in bold letters, shining a light on womxn’s history, carving more space for our future. The programme and the paper explored a range of feminisms and ideas around gender and asked how we might collectively resist the inheritances of western imperialism inherent in our archives. We wanted to challenge the ongoing erasure of women artists, thinkers, theorists through the creation of new knowledge and we wanted to attempt to embed this commuted thinking into the archive. It involved an enormous collaboration with over 40 people and many members of the public in the making of the newspaper with a public printing press operating through the days of the Bloomsbury Festival. We worked with Wellcome to commission new writing from Diana Damian Martin, Jade Montserrat, Ivor MacAskill, Meenakshi Thirukode and the Feminist Duration Reading Group and the public programme at Wellcome involved work by *FChoir, OOMK, The Women of Colour Reading Group, Historian Lesley Hall, daily Wikipedia events and the Wellcome Zine Club.
Reflecting on historic and more recent scholarship about exclusionary language, we used the words womxn and women interchangeably across the programme to represent the open future for gender towards which we are working. The use of the word womxn was picked up by campaigners against the GRA (Gender Recognition Act) who, along with others, complained very publicly, and a subsequent public apology from the Wellcome led to a feeling of erasure on the part of trans artists in the programme. We found ourselves in the middle of a furore that reflected the erasure that the project was trying to resist, this was devastating for our programme and for the artists we were working with and created a narrow frame for the work we had created.
We are all still working through what happened and together we hope to widen public discussion around how we might counter ongoing erasure and confront the very real dangers that a lack of critical engagement around gendered language presents. We want to discuss the use of gendered language to investigate how feminist programmes and the institutions that support them might approach different ways of working.
Madeleine Hodge, Clare Qualmann and Amy Sharrocks
DAYLIGHT is available to buy on Unbound.
An event, hosted by the Live Art Development Agency, concerned with gender and language is being planned for later in the year. More information will be forthcoming shortly. Do get in touch with Joseph at LADA on firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to get involved.
Date Posted: 24 January 2019