What can a slide collection do besides represent artwork? At a critical moment of transition from analogue to digital image resources, 35mm slide collections are being disposed of. I am looking for a new theoretical and practical approach using the archived slide collection of the Women's Art Library.
To this purpose I have devised Slide walks as a series of photographic sessions that make a digital record of the slides including their mounts. Moving over the slidefiles with a hand held SLR, this exploratory approach aims to discover what else distinguishes the slide collection beyond the images of artwork it preserves.
More than 30,000 artists’ slides are in the Women’s Art Library now a research resource in the Library’s Special Collections at Goldsmiths, University of London. Initiated in the 1970s, it is the largest collection of its kind in Britain, and possibly Europe. Slide registries were an important strategy for feminist art projects internationally but 30 years on, this slide collection has become less an image repository and more of “a site of resistance” in terms of feminist and other discourses that consider the nature of knowledge, culture and power. To date the collection has not been scrutinized or researched from this perspective with the result that it risks being dismissed as an unwieldy resource of images of largely unknown artwork.
As I experience the collection via the Slide walks, new connections with contemporary discourses emerge to suggest how these slides will speak in a future when the artists are gone, the feminist moment evolves, the slide becomes an artefact, and this slide collection faces the question: why keep it?
I am a member of the UK-based Association of Curators of Art and Design Images, and the international Visual Resources Association, from whom I received the Kathe Albrecht Hicks Travel Award to attend this year’s conference in Providence, USA in April 2013.
An important aspect of my work continues to be writing about women artists and facilitating exhibitions and new work. Two articles appeared in Jan 2014: a review of All this stuff archiving the artist (ed, Judy Vaknin, Karyn Stuckey and Victoria Lane) for ARLIS Journal vol. 39, Issue 1; and a text written in collaboration with the artist Samantha Donnelly to accompany a show of her latest work, Rubbernecker (Ceri Hand Projects). This follows last year's in-depth piece in Cosmic Dramas titled, 'Adrift in the depth of our mind's eye: Althea Greenan in conversation with Liliane Lijn,' published by MIMA (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art) in November 2012.
Artists I have worked with as curator of the WAL include:
I am following up the Subversive Stitch Revisited: the politics of cloth (Nov 2013) with a research resource website of recorded proceedings, archive material and more to be hosted at the Women's Art Library site. 2014 sees me working with the artists group X Marks the Spot, and the sound poet Holly Pester, recipient of the current Living with Make: Art in the Archive Bursary.