Feminist Group-work: on collaboration, consciousness-raising and co-operation as social and psychic community
My research uses the Women’s Art Library (WAL) to look at the mobilisation of collectives, co-operatives and collaboration in feminist art in the UK. It explores the various iterations of group work that manifested in feminist art practice throughout the seventies and eighties. I am particularly interested in psychoanalytic theories of the group, and the adoption of these in writings by feminists to explore group work, as well as what the collaborative, in both social and psychic realms, does to create networks, environments and processes to make art. This research mobilises the WAL, itself a collaborative project, to write a feminist art history that is attentive to collaboration and group practices, and will create a critical and methodological approach to the material that both highlights its significance and foregrounds its political work.
Defining artistic collaboration as a key feminist method gleaned from political work, the project will narrate ties between organising structures of the women’s liberation movement, such as the small group process and consciousness-raising, and methods of art production contemporaneous to it (Hanish: 1970, Sarachild: 1975). Theoretically, this project will focus on two aspects of feminist collaborative artistic practice that are gleaned from feminist group work: the drive towards non-hierarchical structures, and sisterhood as an idealised mode of psychic and social community. In considering these thematics in the work and organising by artists informed by feminism, including their interrogation of the creative process, this project will draw out the political stakes of artists’ group work in the 1970s and 80s. Using these structures, this research will think with feminist psychoanalytic theory to understand transitions from unilateral familial structures to the social and psychic communities propelled by the WLM.
Dr. Catherine Grant