DAYLIGHTING was a curated programme at Wellcome Collection that asked how we might breach or intervene on existing archives and systems of knowledge, to change narratives and amplify new voices. At the core was the production of DAYLIGHT, a collaborative artwork in the form of a newspaper exploring the presence of women through their art, thinking and speculations. DAYLIGHTING sought, in Adrienne Rich’s words, to imagine “the faint, improbable outlines of unaskable questions” and then 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 asked how we might collectively resist the inheritances of western imperialism inherent in our archives.
We worked with artists from a range of disciplines and included a number of trans, non binary artists and women of colour in the programme. Reflecting on recent scholarship about the exclusionary language that binds us to gendered norms and the epistemic violence inherent in the normative values of the archive felt important to the project and we used the word womxn and women interchangeably across the programme to represent the open future towards which we were working. The use of the word womxn was picked up by campaigners against the GRA (Gender Recognition Act) who complained very publicly about a tweet from Wellcome using the word. Despite conciliatory gestures towards us the Wellcome’s Press made a public apology (without our consent) to appease the twitter mob. We found ourselves in the middle of a furore that strangely reflected the erasure that the project was trying to resist, this was disastrous for our programme and created a narrow frame for the work we had created.
In this lecture we will lay out some of the theoretical grounding for uses of alternative language around gender and the problematics of the archive. We are still working through possible outcomes, we want to use this discussion to think about how we counter the erasure which took place, the very real dangers that the lack of critical engagement presented to our artists and open up a discussion about the use of gendered language in programming and share what we have learnt and discuss alternatives.
Curators, Madeleine Hodge, Clare Qualmann and Amy Sharrocks
Dates & times
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