Archive for January, 2018

That Seventies Show

January 30, 2018

by Janet Nicol

The cleverly titled Rereading Room, an installation by Vancouver artist Alexandra Bischoff, is a centerpiece for Beginning with the Seventies: Glut, which celebrates art, archives and activism as they pertain to the women’s movement. On view at UBC’s Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery until April 8, Bischoff’s work consists of some 100 books assembled on shelves lined along a wall, covers facing outward.

Viewers browsing the collection are transported back to the 1970s, when women awakened to the pervasive sexism around them aided by books such as Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch, Margaret Atwood’s The Edible Woman and Our Bodies, Ourselves, which takes a frank look at women’s health and sexuality. Bischoff based her archive on an early inventory list from the Vancouver Women’s Bookstore, a downtown fixture from 1973 to 1996.

Additionally, 13 female artists and activists are occupying the installation, here in its second iteration, giving the work a performative dimension. At various times, they sit at the installation’s table or on the couch, reading and writing reflections that will be archived later. Visitors are welcome to join in.
The Rereading Room underscores the importance of feminist texts and the once-pervasive network of independent women’s bookstores across Canada, both for the wider community and for artists. The Vancouver bookstore was the first, and like the others, created a space for women to gather, engage in dialogue and offer mutual support.

Curator Lorna Brown says social movements of the 1970s are of keen interest to young artists today. “They have observed the activism and cultural production of the 1970s, but there is a gap in their knowledge about many of the organizations in this period,” she says.

Feminist, environmental and anti-racist movements, to name a few, left a document trail in public and private archives throughout Vancouver’s Lower Mainland. The exhibition exposes, celebrates – and critiques – this abundance (or “glut”) of materials. “We are able to build a complex and rich understanding of our histories as a result,” says Brown.

Other artists in the show explore language as a medium and material. These pieces include a series of provocative posters by Winnipeg-born Divya Mehra and Vancouver artist Allyson Clay’s Double Self Portrait, an unsettling photograph of books being tossed from an apartment window. Also on view are works by two Vancouver-based artists – Kathy Slade’s text-embedded weavings and Gathie Falk’s glazed ceramic piece, 14 Rotten Apples. The gallery’s commissions include Lisa Robertson’s Proverbs of a She-Dandy, a limited-edition book. Also in the show are Jamelie Hassan, Germaine Koh, Laiwan, Kristina Lee Podesva, Elizabeth Zvonar and others.

Re-printed from Galleries West Digital magazine, January 30, 2018 – link at http://www.gallerieswest.ca