‘If Collaboration Is the Method, Activism Is the Intention’
FEM-aFFINITY brings together female artists from Arts Project Australia and wider Australia whose work shares an affinity of subject matter, technique and process. Curated by Catherine Bell, this exhibition uncovers shared perspectives on female identity by drawing upon interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches.
The project’s curatorial emphasis centres on inclusion, and facilitating collaborations between the artists is integral to this project, especially as collaborative practices have a longstanding prevalence in feminist art, social movements and activism. The relaxed and welcoming atmosphere of Arts Project Australia’s open plan studio, where the artists work alongside each other, promotes creativity and community. This model creates a space that values relational processes of art-making and reinforces FEM-aFFINITY’s curatorial premise of ‘inclusion’ by linking artists from non-marginalised contemporary practice with their female contemporaries at Arts Project Australia to meet, share, observe, reflect and make artwork.
Heather Shimmen worked with Bronwyn Hack, who both share an interest in famous women of the past and their mysterious, unsolved or violent departures. At their first meeting, Hack shared with Shimmen the zines she writes and digitally illustrates. Her Gothic tales of medieval torture and death by guillotine resonated with Shimmen’s hand-printed artist books and her taste for true crime, vampires and mythological narratives. In FEM-aFFINITY, it’s the medium of printmaking that provides the delivery of an exquisite corpse, where the artists share their fascination with the macabre and corporeal. Collaboration and the intuitive process are embedded throughout the work, mainly through the interchangeable, multi-panelled design – the cascading anatomy of lino prints adorned with primordial symbols is reminiscent of illuminated manuscripts, esoteric languages and mystical spells for conjuring the dead – not to mention the Frankensteinesque arrangement of human and animal body parts. Skulls, bones, native flora and fauna produce a ghostly incarnation of the monstrous feminine.
The exhibition is current at Bunjil Place Gallery until Sunday 14 March 2021.