Monday, 15 April 2019

Rise Up Women!

Last week I was restrained by a policeman as I wielded a bat ready to damage the nearest object. I was proudly wearing a purple green and white sash that said 'Rise Up Women', while the likes of L7 and Pussy Riot blasted the air. I did this dressed as a respectable Edwardian woman in front of a crowd of onlookers who did nothing to stop me. In fact they cheered me on.

The onlookers were enthusiastic artists and I was their model for a very special drink and draw night held in Bury to celebrate the Suffragette movement with Riot Grrrl spirit!

The night consisted of a great DJ set by artist and collaborator Lee Crocker all themed around female empowerment and struggle. There were prizes for outstanding drawings and of course a beer or three downed throughout the evening. 

 The poses for the night took on a loose narrative following me as I plotted deeds, not words, including the vandalism of art work at Manchester Art Gallery in order to draw attention to the suffragette cause. In reality the three women who carried out this act used tiny toffee hammers which could be easily concealed, but for visual purposes I went with a regular hammer and swung it like a baseball player!

This was inevitably followed by my arrest

There were some great images created and it was hard to pick the winning drawings at the end of each section

Posing as a Suffragette was so much fun, and coincidentally, it was only recently I visited the Pankhurst Centre in Manchester to see for myself where the Suffragette movement was born. 

Walking through the heavy built up hospital complex off Oxford Road I was sure I was heading in the wrong direction, that is until I spotted what looked like a mirage. A single Edwardian house complete with cherry blossom and picket fence standing defiant to its steel and glass surroundings.

Looking around the tiny yet comprehensive museum area and reconstructed parlour it was really moving to be in the very surroundings that Emmeline Pankhurst had lived and campaigned. I am happy to say my Manchester Suffragette temporary tattoos are currently available at the Pankhurst Centre's shop and in buying them you will be helping to support not only the museum but the important work the centre does to aid women today running Manchester Women's Aid, Manchester's largest specialist provider of domestic abuse services

I couldn't believe the centre receives no major funding even as a site of national significance and is still waiting to be recognised for a brown sign. It seems women's history and continuing stories are rarely given the platform they deserve.

With this in mind, I felt incredibly proud to honour those women who'd come before and risked everything for liberty and equality. Even with the laughs and party atmosphere at the Riot Grrrl drawing event, it felt poignant to be representing the Suffragettes, especially as a Mancunian. I can't lie, at times I felt quite emotional and with lyrics like those of Change by Mavis Staples setting the tone how could I not?

What good is freedom
If we haven't learned to be free
(If we haven't learned to be free?)
What good is freedom
If we haven't learned to be free?
If we haven't learned to be free
Day after day, year after year
We're gonna change around here

X is the letter
Blue is the color
One is the number
Now is the time
Can we change around here
Gotta change around here
Say it loud, say it clear
We gotta change around here

Our Riot Grrrl night was really uplifting and bursting with creativity. I'm pleased to say we got some brilliant feedback from the attendees and you can see more photos and drawings from the event on my facebook page HERE

Rise up women!

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

The Hidden Pin Up #25 - Push Festival 2019

 Photo by Chris Payne

Happy new year everyone! The Hidden Pin Up began 2019 with a bang taking part in Push Festival at HOME Manchester this weekend just gone!

Push Festival is an annual celebration of the North West's creative talents, showcasing two weeks of exhibitions, events and screenings and we were thrilled to present our performance of burlesque/vogue/spoken word as part of the launch night to kick the whole thing off.

The Hidden Pin Up is a collaborative art project between myself and Manchester vogue house the House of Ghetto, an all female black dance troupe headed by house mother and choreographer Darren Pritchard. The work explores the history of the hidden and forgotten figure of the black pin up girl and investigates the legacy of stereotypes and racial fetishisation that still plagues women of colour today. You can read how the project developed by scrolling back through this very blog for The Hidden Pin Up posts numbered 1-25.

The launch night was fantastic, with many other artists taking to the stage in the gallery to recite poetry, sing and introduce their work to come over the festival. The Hidden Pin Up finished the evening, taking the audience by surprise when Lenai Russell our fabulous dancer appeared amidst them as the notes Miss Celie's Blue's filled the air.

Photo by Chris Payne

Lulled into a happy fuzz by free wine the audience watched the first half of the performance, which takes the form of a traditional fan dance, with big smiles on their faces and many whoops and cheers. I think the nuance and meaning of the work might have been lost on them until Justina Aina our spoken word artist swooped in and really shook things up.

Her delivery of the inappropriate and thoughtless phrases aimed at women of colour which were layered over Lenai's graceful vouging created a disconnect that demanded attention. I'm pleased to say that we got our desired effect and the piece was met with much positivity.

Photo by Chris Payne

 Sunday saw us delivering the performance again on an hourly basis in the gallery with an additional opportunity to view the fans and costume in detail and chat to us about the work afterwards.

With high numbers of attendees, it was really nice to see so many people want to find out more and share their own experiences. The words used in the performance and embroidered into the fans were a great opener to discussions about sexism and racial slurs and where the topic stands in 2019. We also had some lovely feedback from reviewers on twitter:

Push Festival 2019 was a brilliant experience for us and thanks again to HOME for the opportunity! We have plans to take The Hidden Pin Up further so watch this space! Until then, to find out more and see extra check out my Instagram and also treat yourself to a limited edition Hidden Pin Up badge or art work from my SHOP.

Monday, 8 October 2018

The Hidden Pin Up #24 - Debut at The Whitworth Art Gallery

You've been on my mind
Sister, we're two of a kind
So sister
I'm keepin' my eyes on you
I betcha think
I don't know nothin'
But singin' the blues
Oh sister, have I got news for you
I'm somethin'
I hope you think
That you're somethin' too
On 22nd September The Hidden Pin Up made its debut at The Whitworth Art Galley. This was a day myself and fellow collaborator Darren Pritchard of the House of Ghetto (HOG) had been aiming towards for a long time and it was so worth the wait!

Working with HOG dancer Lenai Russell and singer Justina Aina, our two superb performers, we'd chosen a staircase in the gallery that not only worked as a great theatrical stage but also led the way up to the Bodies Of Colour wallpaper exhibition, which tackles the racial stereotypes and representations found in design through history, and tied in so perfectly with the themes of The Hidden Pin Up.

Arriving early on the day so that we could set up I felt excited to see people already turning up for the first of the day's hourly performances.

As the first notes of Miss Celie's Blues flooded the huge open space, everyone's eyes were led to the sultry movements of Lenai on the upper floor, hidden behind the hemp fans and wearing the hemp showgirl costume I'd created. As the song took hold she told it's story of female solidarity against oppression effortlessly, making her way down the stairs while dancing with the fans, which was no mean feat. I was so impressed with how graceful and focused she was and also noticed, after seeing the rehearsals, how the presence of the audience elevated her performance further.

Once the song had ended, the second half of the performance kicked in with a house beat and almost immediately Justina's powerful vocals layered over Lenai's vogue driven assent back up the stairs. The effect was exactly what we'd hoped for with the sensuous movements that invited the eye contrasting so vividly with Justina's provocative singing/ spoken word performance, sometimes humourous sometimes accusative, using the words of stories I'd collected from women of colour and stitched onto the fans. Justina was just brilliant and took the whole piece into a new dynamic.

The piece ended with both performers reaching the upper floor and disappearing from view as the music faded out. Loads of people turned up for each performance and the applause was really gratifying as was the huge amount of feedback.

 Many people said they wanted to see more, or would be happy to watch an extended piece and I personally wasn't expecting how moved many individuals were. Various people said the piece touched them deeply and they found the work powerful. This really fuels me and makes me feel that all the research and setting up was worth it!

Accompanying the performance piece I also ran two workshops that tied in with the Bodies Of Colour exhibition and the overall theme of racial stereotypes and misrepresentation that set the day. The workshops were a chance for participants to create their own political wallpaper designs inspired by the exhibition and The Hidden Pin Up. The results were impressive and there was lots of lively chat about the topic.

In all, the day was really successful and I'm so happy that the work spoke for itself and made such an impact. One woman told me she had traveled from Glasgow to see it! It was lovely to speak to people about the work, let them get close to the fans and to share ideas and thoughts between performances.

Thanks to everyone who came on the day, and for those who couldn't make it, we had the performance filmed professionally and will be sharing it in time. Also myself and Darren are hoping to take this work further, evolve it and show it again in the future, so definitely watch this space! The Hidden Pin Up will return...

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

The Hidden Pin Up #23 - THIS SATURDAY!

This Saturday 22nd September sees the debut performance of Hidden Pin Up at The Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester! Myself and fellow collaborators the House of Ghetto are so excited to get this work up and running! The day will consist of performances every hour on the hour 11am - 3pm and these will be interspersed with two workshops that tie in with the gallery's wallpaper exhibition Bodies of Colour. 

The Hidden Pin Up looks at the fetishization of the black female body by investigating the hidden history of the black pin up girl and the legacy of racial stereotypes still found in modern day life. Taking inspiration from the traditional burlesque fan dance with a House of Ghetto twist, this site specific dance and spoken word vignette is political with some added phunk.

The Repeating Patterns workshops are a chance to create a collage wallpaper design and put your own spin on ideas of racial and cultural stereotypes using design tropes found within the Bodies of Colour exhibition.

Times run as follows:

Saturday 22 September, 11am - 3.10pm

All events are free, drop in, no need to book

Performance times:

11am – 11.10am
12pm – 12.10pm
1pm – 1.10pm
2pm – 2.10pm
3pm – 3.10pm

Workshop times:

11.15am – 12pm
1.15pm – 2pm

Hope you can make it!

Keep up to date with the project's progress on this blog and by following me on Instagram @gemma_parker_artist

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Northern Art Carbooty 2018 - First In The Fight!

This Bank Holiday weekend saw Northern Art Carbooty taking place on a very wet and soggy Sunday at Sadler's Yard and PLANT NOMA in Manchester. Yet, despite the weather we had a great turn out of people coming down to enjoy the live art, stalls, workshops and artisan food. 

I was there with The Tattooed Lady, tattoo dispenser machine, to distribute my Manchester Suffragette temporary tattoos as part of a new commission to celebrate the centenary of women gaining the vote in the UK (as a side note: I've had several men over the course of this project who felt the need to point out it wasn't just women but working class men gaining the vote too, and, yes, I know, that was great in its own right! But for women this was a MASSIVE landmark that gave [some] females the right to vote for the FIRST TIME EVER! I really don't understand why this achievement should be somehow 'put in it's place').

Dressed as a Manchester Suffragette, I manned the machine and helped apply the tattoos to people attending the event. I met loads of interesting characters from Manchester and beyond, some who knew about Manchester's involvement in the Suffrage movement and some who had no idea. I met two ladies from Switzerland who told me the centenary for them wont be until 2071! The whole day made me feel really proud to be a Mancunian and champion what the original Suffragettes stood for. They truly were 'first in the fight' and thanks to their effort and sacrifices Manchester played a key role in women's history and helped to change the world. It was amazing to see so many people show their support by wearing a tattoo!

(These guys from America were some of the first to receive tattoos and loved them!)

There was a great atmosphere throughout the day and I was joined by some of Manchester's best creatives. Taking a stroll around the venue on my break I met some faces I'd not seen for years! It was good to catch up and also see some of the gorgeous unique wares made by local artists

 Manchester illustrator Stan Chow and his iconic women prints

Eva Elliot of Margo Ceramics and her delicate jewellery 

Also I want to mention the brilliant art of Cammy Smithwick, who I forgot to take a photo of, but whose work I have loved for a while now. It was fab to see some of her handmade trinkets that make me think of booty from a wacky Victorian explorers backpack: unique, exotic and full of stories waiting to be imagined.

Fellow commissioned artist Nicola Smith performed her piece 'Monument' as an ode to modern women and the lack of statuary honouring women from history around the UK. This piece was performed/danced against a range of different songs about female empowerment, funny and on the nose, it really left an impression.

You can see more images and see if you were one of the people wearing a tattoo on my Tattooed Lady Facebook page HERE and also more about the day on Carbooty's photos HERE. A big thank you to Liz and Charlie for organising the entire event and asking me to be part of it and special thanks to Samira who volunteered her time to help me apply tattoos.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Northern Art Carbooty is coming! Get your Suffragette Tattoos!

Not long now until Northern Art Carbooty comes to Manchester! I'll be there with The Tattooed Lady and a specially commissioned work to celebrate 100 years since women got the vote in the UK. I've been preparing my outfit for the day as I'll be appearing as a Manchester Suffragette to help rally YOU folk join in for the cause and get your very own temporary tattoo.

I have to say I'm really pleased with how these beauties turned out (see my last post to find out how I designed these tattoos). I wore mine for three days before if showed any hint of budging. Come along and enjoy a day of art events, stalls, food, workshops and more! Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Northern Art Carbooty 2018 - The Tattooed Lady Returns!

The Tattooed Lady is an end of the pier 1900's style temporary tattoo dispenser I created three years ago for the launch exhibition at HOME in Manchester. She is an interactive art work with flashing bulbs and a friendly 'ding!' that offers audiences the chance to take a piece of art home with them, either as a keepsake for posterity or as some temporary 'ink' to wear proudly on their skin.

I am now bringing The Tattooed Lady to the Northern Art Carbooty next month for a new commissioned piece. August 26th will see me and the Lady at Saddlers Yard and PLANT NOMA in Manchester:

'The event is an extravaganza of art, craft, live performance, workshop activity, food and music. Northern Art Carbooty works with artists and designers to encourage new artistic collaborations with the communities located around the event'

For this new work I am concentrating on 100 years since women got the right to vote in the UK and I have been designing a special tattoo to celebrate not only this landmark event but also Manchester's crucial role as the place where women's suffrage was born! I love my city not least because it has a rich history of being bloody minded and bolshy but it has led many a revolution influencing social and political change.

I began by looking at famous Manchester figures such as Emmeline Pankhurst, Annie Kenney and Hannah Mitchell, all fantastic people in their own right. However I found the photos of little known Manchester suffragettes marching and being arrested really moving and inspiring. They brought home the fact that these women risked so much not just for themselves but for the sake of every woman since.

For that reason, rather than concentrating on one person I decided to design a Mancunian 'everywoman'. My suffragette was very inspired by these two photos; the first being two local women wearing news sheets as aprons...

Mabel Capper (left), who by 1913 had been to prison four times in the cause of obtaining the vote for women, and Patricia Woodlock (right) advertising a meeting to be held in Heaton Park, Manchester, Lancashire, 19th July 1908

...and this fantastic Manchester banner once lost in time but now proudly on display at the People's History Museum in Manchester. I think the words on this banner are so powerful and say so much about the city and it's people,

For the tattoo design I wanted to incorporate mills and factories in the image not only to emphasise Manchester's connection to Suffrage but also the fact that many women who became involved in the Manchester movement came from a working class background. With the city booming in the 1900's thanks to the cotton industry, factory work was a mainstay for many of it's growing population.

This was my first design and I looked to Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman for the stance. I always thought Lynda looked strong and assertive when she stood like this with her hands on hips. (Interestingly, Wonder Woman's origins come from a Suffrage background as the creator was a firm supporter of women's Suffrage and his mistress's aunt was Margaret Sanger, an advocate for birth control and a women's rights activist). 

The tattoos are to be just 2" x 2" to fit The Tattooed Lady and I decided once shrinking this design down that it was packing too much into such a small space. Plus I wanted to push the Manchester connection even more within the image so it would be more obvious. I tried playing about with scale and placement but I still thought the whole thing wasn't immediate or 'tattooey' enough (I do like the original image though so I may use it for something else in the future).

In the end I decided to focus mainly on the suffragette's head and shoulders and create a tighter pulled in design. I added a banner for the words 'First in the Fight' and also the Manchester Bee which reflects the city's history and continuing unity in the face of adversity.

The suffragette stands in front of the chimneys (a bit phallic I realised, but they do reflect the male dominance of the era) wearing her hat with its green white and purple ribbon symbolising the movement; purple for loyalty and dignity, white for purity, and green for hope. The white roses stand for the white that suffragettes wore on their protests and also more recently recalls the white roses worn by celebrities on the red carpet to support the #timesup and #metoo movements.

I felt that this image worked better overall and will have more impact when applied to the skin. With the design now sent off for printing I'm looking forward to getting the finished temporary tattoos in my hands and trying them out! You can get your own at Northern Art Carbooty on 26th August! You'll find me there with The Tattooed Lady appearing as a Manchester suffragette myself! More on that to follow, stay tuned!...