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      art i-D Staff 3 July 2015

      when did you start to think of yourself as a feminist? 14 young artists answer

      Curated by Betty Fraud, YFA aka Young Feminist Artists is the exhibition that gives you exactly what it says on the jar, and then some.

      when did you start to think of yourself as a feminist? 14 young artists answer when did you start to think of yourself as a feminist? 14 young artists answer when did you start to think of yourself as a feminist? 14 young artists answer
      samantha haarthorn

      From an exploration of the hijab as an item of clothing made specifically to hide the female body from the male gaze to a post-porn film that made it into last year's Berlin Porn Film Festival, YFA: Young Feminist Artists is an exhibition that overcomes the "trends" of modern feminism and explores the similarities and differences in the fight for gender equality from cultures all over the world. Artists from feminist collectives In Naam Der Kunst I.N.K from the Netherlands, Coven Berlin, and Clandestine Collective from the North of England, have all contributed their best work to a show curated by Betty Fraud. YFA is on for five days only, so catch it while it's fresh at The Old Baths, Hackney Wick, London from 2nd-6th July. We chatted to some of the artists to find out what inspires them and what aggravates them…

      Samantha Haarthorn

      Betty Fraud, 33, Devon
      What inspires you?
      Everything, I feel that the enduring heartbreak of any artist is knowing that your time is limited when your ideas seem limitless.
      What aggravates you?
      Humanities intolerance towards each-other and the world at large.
      When did you start to think of yourself as a feminist?
      My rose tinted aviators fell off my nose when I was dancing a little too hard at a rave somewhere, then some shit head stepped on them. I just kind of woke up, you know. Then I looked at my art, I looked at myself and I thought this is feminist I'm not sure why, but it really is. Then I realised that's because I'm part of our universal tribe: humanism. And my sub tribe by default is feminism, a specialism of mine, since I am a woman! And of course, of particular interest because I'm an artist.
      How did you get involved with YFA? 
      I wrote a Manifesto a couple of years ago quite automatically. I never realised that it was blatantly feminist, until I started to actively create feminist art. Feminism seemed and seems to be everywhere right now but in reference to art it all rather drearily harked back to the 70s. I was just curious to see what feminist art is in the context of now. I knew I was making it and wanted to explore what other female artists were creating.

      youngfeministartists.com

      Betty Fraud

      Georgia Grace Gibson, 19, North East England
      What inspires you?
      The rise of young, female art in the past couple of years, the way the internet has managed this (and the way old art men get angry about it), documentaries about sex, 70s porn stills, working class old women and films or literature that make me feel sick at least once.
      What aggravates you?
      Heteronormativity and straight artists who make work about sex and still don't understand this concept. Anyone who lets themselves be convinced that the future of the art world depends on rich, white southerners with Chelsea studios. Young feminists being overlooked unless you're promoting straight-white-cis-Caitlin-Moran feminism. Tories.
      When did you start to think of yourself as a feminist?
      I've always had very feminist women in my family, but there was never a label on it, and a lot of things that would effect young women like me growing up (such as rape culture, treatment of female mental health/sexuality) were never really explained to me. It wasn't really explained until I was around 16. I had some issues when I was younger, and being introduced to feminism really helped me become empowered, and move past those as much as I possibly can. It's not just about empowerment for myself though, I think feminism really has to be for all women for it to be valid -- not just straight, white, cis, able-bodied women. It means empowerment for all women, and the possibility of that leading to equality.

      georgiagracegibson.com

      Georgia Grace Gibson

      Robyn Nichol, 20, West Yorkshire
      What aggravates you?
      The Tory government, UKIP voters, not being taken seriously as an artist because I'm young, and friends judging me differently because I explore an open discussion of sex and female sexuality in my work.
      What is it you're trying to do/say with your art?
      I use my art as a form of self-analysis about my fears, and events that have happened in my life, such as unprotected sex and the risk of pregnancy. I also try to use stereotypical ideas of femininity and the aesthetics that are associated with it as a form of empowerment.
      When did you start to think of yourself as a feminist?
      After discovering The Slits at the age of 15, Ari Up as a front woman was such a powerful figure for me as a young teenager.
      How did you get involved with YFA?
      Through the Northern, female-identified art collective that I'm part of, Clandestine Collective.

      robynnichol.tumblr.com

      Katherine Russell, 19, Sunderland
      What is it you're trying to do/say with your art?
      I'm currently trying to tackle the problems surrounding the lack of attention given to artists that choose not to base their work around feminist themes. Although I am a feminist, I hope to show that work can be interesting, meaningful and visually successful without fitting in with certain themes and aesthetics.
      When did you start to think of yourself as a feminist?
      I can't say there was a specific point at which I decided I was a feminist, but it was towards the beginning of my first year at college. Feminism, above anything else, has taught me, and continues to teach me a great deal of things that I was completely ignorant to previously.
      What can we expect to see from you in the exhibition?
      A photography piece focusing on obscured narratives. Inspired by Sophie Calle, this piece gives the viewer a small insight into the lives of the subjects creating both a personal and detached feeling.

      katherineerussell.com

      Saffa Khan, 20, Manchester via Pakistan
      What aggravates you?
      White feminism speaking on my behalf, having to live a double life (how I want to live vs how my culture says I should live), not being taken seriously, animal cruelty.
      What is it you're trying to do/say with your art?
      I've always been very interested in zine culture and thus started to turn ideas into a form, ideas that go against the rules of my culture and what I must and mustn't do or create. After-Effect was something I've wanted to do for a while, but I was too ashamed of using my body as a tool because of how others perceived it. I'm trying to slowly tell my story, because being a queer Pathan woman of colour is a lot harder than it sounds and by creating these zines, I am pouring a bit of my soul each time for the audience to read and feel.
      When did you start to think of yourself as a feminist?
      From quite an early age, however I wasn't sure whether there even was such a thing. Ten year old me would always question why I must cover myself from head to toe, why I couldn't answer the door or go outside of the house or why I was shunned for accidentally leaving my period pad or why I couldn't do the things my brother was allowed to.
      Who are your idols?
      Daria, Marjane Satrapi, Haifaa Al-Mansour, Sheila Vand in Girl Who Walks Home Alone at Night, Kate Bush, my pet hedgehog Ziggy Stardust.
      What can we expect to see from you in the exhibition?
      The affects of being forced to wear a piece of clothing to hide the shape of my body from the male gaze.

      saffascribbles.tumblr.com

      Samantha Haarthorn

      Evelyn Cromwell, 19, Harrogate
      When did you start to think of yourself as a feminist?
      I think I'm always learning, but I remember always being quite aware of things. I remember being upset and angry with my dad when he got a tattoo of a pin-up on his arm when I was about nine. My parents were always quite good though, they never bought me gendered toys, they were always pretty neutral until I was old enough to decide which toys I wanted myself, same with clothing really, I think that's pretty cool of them.
      Who are your idols?
      Pauline Boty is one of my biggest idols, she was a British pop artist and she did amazing things and was a huge feminist before mainstream feminism came around in the 70s, she tackled a lot of issues, but hardly anyone has heard of her, unfortunately she died of cancer at a really young age.

      evelyncromwell.tumblr.com

      Eleanor Beth Haswell, 19, County Durham
      What aggravates you?
      Everyone and anyone who marks art down as a "cop-out" subject at university, or in general. The north being dismissed constantly, resulting in little-to-no exhibition spaces for many new artists. Any politician who just doesn't know how to do their job and cater for the whole of the UK and not just the rich/ the south (therefore referring to a large majority).
      When did you start to think of yourself as a feminist?
      At a guess when I was around 16. I left school at 15 years old only knowing a group of people who used slang and insulting jokes as their "normal" way of communicating, constantly throwing abusive remarks within race, gender etc into conversation. I found a whole bunch of new friends with completely different ideologies and my views were pretty much suited to a new set of people straight away, which encouraged me to see myself as a feminist. Feminism is so, so important. A lot of people with a bit of money and a good lifestyle often use the "yes, well I don't need feminism because I don't have a bad life" attitude, disregarding women from all over the world who are in a completely different position to a lot of the people you hear bad-mouthing it.

      Meghan Graydon Darby, 19, County Durham
      What is it you're trying to do/say with your art?
      I want my artwork to have a big visual impact, and to provoke and intrigue audiences. I want people to decide for themselves what it means and they'll either get it or not at all.
      When did you start to think of yourself as a feminist?
      Mid 2013 I think. I never really understood what being a feminist meant and I remember being asked if I was one when I was 16 and my instant reaction was to say no. Then through college, friends and the online feminist revolution I grew up and realised. 
      Who are your idols?
      Yayoi Kusama and Prince.

      meghangraydondarby.tumblr.com

      Sarah Maple

      Sarah Maple, 30, Crawley
      When did you start to think of yourself as a feminist?
      I started making feminist work at university but I didn't realise I was a feminist until much later. I always denied it, thinking it was all about man hating and all those stereotypes. For me feminism is simply about men and women being treated the same, essentially it's equality. I think once people realise that, they embrace the ideas behind feminism. I did this piece called The Opposite to a Feminist is an Arsehole, which is one of the pieces people get most upset about. What I am doing in this piece is asking people to rethink what feminism is... and personally I believe if you don't believe in equality of the sexes then you're a bit of an arsehole. I think that's fair. 
      Who are your idols?
      Kim Kardashian, Paul McCartney, Dean Gaffney, Gillian Wearing, Frida Kahlo, my mum, Morrissey, Ai Weiwei, Rik Mayall, W.H Auden, Sarah Lucas, Steve Coogan... I have many!

      sarahmaple.com

      Kirsty McKenzie, 32, Toronto
      What aggravates you?
      Closed-mindedness, discrimination, misogynistic patriarchal malarkey, and lame contemporary pop culture -- the masses that worship "celebs" like the Kardashians and Miley Cyrus.
      What is it you're trying to do/say with your art?
      Creating my own world, where I am living my art, and being a complete embodiment of my vision at all times. Exploring the objectification of women, and the feminine identity, defying sexual and gender stereotypes -- interwoven with themes of obsession and addiction.
      Who are your idols?
      Vali Myers, Nina Hagen, Yayoi Kusama and John Waters -- to name a few!

      kirstymckenzie.com

      Kirsty McKenzie

      Layla Mohamed (InkyLayla), 32, London
      What inspires you?
      Good shapes, mean scenes, clean dreams. 
      When did you start to think of yourself as a feminist?
      To answer this accurately, I dug out my diary, circa 1994. Its pages hold an entry where an angry, ashamed 11-year-old girl recalled a shopping trip with her father. I had been holding an unremarkable sleeveless blouse against my young body when my dad gave me some advice. "You shouldn't wear clothes that leave your arms exposed," he said. Awkwardly, he continued to explain that soon my "breasts would grow", causing men to take an undesirable interest in me. So it was best that I covered up from now on. He, a Muslim, was belatedly trying to divert my hitherto western childhood to one of conservative Islam. I refused, to my immediate detriment, but as he pushed harder, my rebellion only deepened.
      Who are your idols?
      PJ Harvey first and foremost, for her brazen sexuality and intensely fragile songwriting. Others I admire who made this life their own include Caroline Kent, Thom Yorke and Marlene Dumas.

      Layla Mohamed

      Leah Blits, 26
      What is it you're trying to do/say with your art?
      I'm part of an art collective named INK: In Naam der Kunst. To fully understand our mission one should read our manifesto; it's on our website. With INK (translated: in the name of art), we aim to reintegrate life and art to ultimately heal the human wounds by revealing the universal IN -- and OUT.
      What can we expect to see from you in the exhibition? 
      I have a number of works on display in this show, including paintings and drawings. The centerpiece of my works on display are two paintings, titled The Awaking and Between the Lines.

      COVEN Berlin

      Lo Pecado, 27 and Judy Mièl, 28, co-founders of COVEN Berlin
      What aggravates you?
      Mansplaining. Sexual violence. Mainstream lesbian porn. Just to name a few.
      When did you start thinking of yourself as a feminist?
      From a very young age, you can tell that something's wrong with the way gender roles are prescribed. Gender-based discrimination is out there from the very beginning of your life, in your family, in your kindergarten, on TV. Discovering feminist theory meant a lot to us because it gave us the tools to articulate all those feelings for which we didn't have the right words and were just clouds of anger inside of us. It was a relief. Thanks to feminism we can now process this anger and turn it into art.
      What can we expect to see from you in the exhibition?
      COVEN Berlin will be featured in the show with Concha and the illustration series Cofradía De Los Invertidos. Concha is our first post-porn short. Inspired by the Foucaultian concept of the degenitalisation of sex and pleasure (i.e. the breakup of the erotic monopoly traditionally held by the genitals), this film tries to disrupt the spectator's expectations about porn by mixing symbolic and non-explicit elements in a provocatively intimate dance. The illustration series Cofradía De Los Invertidos inflames the edge between symbols of Catholic cults and emblems of queer rebellion and empowerment -- minorities slip into their reputed despisers' costumes and celebrate the hidden, the censored and the untolerated.

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      Topics:art, culture, feminist, feminism, young feminist artists, yfa, coven berlin, ink, clandestine collective, betty fraud

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