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Tate Britain: ‘Women in Revolt’ Exhibition Unearths the Untold Stories

By Hiba Ul-Hasan, BA History

Tate Britain has announced a new exhibition titled ‘Women in Revolt!’ that made its debut on November 8, 2023, featuring work by over 100 female artists and collectives. The exhibition features work created in the United Kingdom between 1970 and 1990 in response to political and social conventions.

Organised chronologically, the exhibition includes six separate rooms with various themes ranging from Marxism to identity. The first room, ‘Rising with Fury’, is set in the early 1970s, when women were considered second-class citizens with little to no authority. The second room, ‘The Marxist wife still does the housework,’ exhibits work that questions the traditional notion of mothers and housewives by highlighting their bodies and houses as oppressive environments. ‘Oh, Bondage! Up Yours!’ boasts multidisciplinary techniques that questioned the status quo and pushed the bounds of acceptability in the late 1970s. The fourth room’s title, ‘Greenham women are everywhere,’ pays tribute to the Greenham women who protested nuclear weapons stored at the RAF facility in Berkshire. ‘Black woman time now’ welcomes the presence of coloured women and acknowledges their shared experiences of racism and prejudice. The last room, ‘There’s No Such Thing as Society’, features artwork that defies Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s policies while continuing to question authority and challenge conventional narratives.

Curator Lindsey Young noted that a source of inspiration for this exhibition, in addition to dedicating it to her late mother, was showing the history of women, which she thought was wildly omitted during her own studies at red brick universities. The exhibition aims to counteract this by highlighting and displaying work that celebrates women through the ‘female gaze’, alongside exploring their journeys and the obstacles they faced. She hoped the exhibition would demonstrate that feminist art is not definitive and focused on exhibiting ‘constellations and not stars.’

The exhibition includes works by Rita Keegan, Bhajan Hunjan, Su Richardson, Tessa Boffin, Lesley Sanderson, Houria Niati, and the See Red Women’s Workshop. A range of artistic mediums are on display at the exhibition, including sculptures, paintings, movies, banners, posters, and photography.

Unlike many exhibitions, ‘Women in Revolt’ appeals to a wide range of audiences. It covers a variety of issues and illustrates the artistic reactions that they provoked. It features works that examine femininity, sexuality, race, gender, politics, religion, and identity. It also includes and celebrates numerous coloured artist identities and their presence in British society, which is frequently overlooked or ignored in a broader context. The exhibition perfectly depicts and celebrates women in Britain during a time when they suffered prejudice, and it is an excellent way to imagine what it was like to be a woman in the UK during this period.

The exhibition is a celebration of femininity and womanhood and a powerful display of strength and rebellion.

Women in Revolt! Art and Activism in the UK 1970-1990 is showing from 8 November 2023 – 7 April 2024 at the Tate Britain. Tickets are £16 for students or free for members.

Photo Caption: Good Housekeeping III 1985, remade 2023, Marlene Smith. This work is a portrait of Dorothy ‘Cherry’ Groce and there is a permanent memorial to Groce in Windrush Square, Brixton. [Credit: Hiba Ul-Hasan]

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