A Void

womb

A Void

In this, I have agreed to what was termed ‘A life modelling process’ for an artist seeking volunteers for a project he is working on. I stand before him in my dressing gown, nude underneath and wondering what he wants me to do, he tells me:

‘Don’t worry, I have done this lots of times before.’

From this, I am somewhat reassured, but still, air a little caution.

‘I just need you to lie down so I can paint you with latex.’

In this he shows me the latex, it’s white and when he paints a little of my arm it feels cold but pleasant on my form. I agree to the process and he helps me untie my dressing gown belt, although naked I feel comfortable in front of him, he has put me at ease.

I lie down under his direction and move into the position he needs me to be in. He starts painting around my neck area, slowly but surely working his way down. He is careful but professional as he covers my breasts, making sure he only touches my nipples with the horse hair bristles of the paint brush.

Working his way further down my body he comes to the groin area. I become nervous again, worrying about what he is about to do.

‘Relax, I have done this many times before.’

I let my muscles fall low, then with warm air, he blows gently inside myself. From this, like magic, I open right up like a great white shark about to launch an attack.

‘That’s right, good, you’re doing well.’

He directs, then he moves onto his back and slides his head and upper body inside my womb. From this, he begins to paint, carefully and professionally, coating the walls of my womb and ovaries in latex. When he has finished he edges out carefully and puts each hand delicately on the inside of my legs. Then without touching me with his lips he sucks air from the inside of myself. I return to my normal size, at ease with everything going on, amazed at what has been performed by this genius.

From this, he works down my legs in a similar motion. He then turns me over to work on my back and lower body. So relaxed with the brush motion I am almost asleep when he finishes:

‘We just need to wait for it to dry.’

He whispers, in this, he picks up an old fashioned guitar and begins to sing folk songs.

He wakes me up to tell me that it’s time to peel the latex off. I stand up for him and he begins stretching off the suited coating, carefully going over my breasts. After my ribs he stops and places a hand on each side of myself, then he kisses my forehead, gently and childlike in motion. As I smile he gets back to action, working the form off down to my lower body.

After a gentle shake, my womb falls out. Before me, I see its squashed in structure, perfect on the inner coating, but de-revelled on the outer. My ovaries flop out almost deformed and entwined, messy and forlorn. Ahead of me, I see the babies, I will never give birth to and the children I will never raise. The bedtime stories I will never read, the play parks I will never go to, the football matches I will never go to and the school plays I will never attend. In this he finishes the removal process, then he shakes out the body-like creation. He clips it onto a line, in this, it stands tall and strong, an independent being, strong, singular, but of great value.

Alison Little

A Void is a flash Fiction works from Alison Little. This piece was first performed in the Hornby Rooms, Central Library, Liverpool for International Women’s Day in 2018. The subsequent year it read for an event marking the same celebrations held during the 209 Women exhibition marking the centenary of women being able to vote in the UK (Although restricted to those over 30 and with property).

The illustration was also created by Alison Little using a bamboo dip stick pen and Indian ink. It feature a close up of a womb and creates an impression of scarring. She is looking to make a sculptural piece from latex later in 2020 to represent the works.

More about 209 Women exhibition, Open Eye Gallery

Convict Blanket

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Convict blanket is the latest art activism works from concept-based arts practitioner, Alison Little. A sensation to shock and stand against rape, rape culture and the authorities put in place to tackle sex crime within our society.

Convict blanket confronts us with the homage style of using material available, in this case, the humble scratch provoking woollen coverings of the bed. The use of blanket stitch and appliqué reminiscent of techniques used in prison protests where all resources must be reclaimed from the sparse provisions available when incarcerated. The blanket is floor-based, slightly raised to one side. The text and images locate with the nearest edge in which they are placed, allowing the viewer to read the statements as their paths encircle the form. The use of hand-embroidered text reminiscent of the marker pen on corrugated card portrayals commonplace throughout activism. Texts vary in scale, case and font in regards to the emphasis placed on the statement which is being presented. Large bold statements often present definitive assertions, small joined-up style wording is often examples of dialogue and opinions of the minority. The black text looks to address how to reduce the numbers of sex attacks by convicting more rapists. In opposition, the red highlights issues within society and the authorities put in place to tackle sex crime which are failing at every given opportunity. Although male rape is equally as relevant, this identifies with female rape which is statistically committed in greater numbers.

The first of the black text presents a printed abbreviation, ‘HMP‘. This is commonplace within the UK, ‘Her Majesties Prisons’ being the full term and the title for units of incarceration. The larger appliqué fonts present ‘Convict‘ and ‘Rapist‘, indicating an intention for more sex offenders to be serving custodial sentences. This is emphasized in greater detail by a well-defined corner based statement:

We must press for the conviction of more rapists.’

A powerful sentence, stating the motivation behind the activism, the use of the second person to engage the viewer with the protest.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which is common among rape survivors is raised within smaller statements. Dressing down as a result of being raped is proposed, backed up by an image of a ‘Hide under’ hoodie. Larger texts draw attention to statistics:

‘1 in 10 rapes are reported to the Police, of these only 1 in 10 lead to a conviction.’

Due to current changes within the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) this figure is currently much lower. The statistic highlights how rape is one of the most under-reported crimes. The statement is reinforced by the pie chart indicating that only 1% of rapes committed lead to a conviction.

Patriarchy is addressed, male supremacy being a factor in why rape is not being tackled effectively. Police apathy over sexual assault cases is presented. Demands towards the recruitment of ‘Strong, capable women,’ are made, requesting women who will prioritise rape over trivia to be brought into the Police Force. Drawing attention to the vulnerability of the rape survivor, showing how there needs should be prioritized. The black statements concluding with the most vital statement of them all, the rapist being ‘100%‘ to blame for rape.

The red text looks to highlight why our society is failing to reduce numbers in terms of sexual assault and punishing more sex offenders through the penal system. The large appliqué terms read ‘Rape Culture’ and ‘Victim Blaming’. Across the blanket, we have statements which highlight examples of victim-blaming, itself a factor within rape culture. Projections of low morals, promiscuous clothing, the rape survivor being presented as ‘The Whore’ and extreme example of ‘Slut-shaming’ are identified. Misconceptions around PTSD are given, many are still not aware that this condition is commonplace with rape survivors. The second delusion of rape being unusual is also stated. Narcotic and alcohol use are presented, suggestions that mild cannabis inhalation could result in hallucinations an example of ignorance. Again, blaming the victim through alcohol consumption, the concept of consenting to sex being overlooked.

Patriarchy being stated, showing the focus of the law to be on protecting men from being falsely accused of rape. How the Police Force is male-dominated, the notion of many of these ‘Men’ having little intentions of acting against rape, in this, recruiting weak, feeble women to actively fail rape survivors. This is developed by drawing attention to the actions of many Police Women, their sole contribution to a rape enquiry to be establishing what happens when they get dressed up, thus providing the opportunity for them to reflect on their superior beauty. The trivial nature of operatives, examples of attire being copied being prioritised as opposed to communicating the nature of the sex attack. This is matched by their counterparts, Policemen, many are only interested in their prowess, continually falsifying reports on how the rape survivor is attracted to themselves. Looking at the attitudes of Police personnel, those who feel that they are not expected to do anything in a rape case, the extremities being the role of the rape victim to protect and shelter vulnerable officers.

Ultimately, the saddest statement of all:

‘It was my fault I was rapped.’

The victims who blame themselves, a factor in why so many crimes are not reported to the authorities.

‘Convict Blanket’, innovative works, at the helm within the spectrum of art activism. Artwork which can challenge misconceptions around rape, concepts which can address issues in society and confront the authorities put in place to act against rape. Ultimately, ‘Convict Blanket’ will lead to the conviction of more rapists, reducing rape crime and proposes a safer society.

Convict Blanket will be exhibited from spring 2020.

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1950’s Girls Annuals: the Homemaker

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Seventy years on from when the girls annual of the 1950’s were being read in the  pink bedrooms of the post-second world war generation we look back at there content. Where they looking to inspire the girls who would grow up to lead second-wave feminism through the seventies, or were they looking to indoctrinate the next generation of Housewives?

Girls literature of the 1950’s painted a world of domestic bliss. The role of sewing, the adoration of flowers and the wearing of impractical clothing prevailed across the pages of mid-century girls annuals. Poems encourage the practice of cleaning, baking, being house-proud, having the most perfect hair and awaiting the kiss of a man. The role of the party planner is put forward, a caregiver role projected. However, not to be forgotten in Britain, the concept of making tea in a crisis is ever-present.

Pressures on young girls to be lady-like

The continual pressures on young girls to be lady-like. Any matters of rebellion from this notion are lame and akin to stories of naughty schoolgirls. Images of impractical sports clothing, skirts worn for tennis and golf. Dancing is in full costume and skiing is shown to be gentle and relaxing. With sports like rowing, women simple sit back as men take the oars. Similar scenes are shown with motor vehicles, males are strong and take the wheel, steering away from danger and girls watch on. Generally, the women are beautiful, appear to be sunning themselves as the men do all the work. They are gorgeous, pale-skinned, flushed cheeks with bouncy blond hair adorning their slim bodies. Looks of women pleading with men as they carry all the heavy items. Delicate women prevail as they receive kisses on the hand from admiring men. Many of the tales inscribed simply escalate to men saving the day as the women look on in awe.

Boys literature of the period was in starch contrast to that of girls. They masqueraded daring adventures, escapades and the dangers of warfare so prevalent on the minds of those growing up in the years which were the aftermath of World War Two. Presenting depictions of action sports, space exploration and tackling monsters. Many of the tales bore similarities to the ever-popular Westerns of the time, cowboys, Indians and hunting. Cops and Robbers was an ever-present theme. We were also introduced to the world of large, expensive motorcars, Bentley’s of the era. Top athletes, racing and highly competitive sports dominated the pages of the 1950’s annuals. Men were shown to be strong and capable, getting into fights and adventures took place across the globe. Incidentally, many of the representations of black people were tribal in origin. Images of women seem simply to depict a gorgeous girl who sits there as the man wins her with his actions. Cigars are also present, as a male indulgence, not something to be discouraged. Work and logic puzzles were headlined around ‘Shoot’ and ‘Hit’, evoking a strong sense of competition. Practical skills were encouraged through narrative’ around tools and making exercises were played out.

Contemporary girls literature has modified immensely from the 1950’s. Positive, empowering statements ‘I can’ and ‘You can do anything’ embrace our pages. Girls are now dressed as action figures and take on space exploration. Females from ethnic minorities are now included and girls vary greatly in their appearance. We are presented with different faith groups and the idea of unconventional family groups are put forward. Those with disabilities are shown and take on powerful roles.

Becoming a ‘Leader’ is suggested, women are no longer here simply to do as men instruct them.

Inspirational positions and occupations are presented as life choices. Becoming a ‘Leader’ is suggested, women are no longer here simply to do as men instruct them. Positive real-life role models are presented through photography and text. Girls are shown to be practical, using tools and building projects. The former male domains of math’s and science are promoted, the aesthetics of wearing goggles for experiments put in a positive light. Environmentalism is a new agenda, current affairs and politics are embarrassed. Tea parties are now of the fair trade variety and healthy pursuits of foraging for food are encouraged, taking from the male hunter, gatherer role. Making projects develop skills in science, numeracy levels and encouraging activism.

The nostalgia of the fifties is enjoyable to re-collect, the role of the mother and the home-maker not to be discredited, contemporary girls literature id clearly more inspirational. Modern-day girls Annuals promote positive female aspirations, leadership and activism, not being lady-like and waiting for a man to save the day. Female literal sources which will create a more positive power balance for women of the future.

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Hand-Held Destinies

Me

Wednesday evening saw the opening of; John Moores Painting Prize, the Rise of the Sixties in Liverpool, at the Exhibition Research Lab of John Moores University. The fresh white interior of the John Lennon Art and Design Building provided the exhibition venue, brought to life by an evening of the performance. Stimulating music, spoken word and monologues were accompanied by illuminating visual arts responses.

Hand Held Destinies is a spoken word piece written and performed by Alison Little on the evening. Created as a response to a photo exhibit from 1968 of two girls playing in the sea shores of New Brighton:

 

Hand Held Destinies

Girls hold hands in friendship.
Gleeful
Elegant in play

Eight years old
Born in 1960
The decade which changed Liverpool, Britain and the World

1960 saw the introduction of the pill
We had effective contraception
Birth Control
The Sexual Revolution
Smaller Families
We got richer

As they play in the swath they are attractive in their childhood. Swimsuits made for play, hair it’s natural colour, tresses they are not afraid to get wet. Sand grit, Sea and the salt of the shores adorn their sun-soaked bodies.

Today we have the modern day falsehood of youth. Primark churning out padded bras for pre-teens. Claire’s accessories piercing collections of hoops and studs to the lobes of innocence. Youthful visions of success; to appear on celebrity love island, becoming a WAG or to acquire a cosmetically enhanced bosom larger than Jordan’s.

An era when British beach holidays ruled the waves. Stripped deckchairs, the bucket and spade, splendour of Punch and Judy. Taken over by the package holiday: routes to the warmer destinations of Southern Europe. Made redundant for a second time by the cheap flights of the digital buyers market.

Background, we have sea vessels and the Albert Dock, it’s function then for shipping. Today, as the girls head to retirement we have shipping in its last days of decline. We have a dock surplus of its intended purpose.

Sea Faring industrialism replaced
A cultural haven
The Waterfront
The Tate
Museum of Liverpool
The Maritime
A new Future
A future of tourists
Culture Vultures
City Breakers
A cheap flight destination
The ‘Must take in’ city of Liverpool
A city revived
An end of mass unemployment
The striking city no more
The legacy of the Capital of Culture Year

Their playscape is now a Metropolis challenging globally.
But to the padded bras, the stud lined ears and fixations with celebrity culture we have the bucket.

A return to the beauty of innocence bathing in the optimism of the future.

Alison Little

 

Exhibition continues throughout April.

More about Research Exhibition Lab

Main photograph credited the Graham Smillie.

More about Graham Smillie photography

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Nest in a Goats Beard

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Nest in a Goats Beard is an abstract print produced by Carmen Garcia. It is currently being exhibited as part of the ‘She Eclectic’ exhibition at the Victoria Museum and Gallery in Liverpool. This is a section of flash fiction created by Alison Little as a response to the piece:

The image topples round, propelled up by some kind of yellow bubble making machine launching abstract forms. Patterns which expand, texture which can be touched. The machine: a cross between the yellow submarine and the Liverpool tower. A gigantic but equally girly form. Almost folding out, mounts, triangles positioned above the ground. The main form taking the shape of a sixties modernist detached estate disappearing downhill as it stretches away. Floating forms emerge, a kind of balloon making cartoon pistol firing out at comic-strip enemies. A fun-filled water game set within a reclaimed play arena. The form of a shoulder combined with a jumper suit, powering over engrossed in the imaginary of re-enactment.

North End Writers is based from the Victoria Museum & Gallery, holding their monthly meeting there last weekend. The writers read extracts which were written in response to works in the exhibition in the Gallery Space:

The Readings

More about She’s Eclectic

 

Ensigns make a mark at the Museum

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Last Saturday saw a line of children and adults, tots and basically those mortal getting involved with the fun of flag making. The last weekend of the Liverpool Irish Festival took the Rags Boutique workshop to the contemporary interior to the Museum of Liverpool.

A wonderful day spent with a colourful bag recycling project on the iconic waterfront. We saw identities being identified through the Greens of Ireland, the Red, White and Blue of Britain and the Purples of Feminism.

Flagpoles on the hole of the day and adults which showed us they still knew how to play dress up!

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Sylvia Pankhurst

 

Mural pres

The mural commission was proposed by Alison Little for the Trafford House in Manchester.

Commission proposal

Sylvia Pankhurst

The mural design incorporates elements of Sylvia’s work and beliefs which represent a life which was truly courageous. Towards the lower section, we have the icon slogan ‘VOTES FOR WOMEN’ and the colour bands of green and purple which were used throughout the Sufferage Movement. Sylvia’s mother, Emmeline Pankhurst was the leader of the Movement and her daughters followed in her footsteps. The top logo is an adaption of the ‘Angel of Freedom’ motif designed by Sylvia for the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). Central to the design is the grid, an adaption of the Holloway Brooch, symbolising how she was imprisoned more times than any of the women involved with the reform work. The dove image reflects her views towards pacifist, the traditional symbol of peace. Her philanthropic work is shown through the milk bottles and the distribution centre she set up in London’s East End. Sexual freedom is presented through the red ring, symbolising how she never married. The final image is of an Ethiopian women carrying a child on her back, the last years of Sylvia’s life were spent in the country, again helping the needy. 

‘VOTES FOR WOMEN’ is the most iconic slogan of the Suffrage movements fight for equality. The initial slogan was in fact:

‘Will the Liberal Party give votes for women.’

However, the initial banner produced with this phrase was too cumbersome to carry on protest marches so it was reduced into a shorter format. The colour bands of green and purple present around the slogan and to the upper section reflect the colours used by the WSPU. Their colours were purple, white and green, purple as regal colour showing the Royal blood which ran through the veins of every Suffragette, purity is indicated by the white and green be present as an emblem of hope and the symbol of spring. Sylvia’s mother, Emmeline Pankhurst was the leader of the WSPU and the radical campaigner iconic for women winning the vote in Britain. All three of her daughter were strongly involved in the movement and continued to work toward equality after the passing of their mother. They were lifelong campaigners and a truly remarkable family.

The top logo is a simplified adaption of the ‘Angel of Freedom’ designed by Sylvia in 1911 to promote a demonstration to be held at the Royal Albert Hall. Sylvia was initially at Manchester School of Art, located not far from the intended location of the mural, then she travelled down to London the attend the Royal College of Art. Much of her early works reflect her philanthropical interests through the painting of working-class women. As an artist, she was presented with numerous awards, however, inevitably her visual arts work was overshadowed by her Political career and her writings on these subjects. The logo has been minimalised due to the height it is intended to be between 30-35 meters at the top of the mural and the detail will not be seen from ground level. The slight misprint where the purple ring is to one side as opposed to central is to be replicated, this reflects the printing processes of the period where this was commonplace. 

The central grid of the mural is a depiction of the Holloway Brooch designed by Sylvia. As a campaigner, Sylvia was imprisoned more times than any of her contemporaries enduring the process of being force-fed. By 1906 she was working full time for the WSPU resulting in months spent in Holloway Prison taking a leading role in the Hunger Strikes. The Holloway Brooch was originally cast in silver, the gates depicted where to represent the Houses of Parliament. It was awarded to WSPU party member who had served sentences in prison and often described as the;
‘Victoria Cross of the Union.’
Be awarded the brooch rewarded to the courage of the women who often spent long sentences in prison, and commonly the women’s prison: Holloway.

The four squares of the gates show images of Sylvia’s beliefs and life’s work. The top image is that of a dove, taken again from a brooch designed by Sylvia to promote peace. She was a dedicated pacifist and from 1910 was continually concerned with the growing levels of militancy used by members of the WSPU and argued with her mother in regards to the mater. This resulted in her braking from the party in 1913 after an arson campaign where the intention was to set fire to the houses of several high profile Politicians. Notably one of these was the Stately home of Lloyd George the current Chancellor of the Exchequer. She was opposed to the break out of the war in 1914 and horrified by her mother and sisters support for the war effort. Speaking at the International Congress of peace held at the Hague in 1915, from this she helped form the Women’s Peace Party. In the years after the First World War, she became a committed anti-fascist: supporting the Republicans in Spain, helped Jews evade Nazi occupation and campaigned against the Italian presence in Ethiopia. 

The representation of milk bottles reflects the philanthropic work in which Sylvia threw herself, a notable project being the milk distribution centre for babies who could not digest food in the East End of London. She continually campaigned for better maternity services and for rights for one parent families. During World War One she helped to set up low-cost restaurants in poorer parts of London. To provide jobs for women who had become unemployed by the war she open a toy factory, this also helped to fill the gap for playthings from Germany. More time was committed to campaigns to help poverty-stricken wives of Soldiers at war. The second initiative with milk played an important part in her work in Ethiopia. UNICEF had been giving milk tokens to mothers but these were simply being sold at the market as they were unsure of how to make the milk from formula. Sylvia made arrangements for making the dried milk with UNICEF, the children queue up as a result of efforts. Continuing into the modern day, the Pankhurst and Manchester Women’s Aid centre in Manchester continues this work today with groups of women suffering from domestic abuse. 

The image of a red ring, almost scraped on in terms of texture, a ring which does not meet at its ends. This represents the sexual freedom which Sylvia experience in an era where this was socially unacceptable. When studying at the Royal College of Art in London she began an affair with Keir Hardie, a leading Politician for the newly established Labour Party. Although his relationship with his wife looked to have disintegrated the bond he formed with Sylvia still in her twenties would have been considered scandalous. Their relationship continued into the First World, after a series of stokes he died after contracting Pneumonia in 1915. Sylvia was then to meet an exiled communist, Silvio Corio, they became lifelong partners and moved to village-come-suburb of Woodford Green together. Sylvia gave birth to a son at the age of forty-five, her mother tried to persuade her to marry Silvio but she wanted to keep her birth name. They argued over the matter and never spoke again. Other motives may have been that during that period women lost their British Nationality if they were to marry someone from outside the UK. If Sylvia and Silvio had been deported to his native Italian they would probably have been executed on grounds of being anti-fascist protestors. The red ring has always been used as an anti-symbol and the manner in which the ring, potentially a wedding ring, does not join represents her desition not to marry.

An Ethiopian mother and child are pictured in the last image of the Gate, this shows the work Sylvia did for the East African country. In 1935 the Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie met with Sylvia in the city of Bath. He was in exile from Ethiopia as they were subsumed by Fascist Italy. Italy had begun building a military presence in East Africa, as a devoted anti-Fascist Sylvia was opposed to this and became a great supporter of Ethiopia. After the Second World War, she raised further objections to Britain’s administration of the South Eastern Ogaden, Ethiopia. Although Britain departed in the mid-fifties she continued to spread the anti-colonial message, moving out to Ethiopia in 1956. She spent her time visiting schools, hospitals and development projects. Dying at the age of seventy-eight and was given a State Funeral being made an Honorary Eithiopian.

The mural is to be completed using artists acrylics after an initial cream coat of masonry paint. This finish to be completed with yacht varnish, preferably brush coated. The artist’s fee would be £1000.00 for the design but would need to be completed by a street artist. The design is ready for delivery but modifications may take several weeks.

Silvia Pankhurst was a revolutionary campaigner which is reflected through this mural and the themes which it covers. It will be in keeping with the modernist aspects of the structure but equally, remind us of the rights which were fought for to give us the better world in which we live. Sexual freedom was a liberty which had to be won, how it is acceptable in contemporary society not to marry and to raise children as part of a one parent family. It will inspire feminist ideological thinking and help us move towards equality for women. Artwork which can motive creativity, thoughts around rights towards incarnation and what is occurring in these institutions which is still as relevant today as it was one hundred years later. Thoughts around pacificism, humanitarianism and Britain’s role as a Nation. Philanthropy and how we can give to others more in need in this country and abroad in countries struck by poverty. Equally, the potential to become was Sylvia truly was: a citizen of the World.

A mural which will inspire, motivate and make a real difference.

References:

Sylvia Pankhurst, A crusading Life
1982-1960
Shirley Harrison
Aurum Press
London
2003

http://www.sylviapankhurst.com
A Comprehensive information source
Susan Homewood for Hornbeam Publishing Limited
2008

Mural in location