Art/Album Review: Women in Revolt!

Anyone that has been reading my reviews for a while, might well have noticed that I’m a loud and proud feminist. I really love supporting women musicians. So when I got the opportunity to review both a punk compilation album filled with amazing women, AND an art exhibit filled with feminist art, I was delighted.

It was the album that came my way first. ‘Women in Revolt!-Underground Rebellion in British Music’ The album is a 14 track compilation featuring bands including The Slits, X Ray Spex and The Raincoats. The album has been put together by the exhibition’s creator Linsey Young– curator of Contemporary British Art at Tate Britain, and Julie Weir- Head of Music for Nations. Inspired by the exhibit, the album explores the women artists, activists and musicians working outside of the mainstream who were changing the face of British music and inspiring a generation of women to break out of the restrictions placed upon them by patriarchal society.

Some of the artists on the album also have work and images featured in the exhibit- Cosey Fanni Tutti, Linder Sterling, Gina Birch and Poly Styrene. The common theme across the across the artists featured is punk and post punk. I think it is sometimes forgotten how much punk and art go hand in hand. The punk scene was closely tied in with British art schools, and punk was (and continues to be) certainly more than the music- it’s the DIY spirit, it’s a lifestyle and it’s fashion. The years this album covers, is a time that fashion designers like Vivienne Westwood were vital to the scene.

There are some real classics such as The Slits- Typical Girls and X Ray Spex – Identity alongside maybe lesser known tracks like Ludus- Sightseeing and The Gymslips- Dear Marje. Overall, this album is a must for any punk fan or feminist. But what truly made this album so great for me, truly was seeing the exhibition that it’s inspired by.

Women in Revolt!– Art, Activism and the Women’s Movement in the UK 1970-1990, is taking place at Tate Britain in London. I went to visit on a Sunday and I was impressed with how busy it appeared to be. Not only with ‘arty’ types, but I noticed lots of punk/alternative looking people too. Unsurprisingly, it did seem to be mainly women but there were some men having a look too.

Because of the popularity, it did make looking a little challenging but it was well worth the time and effort. I spent around an hour in this fairly large exhibit, taking in the art and feeling like this was an art show made for me. So many of my interests were accounted for- feminist activism, female punk music, zines and even art inspired by the menstrual cycle.

Not only can you discover many amazing female artists, you can be inspired by the passion of feminist activists and learn a lot of feminist history. It’s really worth reading the blurb of the art displayed to really fully appreciate the purpose/intention of some of the pieces and to gain insight into the feminist world. Some helps you realise how much has changed, while others may make you ponder that we’re still fighting some of the featured issues. I really liked the exhibition was truly diverse, and covered a very wide range of issues. A section was dedicated to black artists, and there was art from Lesbians, Transwomen, women fighting ableism and more.

Feminist zines/newsletters of various descriptions were dotted throughout the exhibit. One was open to a page featuring a fantastic interview with Poly Stryene of X Ray Spex, which I would have liked to take a full photo of, but as was such a big interview, I couldn’t fit into a photo.

Highlights of the exhibit for me were – Erica Rutherford’s self portraits before undergoing gender affirmation surgery, Judy Clark’s – Cycle- art based inspired by menstrual and lunar cycles, Poly Stryrene’s Germ Free Adolescents collage and Samena Rana’s Reflection series which challenges the preconceptions around disability.

I also really liked the fact that at the end of the exhibit, there was a ‘reflection space’ where you could sit and read feminist books they had prepared shelves of.

This exhibit has so much to offer, it really is worth a look.

The exhibit is running at Tate Britain until 7th April 2024 – you can buy tickets here (or Free if you’re a Tate Member).

The album is out now, you can buy the Vinyl from Rough Trade

A Women in Revolt! : In Conversation, Vinyl Compilation Launch and Tate Exhibition Celebration event is taking place at Rough Trade East this Thursday 23rd November, you can buy tickets here which will also include a physical copy of the album you can collect on the day.

Article by Hayley Foster da Silva

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