Women Working Collectively, what is your value?
Thursday 9th July 2015 6.30pm
ICA, London, SW1Y 5AH


Organised by The Temporary Separatists with a focus on collectives that are rooted both in gender and in place this discussion will consider if women’s artist collectives can provide a resistance to the atomising individualism of neoliberal capitalism that is at the heart of current global art markets.  

This discussion will rethink what artistic practice is and can be, where women’s collectives makes a space not to recreate or infiltrate patriarchal hierarchies, but circumnavigate them. 

With an emphasis on active engagement with others, on process rather than product the panel will look to these collective art practices where the value is to community than of commodity.

The panel will consider feminisms dual program: where it is both a method to recognise gendered group treatment and also an attempt to find a route to autonomy and liberation from such categorisation, and in the light of these seemingly contradictory aims, reflect upon the use of separatism in women’s only collectives.

Can these short-term strategies, that lay bare the painful aspects of society where gender continues to shape lives and dominate both economic and cultural spheres, prove to be effective strategies for achieving long-term goals?

This discussion brings together a range of voices to create a space for dialogue, elliptical associations and learning between and across the generations.




Angela Dimitrakaki is Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Art History and Theory at the University of Edinburgh. Her books include Gender, ArtWork and the Global Imperative: A Materialist Feminist Critique (2013), Politics in a Glass Case: Feminism, Exhibition Cultures and Curatorial Transgressions (2013, co-edited with Lara Perry), ECONOMY: Art, Production and the Subject in the 21st Century (2015, co-edited with Kirsten Lloyd) and, in her native Greek, Art and Globalisation: From the Postmodern Sign to the Biopolitical Arena (2013). She is Corresponding Editor for the interdisciplinary journal HM: Research in Critical Marxist Theory and recently joined Feminist Curators United www.feministcurators.org


Catherine Elwes, a video artist and writer, co-curated the feminist exhibitions Women’s Images of Men and About Time at the ICA (1980). These shows were born out of her involvement with the Women’s Art Collective (formerly the Women’s Workshop of the Artists Union), and the Women’s Art Alliance. She went on to initiate a number of video events including the biennial UK/Canadian Film & Video Exchange (1998-2006) and Figuring Landscapes (2008-2010). Her videos have been shown widely both here and abroad and her work is in a number of public collections. Elwes is author of Video Loupe, (2000), Video Art, a guided tour (2005), and Installation and the Moving Image (2015). Elwes is Professor of Moving Image Art at Chelsea College of Arts, UAL, and Founding Editor of the Moving Image Review & Art Journal (MIRAJ) (Intellect Books).


Johanna Gustavsson is an artist currently based in Gothenburg, Sweden. Her work focuses on feminist, race and class related issues, through mediums such as text, performance and social interactions. Her work has included numerous collaborations, fx: FAGS – Feminist Art Gallery Solidarity, radikal pedagogik, MFK - Malmö Free University for Women, the YES! association, I want a president... , Nobody Puts Baby In A Corner, The Production Unit. She is educated at Valand Art Academy in Gothenburg, Sweden and at the Whitney Independent Study Program in New York, US.


Margaret Harrison is a radical artist whose practice extends through fifty years since the late sixties. She was one of the founders of the London Women’s Liberation Art Group in 1970, as well as the Women’s Workshop of the Artist Union. Between 1973 and 1975 she collaborated with artists Kay Hunt and Mary Kelly tot conduct a study of women’s work in a metal box factory in Bermondsey in London. They presented their findings in the installation Women and Work: A Document on the Division of Labour in Industry 1973-1975 that was first display at the South London Art Gallery in 1975.  Her work was included in the exhibition “Issue: Social Strategies by Women Artists”, curated by Lucy R. Lippard at the ICA  (1980) and has since been exhibited widely including at Tate Modern, Tate Britain and MOCA.


Rose Gibbs is part of the art/research collective The Temporary Separatists. She is an artist, writer and activist with an MA in fine art sculpture from The Royal College of Art. She explores the space between collective and individual experiences of identity using the voice in participatory performances, as well as sculpture and sound intervention. Recent performances have included Performing Protest, Becoming Radical and Slogans for Becoming at The Function Room London, and Eastside Projects, Birmingham. She organizes discussions, such as Taking Up SpaceWomen Only Shows - hosted by The Contemporary Art Society, and Reproducing Motherhood and is co-founder of a feminist art discussion group Practice in Dialogue at Chelsea College of Art. She contributed to the symposium Co-Habiting Feminism in Brighton and gave a talk on dissent in 3D art at Galleri Box, Gothenburg. She writes for Huffington Post and works with The East London Fawcett Group. In 2013 she was director of the One Billion Rising Arts Festival, a campaign that seeks to end violence to women and girls. 


Sofia Landström is part of the art/research collective The Temporary Separatists. She has focused on the analysis and writings concerning feminism, exhibitions and feminist theorizing. Her interest for exhibitions as a place for discussion and dialog began during her time as chairman at Galleri Pictura in Lund, where she realized how the exhibition premises not only encompasses that what is hung on the walls but is also influenced by everything that is taking place outside; politics, economy and social changes. Landströms current interest takes departure in the `Women-Only-Shows´ concept, using three Swedish exhibitions as starting-point; `Kvinnfolk´ (1975) , `Störning´ (1993) and `Syster´ (2014). She investigates questions surrounding dissent but also in what way these exhibitions can be seen as `models of resistance´ where new narratives are being created as oppose to ghettoized phenomenon. Landström has just completed her MFA in Exhibition Studies at Central Saint Martins in London.


The Collectives
It should be noted that often these collectives and their aims evolved over time, with members changing and working within several collectives simultaneously. The list below is a work in progress. The Temporary Separatists are keen to add more information, and details of participants and their collective activities. Please do not hesitate to get in contact


The London Women’s Liberation Art Group 1970 was formed as a result of a large meeting of women in communications and media at Camden Studios. They formed a core group of protesters at the Miss World contest outside of which Alison Fell performed a ‘flashing nipple’ routine and Margaret Harrison dressed as Miss Lovable bra, wearing a pre-formed plastic chest with fur nipples. They contributed texts and drawings to a pamphlet called ‘Why Miss World”. In 1971, to coincide with demonstrations for free abortion, contraception, equal education, pay and job opportunities the LWLAG put together their first show at the Woodstock Gallery, London.

Members included: Valerie Charlton, Alison Fell, Ann Colsell, Roalysn Smythe, Margaret Harrison and Sally Frazer

Women’s Workshop of the Artists Union 1972 were a group of women artists who came together to join the newly formed Artist’s Union in order to ensure that women’s demands became an effective part of the Union’s aims and program of action. One of the objectives of the Women’s Workshop was to set up links with the women’s sections in other unions and “to take action to end sexual and racial discrimination in the arts” stating that “ women do not want to simply replace men in art, women want something much more radical”.  They initiated contact with the strike at Brannans, the Fakenham Occupation by women, and the Women Night cleaners campaign. As well as conducting research and consciousness-raising around the issue of women art students and their difficulties in continuing to practice as artists post college. They had regular viewings and discussion of members work. This group evolved into the Women’s Artist Collective.

Members included: Margaret Harrison, Mary Kelly, Sonia Knox, Tina Keane, Alexis Hunter, Sue Madden, Jane Low, Anna Lena Lindberg, Mary/Hannah O’Shea, Linda Price, Kay Hunt, Pricilla Trench, Suzanne Salon, Alene Stausberg, Roberta Henderson, Jenny Lagando, Sally Rowe, Kate Walker, Celia Edmonds, Rhonda Whitehead, Ann Christie, Deborah Stern, Elaine Kowalski, Juliette Barndon, Chris Pierce, Diane Olson, Ann Dekker, Carol McKenna Liz Moore, Sheila Malone, Ruth Schreiber, Mary Lloyd Jones, Celia Berridge

Women’s Free Art Alliance was founded by Joanna Walton and Kathy Nairne in 1973 and set up with the intention to facilitate workshops where women’s self development and creativity could be explored and expressed. In its initial stages WFAA put together an ambitious program of workshops in the form of WOMANSCHOOL, areas covered included: anthropology, architecture, African drumming, theatre, dance, printing, weaving, drawing, photography, dance, massage and dressmaking.  The WFAA managed to find a space, as well as a grants to fund its program, thus was able to provide a site for other women’s groups to meet, such as WWAU, and also provide space for a food co-operative. The WFAA organised the women only exhibition Sweet Sixteen and Never Been Shown (1975). Such initiatives were radical in their approach to exhibition making: recognising the barriers to entry, this exhibition was open to all women, there was no criteria, artists were not expected to have an art education background, nor a track record of prior exhibitions. As this group evolved, the Free was dropped from the name, as it was felt to be too “American” and the group became the Women’s Art Alliance.

Members included: Joanna Walton, Kathy Nairne, Linda Mallet, Mary Sergent, Carol, Liz Moore, Jenni Norris


Women’s Artist Collective 1975 was a group that develop out of the Women’s Workshop of the Artists Union, by members who wanted to separate themselves from the main Artists Union. (9 members in 75)They took part in radio program proposing the idea of a women’s cultural centre. They shared a space in Covent Garden with the Women’s Liberation Workshop, using it as an information centre, slide library and meeting-place. Member Liz Rhodes, was key in the organisation of protests outside the Hayward Annual in 1977, an exhibition showing the work of 32 men and only 2 women. This protest reversed the situation for the following year, producing a show of 7 men and 16 women.

Members included: Catherine Elwes, Tina Keane, Sonia Knox, Jessica York, Annie Wright, Rose Finn-Kelcey, Hannah O’Shea, Joyce Agee, Deborah Lowensburg, Felicity Sparrow, Liz Rhodes, Margaret Harrison, Rose Garrard, Pauline Barrie

Women’s Art Alliance was a group that evolved out of the Women’s Free Art Alliance, dropping the “free” from the original title, as this was felt to be too “American”. Linda Mallett was often the main organiser, putting together a series of exhibitions such as Women’s Crafts in 1976, and a seminar “Points of View on Women’s practice in art” in 1977 with Susan Hiller, Mary Kelly, Jane Kelly, Sarah Kent, Caroline Tisdall, Tina Keane and Margaret Harrison. The Arts Alliance, as it came to be known, put on shows including a solo exhibits by Alexis Hunter and Jacqueline Morreau and a joint exhibition by Catherine Elwes and Annie Wright.

Members of the WAA included: Nina Jennings, Alexis Hunter, Andrea Webb, Catherine Elwes, Jenni Norris, Linda Mallet

It was a protest at the ICA in 1978 against the exhibition of Allen Jones’ work, organised by WAA member Nina Jennings that sparked the conversations that lead to the three women’s shows at the ICA in 1980. The first two of these exhibitions were the culmination of thinking between members of both the WAA and WAC. This first show, Women’s Images of Men was organised by a committee comprising of Pat Whiteread, Jacqueline Moreau, Joyce Agee, Catherine Elwes, with Deborah Lowensburg and Felicity Sparrow curating the film program. It is worth noting that this exhibition broke all attendance records averaging 1000 visitors a day, with a queue running from the ICA to Trafalgar square.

The YES! Association/Föreningen JA! is a separatist association for art workers whose practices and activities are informed by feminism with an intersectional perspective.
YES!‘s goal is to overthrow the ruling system of heteronormative, patriarchal, racist and capitalist power structures by putting into practice a structural redistribution of the access to financial resources, space and time within the art scene.
YES! Association/Föreningen JA! is run by its board co-art workers: Malin Arnell 2005-present (founder); Åsa Elzén 2008-present; Johanna Gustavsson 2005-2011 (founder); Line S. Karlström 2005-2009 (founder); Anna Linder 2005-2007 (founder); Fia-Stina Sandlund 2005-2008 (founder).



FAGS – Feminist Art Gallery Solidarity is a feminist separatist gallery initiated by Johanna Gustavsson and Zafire Vrba in 2012. It is run with temporary working groups.
FAGS is a strategy to survive. We initiated FAGS to avoid/resist/turn away from cultural policies as dictated by the right-wing patriarchy. To avoid the white cubes, the white rooms and the white men. We initiated FAGS because we need air.
/Johanna Gustavsson & Zafire Vrba

FAGS is feminist separatist, this is our definition:
FAGS is a space for and by feminists.
FAGS creates and exhibits feminist art.
FAGS claims all forms and aspects of art.
FAGS interprets the gallery format in multiple ways.
FAGS places art in a feminist discourse.
FAGS operates through a feminist process.
FAGS is alcohol- and drug free.
FAGS is a feminist act.


Malmö Free University for Women (MFK) was a participatory art project and a feminist organization for critical knowledge production. We aimed to raise and discuss contemporary political issues by bringing together experience and knowledge from various fields. Through
experimental, radical pedagogical methods we aimed at bridging theory and practice and challenge dominating norms and power structures. Our work took the form of reading groups, workshops, lectures, manifestations, physical exercises, screenings, exhibitions etc. Between 2006 – 2011 MFK was run by artists Lisa Nyberg, Johanna Gustavsson and more or less temporary collaborators from various backgrounds.



Feminist Curators United is a network of curators and scholars dedicated to developing feminist curatorial practice through the sharing of ideas and resources, with programs encompassing public events, publications, and mentorships. It was founded in 2014 by Maura Reilly, Helena Reckitt and Lara Perry


The Temporary Separatists (Rose Gibbs and Sofia Landström), a woman-identified artist/research collective who seek to understand the benefits of collectivism through the practice of making, writing and researching collectively. As well as learning through doing, they also learn by example: looking at work from past and present collectives, they seek to create a platform from which to disseminate knowledge and generate discussion around this approach to art practice.

Women = Gendered characteristic, rather than Female = Biological Sex