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Feminism in Focus at Middlesex

Middlesex University's CREATE/ feminisms research cluster brought together a community of like-minded artists, designers, academics and writers for its first-ever symposium, a day of conversations exploring the role of feminist thought in contemporary art and design education. Create Feminisms symposium

"Feminism has made a comeback over the past five to ten years, especially in the visual arts," said Alexandra Kokoli, who co-organised the plenary with fellow Middlesex lecturer Catherine Dormor.

"More recently, there has been a return to long-established feminist activist practices – for example the Everyday Sexism project and the No More Page 3 campaign – and we need to explore links between academic and activist feminisms, which have historically overlapped to a great degree and still do, as well as help inform activism with artistic and scholarly insights."

Catherine agreed: "There needs to be a drawing together of academic, activist and artistic feminisms such that they inform and support each other across cultural and academic fields and thus put feminisms, as multiple, on a permanent agenda."

Workshops were led by members of Middlesex's research and academic team and looked at the various ways in which feminism informs art education. Among them, Katy Deepwell spoke of the implications of being the 'token' lecturer on feminism art within a curriculum; Sonia Boyce discussed her recurring role as emergency art doctor when visiting institutions, and Loraine Leeson's session looked at feminism within teaching and learning art, but also dipped into the many factors impacting the formal education of young artists.

Create Feminisms symposiumWith many participants drawing on their experiences of feminist art and activism in the 1970s and 1980s, conversations showed that issues faced by artists and educators in the present day are part of a continuing narrative.

"It was interesting that the individual stories of people's experiences are still very close to the surface and still of relevance to what is experienced now," Catherine said. "These are more than anecdotes as they speak of strategies and tactics that still need to be drawn upon in making voices and work heard."

For Hilary Robinson, Dean of the School of Art and Design, the symposium was a way of highlighting the "real sense of community at Middlesex around issues of gender, sexuality, feminist politics and how that intersects with culture and making". It has also affirmed Middlesex's CREATE/ feminisms research cluster as a significant platform for enquiry into feminism within art education and practice. 

"Looking at the themes and research interests presented at the symposium and more broadly within the cluster, there is a diversity present which means CREATE/ feminisms can really become a point of focus for this, together with the various networks we are all part of," said Catherine.

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