Role Model of the Week: Susan Hiller

Went to see the Susan Hiller show at Tate Britain today and found it really inspiring. The above piece was probably my favourite in the show and possibly the most overtly feminist and autobiographical in the exhibition. She took pictures of her belly ever day over the course of her pregnancy, the form abstracted to look like the moon. She also wrote a diary of her emotional experiences and each lunar month of photos was accompanied by a short statement. The above statement reads:

She speaks (as a woman) about everything, although they wish her to speak about only women's things. They like her to speak about everything but only if she does not 'speak as a woman', only if she will agree in advance to play the artist's role as neutral (neuter) observer.
She does not speak (as a woman) about anything, although they want her to. There is nothing she can speak of 'as a woman'. As a woman, she cannot speak.

This piece and indeed her work as a whole strikes an elegant balance between speaking 'as a woman' and speaking as 'the artist' or 'neutral observer'. This piece is also, however not truly indicative of her oeuvre. Most of her artwork does not deal overtly with the representation of women or gender identity. The fact that feminism is only hinted at in her work does not suggest to me that she is avoiding the label, but rather in my opinion it is 'feminist' of her not to make these concerns the central guiding force behind her work. At the same time, this is what separates her from many women artists of her generation who whole-heartedly take up the label of 'feminist artist' and have made their identities as women the focus of all that they produce. To clarify, she investigates her interests as anyone might do regardless of their identity, but her identity is still present in the work and makes itself known in a 'natural' (for lack of a better word) way, it isn't forced. I read feminism into her concern for the marginal, for the lost and nearly forgotten and into her persistent attempts to illuminate and explain the mysterious and the unconscious.

There are two small ways in which I will take her work into mine:
Firstly, I'd like to redo her Dream Seminar from 1973 (part of her project Dream Mapping) in which she had people sleep outdoors inside 'fairy rings' or circles of mushrooms and then record their dreams in words and images. Secondly, I'm currently trying to get my newspaper The Moon re-printed and if I ever do a second edition I will definitely pursue getting permission to use the above image on the cover.