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Monday, 21. February 2005


Monday, 7.3. 2005: You read and I will cook


You read and I will cook

By Emma Hedditch

The Hackney Flashers were a socialist, feminist, documentary photography collective, working on issues of wages, class and childcare based in London during the 1980’s. As with some other well-documented artists groups, writers and activists working in the UK throughout the 60’s and 70’s, for example The Artist’s Union, The Artist’s Placement group and Four Corners, their production sought a “Social Functionalism.” A framework for creative activity, that has a profound elasticity, contained by a continued sense of commitment to social relations and unravelling institutional frameworks through self-organisation, tasks and projects, rather than a commitment to an institution’s rules or because of the provision of wealth creating activities.

The Hackney Flashers chose photography as the means of production with which to represent and document their community and to control the representation of work and behaviour, in a process based practice that was repeated with different groups of women throughout the life of the group. Documentation provided material for participants to reflect on their situation, life and identity and that process might support the other actions they were engaged in, or their potential acting power whether it was social, sexual, psychological, economic or thought. These documents might have intentions that were sometimes lived more self-consciously or discussed publicly, alongside other kinds of documenting actions like starting a friendship or making a fire. The process whilst acknowledging varying individual capacities and narratives emphasised participants as social beings.

The writer, photo therapist and cultural worker Jo Spence worked with the collective for a short time, producing works where she recreated her own family photographs, later when diagnosed with cancer she documented her transforming physical and mental health until she died in 1992. The creative activity of photo production established fixed representations, in both cases functioning as self-narration and therefore consolidating a position, but at the same time producing an intense expressive activity that transcends a stable position or inflated value of the objects produced. Organisation of photographic practices around Feminist political ideology (which could be thought of as the anticipation of consciousness) and the desire to break down and escape false universals, coupled with the need for identification and belonging, was the legitimation for these activities and the apprehension of mediums such as film, video and photography. Not through an acknowledgement by visual art world and it’s existing institutions.

Perceptual framing sometimes limits the possibilities of creative activity to institutional frameworks and ignores the vast wealth of loose networks of relations between people. In the UK, I think it’s safe to say, making photographs and digital images has become part of these common activities and the exchange of images an action in itself, either as photographs or via the Internet. Images are made and exchanged by a mass of people, of a mass of commonplace activities, such as cooking, repairing things, cleaning, caring for children or event based activities such as listening to music, playing sports, parties and demonstrations. As reflections of actions they also serve as knowledge, and the methods by which reflections are made, and with what sense of themselves impact on where they will be circulated. If the action is the way in which reflections are documented, as documents they represent the result of a person’s capacity to act, and this is connected to self-consciousness or confidence.

In visual culture there is a double bind, the emphasis on representations makes it hard to resist establishing a visible creative activity and even without documenting it, these representations establish stable forms that can act as an obstacle or even block out fluid and open relations. Coupled with art history, funding and critique, which often only addresses single artists and artists groups, that serve in an economy based on inventive power, which is supposed to be non-recyclable, but only exists because of free flowing exchanges and social relations.

Making oneself visible and coherent, whether in solidarity or defiance, as a document of action is always going to appear dubious, even if performed with others, socially with all the implications of openness. What if we acknowledge that more of us are working on it, than is visible, and anyone could establish a position if allowed to pass through the process of identification? Instead of producing a document, we might equalise feelings/ living, participation in social movements and knowledge production as being part of living, and acknowledge social relations without the illusion of singular production.

Communication with individualised art institutions and their employees as with all other relations in daily life could slow down the reproduction of such singular modes of subjectification. Reaching deadlines with the production of materials, and being present as an artist, would no longer be the starting point to these relations; instead it will only be about feelings. Do we feel comfortable with the situation, hurt, annoyed, passionate, and that each situation acknowledges the present and prioritises the problematisation of such situations.

I am implying that there exists some refusal, uncertainty and doubt. Strengthened in the present and from what we know from those documents of past actions in books, in the room, on the phone, when reading, feeling and watching. This strength of doubt is needed to refuse a force of domination or over-simplification; this is where doubt can become action. A multiple, total dependency on social being; the incoherent self that pushes us together, feeling around for something familiar, that we know is there, and refuses alienation.

Emma Hedditch (Great Britain)

(*1972 Somerset, England), lives in London. Hedditch has been a “full-time” artist and writer since 2000, engaged in collaborative dialogue with The Copenhagen Free University since 2001, Lambeth Women’s project and Cinenova, women’s film and video distributor since 1999 (all radical collectives). Productions include: A Pattern an ongoing, collectively shot and edited video since 2000; A Political feeling, I hope so a social situation exploring conditions of belonging, commissioned by Cubitt gallery, London, 2003/04; Now that we are persons text on the maternal subject for Mute magazine issue 27.



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