Experience: Women Power Protest at Birmingham Museum

by Lauren Morton

Please note this exhibition includes themes sexual violence and eating disorders.

Experience: Women Power Protest at Birmingham Museum and Art Galley

2018 marks 100 years since the Representation of The People Act, a piece of legislation that meant that the right to vote became reality for some women in the UK. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery’s (BMAG) latest exhibition, in Gas Hall, Women Power Protest commemorates this milestone and examines life for women today.

With pieces from the Arts Council Collection, Birmingham’s Collection and local artists, Women Power Protest is grouped into three interlinking themes; Activism, Hope and Dignity. Showcasing work of female artists such as Sam Taylor-Johnson, Louise Bourgeois and 2017 Turner Prize winner Lubaina Himid, the pieces collectively look at the experiences, struggles, injustices and joys of life as a modern woman.

Cerne Abbas Lady: Self Portrait by Liz Rideal
Cerne Abbas Lady: Self Portrait by Liz Rideal

The exhibition doesn’t shy away from challenging subjects such as sexual violence towards women, and eating disorders which can often be triggered by the pressures to conform to the world’s ideal of beauty. As a consensual space, BMAG provide a map of the exhibition for visitors allowing them to make viewing decisions based upon their comfort level.

Modern and contemporary works are shown in various art forms within the exhibit, from sculpture to film, photography to textiles.

One of my favourite pieces was by Kate Smith called Who could have guessed there’d be so much diversity. When viewed from the side, the spectator sees an angler’s hat adorned with fishing lures; however, when viewed from the front, you see a colourful necklace, on what looks like a shop mount. The artist is presenting the interests and aesthetics associated with the social constructs of masculinity and femininity. For me, this piece was an engaging visual representation, suggesting that identities are not set in stone; a key subject the exhibition aims to start a conversation about.

Prominent local women such as Jess Phillips, MP for Birmingham Yardley were invited to select artwork from the exhibition that particularly resonated with them. Jess chose Cerne Abbas Lady: Self Portrait by Liz Rideal. The piece takes a well-known image, the hillside chalk figure of the Cerne Abbas giant which dates back to the prehistoric era, and creates a representation of the female form, made up of a collage of photo booth prints of the artist. As Jess herself has said, if only this image “had always been there (on that hill) so that woman wasn’t always just a vision of male gaze.”

In a separate area called The Quaint Space the gallery states that the art displayed within it is there to start a discussion, and encourage people to engage in conversation about what they have seen, felt and heard.

Women Power Protest photo by Dave Massey
Women Power Protest photo by Dave Massey

This is a thought provoking and powerful collection, one that everyone can take a lot from whilst it is in the city.

Women Power Protest is at BMAG until 31st March 2019 with events planned throughout its run. To find out more about the FREE exhibition and activities go to: birminghammuseums.org.uk/bmag/whats-on/women-power-protest

This isn’t a sponsored post.

Lauren Morton works as a Communications Officer in central Birmingham. Lauren is a massive foodie and in her spare time enjoys music, the cinema and exploring local events.