Colouring Outside the Lines: Subversion/the mainstream

MM: What happens if you put work that’s radical into the mainstream – is it still challenging if in an institutionalised space?

RK: Our current understanding of what a museums and galleries are and what they should achieve is deeply rooted in an enlightenment project of education and self-improvement. Modern art galleries have different traditions and are governed more by ‘the market’ and ‘market trends’. By showing subcultures in institutional spaces they may potentially be assimilated, their threat negated and their culture simplified. I think that the values and purpose of institutions such as galleries are not permanent and static. It is possible, if difficult, to upset traditions and speak beyond them. Whilst you must be aware of and acknowledge the traditions and hierachies of power you work within, you can also manipulate these discourses without being wholly manipulated by them.

‘performativity describes this relation of being implicated in that which one opposes, this turning power against itself to produce alternative modalities of power’ Judith Butler

RK: You can see the process of assimilation at work if you look at how modern art galleries have treated graffiti art. It could be argued that the threat of graffiti has been reduced by showing it in a fine art context with the repackaging and marketing of Banksy and the stylisation of this culture. However I also think that once this trend is over graffiti artists will continue to make work, because the fundamental need for self-expression remains irrespective of external validation. Superficial and stylistic elements may be absorbed into the mainstream but it is the underlying motivations and equality of access which underpin the form which are genuinely unpalatable and subversive.

Thank you for reading and visiting! We look forward to your comments….

Rachel Kaye

Art Experience: I studied English at Sussex, where I focused on queer theory, feminist analysis and post-colonial literature. After years wasting time in dead end clerical jobs I studied a part time distance learning MA at Leicester specialising in the display of subcultural material in institutions.I volunteered in any spare time and eventually got together enough experience to be offered this position. Everything I know about art I taught myself, I didn’t even do an Art GCSE because I felt I couldn’t draw and I should be concentrating on academic subjects. No career adviser ever spoke to me about the option of a career in the arts and I’m still not entirely sure how I ended up here. I take photos, make prints and collage. I’m a long term personal/political zine writer and you can find my interviews about this in ‘Below Critical Radar’ and ‘Riot Grrrl: Revolution grrrl style now’.

Melanie Maddison

Art Experience:  My educational experience couldn’t be further from art if it tried! I graduated as a qualified Occupational Therapist before studying for an MA in Women’s Studies, writing my thesis on female DIY music collectives and their challenges to traditional constructs and aesthetics of feminist activism. I self published my thesis as a zine after I left University, in order for my research to find a wider audience outside of academia alone. I then got hooked on zine writing! I started writing the zine Colouring Outside The Lines in 2004 to try and counter what contemporary female art documentation people could get their hands on. As well as acting as a zine to address the balance, I also wanted to make a zine to show women that we can ALLbe artistic and creative within our everyday lives – a collection of interviews to inspire and encourage and let women know that their contributions are important, worthwhile, and wholly valid. I have been fortunate, as a result of the success of the zine, to work collaboratively on further art projects; co-curating a small art exhibition and auction benefit for The Truth Isn’t Sexy anti-sex trafficking organisation (2007); curating the Female Comics Zine exhibition at the Women’s Library, London (2009); writing for the American female arts publication, Art XX

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