‘States of living: Architecture, Objects, Body’ commissioned new works from artists with critical feminist and queer perspectives to investigate the political conditions of architectures spatial and symbolic forms, with visual artist Alexandra McGregor and writers/performance artists Hanna Gia Louise and Mae Diansangu. The project culminated in a three-day exhibition and event series at the Anatomy rooms, Aberdeen.
Architecture reflects states of rapid regeneration and new developments are often a sign of progress for a city. Where the old collides with the new, the preservation of social and cultural histories is often lost or in ruins. This suggests that architecture is far more than simple bricks and water; these structures reveal the histories, hopes, power struggles and culture of the society we live in today.
The work of Alexandra McGregor responds to the Aberdeen comb factory that once stood on Hutcheon Street as a site of the city’s industrial past and the use of comb imagery in Pictish stones embedded in rural North-East landscapes. Through a collection of new drawings, sculpture, film and performance Alexandra took advantage of slippages in historical truths and North-East folklore to explore female potential historic and present. Channeling the power of a site, body or object, disrupting archives or paying homage to an ancient land goddess venerated by the Picts. The work unearths cultural histories, untangling and questioning to situate allegories of the present and post female.
‘Intersections’ by Hanna Gia Louise and Mae Diansangu is a series of written and visual representations of womxhood, body and urban environment. Through this collaborative process the work explores how two queer bodies intersect with one another, the built environment and heteronormative, patriarchal spaces. It comments on the tension between the narratives which are inscribed on ‘female’ bodies and the personal, subjective narrative of those bodies. A selection of the images was developed in collaboration with Hannah and Mae’s friend Lise Bos, a non-binary analog photographer, based in Aberdeen.
The project has been made possible through Creative funding from Aberdeen city council.
Photo credits: Rory Barclay
Talk: History of the Aberdeen Comb works: Jenny Brown
Saturday 18th January
Join us for a talk by Jenny Brown, from Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums looking at the history of the Aberdeen comb works. The comb works was once the largest manufactory of combs in the world, producing 9 million combs every year and employing over 600 people and played a significant part in Aberdeen’s industrial past.
The talk will take a look through the history of Aberdeen Comb Works, including highlights from our unique collection of over 1000 combs and fancy goods.
Jenny Brown is lead curator at the Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums and works in the history department. The team covers everything from archaeology to the oil industry, researching and developing the collections to produce events, talks and tours and answer public enquiries. Her particular areas of interest include Aberdeen’s industrial heritage and the way in which science and technology continue to affect our lives.
Reading group: The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction
Sunday 19th January
As part of the exhibition ‘States of Living: Body, Object, Architecture’ please join us for a reading and discussion of feminist and speculative fiction writer Ursula Le Guin’s ‘The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction’ (1986). Le Guin presents the theory that the first tool used by humans was a carrier bag for food rather than a weapon and draws connections between the story of origins and the writing of fiction. Contrary to stories of the hero in battle the novel is a feminine form, because it opposes this notion, maintaining that ‘the natural, proper, fitting shape of the novel might be that of a sack, a bag...holding things in particular, powerful relation to one another and to us.’
The session takes an open approach to collectively exploring the power of story telling for imaginary world – building, and is supported by curator Rachel Grant and artist Alexandra McGregor.
Alexandra McGregor is a visual artist and performer based in Aberdeen. Her work explores feminine rites and traditions seeking out and questioning the present and post female. The narratives within her practice are embedded in historical material with her performances acting as recording mechanisms that seek to unearth ideas around the contemporary female.
Alexandra graduated in 2017 from Gray’s School of Art and from 2017-18 was Graduate in Residence for the Contemporary Art department. She has exhibited at the RSA New Contemporaries (2018) at the Scottish National Gallery Edinburgh, and ‘Positive Geographies’ as part of the Look Again festival (2018). More recently she has exhibited and performed in group exhibitions organised by Nomad. Alexandra currently works as a volunteer Gallery Assistant for Grampian Hospital Arts Trust at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.
Hanna Gia Louise & Mae Diansangu
Hanna Gia Louise is an anthropology student, writer and performer who explores queerness, sexuality, relationships and adversity through autobiographical performance poetry.
Mae Diansangu is a performance artist who uses spoken word and music to explore queerness, gender and race - particularly their intersections and the liminal spaces they produce.
In 2018 Hanna and Mae co-founded the arts collective and performance night Hysteria, which showcases the work of women and non-binary creatives in Aberdeen. They are part of the city’s emerging underground queer performance scene where art and activism merge to elevate queer feminist perspectives.
hysteria instagram: @hysteriaABDN
hanna instagram: @anthr0boi
mae instagram: @maemondo_369