Why have there been no great women artists?


Another interesting screening by Club des Femmes is in the works this week, under the provocative title “Why have there been no great women artists?” It’s a chance to see two feminist shorts from the 1970s and one more recent piece from 1997.

There’s a screening in Liverpool on Friday then another screening in London on Monday Tuesday (full details below).

“Why have there been no great women artists?” This is how the critic Linda Nochlin famously opened the debate about the way canonical thinking defined and still defines Western art history. For Nochlin, in 1971, in a line of art A-listers that stretched from Michelangelo to Andy Warhol, women artists were notable by their absence.

Nearly forty years on in our post-feminist age, Club des Femmes considers the role of the woman artist and wonders if the debate has ever gone away? Come with us and revisit the seventies, the debate is just starting: it’s time to engage.



Director: Lis Rhodes. UK, 1978, 20 mins, 16mm

LIGHT READING begins in darkness as a woman’s voice is heard over a blank

screen. She speaks of her search for a voice: of presence and absence, of

experience and history. Her voice continues until the images appear on the

screen and then it is silent. In the final section of the film she begins

again – reading the images as these are moved and re-placed, describing the

piecing together of the film as she tries to piece together the strands of

her story. ‘She watched herself being looked at She looked at herself being

watched but she could not perceive herself as the subject of the sentence

…’ (Lis Rhodes).


Director: Martha Rosler. USA, 1975, 6 mins, video

Martha Rosler is an important contemporary artist and feminist who uses

photography, performance, writing and video to deconstruct cultural reality.

Avoiding a pedantic stance, Rosler characteristically lays out visual and

verbal information in a manner that allows the contradictions to gradually

emerge, so that the audience can discern these disjunctions for themselves.


Director: Elisabeth Subrin. USA, 1997, 36 mins, video

A cinematic doppelganger without precedent, Elisabeth Subrin’s Shulie

uncannily and systematically bends time and cinematic code alike, projecting

the viewer 30 years into the past to rediscover a woman out of time and time

out of joint- and in Subrin’s words, ‘to investigate the mythos and residue

of the late 1960s.’ Staging an extended act of homage as well as a playful,

provocative confounding of filmic propriety, Subrin and her creative

collaborator Kim Soss resurrect a little-known 1967 documentary portrait of

a young Chicago art student who a few years later would become a notable

figure in Second Wave feminism and the author of the radical 1970 manifesto,

The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution. Reflecting on her

life and times, Shulie functions as a prism for refracting questions of

gender, race and class that resonate in our era as in hers, while through

painstaking mediation, Subrin makes manifest the eternal return of film. –

Mark MacElhatten and Gavin Smith, curators, Views from the Avant Garde. 35th

New York Film Festival


LIVERPOOL: Friday 25 September, 2pm

AND Festival, The Box, Fact, 88 Wood St, L1 4DQ, Liverpool


LONDON: Monday 28 September, 6.30pm Tuesday 29 September, 6.30pm

Goldsmiths, University of London

Small Hall Cinema, Richard Hoggart Building (main building)



On the same subject, Feminist Peace Network has a post about a documentary on the Heresies Collective, which produced the feminist art magazine Heresies from 1977-1992. Excitingly, the directors have posted the entire archive of Heresies, which you can download in PDF form…


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