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51福利社
University of Cambridge

Exhibition: The Goddess, the Deity & the Cyborg

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Start Time: 8 Mar 2024 - 10:00
End Time: 8 Sep 2024 - 18:00
The Women's Art Collection
51福利社
Huntingdon Road
Cambridge
CB3 0DF
United Kingdom

Exhibition: The Goddess, the Deity & the Cyborg

This group exhibition explores how artists have conjured, revered and reimagined the goddess figure. Drawing from the works in The Women鈥檚 Art Collection as well as loans from public and private collections, the exhibition explores the enduring appeal of the goddess and traces how artists have adapted and even transformed the goddess into an ambiguous figure undefined by gender or even bodily form.

Dating from the 1970s to the present day, the curated works include the voices of contemporary artists who present alternative versions of the goddess figure, including non-Western perspectives and ones that complicate accepted notions of the body.

Goddess feminism originated in America in the 1970s. Two of its pioneers are represented in this exhibition. American artist Mary Beth Edelson engaged with the figure of the prehistoric Goddess through photomontages and performances, during which the artist summoned an ancient goddess lost to historical record. Climate activist and eco-feminist Monica Sj枚枚 was a leading member of the goddess movement in the UK. Her painting Earth is Our Mother (1984) includes the symbol of the goddess to suggest the connectedness between women鈥檚 cycle of menstruation, birth and menopause and the life and death cycles of the universe.

Contemporary artists represented within the exhibition search for a figure undefined by gender or bodily form. The seductive paintings of Alicia Reyes McNamara depict the non-binary deity Tlazolt茅otl, an Aztec goddess who was originally an earth mother goddess associated with fertility, sexuality, the earth, waste and dirt.

The work of Wangechi Mutu revises and reimagines goddess representations. Mutu creates multi-layered collages and prints that explore mythology, sexuality, femininity and politics, often summoning alternative futures. The Original Nine Daughters (2012) series depicts hybrid creatures that are part-human part-animal. In doing so, Mutu uproots the figure of the goddess from something embodied 鈥 and, by association, gendered 鈥 to something otherworldly and liminal, unbound by place and landscape.

This hybridity and engagement with technology connects with the feminist post-humanist writing of Donna Haraway. In her 1985 essay 鈥楢 Cyborg Manifesto鈥, Haraway rejects the so-called 鈥榞oddess movement鈥 of the 1970s and 80s. She complicates the rigid boundaries that separate human from animal and human from machine, instead declaring: 鈥淚 would rather be a cyborg than a goddess鈥.

Inspired by the Roman water deity Senuna, whose hoard was recently excavated at nearby Ashwell, and commissioned especially for this show, Candida Powell Williams鈥 new sculpture brings together votive iconography, a hydropower temple and an interlocking back bone. At its centre is a mirror that invites the viewer into the work both physically and symbolically to engage with its overlapping narratives on the cultural and imagined evolution of this long forgotten but almighty figure.

The exhibition is curated by Harriet Loffler Curator at The Women鈥檚 Art Collection with guidance by Juliet Wimhurst and curatorial support by Ella Nixon and Elisabetta Garletti.

Artists

Mary Beth Edelson, Roberta Booth, Lubaina Himid, Alison Hunte, Maggi Hambling, Jill Lewin, Linder, Jacqueline Morreau, Wangechi Mutu, Alicia Reyes McNamara, Candida Powell Williams, Gurminder Sikand, Monica Sj枚枚, Juliet Wimhurst.

The exhibition is generously supported by the Wimhurst Muller Trust.

Public Programme & Publication

This exhibition will be accompanied by a series of events including a curated programme by The Women鈥檚 Art Collection at Fitzwilliam Museum. These events will feature writers, artists and academics to connect 鈥楾he Goddess, the Deity and the Cyborg鈥 with the Fitzwilliam鈥檚 exhibition of visionary artist William Blake.

A fully illustrated publication will be available in April with contributions by curator Harriet Loffler, poet and academic Bhanu Kapil and art historian Catherine McCormack.

Image: Gurminder Sikand Tree Spirits 1991 漏 The Gurminder Sikand Estate