Feminist Net-work
: Digitization and Performances of the Women's Art Library Slide Collection

  • Althea Greenan

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

The Women’s Art Library (WAL) slide collection embodies a singular culturally
important feminist achievement that began with artists collecting their slides of
artwork to form a public resource in the 1970s. Today it is the historical core of the
WAL, a heavily consulted resource in the Special Collections of the Library at
Goldsmiths, University of London. However, 35mm slides have become a
challenging material to use and as in other art archives, the slides are seen as less
useful and potentially replaceable by a digital image collection. This practice-based
research explored the production of digital records from slides in order to expand on
how digitization can capture a wide range of data from the slide, its production, and
labelling. Beginning with a digital photography project ‘walking’ through sections of
the WAL slide collection, I reproduced slides experimentally through print, video and
3D objects to discover the performativity of the slides in different analogue and
digital environments of public exchange. These diverse visualizations work with the
whole slide object and draw attention to the artist-inscribed mount that frames the
film transparency depicting artwork. The research thus reveals the important material
of the artists’ slide collection that is excluded from the final images representing
digitized slide collections created using standard scanning procedures. This
methodology reactivates the artists’ slides from the stasis of archive to recall their
primary function as distributable images and reconsiders how the slides currently
represent the artists who made them. This follows a detailed review of how slide
collections and cultural heritage materials are digitized to support international studio,
critical and historical art scholarship and engage with digital network culture.
Recovering the slide mount and the women artists’ inscriptions is shown to endow the
WAL slide collection with a cultural importance that is independent of what the
slides’ images represent. The artists’ slides collectively produce a distinct syntax that
expresses the complexity and individuality of individual artists’ practices in the
context of and transformed by the feminist project. The research reframes the legacy
of the WAL slide collection from its images to its performativity, showing how the
slides are communicative tools for women artists’ participation in a political project
raising the visibility of all women’s art. This re-presents the WAL slide collection as
a performative site of ongoing feminist intervention and participation in culture
unbound by fixed standards of value set by the dominant canon, digital or otherwise.
Date of Award2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton
SupervisorLara Perry (Supervisor)

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