A charity group show exploring art and activism presents work by women and marginalised genders

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A Marigold Moment © Alia Romagnoli.

This Women’s History Month, artists Eliza Hatch and Bee Illustrates present their curatorial debut, alongside a programme of workshops and panel discussions 

When speaking about a traumatic or troubling experience, have you ever been labelled “attention-seeking”? Or when others have opened up about their problems, have you ever described them as being “dramatic”? Historically, these are words that have been used to oppress women and people of marginalised genders when describing their struggles. A group exhibition opening tomorrow aims to reclaim these words. Hysterical will present 18 artists – women and people of marginalised genders – who are using art as a tool for advocacy. The charity exhibition, which takes place at no format Gallery in Deptford, is raising money for charity partners UN Women UK and Mermaids.

The artists were selected from an open call of over 800 submissions. Exhibiting photographers include one of British Journal of Photography’s 2021 Ones to Watch, Tayo Adekunle, Female in Focus winner Jodie Bateman, and Alia Romagnoli. Other exhibitors include filmmaker Florence Winter Hill, multimedia artist Eleanor West, and textile artist Florence Poppy Deary. Open for just one week, the exhibition runs alongside a workshop hosted by Grrrl Zine Fair, which includes speakers such as Gina Martin, Prishita Maheshwari-Aplin, Cathy Reay, Tori West, Maxine Williams and India Ysabel. 

Two artists, who are also activists, put together the event. Photographer Eliza Hatch is the founder of Cheer up Luv, a photo series and online platform dedicated to re-telling stories of sexual harassment. Bee Illustrates is a queer, non-binary, illustrator who harnesses their practice to educate and inform on topics like feminism, mental health and queerness. The pair had been “internet friends” for a while but met in real life in October 2021. Sharing many mutual passions – art, feminism, activism – a conversation about curating an exhibition soon turned into a reality. “It went from zero to 100 – from never meeting before to messaging every day,” says Eliza. “It was a quick but beautiful artistic romance.”

Florence by Eliza Hatch, for Cheer Up Luv. "Two summers ago I was walking to a supermarket in Marseille. A guy was getting out of his car and said to me, 'La pute c'est magnifique' as I walked past."

“We’re always navigating that space between online activism, real world activism, and art activism. It’s like murky waters sometimes. We wanted to bring that out of the social media bubble”

Eliza Hatch

Artefact 3 © Tayo Adekunle.

The brief for the open call was simple: to submit work that centred around community activism and uplifting marginalised voices. “By the nature of what we both do, and how we both exist on the internet, I don’t think it could have been on anything else,” says Bee. “It was inevitable because so much of our lives are spent talking about these issues.” 

Eliza adds that they wanted to create an exhibition that had a voice and a cause. “We’re always navigating that space between online activism, real world activism, and art activism. It’s kind of like murky waters sometimes. We wanted to bring that out of the social media bubble that we’re used to,” she says. 

Both Eliza and Bee recognise that during Women’s History Month, institutions, brands, and organisations can fall into a trap of showing a “one-dimensional” version of womanhood. “While I may not identify as a woman, it’s really important that we still have all genders involved in these spaces… We wanted to encompass intersecting ideas,” says Bee. The result is sure to be dazzling, and a testament to the power of art to inform, communicate and inspire positive change.

Hysterical will be on show at no format Gallery in Deptford, London, from 24 March until 03 April 2022. Donate to their fundraiser here.

Marigold Warner

Online Editor

Marigold Warner joined the British Journal Photography in April 2018, and currently holds the position of Online Editor. She studied English Literature and History of Art at the University of Leeds, followed by an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London. Her work has been published by titles including the Telegraph Magazine, Huck, Gal-dem, Disegno, and the Architects Journal.