Greenham Common’s archival webs: towards a virtual feminist museum

Article


Kokoli, A. 2023. Greenham Common’s archival webs: towards a virtual feminist museum. British Art Studies. (24). https://doi.org/10.17658/issn.2058-5462/issue-24/akokoli
TypeArticle
TitleGreenham Common’s archival webs: towards a virtual feminist museum
AuthorsKokoli, A.
Abstract

The Women’s Peace Camp at Greenham Common (1981-2000) was a women-only camp originally established in protest against nuclear proliferation and the Cold War ideology of deterrence that fuelled the arms race. The peace camp initiated a series of performative protest actions on and off site, including teddy bears’ picnics, and mock weddings of protesters to nuclear warheads by Shirley Cameron and Evelyn Silver. The perimeter fence of the airbase was soon transformed into a permanent if informal gallery of protest, hosting a wealth of visual and material interventions which were widely documented. The Greenham women used a range of print media to communicate amongst themselves and with the world beyond the camp, including newsletters, posters, postcards, and leaflets, most of which were richly illustrated with original artwork.
From an art historical perspective, this material teems with visual iconographies drawing upon ancient myths and symbols already mobilised in women’s movements since the 1960s. In addition to the reclamation of witches and witches’ circles, spider webs were successfully exploited in craftivist performance and evoked in drawing, as a motif of solidarity, connectivity, and soft strength. Mother-and-child iconographies were revisited and reconfigured, in evocation of the familiar maternalism of women’s peace movements yet at the same time sabotaging the visual supports of social reproduction. Many artworks were created at or in reference to Greenham, often by artists with direct experience of the camp, including textile and installation work by Janis Jefferies, Margaret Harrison’s multiple iterations of the reconstructed perimeter fence, Tina Keane’s films of protest and reverie, and Thalia Campbell’s textile collages and banners.
I suggest that Greenham, viewed through the lens of feminist intergenerational transmission, exemplifies Griselda Pollock’s formulation of the virtual feminist museum. Mobilising Aby Warburg’s Nachleben (afterlife/survival by metamorphosis), the virtual feminist museum untethers artefacts, images, and practices from their historical contexts and sets them in motion, tracing their travels, re-occurrences and transformations across time and space. For Pollock, virtuality is not opposed to actuality but vibrates with the possibility of imminent realisation. I propose a curatorial experiment that activates the virtual feminist museum of Greenham Common and feminist anti-nuclear activism more broadly, while also teasing out a repertory of anti-war, anti-patriarchal ‘pathos formulae’ or affectively charged tropes, from care rituals to failing phalluses, and including the playful reclamation of the perimeter fence from its intended function. The highly visual format of the ‘Animating the Archive’ series of British Art Studies helps test Warburg’s quasi-method of tracing iconographic correspondences across disparate spaces, times, and registers, through the dispersed and diverse visual archive of Greenham Common.

Sustainable Development Goals5 Gender equality
16 Peace, justice and strong institutions
Middlesex University ThemeCreativity, Culture & Enterprise
Research GroupCREATE/Feminisms cluster
LanguageEnglish
PublisherPaul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and Yale Center for British Art
JournalBritish Art Studies
ISSN2058-5462
Electronic2058-5462
Publication dates
Print31 Mar 2023
Online31 Mar 2023
Publication process dates
Deposited27 Feb 2023
Accepted24 Feb 2023
Output statusPublished
Publisher's version
File Access Level
Open
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Text Licence: CC BY-NC International 4.0
Written content in British Art Studies is published under an Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) Creative Commons licence. See policy: https://www.britishartstudies.ac.uk/about/open-access

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British Art Studies is a digital publication and intended to be experienced online. Copy-edited post-production versions of long-form articles are provided as PDF documents for ease of reading offline. Though special features are also distributed in PDF format, we recommend that readers return to the online platform to experience them in their native format [https://www.britishartstudies.ac.uk/about/open-access]

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.17658/issn.2058-5462/issue-24/akokoli
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