Gender Generation Explored by RCA Fine Art Conference and Exhibition

The conference Gender Generation: The Creative Process in Art & Design opens at RCA Battersea today, accompanied by a pop-up exhibition of work addressing creativity, procreation and motherhood.

Co-organised by RCA Fine Art Senior Tutor Hermione Wiltshire and Senior Research Tutor Fashion & Textiles Dr Claire Pajaczkowska with London South Bank University Senior Lecturer in Performance Studies Dr Elena Marchevska, assisted by alumna Maja Ngom (MA Photography, 2015), the conference is the second in a series, building on the Motherhood and Creative Practices conference held at LSBU in 2016.

Gender Generation addresses subjectivity and places this within the context of evaluation, status and reception (of art, design and other cultural practices), examining the matrix of gender that lies at the interface between nature and culture, to ascertain how this has changed over recent decades in art and design. 

The conference proposes that creative practice is the axial point through which the interrelation between gender, sexuality and pedagogy can best be studied and understood. How then does the concept of the ‘maternal function’ illuminate the more general understanding of the process of creative practice? And why, with each successive wave of Feminism, does every generation have to relearn knowledge? Are intergenerational transmissions helping us to (re)write herstory/history in schools and universities?

'Creative practice is closely guarded in universities,' says Dr Pajaczowska. 'and discussion of the maternal instinct is still taboo. We wanted to give a forum the idea of creativity being about the maternal metaphor – not necessarily motherhood, but dependency and learning, relationality, interiority and emotional experience as much as it's about making and innovating.'

'The idea that mothering is not something only mothers do, that its associated with nourishing, creating and caring, and is the same as creating an artwork: drawing something out from your internal world and nourishing it into being in front of you, is interesting to all our students,' says Hermione Wiltshire. 'There's an appetite for the discussion of issues that are considered Feminist, and the two-year MA programme gives them the opportunity to explore these within their practice.'

With keynotes by British conceptual artist Lenka Clayton, Dr Andrea Liss, whose engagement with feminist art, gender encounters and the maternal embraces writing, research, teaching, curating and community collaboration, and artist-historian Carol Mavor, the conference will examine how the concept of the maternal reflects on gender in the process of creative practice, and how the ways in which gender is generated affects artists' practices. Referencing its university setting, the conference will also examine whether the concepts of gender, pedagogy and sexuality can influence the agendas of art institutions.

Alongside the conference is an exhibition of work that explores, illustrates and illuminates many of the themes under discussion. Ana Casas Broda's Kinderwunsch (Birth Rite Collection, Salford) depicts scenes of maternal domesticity in dramatic chiaroscuro, challenging normative ideas of nourishment, play, responsibility and care. Rose Gibbs' (MA Sculpture, 2010) cast bronze figures site female bodies in the context of a phallocentric narrative. Esther Teichmann's (PhD Photography, 2012) photographic image explore paradigms of beauty and the gaze.

Gender Generation: The Creative Process in Art & Design
Gorvy Lecture Theatre and Dyson Gallery, Royal College of Art, Hester Road, London SW11
8–9 September 2016

See Gender Generation website for full programme and speakers.