‘Everything I Know, I Felt’ hosted by Girl Gang, at The Lowry
I wouldn’t normally write womxn in such a way, but feel like I should be using it to refer to and to honour those in Girl Gang who have put this exhibition together. Gender is becoming such a blurred line in recent years and I think it should be this way! We can chose who we want to be and how we want to do it. Even as women, we don’t have to conform to the stereotype of what a woman should be anymore, everything is different and we continue to grow and change and be more of who we want to be, however we want to be it. So a word like womxn is really relevant to this exhibition.
‘Everything I Know, I Felt’ explores the emotions that womxn feel in their lives. Our emotions can be complicated, we constantly feel like we have to juggle so much, and make sure we look good as we do it.
Side note – Is it a coincidence that two of the most recent exhibitions I have reviewed have been female only exhibitions? A couple of weeks ago I reviewed ‘Sounds Like Her’. Last year I wrote an article about the lack of women being represented in galleries, and maybe people are realising how gross that is and trying to change that. On the flip side, what do you male artists out there think of these female driven exhibitions? I’m curious.
One of the stand out pieces for me was the installation named ‘Phoenix from the Ashtray’ by Jackie Hagan. There’s definitely a feel of a hospital waiting room about it, there are chairs lined up outside with magazines ready to be read. Then you go through the medical curtain into the room, to find a wheelchair, prosthetic limbs, doctors equipment and more. But then, you also see the rainbow, multi-coloured pom poms cover one wall, with multi-coloured flashing fairy lights too. Then I realise, as I am looking around the room, I am being looked at too. There are cuddly toys lined up on one wall, and then eyes hidden watching over, looking back at me. The more I look the more I see, so many random things in the room, my eyes can’t keep still. I have no idea what it all means but I still get a sense a fear, or awkwardness perhaps, it’s kind of scary and intriguing at the same time. I later read that this piece is about Jackie Hagan’s experience as she had a leg amputated, she told her story on social media and gained a decent following because of her realness. But then, she felt like this ‘realness’ became fake, the line between her real life and social life became blurred. I’m guessing that is the reason for all the eyes, people always watching you and following you online. Makes total sense.
One other installation that I loved was ‘Teenage Bedroom’ by Ellie Ragdale and Jeni Holt Wright, with the help of all the womxn at Girl Gang. I literally saw the room and was like ‘oooh this is cool.’ Everything about it was reeked in pure nostalgia. The bedroom set up had it all, posters cut out from magazines on the wall, including Leonardo DiCaprio in his Romeo + Juliet years, Janet Jackson, Blink 182 and more. It had a Groovy Chick bedsheets, a classic for all early teen girls. Fairly lights, a CD player, glow in the dark stars on the ceiling – literally, there is something in this room that every girl had. Which made me think, back in your teens you think you are sooooo individual and cool, when actually, we were all the exact same! We all had this room in one way or another. It’s like a rite of passage. But it was great as there was so much in that room to relate to, and everyone there viewing it was talking about what they had – ‘I had that poster! I had that exact lamp…’ It made everyone reflect on their past, and find commonalities with each other through it. Very good indeed!
One other piece I quickly want to mention was named ‘Fragile Handle with Care’ by Lowri Evans. This mixed media piece really grabbed me. I love it when one piece of art work moves between mediums and tells a story as it does so. This piece, started as photography series. We see people holding items that they have some emotional connection with. These photographs are displayed alongside text, written by those telling the story of the item. The item is then destroyed, smashed, and displayed as sculpture-like pieces in glass cabinets. It was truly intriguing to see the process and the stories all told in these different art forms.
We had the opportunity to chat with Jenny Gaskell, one of the artists and one of the members of Girl Gang. She was explaining how since she has been part of Girl Gang, her confidence as an artist has grown. She said how being part of the gang feels like being part of a family. Jenny has created a type of cloakroom, but this space you can use to offload, not only your coat but your thoughts and emotions too.
‘I think there is something important about a very good welcome. I often find that the most spiritual of moments are when people welcome you with a big cup of tea, or big open arms. With so much of the work in ‘Everything I Know, I Felt’ being about emotions, some heavy, some not, I wanted to make a space where you can shed whatever it is you might be carrying. Come and check-in, take a moment for yourself, before you go an embrace the big emotions of the gallery.’
I also chatted with Megan, one of the founders of the Manchester branch of Girl Gang. Megan explained how Girl Gang started, a chat about one event they wanted to put together, which then turned into more and more, they wanted to create a safe space for womxn, to combat against the boys club that the art world was slowly becoming. They started with film screenings, meet ups and parties. 4 years later they are now hosting their own exhibition at The Lowry!
‘We are so excited. This is the first long-lead commission we have done. It’s the first time we have been put in the lead as artists and totally trusted to deliver our vision. I came up with the name ‘Everything I Know, I Felt’ which felt really fitting as I think Girl Gang is all about embracing that rawness of feelings. Leave your ‘coolness’ and ‘cynicism’ at the door, this is about people connecting, we want to explore the diverse and emotional experiences of womxn. We have womxn of all different sexuality’s, gender expressions, races, classes and that’s really exciting. I’m really excited to see how people respond to this exhibition.’
So yes, go and visit The Lowry and experience ‘Everything I Know, I Felt.’ And I say experience rather than see, because it truly is an interactive exhibition. There are so many art forms here, represented by so many womxn. It’s full of messages, powerful, emotional messages of freedom and change. It’s empowering and inspiring. And it’s another way to show how much amazing talent us Mancunians have! I’m all for it!
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