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View — A Festival of Art History

This weekend, thanks to a genius idea by one of my very good and ever-so-cultured friends, I managed to catch some of the View Festival, hosted at the UK Institut francais. In particular, I went to see two of the free talks yesterday: Griselda Pollock‘s talk After 40+ years: Gender, feminist postcolonial and queer interventions in art history; and Elizabeth Markevitch‘s Is there a way to democratise art? The potential of TV as a global medium.

I’ll be honest, we went for the first and just happened to stay for the second, which was on right afterwards, but I’m very glad we did!

Pollock (Leeds Uni page) was speaking about the need to allow space within the narrative(s) of art’s histories for the interventions of women, and the need to challenge and look beyond the dominant narrative of art history that elides women (cis, het, queer, white, non-white, et al) or marginalises them as mere “students” of great male artists. She spoke about her work Old Mistresses in particular (written with Rozsika Parker), as well as her current work.

I liked that Pollock was endeavouring to be as intersectional as possible, but her focus was particularly on sex, gender and sexuality, with race feeling a little secondary. It’s of course hard to do everything justice in a 30 minute talk, though, and I thought she did admirably well. She issued a real call to action, particularly within the UK, where galleries and museums that produce a specific art history by their curatorial choices are not doing enough to balance their collections, despite the forty years that Pollock, Parker and others have been questioning and challenging the status quo.

Markevitch was there to talk about Ikono TV, which she describes as trying to do for art what the radio (and later MTV) did for music: making it far more widely accessible in ‘digestible’ snippets that can be fitted easily into daily life’s routines. I’d never heard about Ikono before, but the clips that she had to show were pretty mesmerising and wonderfully produced. They draw together art — in HD — from a wide range of places, periods and media, linking each together by a sort of free association, a colour or shape or theme, and letting them be seen from angles and in details that we would never experience at a museum or gallery.

Ikono is relatively new, but is well-established and apparently very popular in countries such as Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, with further work being done to move to an iTunes-style shop that will allow users to download for a small fee a video of roughly 10-15 minutes’ length. There is currently live web streaming on the website, accompanied by a ‘talk’ with information about the art featured in the videos. Ikono also has a blog, with posts on a wide range of art-history topics, including ‘Did the Nazis also steal the Mona Lisa?’. It’s a treasure-trove of interesting information and beautiful videos and images, so do head on over to both the blog and the live-streaming channel and see what you stumble across!

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