The Other Collective, formerly known as The Fanny Collective, are a group of students from the University of Leeds focused on making funky feminist art. We caught up with them as they prepare for their rebranding to discuss artistic inspirations, Simone de Beauvoir and plans for the future.
Can you explain the ethos and origins of The Other Collective?
Suki: It was a little thing we started in my first year at Leeds University. Since then, the group has changed massively. People have decided to work on different things, some of the girls went for years abroad and some newbies joined in the last year. We even had an open call for submission a few months ago which encouraged a wider range of artists to get involved! It isn’t really the same collective as it was at the beginning but the ethos is definitely still the same.
Gev: We wanted to explore interesting and diverse ways of showing our identities as young women through visual arts. I’ve always considered myself a feminist and have found it really rewarding being able to work with a group of close friends who all have similar outlooks on life and art.
Zoe: The ethos of The Other Collective is inclusion, choices and unity. We want to include and unite many different groups and demographics of people to bring about social change and gender equality. Women will never become equal until women unite and work with men.
You’ve had to deal with a bit of controversy recently, with some people complaining that your former name is trans-exclusionary. What’s your reaction to this and do you plan to change in accordance with the complaints?
Georgia: Initially we considered using the word “fanny” as a fun and silly word associated with womanhood but issues have been raised that it could also be interpreted as transphobic. It has been tricky as there is never going to be a ‘type’ of feminism which satisfies all women but we have plans underway to make the collective as inclusive as possible as we believe in the strength of womanhood as a mass movement.
Gev: We would never intentionally make a collective that was centred around being exclusionary. Feminist discourse is ever-evolving and I don’t think we were as clued up as we now are regarding the terminology of feminism.
Zoe: The name was never intended as exclusionary; it was meant as light-hearted, reclaiming a slang work for female genitalia. We up with the new name “The Other Collective” after taking a feminist art history theory module. In feminist theory, the Other is defined as anything that deviates from the white heterosexual cis male. This name, for us, was more inclusive. The Other body is the female body, the homosexual body, the radicalized body and so it is more inclusive but does not denote a specific gender.
You’ve certainly got many role models in terms of explicit feminist artists who’ve gone before you. Who are your favourites?
Suki: You mean other than the other wonderful girls in the Collective?
Zoe: Obviously we respect the work of our feminist foremothers like Louise Bourgeois, Cindy Sherman, Frida Khalo, Tracey Emin and Mary Kelly. However, fourth wave millennial feminist artists are doing really exciting things. Take Petra Collins, for example, who went to the Art Production Fund Gala 2016 in New York dressed as an “art baby” with fellow artist Madelyne Beckles. This unofficial performance was a defiance of the predominantly male board members and the treatment of female artists: especially young, sexualized female artists.
Georgia: Suki and I recently went to Live Art Bistro [in Leeds] for the first time just to see what it’s like there. We saw a performance artist called Edythe Wooley who creates grotesque performance art presenting women as a kind of commodity […] Stephanie Sarley is also a favourite of mine and greatly influenced my work as of last year with her fruit fingering videos.
Where do you guys look for inspiration with your art, as all of you have very different forms that you work with?
Suki: I’m a massive festival fanatic. I love seeing the effort and creativity that goes into the entire weekend. The entire festival [experience] is an immense compile of artwork. The glitter, the amazing array of fabrics and the consistent performances are where my main inspiration comes from. I spend the summer rolling around in the mud immersing myself in it all, then the rest of the year trying to recreate it with costumes and sculptures.
Gev: I’m a massive advocate for Instagram as I find it an extremely useful tool for exploring new artists who have similar trains of thought and connecting with people doing work that relates to mine.
Zoe: My practice is very heavily formed on in academia and history of woman’s rights, especially the treatment of the female body and physical and mental health issues. Therefore, a lot of my ideas are formed through critical reading.
Georgia: This sounds like a very wishy-washy answer but I think my best work has come naturally without too much conscious thought. The subconscious is always ahead of the conscious mind and its always best to trust your instinct as it’s easy to kill an idea by over thinking the form and meaning of a piece. Therefore, I tend to just follow what I am naturally attracted to.
Some of you have just graduated from the University of Leeds. How do you feel about the current opportunities for people in the creative arts in the UK?
Gev: Suki and I have just graduated! It’s all very exciting now as we have time to really focus on the work that is most interesting to us without the pressure of being marked for it. Leeds is such an incredible city for culture and the arts, [but] there is a major lack of funding in this country which can be frustrating […], but that means the art communities come together amazingly and help each other out. The punk DIY ethos of making do with what you’ve got has been crucial to the arts, especially for us, as we’ve managed to find cheap or free spaces to put our exhibitions on.
Georgia: There is a dire lack of funding within the arts making it difficult for artists to build a career for themselves. There is, however, a lot of space for setting up your own projects. Especially in Leeds, there has been an explosion of art collectives popping up around the city. If you are passionate about a subject and work hard to establish something for yourself, there is huge potential in the future for opportunities within the arts. The opportunities are not going to come to you, you’ll have to build something up from scratch, the freedom of which I think is liberating
How do you source contributions for your exhibitions? Do you have any basic criteria for submissions, and how can people get in touch?
Zoe: We set up a Facebook and Instagram page and have an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) which will imminently change to email@example.com. We check all of them regularly and encourage people to get in touch. If you want to work with us just seek us out on our social media platforms. We admire people who want to actively be involved.
What’s the best exhibition you’ve seen recently?
Georgia: Hands down the Disobedient Bodies exhibition which was recently on at The Hepworth in Wakefield. It was curated differently to any exhibition I’ve seen before and the collaboration with J.W Anderson seamlessly blended the line between fashion and art.
Zoe: I think it’s far too easy to get caught in the London art thinking that no other good exhibitions are outside of London. All my favourite exhibitions have been in the North and I’m a big advocate for taking art world elitism out of London. The best exhibition I’ve seen recently was in my hometown Nottingham at Nottingham Contemporary. The exhibition is by Wu Tsang and is called Devotional Object; she is a film artist and anyone who knows me would tell you film work is not really my thing but the sensuality and narrative drew me in to her stories. They also address themes to drag, gender and homosexuality in a subtle but powerful way.
Suki: I went to the Grayson Perry at the Serpentine about a month ago: it had some incredibly thought provoking pieces. I would advise anyone to go!
Gev: I went to the Tate Modern the other day and saw the Louise Bourgeoise exhibition in the new extension. I adore Louise, it was amazing to see her work close-up in person. The curation was sick, and I loved how diverse her materials are. I’ve recently gotten into sculpture and have looked to Louise’s work for much inspiration.
What’s next for The Other Collective?
Georgia: I am also doing a year abroad in Krakow, Poland next year and we are hoping to put on a show there! Other than that, in the long term we hope to continue the collective for as long as possible.
Zoe: The process of changing our name to The Other collective is currently happening. We will celebrate this the only way we know how: EXHIBITION. We’ll be sticking to our general ethos and artistic outlook. Super excited to see what happens next and welcome more into the collective. Keep an eye on our social media to say up-to-date!
Suki: We need to get back into the swing of it and make some work.
Interview by Jemima Skala
All images used with the permission of The Other Collective. All artwork from the collective’s most recent show Synergy.
Cover image shows The Other Collective (L-R) as Suki, Georgia, Gev and Zoe, taken by Sophie Alliott. All images taken by Suki Penrose Britton.