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  • Your sweetest empire is to please

Curran, Fiona, 2018, Show, Exhibition or Event, Your sweetest empire is to please

Abstract or Description:

Your Sweetest Empire Is To Please, 2018 is a site-specific commission for the National Trust estate of Gibside in Gateshead, North-East England as part of 'Mapping Contemporary Art in the Heritage Experience’, a three year (2017-2019) interdisciplinary research project critically examining the role and practice of temporary visual art commissioning within heritage properties in Britain. MCAHE is organised by Newcastle University in collaboration with UK heritage partners and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

The Gibside commission focused on life of Mary Eleanor Bowes, the Countess of Strathmore, who lived there in the 18th century. An architectural folly based on a Wardian Case was placed next to the ruined Orangery, housing a series of brightly coloured artificial ‘exotic’ plants defiantly emerging from the sides and the roof. The commission responded to Mary Eleanor’s interest in botany and the role it played in women’s education and the gendering of knowledge during the 18th century. Botany was linked to ‘polite’ feminine activities, however, in advance of the Enlightenment, in depth material knowledge of plants, their medicinal properties and use as dyes, had long been the traditional preserve of women contributing to an early example of female science. Women were denied access to university education and from joining institutions like the Royal Society that gave public validation to new theories and discoveries, they were instead restricted to the role of hobbyists or amateurs. Linguistic conventions were also prevalent in the 18th century linking women with flowers and notions of purity, beauty and fragility. Mary Wollstonecraft in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), appropriated and subverted this play on floral references to draw attention to society’s neglect of women’s educational potential. The project also tied in to The National Trust’s year of ‘Women and Power’ in 2018 to mark the 100-year anniversary of the women’s suffrage movement.

Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W100 Fine Art > W130 Sculpture
School or Centre: School of Design
Copyright Holders: Fiona Curran, Newcastle University
Funders: Newcastle University, The National Trust, The Arts and Humanities Research Council
Date Deposited: 18 Jun 2018 13:05
Last Modified: 09 Nov 2018 15:49
URI: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/3478

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