The impact that punk made on an entire generation of artists coming from different disciplines suggests that it was an immensely influential movement that nurtured rebellion as a form of self-expression in socially and politically engaging terms. Most importantly, punk wanted to break through the hierarchies formed on the basis of class and gender privilege, and that is why it attracted women who saw the opportunity to explore their identity regardless of the social constraints.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, the British female artists often worked with performativity which at the time seemed like the most poignant tool for articulating the self. This feminist intervention was introduced by London-based artists such as Rose English, better known as Cosey Fanni Tutti, as well as their contemporary Manchester peer Linder.
Enchanted by the rebellious and wild nature of punk, Linder found photomontage as the best tool for exploring the representation of gender, commodity, and body. Influenced by the Dadaist heritage (especially the work of Hannah Hoch), she created an uncompromising body of work that is still equally attractive and relevant.
This month, Kettle’s Yard will present the first UK retrospective of Linder’s work by unraveling a rich production made throughout five decades of her career.
The exhibition tends to rediscover all the aspects of Linder Sterling’s practice, from her emergence in the Manchester punk scene of the 1970s to more recent public commissions. Its title purposely tends to subversively legitimize her approach as historical so that the ambiguity regarding the connection with the avant-garde legacy becomes clear.
Linder’s artistic development, and her photomontage technique in particular, is inseparable from the flourishing British punk scene of the late 1970s. The artist designed artwork for prolific bands such as Magazine and Buzzcocks, as well as for her own post-punk band Ludus.
The early works reflect the zeitgeist of the time with the arrangements of images found in the interior, fashion and pornography magazines, while the later ones include a more diverse group of motifs and references spanning from pin-up imagery and figures from ballet annuals, over horticultural books to lifestyle magazines.
Alongside Linder's early and more recent photomontages, the exhibition will feature her intervention with the gallery space. Namely, for the café menu and front-of-house staff uniforms, she will recreate the potpourri which the gallery's founder Howard Stanley ‘Jim’ Ede made for his home. Furthermore, Linder will create a sound piece in collaboration with her son, musician Maxwell Sterling, and a new photomontage dedicated to Ede’s wife Helen to underline her material absence and mythic presence.
This method is a result of the artist’s interest in historical figures that was central in her work since the 1990s. Therefore, the series such as The Working Class Go to Paradise (2000–06), devoted to Ann Lee, an early proponent of the Quaker Church Mother, as well as The Ultimate Form (2013-14), center on the artist Barbara Hepworth, and Children of the Mantic Stain (2016), exploring the artist Ithell Colqhoun, will be on display as well.
During the exhibition, the artist will stage a new edition of her Bower of Bliss performance followed by a soundtrack by Maxwell Sterling at Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge, scheduled for 14 March 2020.
Linderism will be on display at the St Peter’s Church, the Research Space, staircases and café of Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge from 15 February until 26 April 2020.
Featured images: Linder - Untitled, 1977. Photomontage, framed size 30 x 38 cm, image size 13.6 x 21 cm, 5 3/8 x 8 1/4 ins © Linder Sterling. Courtesy the artist; Modern Art, London; Dépendance, Brussels; Andréhn- Schiptjenko, Stockholm, Paris; and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo; Linder - Pretty Girl No.1, 1977. Original photomontaged publication, 24x18.5 cm © Linder Sterling. Courtesy the artist; Modern Art, London; Dépendance, Brussels; Andréhn-Schiptjenko, Stockholm, Paris; and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo. All images courtesy Kettle's Yard.