The 2018-19 BSR Fine Arts Talks series TALK GENDER opens this Friday 16 November at 18.00 with a conversation between artist Linder Sterling – known for her radical feminist photomontage, and confrontational performance art focusing on questions of gender, commodity and display – and classicist Mark Bradley who has been working with Linder since the two met during Linder’s residency at Chatsworth House. Here Mark tells us a little more about how that collaboration came about.
What do a contemporary artist and a scholar of ancient Rome have in common? More than you might think, is the answer. I first met Linder Sterling in Autumn 2017, when she was artist-in-residence at Chatsworth House and had the enviable task of trawling the House’s extensive archives and collections while preparing an ambitious exhibition for the following Spring that would integrate her own specialism in montage and subversive feminist art with Chatsworth’s rich sophisticated appropriation of classical myth and iconography – and the former Dowager Duchess’ fascination with Elvis Presley. Like the 12th Duke of Devonshire, Peregrine Cavendish (the current owner of Chatsworth), Linder also shares a keen interest in olfaction, incense and sensibility, and so it became the mission of her project to animate the rich sights and sounds of Chatsworth’s historical past, as well as exploring ways of projecting the House’s immersion in classical antiquity through the strategic use of incense recipes taken straight from ancient Greece and Rome.
That is when Linder heard about the Anglo-French conference that I co-organised last June at the British School at Rome and the École française on the topic of ‘Sensing Divinity: Incense, Religion and the Ancient Sensorium’. Sadly, she was not able to attend, but fortuitously Chatsworth itself and Nottingham Contemporary Arts Gallery, where Linder was organising her linked retrospective exhibition ‘The House of Fame’, were a stone’s throw from where I lived and worked. That was the beginning of a rich friendship and collaboration that has journeyed from Chatsworth to Nottingham Contemporary, to Linder’s most recent performance ‘The Bower of Bliss’ at Southwark Station, a contribution to the ‘Art on the Underground’ project, and now to the British School at Rome. I’ve been working on the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touches of classical antiquity for over twenty years, and I’m also interested in how those senses and sensations are channelled into and interpreted by modernity: I learned an enormous amount about those themes during my six years as Editor of Papers of the British School at Rome, in which the richly intertwined themes and experiences of the 3,000-year history of the city led my interests in all sorts of directions that I never expected to go. In the context of these interests, Linder’s penchant for montage resonates with the layered and fragmented experiences of Rome as a city, in which senses and sensations have always been how inhabitants and visitors made sense of their environment and its history. This has become the perfect opportunity for an adventure.
Our ‘conversation’ at the British School at Rome this Friday will chart not only the milestones of the journey Linder and I have taken together over the last twelve months, but will also highlight the rewards that can be reaped when we think outside the box, when artists and academics with common interests work together to explore both new and old ways of representing the world and our places in it.
Linder is a British artist known for her radical feminist photomontage, and confrontational performance art. Linder focuses on questions of gender, commodity and display. Her highly recognisable photomontage practice combines everyday images from domestic or fashion magazines with images from pornography and other archival material. Linder has recently completed a residency with Art on the Underground in London during which she has created 85 metres of billboard photomontages and 12 million copies of her tube map cover design are currently in print.
Mark Bradley is Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Associate Professor of Ancient History at the University of Nottingham, and former Editor of the Papers of the British School at Rome (2011-17). He is author of Colour and Meaning in Ancient Rome (2009) and Editor of the six-volume Routledge series ‘The Senses in Antiquity’ (2013-18), and also has research interests in approaches to dirt, pollution and purity in the city of Rome, and the reception of classical antiquity during the British Empire.