- Twice ErasedThe Silencing of Feminisms in Her Noise
This article focuses on the feminist voice of the Her Noise project, aiming to analyze how it was shaped by the context in which the project took place. Her Noise began in 2001 as a multidisciplinary, multioutput project to gather information and research about women working in experimental music and sound. The terms “experimental music,” “sound,” and “boundaries of inclusion” were not clearly articulated at the outset of the project and continued to shift throughout its development. The fifteen years since the inception of Her Noise and the afterlife of the project and its numerous iterations have allowed me to think about the curatorial voice of the project in a new way. This article is an attempt to articulate those thoughts and to respond to a question posed by researcher and artist Holly Ingleton in 2012.1 Her question of “how the project was feminist . . . and what kinds of feminist approaches might have been instrumental to its development” prompted this response.
It is important to qualify that the observations in this article are entirely my own, and the cocurator of the Her Noise project, Anne Hilde Neset, and other key participants in the project may have different and even opposing views on the subject.
Her Noise: The Spoken and the Unspoken
The Her Noise project, at least in its initial manifestations—as an exhibition, a series of events, and an in-progress “living” archive at South London Gallery and other venues in 2005—was never explicitly articulated as a feminist project. In fact, the term “feminist” was not at all used, not in the exhibition catalog, press release, [End Page 88] events guide, marketing, or advertising copy. First, I want to explore the reasons behind the erasure of the feminist voice of the project; second, I want to ask where the feminist strategies were to be found if they were not explicitly voiced.
I begin by pointing to three unspoken aspects of the Her Noise project that I believe have never been articulated in relation to each other: the silences of Her Noise. I want to propose that through the confluence of these three silent, unarticulated elements of the project, it may become possible to identify the feminist strategy or strategies of Her Noise.
1. Ambiguity of the curatorial statement. The materials generated during the project make clear that Her Noise never had a well-defined curatorial statement, or at least not one that was clearly articulated. In exploring the rationale for inclusion or exclusion, the parameters of the project, and its West-centric, white, and dispersed (in terms of the range and seemingly random inclusion of artists) profile, we can begin to expose the fluid, “noncommittal” nature of the Her Noise curating.
2. Disciplinary slippage. Her Noise used a strategy of examining one discipline (music) within the framework of another (visual art). I shall examine the usefulness of this strategy and whether disciplinary slippage might be the key to the feminist strategy of Her Noise.
3. Avoidance of the term “feminism.” As mentioned above, the project did not articulate any relationship to feminism. I shall consider whether this avoidance was deliberate and, if so, the reasons behind the decision to evade the term.
The Her Noise project was prompted by a realization that a series titled Interference, which Anne Hilde Neset and I cocurated (alongside significant curatorial input by Rob Young) between 1998 and 2001 at the lux Centre for Film, Video & Digital Arts in London, had featured only two women among dozens of men across seventeen events.2 In other words, what we set out to understand were the social structures and pathways that led two female curators whose identities were ideologically and culturally shaped by artists such as Kim Gordon, Lydia Lunch, Diamanda Galas, and Kathleen Hanna to curate an almost entirely male-populated series.
With this realization in 2001, we set out to insert the “missing women” into art history at the inception of Her Noise through showcasing, enabling, embedding, and mapping their work. This new project was to be shaped organically, later acquiring its title through an anagram of the word...