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Tate Lates: GRL PWR

A celebration of women around the world

By Ally Faughnan

With International Women’s Day around the corner (8 March if you haven’t already made a note in your diary), Tate Modern hosted their February Friday Lates in celebration of women in the arts and GRL PWR!

If you’re a newcomer, Tate Lates can be quite overwhelming. Crowds of people hanging around the Turbine Hall, music blaring and a general sense of confusion about where to start. This was me the first time I went, but after venturing to the monthly Lates event a few times, I can now recommend starting on the Tate website. This is where you will find the programme of what is actually going on that evening. With this information, you can now make your game plan. Pick a few things you are particularly interested in seeing so that you don’t get lost and end up walking around for 20 mins like a headless chicken.

Ok, now onto the good stuff. Friday’s event was jam-packed with things to do, see and hear. With permanent and pop-up art installations, music programmed by Rhythm Sister and an abundance of workshops, talks and activities for all to enjoy. I personally started my evening with vulva embroidery. Yes, you read that correctly. There was a (very busy might I add) station set up by textile artist Jess De Wahls in the Blavatnik Building for anyone to give it a go at sewing multicoloured vaginas. Not quite as comical as it sounds and actually quite relaxing for a Friday evening.

Less interactive than vulva embroidery but just as important, data journalist Mona Chalabi created a digital display to show how underrepresented women are within the arts sector. This showed the shocking disproportion of males to females when looking at statistics regarding the highest paid artists in the industry and how many female artists are actually on display within the gallery. This was created in response to #5WomenArtists, a social media campaign that is raising awareness of the gender inequality within the art world.

The main panel talk held at the event was on all things about women's bodies. With Tate Modern’s Director Frances Morris, the founder of #saggyboobsmatter Chidera Eggerue (@theslumflower) and psychotherapist/author Susie Orbach all contributing to an important conversation on how the female body is viewed and experienced inside and outside of the gallery space. There were also several arts chats throughout the evening including talks on LDW WMN and their work with women and non-binary artists, comedian Sofie Hagen talking about being ‘happy fat’ and artist Noemi Lakmaier, Tate Curator Isabella Maidment and blogger Stephanie Yeboah all talking separately about the body in relation to art, artists and mental health.

After venturing around the Tate for a few hours, we finished off our evening catching the end of Florence Schechter’s talk on the visibility of vaginas in art and her plans to create the world’s first Vagina Museum. This was followed with a talk by Charlie Craggs, a trans activist, author and boss at Nailit. Nailit is all about fighting transphobia by giving the public the opportunity to sit down with a trans person whilst getting a slick new coat of paint on their nails. Charlie spoke with passion about her personal and professional journey, inspiring a room filled with people to join the conversations surrounding trans issues.

There were several other activities we came across throughout the evening, including a very sweaty improvised dance session held by Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in the Tate Exchange space and a call for collective action to take a group photo around Tania Brugera’s installation in the Turbine Hall. After all of this, we headed up to the viewing platform on the tenth floor of the Blavatnik Building to enjoy the scenes of London, away from the hustle and bustle. This Tate Lates event was particularly interesting and important in the movement towards more equality within the arts sector. However, there is still a lot of work to be done and conversations to be had, particularly surrounding women and non-binary individuals in the arts.

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