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Art History Seminar

Mapping the Border: Women Artists’ Reconceptions of Space, Gender and Representation


Speaker: Maria Photiou, Research Fellow, University of Derby

Moderator: Vivian Sheng, Assistant Professor, Department of Art History, HKU

Date: Thursday, April 7, 2022

Time: 4:00 pm Hong Kong Time

Venue: On Zoom

Over the past fifty years, citizens of the divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus, have experienced the instability of their hometown, the dead end of the streets and the enduring militarism and nationalism of the Buffer Zone. This paper will examine the work of contemporary women artists who explore in their practice the theme of an enclosed city and its environment. Women artists’ reconceptions of place can offer new understandings of seeing and experiencing divided cities. According to Meskimmon, women artists can become a ‘sentient participant in the city’ and they develop in their artist practices negotiations on gender, space and representation.[1]

The ‘flâneur’ concept has been historically associated with a male figure that had the privilege to stroll leisurely around the cities. For women artists in Cyprus, strolling along the borders of their divided homeland can be seen as a politicised action, as they enter a domain that has been predominantly controlled by masculinised politics. This paper will focus on the work of women artists who have used the walking body and its movement to re-enact the boundaries that confine the city. In entering the space of the enclosed city and strolling along its borders, women artists have used sensory strategies to reclaim it. The site-specific interventions offer new perspectives into understanding past histories and create new narratives of belonging.

[1] Meskimmon, M. (1997) Engendering the City: Women Artists and Urban Space, London: Scarlet Press.

Maria Photiou is an art historian and a Research Fellow at the University of Derby, UK. She holds a doctorate in Art History from Loughborough University. Her current research focuses on women's art practices and the connections between migration, gender, memory and the politics of belonging. Previously she worked as a Research Associate at Loughborough University, developing an AHRC funded project entitled ‘Visual Narratives of Homeland’. She is co-editor of the anthology Art, Borders and Belonging: On Home and Migration (Bloomsbury, 2021).

This event is organized by the Department of Art History and co-sponsored by the Gender Studies Programme, School of Humanities, and the Faculty of Arts’ Committee on Gender Equality and Diversity at the University of Hong Kong. 

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