BY Juliet Jacques in Interviews | 10 APR 24

‘Feminisms Here Are Loud, Gender-Inclusive and Non-Compliant’: An Interview with Daria Khan

The innovative founder and curator of Mimosa House, London, discusses ‘transfeminisms’, an ambitious new show 

BY Juliet Jacques in Interviews | 10 APR 24

As a nine-month exhibition, ‘transfeminisms’, opens at London’s Mimosa House before touring to the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Arizona, founding director and curator Daria Khan discusses her history, intellectual and artistic background, and the gallery’s record of platforming important women and queer artists. 

Daria Khan
Courtesy: Daria Khan

Juliet Jacques: Let’s begin by discussing your background.

Daria Khan: I graduated ten years ago with a masters in curating from the Royal College of Art (RCA). After several years freelancing, Mimosa House started in 2017 as a small project space. The first exhibitions were really made among friends. I started to become interested in feminism back at the RCA. I felt there was a structure there and a language for me that could describe and validate some of my experiences. I was like, ‘wow – it’s not random unfortunate events, it’s systematic. It’s shared among many people.’ Then, there was this head of the course in the second year, Ruth Noack. She was also influential because I remember we started developing some projects on paper, imaginary projects, already under quite a feminist umbrella, let’s say. But they remained on paper while I was at college. When I got to use the space that later became Mimosa House, I found that it was a great environment for me to explore talking to artists, talking to other curators, and doing projects. It was a learning process too.

Zainab Fasiki, ‘transfeminisms’, 2024, exhibition view, Mimosa House, London. Courtesy: Mimosa House; photograph: Josef Konczak

JJ: Maybe we can expand a bit more on your journey through feminism, because there are many feminisms that sometimes conflict with each other.

DK: Well, when I came into doing exhibitions, I didn’t have an agenda. It was all coming from a very strong personal urge, and I was finding language for it along the way. I had the urge to find a way to express myself, to find like-minded people around me with whom I could make connections and share my ideas through curating and artistic projects. I was othered a lot when I was growing up. I come from a place of experience of otherness, foreignness and non-belonging. I feel like it’s a common battle for people who work under feminist or activist agendas. For me, feminism was always a meeting point between people from different backgrounds or, more precisely, different experiences. It is a crossing, a space for people to share a conversation and feel safe and validated. 

‘transfeminisms’, 2024, exhibition view, Mimosa House, London. Courtesy: Mimosa House; photograph: Josef Konczak

JJ: I’m thinking about the ‘transfeminisms’ show and the vociferousness of the anti-trans, quote-unquote, feminist movement online. That movement is the opposite of everything you’re saying. It’s aggressive and hectoring and all the rest of it. Maybe we could talk about the intervention you’re making with this show.

DK: The ‘transfeminisms’ show is inclusive by default, and it inherently embraces the diversity of gender identities. So, paradoxically, it’s almost like gender is not at the front of this exhibition, even though it is at its very core. The show is divided into five chapters, each with a uniting theme and a constellation of curatorial and artistic voices. For example, the first chapter addresses protest and activism, and the second one, radical imaginations. The artists engage with subjects of magic, spirituality, religion, sacrilege, utopia, dystopia and futurism to find common ground and shared concerns. The third chapter is ‘Fragile Archives’: it features artists who draw from their family histories, their identities, and so on. The fourth chapter develops around care and community, and the last chapter questions of labour. The curatorial process for this exhibition was fascinating and challenging. As we compiled our artist lists, we sought to identify the common undercurrents and main concerns that ran through their works. This understanding allowed us to group the works into meaningful chapters, creating a cohesive and engaging exhibition.

Fatima Mazmouz, H.EROS, Portraits of Moorish Women (series), 2024, installation view. Courtesy: Mimosa House; photograph: Josef Konczak

JJ: Tell us more about how you see curating, how much for you it’s about an individual’s personal vision, and how much it’s about teamwork and collective ideas.

DK: ‘transfeminisms’ has been a collective project since the beginning. It came about from a conversation with Maura Reilly, one of the curators. Reilly co-curated with Linda Nohlin a seminal exhibition, ‘Global Feminisms’, in 2007 at the Brooklyn Museum in New York. Reilly told me she wanted to create a follow-up to ‘Global Feminisms’, to understand how feminist discourse has changed in the past 17 years. Then, two other curators joined: Jennifer McCabe, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Phoenix, Arizona, and Christine Eyene, who is a research curator at Tate Liverpool. Both come from an established practice of feminist activist curating. In the beginning we also contacted curatorial advisors to tell them about the project we were trying to put together and to ask for the names of artists they thought were important to include.

Lorena Wolffer, Públicas, 2023, installation view. Courtesy: Mimosa House; photograph: Josef Konczak

JJ: I also wanted to ask you about another recent show, Alyona Tokovenko and AntiGonna’s ‘I Am Not Here to Be Stronger Than You’.

DK: Daša Anosova and Alexandra Tryanova curated that project. They both grew up in Ukraine and had pre-existing relationships with both artists. It was a collaboration between Mimosa House and the curatorial and artistic group that formed for the show. AntiGonna and Tokovenko’s work touches upon some issues that are very specific to post-Soviet trauma, but they go beyond the post-Soviet context and the ongoing war in Ukraine into universal feminist concerns that they manage to express. It was an honour for us to host and to be part of it.

JJ: Let’s go on, then, to discuss ‘The Baroness’ (2022), an exhibition dedicated to the legacy of Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven.

DK: Yes, that was epic, epic, epic. ‘The Baroness’ was a dream show for me. My PhD research is on language and visual, sound and performance poetry from the mid-20th century. I’m writing about Tomaso Binga, who has been working under a male name from the 1970s until today in Italy. We did an exhibition with her in 2019. Through Tomaso, I started researching other forebears for her work, even those she probably didn’t encounter. The Baroness was one of them. At first, I didn’t think it would be possible, but then, I was like, well, let’s try it. When we managed to secure the works, I realized we could do it. I soon discovered that quite a few contemporary artists consider Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven a role model.

Kyuri Jeon, Born, Unborn and Born Again 다신, 태어나, 다시, installation view. Courtesy: Mimosa House; photograph: Josef Konczak

JJ: Maybe we can conclude by talking a little more about just how all of this comes together as an expression of Mimosa House’s mission.

DK: For us, ‘transfeminisms’ is our first statement exhibition. We’ve always worked with artists who, I guess, share feminist or activist values and think about changing the world, such as Pélagie Gbaguidi, Georgia Sagri, Tejal Shah and TextaQueen. But this is our first manifesto exhibition, that really tries to formulate ideas in an accessible way to the public, to our audiences, to say ‘this is what we stand for’. I don’t want to formulate slogans and statements now because there are four more chapters to go, and people need to create meanings and interpret what they see. But I feel that, from the artists’ works, it’s quite self-evident. It all comes to, I guess, a diversity of voices and notions of inclusivity, care and collective action, always exploring different forms and methodologies of individual and collective resistance.

The exhibition states that there is no singular feminism. There is no one-size-fits-all statement that could be applied to every artist in the show. Each artist brings a unique perspective, a different belonging, and a different language they use, which adds to the exhibition’s richness and diversity. Feminisms here are loud, gender-inclusive and non-compliant. It’s feminism that is not conditional.

transfeminisms is on view at Mimosa House, London, until 20 April. 

Main image: Bahia Shehab, A Thousand Times No, exhibition view, transfeminisms, 2024.Courtesy: Mimosa House; photograph: Josef Konczak

Juliet Jacques is a writer, filmmaker, broadcaster and academic. Her short story collection, Variations, was published by Influx Press in June 2022. She lives in London, UK.