BY Vanessa Peterson in Opinion | 04 AUG 23

Editor’s Picks: Flee Project Scratches an Itch for Global Sounds

Other highlights include Lauren Elkin’s provocative book on feminist art and a long-awaited film on the late British photographer Tish Murtha

BY Vanessa Peterson in Opinion | 04 AUG 23

Frieze Editor’s Picks is a fortnightly column in which a frieze editor shares their recommendations for what to watch, read and listen to.

Flee Project

During a trip to Norway earlier this year for the first iteration of Frieze New Writers in the Nordics, I came across Flee Project at Bergen Art Book Fair. The interdisciplinary record label and curatorial platform works across music, literature and graphic design to produce issues – including a vinyl record and a magazine or art book – focused on a particular musical genre or subculture from anywhere in the world. Interrogating music from a socio-political perspective enables Flee to celebrate subjects as disparate as the songs intoned by Portuguese fishermen while at work (issue 004), or Kenyan benga music and the preservation of musical heritage itself (issue 001). It is well worth taking a look through their back catalogue ahead of the release of issue 005.

Flee Projects
Issue 005. Courtesy: Flee Projects

Lauren Elkin, Art Monsters: Unruly Bodies in Feminist Art (2023)

In a blend of art criticism, theory, biography and memoir, Lauren Elkin tells the stories of women artists, from the 17th century to the present day, exploring the role of the political and personal in feminist art-making practices. Going beyond biography, she looks towards the ways that women – some queer, racialised or disabled – have found to make art that tells the stories of their lives. What was it, she asks, that ‘they were so bent on doing that they ran the risk of being called a monster’? Elkin weaves her readings of second-wave feminists such as Adrienne Rich together with artists like Carolee Schneemann and Kara Walker, to consider the abject and monstrous in the context of global political events such as Black Lives Matter, Roe vs Wade and the fight for abortion rights and bodily autonomy.

Art Monsters
Lauren Elkin, Art Monsters, 2023, book cover. Courtesy: Penguin Books

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Elkin at the London Review Bookshop, where our conversation spanned from the limits of the monstrous to how to critically analyse conflict and disagreement in feminist liberation movements. As teratologist Jeffrey Jerome Cohen puts it in a passage Elkin cites at the beginning of the book, ‘we can understand a culture by what it calls monstrous; the monster stands for everything a society attempts to cast out.’

Paul Sng, Tish (2023)

Directed by Paul Sng and produced by Jen Corcoran, Tish (2023) tells the story of the late photographer Tish Murtha, whose extensive body of work documented the working-class neighbourhoods of Newcastle and other towns in north east England in the 1970s and ’80s. After graduating from the renowned School of Documentary Photography at the University of Wales, then under the direction of Magnum photographer David Hurn, Murtha returned to her home town of South Shields to document the lives of those affected by Thatcherism, deindustrialisation and unemployment.

Tish Murtha
Paul Sng, Tish, 2023. Courtesy: Modern Films

Murtha’s gaze was not distant: she had experienced the poverty and social inequalities of those she photographed first-hand. This documentary, featuring Murtha’s daughter Ella and a cast of Murtha’s associates and colleagues, showcases the rich depth of the photographer’s practice, as well as illustrating how class and social background can hinder a person’s progress in Britain. The film only came to fruition after Sng crowdfunded more than £40,000 on Kickstarter in 2021. It premiered at Sheffield Doc/Fest last month and will travel to Scarborough Film Festival this month before wider distribution via Modern Films in November.

Main image: Vinyl graphic. Courtesy: Getty Images

Vanessa Peterson is associate editor of frieze. She lives in London, UK.