'Do you keep thinking there must be another way' - Mimosa House
Mimosa House is a temporary gallery space in Mayfair. Tucked inside a quiet building awaiting redevelopment and spanning across two floors it is non-profit venture that offers artists a safe and supportive space to show work. it also runs talks and workshops to further build a sense of community. A peaceful oasis of collaborative creativity in an area dominated by expensive art galleries and a plethora of retails outlets.
After trying but failing to escape the evening rain without an umbrella and zigzagging my way around zombie-like shoppers, I arrive at the gallery looking and feeling very much like a drowned rat. I immediately manage to lose my way around the building until a helpful, if slightly bewildered, cleaner armed with a large hoover takes pity on the bedraggled woman repeating ‘the gallery? How do I get to the gallery?’ and points me towards the right set of stairs.
I am greeted by curator Daria Khan, who founded the gallery and has invited me to tour its latest exhibition. Khan has chosen to focus the Mimosa House programme on collaborations by female and queer artists. The current show, Do you keep thinking there must be another way, is a group exhibition of historic and contemporary works including installation, painting, performance, text and video. It considers behaviours towards, and opposition of, presiding power structures in personal and professional spheres. Khan is full of enthusiasm for and knowledge of each artist and their work. Her passion about Mimosa House and its collaborative and supportive ethos is also contagious.
The exhibition is immediately intriguing in the way it has brought together pieces from the 70s and 80s and displayed them alongside the works of younger artists.
As we walk around the gallery, I am especially taken by the costumes and mannequins that form part of an installation by Georgia Horgan .
They seem to be acting in a silent and rather ominous play, faceless and immobile but no less arresting.
This work continues Horgan's ongoing research into ‘political pornographies’ from the English Civil War and Restoration. Horgan has taken a Ferrante Pallavicino novella, The Whore's Rhetorick (1683), as her reference to explore this history. She displays two embroidered period costumes for characters from Pallavicino’s novella, Mrs Cresswell, a brothel owner and notorious Civil War republican, and Dorothea, a young aristocratic woman.
Howardena Pindell’s 12-minute video Free, White and 21 (1980) where she recounts her experiences of racism as a young woman living, studying and working in the USA in the 1960s is another fascinating display.
In the video Pindell is alternatively shown as herself and as a white woman, highlighting the difference between the experiences and beliefs of two young women that are very much based on the colour of their skin and how society reacts to them as a result.
Under/Valued Energetic Economy is an installation and work in progress by Raju Rage, which maps out the tangled ecology between activism, arts and academia.
Presented on a trestle table top with objects and artefacts that reference an interest in kitchen table conversations and the knowledge that they produce, the work highlights informal strategies of organisation, creativity and collectivity.
The installation contains a wonderfully funny and moving manifesto reminding us to practice daily self-care written on an apron with such pearls of wisdom as ‘Listen to your allergies’ and ‘enjoy this, because this is it’.
In 1971 artist Lee Lozano began her infamous boycott of women. Lozano publicly withdrew from contact with other women in the midst of the feminist, anti-work and anti-Vietnam movements of the 1970s. It was an act of unapologetic self-sabotage and rejection of her identification as a ‘woman artist’ and of patriarchal systems, as Lozano wrote “I have no identity. I will be human first, artist second”.
Initially temporary, this boycott then became permanent and Lozano eventually chose to withdraw from the art world.
Presented at Mimosa House is a facsimile of Lozano’s hand-written text, extracted from her notebooks, outlining her plans to boycott women.
I struggled with the work of Emma Talbot, a 10 metre-long silk painting titled 21st Century Sleepwalk. In this piece, a combination of writing and drawings, the personal is meant to become political.
The other artists in the show offer a real sense of challenging the status quo and of strongly held and often radical beliefs. Talbot’s offering does not match that intensity and does not seem to go beyond the superficial, in this case doodles and words about urban angst and regeneration/gentrification fatigue which are often part of life in a modern metropolis.
There is something too doll-like and lacking in substance in these drawings, they would not be out of place in a teenage girl diary but don't look quite right when translated to such a large scale. The impression it leaves me with is not so much of a modern ‘bad-ass Bayeux Tapestry’ and more of an ‘alternative Barbie does activism’ all too quiet attempt.
It is fascinating, and slightly depressing, to see that many of the issues that were raised in the 70s and 80s by some of these artists are still so relevant today and that we have a long way to go when it comes to creating more equal societies.
I really wish that Mimosa House could become a permanent space. It is a bold and inventive gallery that chooses to challenge us but also manages to create a welcoming and thoughtful environment where debate and collaboration can thrive. Khan is a young curator who is not afraid to take risks and as she is already looking for a new venue for her projects once Mimosa House is no more. I have no doubt she and her collaborators will continue to innovate with thought-provoking exhibitions such as this one.
Do you keep thinking there must be another way: Georgia Horgan, Lee Lozano, Howardena Pindell, Polvo de Gallina Negra, Raju Rage, Georgia Sagri and Emma Talbot. Mimosa House, Mayfair, London. 15 February – 27 April 2019.