On February 1st Once Upon a Time in a Gallery launches, with contributions from 30 fantastic writers, artists and musicians.
Last night we had a wonderful time at the live launch at Oxford’s O3 Gallery, against the backdrop of Emma Dougherty’s wonderful exhibition featuring her manipulations of Oxford’s Radcliffe Camera.
As well as a wonderful array of guest readers, we had music from the marvellous Dylan Gwalia, a fantastic slideshow featuring art from the online show. Our readers had come from far and wide but I want to give a very special mention to Marija Fekete-Sullivan, athor of the wonderful The Mermaid’s Dream, who came all the way from Sarajevo to be with us. And all the time we were watched over by SARM’s fantastic Medusa. You can download the full programme notes here (you’ll have to wait till Tuesday for their words :))
But here is the introduction.
Once upon a time, when I was a student in Oxford, MANY years ago, spending most of my time in the Radcliffe Camera, I studied gender, erops, subjectivity and sexuality in the seventeenth century. But I spent a lot of time with much older texts, and one of the first things you realise is how old the archetypes and stories embodied in our fairytales actually are – from Patient Griselda to the hags and witches, the demonised, outcast, predatory females who were just too hot to handle, who go back as far as it is possible to go, to the first woman of culture herself, Lilith, the eternal/infernal feminine, spruned in favour of the infinitely more presentable Eve.
Once Upon a Time in a Gallery reflects that long history in the many approaches people have taken. Some, like Michele Brenton, Banana the Poet, have reinvented the old stories for our new age.
Others, like Katelan Foisy, whom some of you will remember came to Oxford from New York last year and walked the streets as Lilith, and the photographer Shannon Moran, have taken the female archetypes embodied in fairytales and rejected them altogether – as representing society’s eternal wish to make its citizens behave more properly, to know their place. Shannon’s slutty heroines abd Katelan’s glorious hags pose the question – why should we reward meekness? Hurrah for being a bit feisty.
For better or worse, fairytales are our creation myths, embodying our individual and collective anxieties, hopes, fears, urges. That’s why we keep coming back to them, reinventing them for each age.
And as we enter a new, techonological era, and become part of new, very different communities (all bar Ray of the contributors here tonight I met online before I met them in real life), those communities are looking for, NEED, their own creation myths. And, as we stumble to find our place, we need as individuals to find the stories that will help us to understand where we fit, within them, or as outsiders. And so we come back, at this most appropriate time, to the not so humble fairytale.
All pictures courtesy of the super J S Watts