I have a limited number of copies of 'womens work' available at £15 inc. p&p (UK) or £18 (EU) - if you'd like a copy of this reprint of the two volumes put together by Annea Lockwood & Alison Knowles in the mid-70's send me an email here

 

WW was the 1st publication of text based performance scores exclusively by female artists & as such is a highly important part of art history. It comes is a very nice facsimile edition from Primary Information in a limited edition, housed in a fold out card envelope containing volume one (book) & volume two (fold out poster). This reprinting is due in no small part to the hard work & research by Irene Revell, through discussions with Annea Lockwood & a small role in the process by myself.

‘Each situation involves chance, risk, fantasy, self-definition, the interaction of illusion and reality…’

                                                                    from the score Fantasy and Self-Transformation - Jacki Apple

Womens Work

reprinted by Primary Information 2019

edition of 1500

originally published in two volumes in the mid-70’s

as a booklet & a poster

compiled by Annea Lockwood and Alison Knowles

the first publication of text-based scores exclusively by women

                        featuring Annea, Alison and;

                                       Mieko Shiomi

                                       Mary Lucier

                                       Bici Forbes

                                       Simone Forti

                                       Elaine Summers

                                       Wendy Greenburg

                                       Jackie Apple

                                       Pauline Oliveros

                                       Marilyn Wood

                                       Heidi Von Gunden

                                       Carole Weber

                                       Sari Dienes

                                       Carol Law

                                       Beth Anderson

                                       Anne Williams

                                       Lisa Mikulchik

                                       Ruth Anderson

                                       Carolee Schneemann

                                       Christina Kubisch

                                       Barbara Benary

                                       Takako Saito

                                       Françoise Janicot


I came across a few mentions here and there over the years and in 2011 I talked briefly with Annea about it at an event, but it was only when Irene Revell kindly sent me scans of an original copy that I got to actually see it. It was a stark reminder of how, even with a strong interest in a field, there are often layers of distortion across the surface of art history. This re-printing is a further stripping away of the dust of dry, stale patriarchy.

Whenever I have mentioned it in talks and workshops it has always been met with a huge amount of positive interest and so I emailed Annea urging her to consider a re-printing, but my part in this is small. Irene has done so much to get it to this point and all of us who care about these art forms owe her a lot, as we do of course to Annea, Alison and all of those who contributed scores. And to James Hoff, Miriam Katzeff and the rest of the team at Primary Information, who have created an object-book that reflects the tactile nature of the scores themselves. Now these works for us to do need to be done, over and over.

             

                                                                         constant distortions are audible

                                                                                                as well as visual

- Jez riley French

below are some reflections, collected for this article during 2019;

Annea Lockwood

JrF: firstly, to understand more about the history, do you remember how many copies of each volume were printed & perhaps a few words on the reaction to it at the time ?

AL: I'm so sorry, I really don't recall the number of copies and as Alison arranged the printing, I have no old receipts to refer to. The reaction? I'd be inventing if I said anything specific - I think it aroused real interest. I don't recall people contacting Alison or me about any performances - basically, we were both really busy with our own performing/composing/art work - it was an intense time - and for me for each issue, once I'd distributed most of my copies, perhaps a dozen in all, WW was out there and would, as it were, make its way through the art world without further promotion.

JrF: what is your perception of the importance of the reprinting now, at this time

AL. l am absolutely delighted, both that those particular works by those artists can once again circulate, be performed and, as it were, live again. 'These are works for you to do' - the practical nature of the collection, was very important to us.

JrF: I recently used the publication to initiate a discussion around the gendering of sound art history with a group of folks interested in located sound, on the 2nd murmuration field trip (73% female participants) & it led to a very interesting discussion. One comment from some of the younger female participants was that they felt the title 'Womens Work' was now somewhat problematic. They stated that they have grown up demanding they be referred to as artists or composers rather than female artists or female composers. This of course is how things should be & a positive sign but, in the context of the time, is it fair to say that using the term 'Womens Work' was necessary & perhaps, unfortunately, still is to some degree ?

AL: The gendering/identification of artists as female, (not, I note, as male since that was and often still is the assumed 'norm') has been controversial for as far back as I can remember. Pauline Oliveros was far from the first woman composer to protest it. As a young composer I too wanted simply to be identified as a composer, but as the herstory of women musicians in western music was gradually brought forward by the women's music movement and the essential work of major feminist musicologists (such as Susan McClary's 'Feminine Endings') I came to recognise that ignoring my gender, sort of neutering myself denied the culturally implicit and obvious gendering of 'composer' as male, which has had major effects on access for composing women until recently. I also realised that by accepting that my gender was integral to my composer's identity, I could help to encourage younger women to assert themselves as composers also. Role models matter, as Pauline knew well. I think that is still true, as I have heard from a number of younger women composers.

So yes, the assertion that the works in WW were created by women, that this is the proper work of women, was very necessary at that time, we felt and is part of its impact and attraction now, I suspect.

JrF: on a totally positive note perhaps you can comment on the thought that as copies of the reprint find their way into university libraries and a wider consciousness it will be even more visible, even more accessible and part of a growing range of texts and works that provide young artists, especially young women (the men are still often sleeping) with a more balanced resource when it comes to research?

AL: Ah yes, this is perhaps the greatest benefit of all the generous work which Irene, James, you have done to get WW back into circulation. My wholehearted thanks, dear Jez.

Simone Forti

Blue on beige, open the box slowly, your hands will feel good. You will see names of friends, some still here, others gone. You are still here but will one day be among those who are gone.

Find a likely surface where to leave the opened box. The blue of its inner surfaces enters my eyes so easily. The cardboard flaps remain bent at different angles. The book is just the right size and I read it at one sitting. Each of the women’s entries transports me to a new location. A lake’s edge where the piano sits in water, a college campus where gentle antics leave me lightheaded, a nowhere/everywhere where space is a flat surface ready to receive two gestures. My page pleases me. I still do this “Scramble” in my workshops. It always lights up smiles. We’ve let go of the buzzing.    

Irene Revell (curator / artist)

JrF:  can you explain how you first became aware of ‘Womens Work’ & your involvement since then ?

IR: I had several experiences of realising performances of Pauline Oliveros’ text score To Valerie Solanas and Marilyn Monroe, in Recognition of their Desperation (1970), first at Tate Modern as part of our wider symposium, Her Noise: Feminisms and the Sonic. And then friends of mine who are artists, Pauline Boudry/Renate Lorenz, decided to make an eponymous film installation of the piece in 2013, which I was also involved in. In all sorts of ways the text score seemed to be offering this compelling feminist aesthetic that begged the question of whether there were other ‘feminist performance scores’, score-based works like this, from the same sort of time. I came across Womens Work (1975-8) in this vein of research where it had been exhibited in an exhibition in MoMA’s archive - there’s a copy in their Silverman Fluxus collection. I got in touch with Annea Lockwood and she kindly sent a copy that I then exhibited as part of an exhibition project Slow Runner (Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe, 2013), that I then donated to the Her Noise Archive, as there are very few copies in institutional collections, especially outside of the US. I was really struck by the heterogeneity of practices that the two issues evidenced - from across art, composition and choreography, and beyond. And that it seemed to be consolidating this moment of feminist consciousness amongst these communities of practice in interesting ways, not least through the format of the published score. Of course I wanted to know more about the project and many of the practices, and so I have ended up centering PhD research around it. As well as interviewing many of the living contributors and visiting a number of US archives over the last couple of year, I have also developed a workshop series around the first issue of the publication, called 'These are scores’. I’ve staged various performances of works in the collection as well. And with my friend Karen Di Franco co-curated another exhibition project that presented the collections itself archivally, Orgasmic Streaming  Organic Gardening  Electroculture (Chelsea Space, London, 2018), that also included Carolee Schneemann’s Parts of a Body House, alongside works by contemporary artists. Most recently I’ve worked with Primary Information, the New York publisher, on this new facsimile edition.

JrF: there are a number of artists included who are less well known in the history, still, than others & for whom it’s hard to find any further information. During your research i’m guessing you discovered some interesting additional details but also, no doubt, some gaps in the histories ?

IR: In terms of the practices it is more or less easy to research, I think this follows wider patterns: the 'canon' tends to favour careers that are legible through discernible shapes of singular authorship, certain kinds of consistencies. Julie Winter, for instance, was working as an astrologer during this time (her contribution to the first issue reflects this) and although she was deeply involved with a number of different projects and performance groups, co-founding Sounds Out of Silent Space with her then husband Phil Corner, it’s harder to trace her involvement as someone who isn’t legible as an artist or composer. Or there’s figures who went on to do different kinds of work, for instance, Heidi Von Gunden stopped composing shortly after this time and went on to publish a number of musicological monographs, starting with Pauline Oliveros in 1983. And has happily started composing again more recently since her retirement. Nye Ffarrabas is a good example here too: her work from the 1960s is relatively known, both her own work and collaborations with her then husband, Geoffrey Hendricks (though sometimes joint works such as Flux Divorce have been falsely attributed solely to him). She wasn’t always able to practice as much in the intervening decades as a working single mother living away from an urban centre. But happily has been showing and performing more widely again in recent years.

JrF:  could you perhaps comment on the material itself. Most of the scores remain very fresh, with only a few perhaps being more rooted in the era of their original publication. Do you have any thoughts on where these pieces sit in a contemporary setting ?

IR: I mean, scores in general, even traditional musical notation, are mostly written with perhaps some specific performances in mind but also speculating on unspecified futures through performance. Or that’s to say I guess that I think many scores inevitably have a kind of futurity to them. But i also think these specific kinds of textual, instructional scores maybe have garnered a specific interest in this current moment for various reasons. I do think for me there is something very specifically appealing about these kinds of performance scores, that they offer at once these very concrete instructions, ideas, at the same time as being open to future performances and interpretations, sharing forms of authorship in quite precise ways. My friend Aura Satz has spoken about this in terms of being a kind of ‘blueprint’ in these increasingly uncertain times, politically.

JrF: In your interview with Annea you comment on the diversity of practices reflected. Perhaps you could say something about the materiality of shared endeavour ?

IR: “The materiality of shared endeavour” is a lovely expression. I mean in the interview Annea talks about these collaborations that were often occurring, and I think I would say that for me the proposal of Womens Work itself in the invocation that "these are scores ready for you to do" is a suggestion of group situations, social material. Some works may be performed alone, but others require the negotiation of a group in their interpretation and performance. This is what poses interesting questions to me as a curator, how one might convey that materiality, the iterative group situations. But echoing the previous question, I think there is a formal ambivalence towards collectivity - that is at once of course welcoming of this group work, but also retains the autonomy of the score's author through its printed form.                                          

Catherine Kontz (composer / musician)

What a lovely and exciting selection of pieces and ideas. I find it fascinating to discover these text scores which very much relate to a way of thinking about sound and performance which is still stimulating today and feels quite current although they were conceived 40 years ago. Two pieces in particular jump out for me:

Simone Forti's happening - in very few words, she sets a scene, creates movement and, almost as an afterthought, makes sound happen. This piece will work with any group and it will always become something extraordinary that is also particular to that very group of people - be it amateurs, children, musicians, dancers....This is something I am still exploring today when I devise/compose happenings and ad hoc performances which are open to anyone who is up for it. In this case, the fact she can say everything essential in one sentence is just beautiful!

Annea Lockwood's Piano Transplants - As a pianist, I'm always a little uneasy about seeing an instrument destroyed. Equally, I am fascinated by the idea of taking this house-bound instrument out of its normal surroundings and into a more "natural" space, such as a garden, a river etc.. and merging the sounds of the hammers and strings with the living elements of wood, water and fire. The piano becomes a symbol of a humanised sound, an man-made object built to make music. It is thrilling to see how this "de-composition" makes the object become a part of nature again, melting it into the lake or making it go up in smoke, while the piano offers an ultimate performance in its (slow) demise... Much food for thought.

Sarah Hughes (artist / composer)

For me, the performance of these scores is in the becoming aware of a situation, the call back, the insert into the everyday, the creation of an outline. You do it by remaining attentive to lived experience.

Recent instances of this are the reading of Simone Forti and Marilyn Wood in the Tao Dance Theatre performance of ‘9’ at Sadler’s Wells, where each dancer moves in and out of the others, without touching [link below].  Another is the outside piano that sits beside Farringdon Folly in Oxfordshire. The piano and folly sit in the centre of a copse, the piano ‘drowned’ by its surrounding, dilapidated, almost unplayable.

Wendy Greenberg’s ’The Mark - A Zen Drawing’ reads like I am describing how I approach installation as it relates to composition - familiarising oneself with a space and making work/s in response and the parallel process of articulating sounds in space and translating that to the page, for performance by others.

And of course, these are compositions for performance, to do in real time. Alone, with others, to an audience, in the kitchen, outside, for friends, for passersby.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nX3Nf_Gr61c

James Hoff (artist / publisher)

JrF:  As Hannah Higgins (Art historian & one of Alison Knowles daughters) is on the board of Primary Information and you’ve also reprinted material by and with connections to Alison’s late husband Dick Higgins, how aware of WW were you prior to Irene & Annea speaking with you about it, & what were your impressions whilst revisiting the collection when considering a re-print ? 

JH: It was a magazine I had known about but had never seen in person, which is a case with many publications from that era. To some extent that was the impetus for starting Primary Information back in 2006. We felt there was material locked away in collections around the world that was urgent and needed to be seen by a new community of artists, so we just started approaching artists to get permission to produce facsimile editions. The first project we published in this manner was Something Else Press' Great Bear Pamphlet series and we have gone on to publish a few other titles by Something Else Press as well as scores of other books and magazines from the 1960s - 1980s. We also publish contemporary works.

I was always curious about WW and after seeing it, it just made sense to get it out into the world. There is a new generation of artists looking to this era and searching for work that doesn't correspond to the male-dominated canon. The magazine is a perfect window into this period and it features a great deal of under-recognised artists along side a few that are more well known. As a publisher, it was a no-brainer and as an artist and reader with an interest in this era, it was a much-need introduction into works and a few artists that I was unfamiliar with. 

JrF:  You’ve spoken before about an interest in small press editions and the differences between artists book publishing in Europe and in the US, especially in a historical context. One thing that WW does is remind us that there is, without any doubt, still a mountain range worth of material to be rediscovered & republished - and artists who seem to have more or less vanished from the histories. There were at least 4 or 5 included in volume 1 for whom very little additional information is available. As a publisher how aware are you of the weight publications such as WW carry in terms of redressing bias in art history ? (in this instance gender bias / patriarchal distortions for example)

JH: Very aware. To the extent that it's possible (regarding rights), we have attempted to publish work that can challenge these biases. Thankfully a lot of people are putting in a lot of effort to uncover and make overlooked work more visible...we are part of a larger re-examination in NYC and beyond. A few upcoming titles include a collection of concrete poetry from the 60s and 70s created by female writers/artists as well as The New Woman's Survival Catalog (the feminist response to the Whole Earth Catalog and the boys club of 60/70s counterculture). We are also working with DeForrest Brown, Jr. on a book exploring an alternate history of Techno music and its hardware links to various forms of underground Southern Hip Hop in the 1990s

Jo Hutton (radio and music sound recordist and PhD Researcher in electroacoustic music history)


I first experienced Womens’ Work at an exhibition curated by Irene Revell and Karen di Franco at Chelsea Artspace in 2018. The book contains a number of various approaches to written scores, described by Revell as textual instructions. What struck me first is that it is a piece of book art where the texture of the book as a physical artefact, the quality of the natural paper, the variety of type fonts or handwritten entries, diagrams and sketches, bound together in simple saddle-stitch threading are as important to the work as the texts contained within it. It was self-published in two editions in 1975 and then 1978 by composer Annea Lockwood and fluxus co-founder Alison Knowles to promote the performance scores of multi-media women performance artists.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the book is that the editors chose scores that are ready to perform and clear enough to be immediately available to any performer, with only a couple of contributors requiring experienced performers from music or dance disciplines. The scores in Womens’ Work openly invite readers to participate in sharing the works to new audiences and simply asks for notification of any performance. This is in contrast to other graphic or experimental notations, such as John Cage’s Notations, (1969) co-edited by Alison Knowles, which excludes performance other than by the composer. This performative inclusivity was demonstrated at a performance of Knowles’ Propostion IV (Squid), from Womens’ Work, at Cafe Oto 2019. A group consisting of three musicians and a writer (Angharad Davies, Rhodri Davies, Dominic Lash and Louise Gray) followed the instructions in which each performer autonomously contributed to creating the simultaneous sounding of the score which was drawn with coloured chalk in a large circle on the stage floor and each action was sounded by various objects or instruments.

The book resonates with other scores as textual instructions that I have been researching by Delia Derbyshire, Eliane Radigue and Beatriz Ferreyra. These scores, which reveal much about the integration of music aesthetics and electronic equipment, are private technological instructions for each composer within her studio. In contrast, Womens’ Work is there for sharing and promoting as widely as possible, excellent performance works by women composers and artists.

 

                                                       ____________________

below are two extracts from Irene Revell’s interview with Annea Lockwood “You look at a score, you do it” that she has kindly allowed me to share here;

IR: In Martha Mockus’ book Sounding Out2 there is some correspondence between you and Pauline Oliveros that took place in the early 1970s across the Atlantic (you are in London and she is on the West Coast) where you exchange scores and related ideas about feminism.

AL: Exactly. We would do some of her [sonic] meditations here in London and she would do some of my pieces in San Diego. We were thinking along very similar lines at that time: sound and the body, sound and healing. Where it really began to strongly affect me was almost as soon as I went over to New York, where I got pulled into consciousness raising groups. I was a reticent New Zealander, and I had been living in a relatively reticent English social setting for a long time, and consciousness raising American-style was overwhelming: the amount of person- al information that was being pulled out of one. But it was also like surgery—it really sort of cut through the gender training. And little by little I started to incorporate it into my work.

The first issue of Womens Work—the publication Alison Knowles and I put together—came out in 1975 in New York. I had been there for a couple of years by that point. Womens Work came up because Alison—who was teaching me photographic printing techniques at the time, which was fun—and I were sitting over a cup of tea in her loft on Spring Street in Soho, and just running through the names of all the women artists we knew in various media who were doing great work and, as I recall, we more or less looked at each other and said, "Why don’t we ask for a bunch of scores from them!" Of course the title was highly deliberate and highly focused. And the intention was to assert that there were many women doing really good work whose names should be more and more familiar. That it should be seen that there was a body of work coming from a number of women, not just isolated exemplars in their fields.

IR: One thing I find extraordinary about the publication is how it links all these practitioners from diverse disciplinary backgrounds through the medium of the score, many of whom I had never encountered before.

AL: Absolutely, it covered every discipline. And it was very natural at that time to be in touch with many disciplines, no matter what one’s own primary discipline was, and many of us were making interdisciplinary works anyway.


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