Reframed: The Woman in the Window at Dulwich Picture Gallery, London
May 4, 2022—September 4, 2022
Curated by Jennifer Sliwka
Though the exhibition explored how the "woman in the window" has been treated as subject, and how women have subsequently reclaimed this idea for themselves, I had some scepticism about the exhibitions’ initial universalising presentation of the motif. The promotional materials, which predominantly focused on the European artists within the exhibition, raised questions about who would be presented as the "woman in the window," and whether some important representations and self-representations of the motif would be missing from the visual conversation. In reality, the exhibition included a more diverse array of works than initially suggested. However, it could have focused further on questions relating to what it means to be a woman and wider perceptions of womanhood. Though the inclusion of Wolfgang Tilmans’ Smokin’ Jo (1995) presents ideas of gender identity and performance, works which further challenge binary understandings of gender could have added another interesting element as well as fostering a further sense of trans-inclusivity. One of the most powerful and impactful works in the exhibition was that of Ajarb Bernard Ategwa’s Posing with my Parrot (2021), which featured an array of bright colours and patterned textiles. Despite the exhibition marketing’s largely Eurocentric focus, Sliwka framed Ategwa’s piece at the entrance to the exhibition meaning that our first view of the woman in the window was actually presented as a "powerful presentation of female African identity."
Emma Bryning is a PhD student at the University of York working on a project funded through the AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership scheme and involving English Heritage. Her project explores heritage aspects of historic and contemporary graffiti. Prior to starting her PhD, she worked in a variety of heritage roles, including as Learning and Community Officer and Visitor Experience Manager for the Monastery Manchester. In addition to graffiti, her research interests include the intersection of contemporary art and heritage; the interpretation and presentation of heritage and historic sites, and performance art.