Linder Sterling's Punk Feminist Collages Give a British Countryside Art Crawl a New Edge
By: Alice Bucknell
Launched in 2015, The Grand Tour celebrates the interwoven art, architecture, cultural heritage and landscape of Nottingham and Derbyshire. Since its inception, big-shot British male art stars like Simon Starling and Pablo Bronstein have helped put this UK missive into the international spotlight.
The countryside art crawl still offers an invigorating creative survey of the region, but the programming has taken a distinctly feminist twist for its third edition, courtesy of one artist in particular who is having a banner year: Linder. A double bill at Nottingham Contemporary and Chatsworth stars the British photomontage artist (full name Linder Sterling), who is also the latter’s first-ever artist resident.
Renowned for her punk/post-punk aesthetics, Linder reimagined the Chatsworth estate’s sumptuous digs in Derbyshire as a type of ‘sensorium’. Delving into the 500-year history of the stately home for ‘Her Grace Land’ (24 March – 21 October), the artist devised a series of multi-sensory ‘interventions’ that play out across the estate.
These range from ancient Roman-style incense made with flora sourced from the grounds to otherworldly audio works produced with sound bites captured within the Chatsworth’s hallowed halls. ‘Her Grace Land’ also includes Linder’s signature photomontages, as well as more subtle architctonic mediations, wherein the artist manipulates the light levels and scents of various halls, bedchambers, and lobbies, as part of an investigation of its accumulated history and memory.
Over at Nottingham Contemporary, meanwhile, Linder has performed something of an act of teleportation with ‘The House of Fame’ (24 March – 24 June), in keeping with her marked interest in the occult. Convened in collaboration with Nottingham Contemporary director Sam Thorne, Linder’s retrospective has been transformed into a heterogeneous, multi-artist affair that weaves 40 years of her work with a historical survey of unorthodox movements and influences on her practice since the 1600s.
Having spent so much time in the gilded surrounds of Chatsworth, it’s perhaps no surprise that ‘The House of Fame’ takes the politics and aesthetics of the domestic as its point of departure. Linder’s collaged album cover for the Buzzcocks’ 1977 single Orgasm Addict and a series of lingerie masks produced in the artist’s student days set the tone of the exhibition early on, quickly expanding to other artists.
The curatorial selection digs deep, ranging from the House of the Future (1956) by architects Alison and Peter Smithson; Mike Kelley’s Ectoplasm series that playfully explores spiritual contact next door; Chicago imagist Diane Simpson’s garment-like sculptures; and the work of lesser-known British surrealist Ithell Colquhoun. Finally, ‘The Abode of Sound’ in the fourth gallery gives a ‘solo show within a show’ to the unsung textile artist Moki Cherry, whose trippy tapestries from the 1970s get a long-overdue debut outside of her native Sweden.
Conceived as a ‘house of houses’, the Nottingham Contemporary exhibition is a celebration of the occult that is ‘less interested in presenting a historical account than paying tribute to an alternative way of thinking and its popular resurgence in the present’, says Linder. Pulling weird, wonderful, and never-before-seen artefacts from the Chatsworth’s archive, the exhibition allows spirituality and feminism — two ideas with a deeply interconnected history, according to Linder — to come together at last.
Aware of the male-dominated first two seasons of The Grand Tour, it’s also an effort towards cultivating a more diverse arts culture in the area. Linder’s twin bill adds a valuable lucidity to the programming, just as the region gears up for an uncertain post-Brexit future.