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Katherine Meynell
A Book for Performance, produced and performed at the Air Gallery, London in 1986, is an early example of this tender relationship to the foundation of feminist video into which Meynell was schooled.

In the work, the artist sits on a chair behind a screen and cuts off her long hair, the action relayed live to an audience on a small video monitor. The work has obvious references to Yoko Ono's Cut Piece as well as to early works by Carolee Schneemann, but it lacks the overt drama of these previous performances. The event is accompanied by a book in which Meynell tells the story of a journey undertaken in her childhood, a journey from Mombassa to Paris prompted by her mother leaving her family. The story is also about the artist's hair, long in Africa, cut off for schooling in Europe. The book contains delicate drawings of hair. What occurs is less a dramatisation of the relationship between young female sexuality and its incarceration at the hands of patrimony and more a funny, wry domestication of that process. The action is simple, and not necessarily at this juncture original, but Meynell is here displaying less concern with high drama and more with a certain relation to her own history, a lovelorn but unsentimental, quizzical relation.

Other works made around this time, such as The Sisters' Story (1984), Untitled (Ectopic Pregnancy) (1985) and Hannah's Song (1987 and the first in a long line of works made using the moving image of her growing daughter) all utilise stories and events from Meynell's own life. In Hannah's Song , filmed using a mixture of video and super-8, the young child is portrayed looking into a mirror. The obvious Lacanian reference to auto-eroticism is slightly disturbed by Meynell's narrative, which appears at the bottom of the screen accompanied by the sounds of a child's first noises, in which her daughter's subjectivity (and thus the healthy formation of such) is mixed up with her own: 'not knowing if she's her or me' says the mother, not knowing if the Lacanian line on identity presentation is quite so clear in practice. Connected, but as a corollary in terms of its lack of self-referentiality, is the Blackstock Estate Tapes (1987), in which Meynell worked in a GLAA/Islington Council-funded residency in a community centre on a North London housing estate teaching mothers, children and local teenagers how to use a video camera. Out of this she produced three video documentaries and an installation. The ethos in this exercise was the idea of video as a tool of democratisation, being made explicit at this time by a number of artists, and out of which Meynell emerged with a pragmatic attitude towards such political potential and its affect. Working with young mothers, and being a young mother herself was, however, an experience that perhaps confirmed the frankness and openness of her work.

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