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About Time: Video, Performance and Installation by Women Artists, ICA, London and Arnolfini, Bristol

Feminist artists Joyce Agee, Catherine Elwes, Jacqueline Morreau and Pat Whiteread first conceived of an exhibition of women's art for the ICA in 1978. Realising that one exhibition would not be sufficient to sample the diversity of practices encompassed by women artists, the idea was developed into two shows which opened in Autumn 1980. Women's Images of Men (October) included sculptures, drawings, prints and paintings by 32 women artists, dealing with women's perceptions and representations of men, while About Time (November) made space for time-based practices, including video performances and installations. A series of film screenings was organised to accompany the exhibition, programmed by Deborah Lowensburg, Felicity Sparrow and the ICA's Chris Rodley.

About Time gathered 21 works from nationwide open submissions. Among the criteria for the selection of works was that they "should indicate the artist's awareness of a woman's individual experience within the patriarchy". Rose Garrard, a participant and co-organiser, explained: "Time-based work provides an opportunity to question the established hierarchical systems of value which effect the 'reading' of an art work and the position of its maker, as a woman, in society. The means most often adopted... to bring about this questioning process seems to be the introduction of specifically personal material."

Artists whose work featured in About Time included Catherine Elwes, Tina Keane, Roberta Graham, Sarah Bradpiece, Marceline Mori, Susan Hiller, Rose Garrard, Alex Meigh and Jane Rigby. The exhibition marked a turning point as a major gallery show of women's time-based art, an area which had previously provided women artists with a means to "question and bypass the gallery system which had for so long been stacked against them", as Lynn Mac Ritchie points out in the catalogue for the exhibition.

After the ICA, About Time along with Women's Images of Men toured Arnolfini, Bristol; South Hill Park, Bracknell; and Third Eye Centre, Glasgow.

Tom Roberts

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Catalogue for About Time

Cate and Shauna Play Quietly, Catherine Elwes, videotape, 1978
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