Learning and Playing: Re- enacting Feminist Histories

Grant, Catherine. 2017. Learning and Playing: Re- enacting Feminist Histories. In: Victoria Horne and Lara Perry, eds. Feminism and Art History Now: Radical Critiques of Theory and Practice. London: Bloomsbury. ISBN 9781784533250 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

The title ‘Learning and Playing’ invokes Bertolt Brecht’s idea of the learning-play (this is his translation of the German Lehrstück). For him, this was a suggestive, rather than programmatic theory of how to break down the interface between rehearsal and performance, actors and spectators, discussion and enactment. This chapter returns to his theorisation of the learning-play, rather than the particular plays he wrote under this title, to think through its potential to conceptualise uses of re-enactment in contemporary art as forms of learning about history to inform our present. It is argued that re-enactment is one way to engage with the past as a site of fantasy, creation and possibility for the future. Two contemporary artworks that utilise re-enactment as scenes of learning in a variety of ways will be explored: Olivia Plender and Hester Reeve’s re-booting of The Emily Davison Lodge and their involvement in the display of Sylvia Pankhurst’s artworks at Tate Britain (2013-14) and Canadian artists Allyson Mitchell and Deirdre Logue’s installation Killjoy’s Kastle: A Lesbian Feminist Haunted House (2013), particularly its incarnation at the BFI in London in 2014.

Item Type:

Book Section


feminism, feminist art history, re-enactment, queer art history, contemporary art

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures


1 April 2017Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

19 Jul 2016 11:35

Last Modified:

19 Mar 2021 14:58



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