Body Poetics: GIANT, Bournemouth

18 February - 6 May 2023

Louise Bourgeois and Holly Stevenson

Helen Chadwick and Rosie Gibbens

Judy Chicago and Ad Minoliti

Guerrilla Girls and Evan Ifekoya

Senga Nengudi and Enam Gbewonyo

Niki de Saint Phalle and Rae-Yen Song

Carolee Schneemann and Florence Peake

Kiki Smith and Charlotte Edey

Penny Slinger and Tai Shani


GIANT presents Body Poetics, a group exhibition pairing nine feminist artists working at the advent of feminist theory in the 1970’s and 80’s with a contemporary artist from a younger generation. Curated by Marcelle Joseph and Becca Pelly-Fry, Body Poetics will run 18 February – 6 May 2023.


Judith Butler wrote in Bodies That Matter (1993) that it is impossible to ‘consider the materiality of the body’ as bodies cannot be fixed ‘as simple objects of thought’. Instead, bodies are ‘a world beyond themselves’. ‘This movement beyond their own boundaries, a movement of boundary itself, appeared to be quite central to what bodies “are”.’ Much like poetry, bodies are constructed. Instead of words, bodies are constructed by society through relations of power. In this exhibition, the body is set in motion, much like the words of a poem. Where the words are placed and in what order changes the meaning, the feeling or the aesthetics of the words on the page. In this exhibition, gender performativity takes centre stage in a way that claims critical agency and is not bound by the structures of patriarchal society. 


In direct contradiction to the Lacanian narrative, creating cultural meaning for these 18 artists does not require the repression of their relationship to the feminine/femme/queer or maternal body. Instead, their artistic language subverts the paternal law of ‘the Symbolic’ and becomes a poetic language in which multiple meanings and semantic nonclosure prevail. The recovery of the feminine/femme/queer body by the artists in this exhibition disrupts, subverts and displaces the normative constraints of patriarchal society and becomes poetry in their hands.


Featuring a range of works made from the 1970’s to the present and across the mediums of painting, printmaking, sculpture, photography, video, performance, textile and sound, Body Poetics is a feminist provocation across time and space that explores the outer limits of what a body can be, using the broadest sense of the word ‘feminist’ to include all female-identifying, non-binary and trans artists.