XXY in Conversation with GPL Artists, Part 1: Margie Houlston

XXY in Conversation with GPL Artists, Part 1: Margie Houlston

At the start of August, Grrrl Power Liverpool launched with their first event at Constellations, Liverpool. Spanning two days, the founders – or the grrrls – Olivia Graham, Michelle Houlston and Aoife Robinson took up and demanded space, creating their exhibition, ‘Women: Where Do You Find Yourself in the Arts?’. As part of a series of conversations, Grrrl Power Liverpool’s Michelle caught up with contributing artist, Margie Houlston, to talk space and gender inequality.

Margie Houlston’s exhibited piece, ‘Leg Room’, comprised of three digital sketches, each including three bodies: one woman sat between two men. Each of the women’s bodies were sketched with their legs spread in a non-sexual manner, while in contrast, the men’s bodies appeared moulded, with crossed limbs and slouching, to take up less space.

Michelle Houlston: Your piece ‘Leg Room’ was exhibited in the men’s toilets. Coincidentally, the notion of ‘room’ is quite fitting to The Space Issue. What was the reasoning behind placing the art specifically in a gendered space and inviting everyone in to view it?

Margie Houlston: The purpose of deliberately exhibiting my work in the men’s toilets was to create this idea of invasion of space – which, in regards to the artwork ‘Leg Room’, was just that. The notion of legs spread wide in a public area and taking up, arguably, unnecessary space, could be seen as the entitlement to that space. Inviting everyone into the men’s toilets is a playful taunt that allows women to feel entitled to be there when they essentially are not supposed to. I also, and not in any way maliciously, wanted men to feel uncomfortable in a space that they have every right to occupy. I wanted to recreate an experience I know of, and have felt myself, as a woman – being extremely uncomfortable in an environment in which I am perfectly permitted to be. I wanted this piece and its location to be both inviting and invasive.

Michelle: Your piece can be interpreted as analysing space in the arts and creative sector, but can be taken further to analyse women and space in general. Why is it important for women to take up space?

Margie: If we continue to stay confined to allotted spaces, then I believe women will never truly feel comfortable within themselves. I am not saying that literally spreading your legs whilst on public transport will transform you into a confident woman and allow you to feel comfortable in your own skin. However, when women take up space, they are admitting they belong there, with no guilt or uncertainty. It is very important that women start and continue to take up, create and dominate spaces, for girls in the future to never doubt that they, too, are entitled to that space.

Michelle: Grrrl Power Liverpool’s call out to self-identified women artists was to respond to the question, ‘Women: Where Do You Find Yourself In The Arts?’  Your answer, and artwork, tells us you find a lack of space for yourself and women in general. After the exhibition, do you feel like anything about your answer has changed?

Margie: No, I still stand by my response to the question. Even more so after attending the ‘Women of Colour: Where Do You Find Yourself in the Arts?’ discussion and hearing of different stories that women experience every day. It reminded me that it is real. The exclusion of women in many creative sectors is real. And my response, to take up space, stands.  

 

Written by Michelle Houlston,

Contributor

Visuals by Margie Houlston

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