The Disœuvre: An Argument in 4 Voices (WASL Table); 6:27
A publication as part of a series of works on the disoeuvre by Felicity Allen


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The Disoeuvre: a definition in progress

People positioned as marginal to art’s production must work socially and institutionally, as well as in the studio, not only to make work, but to change existing structures so that their work can be recognised and critically received as art. Rather than disregarding those whose conventional oeuvre seems interrupted and inconsistent, we should look for artistic consistency in an artist’s work made in and beyond the studio, through employment at art’s institutions, or connected, for instance, to the labour of care, activism and other social practices.

As a critical tool, the Disoeuvre takes account of artists’ training in adaptability and their working lives across different sites. It responds to practices persisting through ‘feminised’ labour (as maintenance or precarity), domestic instability, transience of documentation, new recognition for overlooked visual activisms and curatorial strategies, archival gaps and is open to more.


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Transcript of an audio recording of Felicity Allen introducing herself and her publication at a hybrid workshop with DAAP at the Women's Art Library, 21 July 2023:

It's a tiny book and it's actually published by Sharon Kivland's Press, MA BIBLIOTHÈQUE. For quite a long time now, I've been working in different ways on the concept of the disoeuvre. I became aware of the ways in which, in my own work, and I could see in other people's work, that we were interrupted. We were interrupted and therefore our work could be condemned as inconsistent. And there were a number of occasions, you know, I have memories of criticisms of women's work as inconsistent, where I thought, no, that's wrong, I don't get that. And of course we were interrupted, um, if you're a woman of my generation, and I'm not speaking only about us, but I can speak authoritatively from my position, we always had to work socially and institutionally, as well as in the studio, because we had to change social setups and institutional setups at the same time. So we were always working in three different areas. Whereas, obviously, if you were from a different subject position, you didn't have to do all that work as well, the additional work. Plus, obviously, we had been trained to be adaptable, and in a way that if you were a middle class boy, you weren't being trained to be adaptable. He would be trained to be disciplined and continuous, and work in a progressive, continuous, linear format, which was, we were informed, the only way in which to be a real artist; i.e. the Picasso, linear progression. So I have done a lot of different forms of work to explore this, to explore the idea of the disoeuvre as opposed to the oeuvre. So the oeuvre is the thing that we thought we should be producing, but a lot of us didn't. And so if you look at the work that we did during those interruptions, you might see continuities that otherwise would be invisible.

And so instead of denigrating an artist’s oeuvre as inconsistent, you would see consistencies of thought and action going in very different ways, in different setups, whether it's domestic or whether it's institutional or whatever. And that little book is one of the things, it's one of the forms through which I explore this, and what I've done in that … it's got four different voices in it, and the four different voices … one voice is a voice of photographs taken that I'd reproduced from different bits of my own history.

Sorry, I should say something really important here, which is, you see that picture there? That is a picture of a table. And the table is the WASL table. So I mentioned that I was a co-founder of the Women Artists Slide Library (which later became the Women's Art Library). When I was involved in starting that up, I was given, for the library, I was given this table.

When we moved the library to Battersea Arts Centre, which was its first kind of proper office place, there wasn't room for the table. So the table is still with me, and it has moved around into different situations. So all of those photographs include the table, including for instance, my children's birthday parties at different times, and so forth, as well as before having children and now, in my studio. So that's one voice. Another voice is … I'm going into too much detail. Sorry, read the book sometime!


Felicity Allen


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