As members of Common Practice and of the London art world, we were saddened and disheartened to hear that Electra lost its NPO funding status in the latest round of Arts Council attributions. Electra plays a strong and unique role in the London landscape, occupying territory that is often overlooked or falls between other institutions, and the overlap of contemporary art with different art forms, such as sound, music or performance.
Their projects have often been long-term and had enduring legacies, such as Her Noise, a unique archive of materials investigating music and sound histories in relation to gender that brings together a wide network of women artists who use sound as a medium. It has been in regular demand since its foundation in 2001, major exhibition at South London Gallery in 2005, international conference at Tate Modern in 2012 and now has a permanent home in the UAL Archives and Special Collections at the London College of Communication, open to the general public and in regular use by students.
Electra have introduced serious international artists to the city and collaborated with a variety of institutions to do so as they did, for example, with Renate Lorenz and Pauline Boudry, whose acerbic, sensitive and critical work they showed at the South London Gallery in 201213. Connected to this was the conference Charming for the Revolution: A Congress for Gender Talents and Wildness, an experimental congress of artists, activists and thinkers in the field of contemporary sexual and gender politics, which was held in the new Tanks at Tate Modern in February 2013. The event created a significant moment for the communities invested in these specialised debates to gather together and exchange knowledge, with many people travelling from abroad to be there. It was heavily oversubscribed with audiences of well over two thousand over the two days.
The recent conference and screening event they staged with Queen Mary, University of London, Debout! Feminist Activism and the Moving Image in France and Beyond, provided a well-needed history and development of the contemporary relevance of feminist video collectives in France in the 1970s, whose substantial and highly creative activity has only recently come to light outside of French-language contexts. This project was intended to be the first in a series of public programming aimed at bringing more of these historical materials to UK audiences and beyond, and into dialogue with a range of contemporary practices.
Events and exhibitions like these serious in subject matter, quietly radical in politics and inclusive of all interested parties are what Electra has become known for, and we wish them all the best in finding ways to continue their current productions without guaranteed Arts Council support.