We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live, 2017
We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live, Centre for Contemporary Art, Glasgow, 2017, plywood, books, and cushions, dimensions variable (detail: selection of titles from Lollipop Power, circa 1970s).
We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live is an installation which explores the legacy of DIY, feminist children’s book publishing in the US and Europe in the 1970s as a collective action. Within the gallery space, the installation invites the audience to read, touch, or otherwise engage with a library of the 1970s children’s books. As a quiet, museum-like homage to the once noisy, messy, bustling collective activity, it questions the legacies of the Second Wave feminist collectives, and whether their work has been incorporated into the main, or forgotten. The wall shelf is hung at a low height, in a child’s line of sight. Low seating invites children and adult audience members to sit and read.
The project makes a library for a space of feminist collective action. It questions the child and the parent as political subjects and readers of radical literature. Joan Didion writes that: ‘We tell ourselves stories in order to live’ suggesting that texts become a place where ideas are frozen from the ‘phantasmagoria which is our actual experience’ (The White Album, 1979). This project questions what those stories are, where they come from, and how the stories we read as children, and to children, effects the way we end up living as adults and political subjects.
Liberating Young Children, Tours, Loire Valley, France, 2017
We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live, Kim Dhillon, 2017, plywood, books, and cushions, dimensions variable, installation view: Bibliotheque du Tours, France. Photography by Sophie Louise Heywood.
Between early September and mid-October 2017, visitors to the central library in Tours (Loire Valley, France) will be greeted in the entrance hall by sets of wooden shelving containing a selection of militant, non-sexist and multiracial children’s books from the 1970s. They will be invited to make themselves comfortable on some cushions and plastic stools, and browse through the books. The idea is to recreate a children’s library from the ‘70s, in order to take the reader on a journey back in time to an era of protest and consciousness raising, when feminist publishing collectives held the firm belief that children’s books needed to change, in order to help change the world.
The aim of the installation in France is to bring this selection of American children’s books into dialogue with books produced by similar French groups. The French militant publishing scene that mushroomed in the 1970s is represented in the main by: the avant-garde Franco-American partnership Harlin Quist Books; the Paris-based radical publishing collective ‘Le Sourire qui mord’; and the ‘du côté des petites filles’ imprint, published by éditions des femmes, which was part of the French Women’s Liberation Movement. By juxtaposing these two movements, and exploring their similarities and differences, we can interrogate the ways in which books are defined as ‘radical’ shifts in time, place, and context, and think about what we understand to be radical children’s literature today, and what we might want it to be.
Included in the installation are:
A selection of books published by the Lollipop Power collective. To challenge gender stereotyping in children’s books, they wrote about themes such as women carrying out work not typical to gender stereotypes and alternative family structures. They produced the first children’s picturebooks to represent lesbian parents (Lots of Mommies(1983); When Megan Went Away (1979), both by Jane Severance).
The works of the French collective Sourire qui Mord, including one of the best-known anti-sexist picturebooks produced in France: Histoire de Julie qui avait une ombre de garçon, written by Christian Bruel and Anne Galland, with illustrations by Anne Bozellec (1976). You can find out more about the book in our blog post here.
A selection of the titles produced by éditions des femmes ‘du côté des petites filles’ imprint, including the famous Rose Bombonne by Adela Turin and Nella Bosnia from 1975, the first overtly feminist children’s picturebook to be published in France, and Les Filles (1976), Agnès Rosenstiehl’s wry take on gender difference.
Coleen the Question Girl, 2016
Coleen the Question Girl, by Arlie Hochschild, 2016, published by ISP with Andrea Francke
Andrea Francke and I have re-published an updated 2016 edition of Coleen the Question Girl, by the distinguished sociologist Arlie Hochschild. Revised in collaboration with Hochschild, the book was initially written in 1973 when Hochschild’s own sons were young. Along with the new text it features full colour, new illustrations by Rhiannon Williams. The book is available for sale on Amazon and Blurb.
Shapes, (Changing Play commission), The Serpentine Galleries, 2014-16, with Andrea Francke
Commissioned by the Serpentine Galleries, London, I devised and ran (with Andrea Francke) a series of workshops with nursery children and their parents and carers at the Portman Early Childhood Centre in London NW8 which focus on the re-write of Bauhaus history to erase its internal community of children/families and the influence of Froebel’s Kindergarten ideas at the Bauhaus. The second stage of the project culminates in a commissioned object – a toy, called Shapes – which is produced and distributed by the Serpentine Galleries.
Radical Pragmatics, 2015
Radical Pragmatics, Royal College of Art, 2015, seminar and workshop
Creche Course, 2014
Creche Course, 2014, The Showroom, 1 day conference, with Andrea Francke
I co-organised a one-day conference (with Andrea Francke), at the Showroom, London to debate the possibilities of art schools if the labour of care (particularly child care) was considered an essential provision. Keynotes included: Dr Catherine Grant, Richard Wentworth. 11 January 2014.
Crib Notes, 2010-
Crib Notes, 2010, The Whitechapel, Public Talks and Events Series
In 2010, I initiated and devised a talks and tours programme at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, for parents and carers of children under 5. The project is on-going.