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Six Questions with Herstory’s Alice Wroe

We caught up with Alice Wroe, founder of feminist project Herstory, ahead of her unique intervention at our Gallery Late: The Female of the Species to discover more about the project and what to expect on the night.  

What is Herstory?

Herstory is a participatory project that uses feminist art to engage people of all genders with the women’s history that has been systematically left out. It straddles art, education and activism, and is guided by the principle that if you can’t see it, how can you be it?

Can you tell us about how you got the idea for the project?

About four years ago I was listening to a radio programme; the presenter was taking the listeners through key moments in women’s history, and I was floored. For the first time I realised I was a product of the radical actions of women who have lived generations previously, and I felt empowered just knowing they had existed. I felt bigger, taller, like I could take up more space in the world. Then I felt angry and let down by my education system, that I had not felt this sooner. So, I started running workshops in schools and universities, to engage people of all genders with this ‘herstory’ that can empower us all.

What role do you think projects like Herstory can play in the interpretation of art history?

Art History, or at least the one that I was educated in, is starved of women and non-binary people. I hope that projects like mine can rupture the canon, poke holes into it, so that there is space for the women who have been systemically left out of the narrative to clamber out. So often people fear projects like this because they think we are trying to usurp the art history they hold dear, the art history that holds up institutions, and often careers. I feel like this fear is misplaced. I want to make art history bigger, with more space for more identities, more stories: an art history we can all see ourselves in and become part of.

Can you take us through what you will be doing at the Female of the Species Late?

In this Late I will be sharing some of the women from Herstory who I feel fit the theme. We will make physical space in the gallery for women’s stories and voice them together; alternative narratives will be told through our collective voice. I am excited and nervous, as this is a style of performative intervention I haven’t tried extensively; it’s a moment of risk for me and for the project, which I can’t wait to share at the Late. 

Are there any women you are particularly looking forward to researching for the intervention?

So many. Chupiren are a particular favourite of mine, who I’ve learnt about through this research. They were a group of Japanese women who would wear helmets and wave flags, chanting ‘We will not accept the tyranny of the husband’ as they raided the workplace of men who were perpetrators of domestic violence.

What do you hope visitors will take away from your intervention at the Late?

I hope visitors will let the stories they hear sit in their lives in a low-key way after the Late. I hope they might draw parallels between lives, and see themselves somewhere in one of the women we champion. I hope they will share stories, and allow Herstory to permeate the gallery walls and beyond.

Click here to find out more about The Female of the Species