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5 Needle, 5 Wire | Thames-Side studios, London

Art Exhibition: 5 Needle, 5 Wire

InFems @ Thames-Side studios

Harrington Way, London SE18 5NR, United Kingdom

5th August – 21st August 2022

open 12 - 5pm, Thursday to Sunday

Friday 5th August 2022 : Panel Discussion - InFems, Invited Artists  & Tamsin Hong, curator, TATE - 6pm 

Exhibition Opening/ Private View  7-9pm

InFems (Intersectional Feminist Art Collective) consists of 5 founder members: Roxana Halls, Marie-Anne Mancio, Rebecca Fontaine-Wolf, Adelaide Damoah and Wendy Elia and evolved out of their mutual interest in both the potential of intersectional feminism to provoke discussion around the issues facing women today and in their explorations of the female body. They purposefully create spaces for community and connection not only to the guest artists in their exhibitions but also to the audiences in an aim to make art and issues surrounding intersectional feminism accessible to all. Since their inaugural exhibition ‘Biting Back and Enjoying the Taste’ at PADA, Lisbon in August 2021, InFems have curated ‘No Reserve’ at Leicester Contemporary, mentored emerging artists, and been commissioned by House of Herrera to create ‘Nightclubbing,’ a unique set of NFTS for International Women’s Day 2022, all proceeds to women’s charity Fundación Ared. They were also invited to exhibit related works at M&C Saatchi’s London HQ (March 2022).

5 Needle, 5 Wire 

Thames-Side studios sits on the site of the old Siemens factory in an area with a history of factory workers, engineers, and makers. InFems’ exhibition takes its name from the five needle telegraph system, patented in 1837 at the start of the Victorian era. Designed by Charles Wheatstone, this diamond-shaped open dial was alphabetical, with five needles worked by five different wires that could be manipulated to point to the required letter. If the name for this innovation was prosaic, it is rich in associations.

5 is a key number in so many systems. Religions - Five Pillars of Islam, five-faced Shiva, the Hindu god, Christ’s Five Sacred Wounds, the Five Books of Moses, five sacred Sikh symbols; the five elements of the Ancient Greeks - earth, water, air, fire, and spirit; the five virtues in Chinese philosophy - generosity, kindness, gravity, sincerity, and earnestness, and so on.

Needle recalls the domestic sphere. Stitching, a history of women making samplers or quilts, a pulling together. Sometimes that sewing was subversive. The sampler of nineteenth-century needle-worker Lorina Bulwer, imprisoned in the lunatic ward at Great Yarmouth Workhouse, reads “I HAVE WASTED TEN YEARS IN THIS DAMNATION HELL FIRE TRAMP DEN OF OLD WOMEN OLD HAGS”. Needle as verb. Women who needle, who won’t let something go. 

Sharp women…

5 InFems 

Wire A tangle of wires buried underground, transmitting messages, unseen communications beneath our feet. Like secret languages that travel and evolve: African braids to Egyptian braids to Ancient Greek braids; Polari, the C18th code of vagrants, itinerant performers, sailors, and travellers, adopted and altered by the gay community to protect itself; an artist devising her own personal language of symbols; shadow play and scribblings in invisible ink.

5 Needle, 5 Wire. Where there’s communication, there’s the potential for miscommunication. For women to be silenced. The system could only hold 20 letters. C, J, Q, U and X were left out. What was garbled, or left unsaid? 

The exhibition features works across media by Infems, Adelaide Damoah | Wendy Elia | Roxana Halls | Rebecca Fontaine-Wolf | Marie-Anne Mancio | 


and Guest Artists : 

Annie Attridge | Alannah Currie | Carmen and Luisa | Vicki DaSilva  | Sarah Maple | Farrah Riley Gray| Fiona Robinson | Tina True | Julie Umerle | Jessica Voorsanger | Chloe Wing

curated by Wendy Elia and Roxana Halls

Continuing their ethos of creating a genuine, supportive network of diverse artists in the UK and abroad to expand the conversation around feminism, InFems have invited 11 guest artists to exhibit alongside them, including:

Alannah Currie, renowned feminist activist, musician and supporter of ‘female artists making mischief’ with her free residencies from her artist-led gallery space, among whose creative monikers are: one of the Thompson Twins as co-writer, performer and visual director of the internationally successful pop band, the Sisters of Perpetual Resistance, an imagined group of militant feminists, and Miss Pokeno, her current alias.

Sarah Maple, whose artwork, film and performances have been exhibited internationally at galleries and institutions including Tate Britain and whose recent commissions include The Baltic and Sky Arts.

Vicki DaSilva, internationally recognised light graffiti and light painting photography pioneer who has been making her works since 1980 and whose associates have included Keith Haring, Joan Jonas and Richard Serra.


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