“So, what is gossip? Both a noun and verb, the dictionary definitions of gossip vary from chatty, informal conversations, storytelling people’s private lives to unkind or disapproving reports on the behaviour of others. To be a gossip can be associated with being a newsmonger, tattler, fish wife. Yet etymologically, gossip derives from ‘god+sibb’, godparent, which then, after time, expanded to refer to the females accompanying their friend during childbirth.
Silvia Federici begins the chapter ‘On the Meaning of Gossip’, “Tracing the history of the words frequently used to define and degrade women is a necessary step if we are to understand how gender oppression functions and reproduces itself.” The chapter goes on to explore the shift in meaning of gossip, a word that originally denoted the solidarity of collective female sociality in the Middle Ages and continued to expand to represent female friendship without any derogatory connotations. Federici remarks, “it had strong emotional connotations.”
How did this light talk amongst female friends become a sort of ridiculed practice with malicious intent? Mystery and morality plays of the pre modern English society, were written by the guilds. Men who formed the guilds were expected to satirise those to be condemned in order to boost their power locally, and they were particularly wary of strong, independent women who seemed to prefer time with their friends than their husbands. The idea then becomes that gossips are disagreeable, aggressive and argumentative. In ‘Witch-Hunt’, Hannah Black writes, “Gossip has always been a secret language of friendship and resistance between women.” The essay takes Federici’s research and argument to discuss the entanglements of capitalism, patriarchy, and white supremacy throughout history through the lens of gossip.
How do we reclaim gossip then?”
– Extract from Talking of Gossip by Polly Wright
This project takes gossip as a starting point, and builds upon an existing series of embroidered textiles through collaborative research and new work including fiction and furnishings.
The research includes sources from writers such as Silvia Federicci – specifically Witches, Witch-hunting and Women – popular culture and stories of gossip in the context of Brighton through the legacy of Prince Regent and the nearby Bloomsbury Group of Charleston House. This research expands upon the Gossip Characters within Livio’s series – Juicy, Thrilling, Malicious, Illicit, Boring, Idle, Trivial – to engage with gossip historically and socially.
Gossip Talks at Brighton CCA Dorset Place invites visitors to sit on the Gossip Bench, riffing on a piece of furniture also known as a telephone table from the late 1800s. Whilst sitting on the bench, the visitor will be invited to read the latest edition of Gossip Talks.
Front Room Film Club feat. Crossing The Dunes aka Gossip by Clara Saito and Livio Casanova
Thursday 21 October, 6pm, online
Available to watch for 24 hours and sent in the form of a bundle
a response by Bethany Crawford is available to enjoy here
A selection of essays on gossip
Tuesday 26 October, 7.30pm, online via zoom
Livio Casanova (*1989/CH) is an artist working with and on textile. Recent exhibitions include 8. Salon (Hamburg), Württembergischer Kunstverein (Stuttgart), Institute For Provocation (Beijing), Yellow Brick (Athens) and Kunsthalle Bern (Bern), among others. Livio is part of the Artist-Run Space Milieu (Bern).
This project is supported by Kultur Stadt Bern.
This is project #4 of Dorset Place x 11 collaborations – a new series of projects and work responding to the university as a site for experimentation and learning. Admission is free and open to all.
Dorset Place is Brighton CCA’s project space and hosts a series of short projects and exhibitions by emerging artists, organisations, curators and students. With a fast changing programme, the space is an exciting platform for experimentation, collaboration and engagement with new ideas and voices. Dorset Place allows us to be responsive, initiating and supporting projects which stand alone or connect to our wider programme. The space is offered free of charge with curatorial, marketing and limited technical support.
6 Dorset Place
Brighton BN2 1ST