Olivia Plender 

Neither Strivers Nor Skivers, They Will Not Define Us 

This exhibition was postponed due to Covid-19. Dates will be announced soon. 

Olivia Plender has been commissioned to make new work for The Bower as part of her on-going research project ‘Many Maids Make Much Noise’ focusing on the symbolic idea of having a voice, making noise and the power of the collective to claim the right to speak and be heard in public.

The exhibition at The Bower comprises a sound installation and posters produced in collaboration with the London Centre for Book Arts and a new publication. The work takes its starting point from an unpublished play entitled 'Liberty or Death' (c.1913) by Sylvia Pankhurst about women’s activism in East London, the struggles to win better living and working conditions, as well as votes for women. Plender has been working with women's groups active in London today to explore the themes of the play including: housing, domestic violence, imprisonment, the welfare system and unequal pay. Extracts from the play were reanimated by the women, becoming a trigger for participants to discuss similarities between their experiences and those of their predecessors. These conversations will form the basis of the sound installation and posters, highlighting the return of the poor conditions outlined in the play, as a consequence of the austerity policies instituted by the British government in the last decade, which have disproportionally affected women. 

‘Hold Hold Fire’ (2019) a film by Olivia Plender, commissioned by ICA London, which also draws on this body of research, will be screened at the ICA in April 2020.

Olivia Plender’s practice draws on social history and often focuses on the ideological framework around the

narration of history. Recent solo shows include Practicing Politics: The Fogelstad Women's Citizenship School 1922–1954, Tensta Konsthall, Stockholm, Sweden (2019) Olivia Plender, Maureen Paley Gallery, London (2016); Many Maids Make Much Noise, ar/ge kunst, Bolzano (2015–16); Rise Early, Be Industrious, which toured to MK Gallery, Milton Keynes; Arnolfini, Bristol and Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow (all 2012). In 2010, she collaborated with Hester Reeve to reinstate the Emily Davison Lodge, initially founded in 1915 after the death of suffragette Emily Wilding Davison. In 2013, Plender and Reeve joined Emma Chambers to curate an exhibition of artworks by Sylvia Pankhurst at Tate Britain. In 2015, Sternberg Press published the monograph Olivia Plender: Rise Early, Be Industrious. Olivia Plender is represented by Maureen Paley, London.

This exhibition and publication are generously supported by Arts Council England and The Elephant Trust. Olivia Plender is the recipient of an Iaspis Swedish Arts grant.