Litany for Women Artists
Initially trained as a sculptor at Goldsmith’s College in the early 1960s, Hannah O’Shea (UK) began working with performance and multimedia in 1972. An active feminist, she was part of the Women Artists’ Collective alongside Rose Finn-Kelcey, amongst others. Her Super 8 film "A Visual Time-Span" captures some of the political realities in the 1970s and is a collage of imagery from women’s and gay’s rights demonstrations and her own performances. Her works often display an ironic nod towards Christian iconography and religious rites, pointing at the role of women in everyday personal and professional life. O’Shea has also sometimes appeared under her middle name, as Mary O’Shea.
Framed by dramatic thunder, Hannah O’Shea’s bright voice is heard singing a litany for women artists in this audio document originally published in 1982. In this form of religious appraisal for holy men or Gods (depending on one’s denomination), the artist sings the names of women artists in order to emphasise the “ignorance and historical denial of their contribution as creative instigators” (O’Shea). There is only scarce documentation (mostly photographs) of this performance, which she continued to perform in several different places after 1976. This sound recording appeared on side 3 of Live to Air in William Furlong’s audio cassette magazine Audio Arts, but it is only a short excerpt of an otherwise 50 minute long live performance containing more than 600 names. O’Shea ironically read a thunder storm that was raging during one of performances as a sign of God’s rage at her misuse of this religious ritual.
Courtesy Hannah O’Shea