Linder Sterling (a.k.a. Linder) is often referred to as the 'muse' of the 1970s Manchester punk scene. As an artist, she is most notably known for her provocative collage and performance pieces that challenge gender binaries, tradition, and history. In 2017 she was named the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Awardee.Read More
Linder Sterling was born in Liverpool, U.K. She studied Graphic Design at the Manchester Polytechnic and from 1976 became a key figure in Manchester's punk and post-punk scenes. Linder created posters, flyers, record sleeves, and covers for bands and events as well as zines with her iconic collage style. During this time, she also formed Ludus, a new wave and avantgarde band. Linder has been cited as the 'muse' of the Manchester punk scene, having influenced figures such as Buzzcocks' Howard Devoto and The Smiths' Morrissey.
In 1977, Linder's artwork was used for the cover sleeve of Buzzcock's debut single, Orgasm Addict. In this work, Linder had superimposed various elements from men's and women's magazines, replacing a nude woman's head with an iron and her nipples with smiling mouths. Linder points at the commonplace use of a woman's body in magazines, saying that she made the collage to 'highlight the various cultural monstrosities that she felt was present at the time.'
Linder's iconic and provocative style was influenced by the gender specificity of media. In her early work, Linder remarks on the gendered nature of popular magazines—with cars, home improvement, and pornography marketed for male audiences and beauty, fashion, and cooking towards women. Linder's works have consistently questioned the gender binary, the male gaze, and the commodification of women by arranging elements from her source material into new juxtapositions.
Inspired by second-wave feminism and seminal texts such as Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch (1970), Linder went on to create radical performance and activist-oriented works to address the politics of sex and gender inequalities. In 1982, during a Ludus performance, Linder wore a dress made of chicken flesh, pulling it up to reveal a black dildo. Moreover, in her ballet The Ultimate Form (2013), she choreographed sensual and explicit movements as a means to subvert the norms of ballet as a tradition.
In the past, Linder has also referenced female historical figures in her work. While the figures are anonymous in Your Actions Are My Dreams (2009), where Linder embodies an enchantress, her two ballets The Ultimate Form (2013) and Children of the Mantic Stain (2016) both reference key female artists, Barbara Hepworth and Ithell Colquhoun. Apart from these, the artist's 2018 retrospective The House of Fame at Nottingham Contemporary also included the work of other female artists who have inspired her practice, yet who have been overlooked by history.
While Linder began her artistic career through the punk ethos of collaging and zine making, her practice of assemblage expanded to encompass different media and forms such as music, performance, self-portraiture, and film.
In her performance works, Linder injects her photomontage sensibilities by intermingling several elements such as textiles, conceptual dance, and prints. In 2013, Linder, with Kenneth Tindall of Northern Ballet, choreographed The Ultimate Form for the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. This performance—the first the artist was not directly involved with—can be likened to an assemblage as she brought together several collaborators for a single project.
In a similar vein, Linder's 2018 film and flag Bower of Bliss involved the collaboration of dancers, musicians, and artists to create a work referencing Queen Mary of Scots. This film, with its colourful costumes, ethereal cinematography, and surreal scenes, was shot in Queen Mary's Bower in Chatsworth, where she was detained for 15 years.
In 2018, Art on the Underground commissioned Linder to create an 85-metre-long billboard at Southwark Station, London. She spent four months in residence at Southwark to study the vertical history of the area.
Taking source material from Southwark Council's Cuming Museum Collection, the London Transport Museum Collection, and Transport for London's lost property office, Linder created a massive photomontage to cover the façade of the station. She was additionally commissioned to create the cover for the 29th edition of the pocket Tube map. Her work was on display at Southwark Station until May 2020.
Linder has held solo exhibitions at MoMA PS1, New York; Chisenhale Gallery, London; and Glasgow Women's Library. A major retrospective, femme/object, travelled from Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris to Kestnergesellschaft, Hannover in 2013. Her work has been collected by major institutions such as Tate Britain, London; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; and Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin.
Linder has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, MoMA PS1 in New York, Tate Britain, Kunsthall Oslo, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, among others. Selected group exhibitions include those at the Musée de la Musique in Paris, Centro Per L'arte Contemporanea Luigi Pecci in Prato, and Kunsthalle Vienna.
Arianna Mercado | Ocula | 2021
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