It’s been an arty week on this blog; the lack of blockbusters means that there’s more scope for exploring some of the art-house releases on offer. I have to admit, that all I knew about artist Penny Slinger was her association with British director Jack Bond, who collaborated with her and Jane Arden on The Other Side of the Underneath back in 1974. So writer/director Richard Kovich’s 2017 documentary feature, freshly released on the Anti-Worlds imprint, offers a way into the career of another great maverick of the British arts scene; who is Penny Slinger and why should we be interested in her now?
Although Slinger’s association with Bond and with Peter Whitehead moved her career forward, it’s clear that Slinger was every bit as much of a force of nature. An art student, she fastened onto the work of German poet and painter Max Ernst, who she met in person, and that seems to have spurred her on to develop her own kind of art, an erotic, fiercely feminist documentation of her own revolutionary attitudes. After the traumatic experience of making Underneath with Arden and Bond, Slinger moved towards multi-media event An Exorcism, considered to be her key work, drawing on material created with Whitehead at Lilford Hall in 1970.
Slinger’s work may not have bothered the mainstream, but it’s clear from Out of the Shadows that she was ahead of her time, a woman who used her own body to create self-expression, and not in a way that was likely to appeal to male-dominated culture; a rep for a men’s magazine walks out of her exhibition noting that her work won’t entice his readers. Subversively representing herself as both a bride and a wedding cake, Slinger turned stale ideas inside out, and this film offers a valuable record of her innovative work.
Slinger is also a strong interviewee, remembering her pivotal work as if it was yesterday. While the avant-garde and still shocking content of Penny Slinger: Out of the Shadows may not be for everyone, it’s something of an experience to watch, challenging the viewer to understand her mind-set; she describes herself as not a feminist as such, but having a role in the ‘liberation of the feminine.’ Slinger is probably more influential than recognised to this day, and this Anti-Worlds release should do something to redress that balance.
Penny Slinger; Out of the Shadows is out now on blu-ray and on Amazon Prime, links below.
Thanks to Anti-Worlds and Zoe Flower for access to this title.