Carla Zaccagnini’s artist’s book Elements of Beauty (2012) lays out materials that evidence the violent and frequent attacks carried out by militant members of the Women’s Social and Political Union, more commonly known as the Suffragettes, on a number of artworks and artefacts in English and Scottish museums. The actions began in 1913, an election year on the brink of World War I, and at a time when Britain’s colonial and imperial power was beginning to wane.
Elements of Beauty reproduces the records of these attacks and their public circulation through newspaper clippings, police surveillance photographs and writings in the Suffragettes’ own newspapers, Votes for Women and The Suffragette. This narrative produced a new subject, a disobedient and defiant white and predominantly middle- or upper-class female person fighting for enfranchisement. During the late Edwardian era, attitudes towards social issues, including women’s position in society, were starting to change, but a rigid class system was still firmly in place, as were colonial and nationalist prejudices, despite earlier abolitionist success. Women were highly affected by moralizing attitudes around sexuality and abortion, poor working conditions and lack of access to education. The Suffragettes were fighting for women to have the right to vote, a right that was initially restricted to women who held property.
Fuente: Afterall. Gracias a Montse Romaní por el pase.Carla Zaccagnini, Elements of Beauty, 2012, artist’s book, p.61, detail.