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The Disoeuvre is a durational project realised through multiple voices and media, made as a series of up to 27 variations, and in different collaborations. Variations respond to contingency, in tune with the concept of the Disoeuvre.  Felicity Allen’s neologism was first published in 2016.

The Disoeuvre, a speech

a neologism meaning an oeuvre not easily recognised as one
She says, OK oeuvre, a rethink’s overdue

this Disoeuvre, unpicking
analytical and anarchic
teenage perhaps old age: do I Disoeuvre recognition?
She’s wresting the French word oeuvre into
the English-dominant present
dissing it
switching it with the French désoeuvré: out of work, idle, with nothing to do

creating a Disoeuvre is not a progressive route to creating an oeuvre but vice
versa:
cradling a life’s work
a labour of beings, process and product
made through and with people and institutions
and the not (yet) identified as art
revealing the not (yet) identified as artists
the not (yet) identified as good
The Disoeuvre accommodates shifts of
direction, language or discipline
an artist sustaining a practice
despite and in response to contingency
whether structural-political or fluke
She builds on feminist and black critiques of exclusive conventions to
dismantle the elevated
oeuvre
She’s backing off judgement
holding paradox
sloughing off the binary
to uncover a Disoeuvre
track the trails of a marginalised artist’s labour across the domestic and her employment
think duration when you think maintenance
think commitment when you think thought
burrow
think again
again and again and again
Name it. The Disoeuvre recognises art’s otherwised orphans
unaligned, unbranded, disowned in a fog of expanded field

The Disoeuvre, an introduction

First published in Creating the ‘Disoeuvre’: interpreting feminist interventions as an expanded artistic practice in negotiation with art’s institutions (PhD, 2016), I am further developing the concept through a range of solo and collective art projects, and discursively with a range of individuals and groups. For the session convened on the Disoeuvre at the 2022 annual conference of the Association for Art History, it was introduced thus:

People positioned as marginal to art’s production have to work socially and institutionally, as well as in the studio, in order not only to make work, but to change the structures to allow their work to be recognised and critically received as art. Rather than disregarding those whose conventional oeuvre seems interrupted and inconsistent, we should look for artistic consistency in an artist’s work made in and beyond the studio, through employment at art’s institutions – which may include activism for structural change, or connected, for instance, to the labour of care, activism, or other social practices.
This neologism, the Disoeuvre, was first published by Felicity Allen (b.1950s) in 2016 to elucidate the art careers of women of her generation, as an exemplar for others who might identify quite differently. As a critical tool, the Disoeuvre takes account of artists’ training in adaptability and their working lives across different sites. It responds to practices encountering  and persisting through ‘feminised’ labour (as maintenance or precarity), domestic instability, transience of documentation, new recognition for overlooked visual activisms and curatorial strategies, archival gaps; and is open to more.
(Dr Felicity Allen, Dr Janice Cheddie, Dr Lina Dzuverovic, Dr Althea Greenan, Dr Alexandra Kokoli, Identifying the Disoeuvre: artistic labour beyond the oeuvre)

The word ‘Disoeuvre’ is a play on the ‘oeuvre’ – which either means a single work but more usually describes the life-long work of an artist. I also suggest that girls of my generation were trained principally to be domestically supportive and thus adaptable, in contrast to boys who were trained to develop linear careers. Thus we were unlikely to be perceived as pursuing the single-minded Picasso-esque career we were taught was the correct way to be an artist and, hence, produce a simple progressive oeuvre which would gain increasing acclaim. Instead, we are more likely to produce a Disoeuvre which has profound continuities of artistic attention and thought, but whose individual works superficially seem disparate and interrupted.

My own career (and practice) is a model for the Disoeuvre, and I currently work alone and with others to develop and fine-tune the concept. I hope others will develop it further, especially as the framework of adaptability and suggestibility that has conditioned my own practice is now much more widespread as work/life conditions are made generally more precarious (or ‘feminised’).

As an artist employed by art’s institutions you may develop and produce projects that otherwise you would conceive in or for the studio. As art institutions positions certain groups as peripheral to artistic practice, as an employee one is not simply carrying out a job, but is likely additionally to work to change the art institution’s position. The Disoeuvre also offers possibilities to contribute to discussions reflecting on women’s work in the home.

2021-22

The Disoeuvre: Household Solo (no 1), Roseville, Ramsgate

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2019

Dark Energy xhibit_Eschenbachgasse 11, Vienna, with Althea Greenan, group exhibition curated by Véronique Boilard, Andrea Haas, Nina Höchtl, Julia Wieger

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  • Felicity Allen and Althea Greenan performing The Disoeuvre, a speech at the opening of Dark Energy, 2019. picture: Viktor Brazdil

2018

The Disoeuvre Ex Libris gallery, Newcastle, solo, curated by George Vasey

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  • Felicity Allen at Newcastle University, 15/5 2018. Photo©: Mark Pinder +44 (0)7768 211174 pinder.photo@gmail.com

2018

Slidewalking towards The Disoeuvre Limbo, Margate, with Althea Greenan, curated by Claire Orme

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  • Slidewalking towards The Disoeuvre, installation view of The Disoeuvre (WASL Table), series of 15 prints, 2018

2021 Do you remember gossip? (Power relations in cultural institutions and what cannot be found in their archives?) in eds. Alina Belishkina, Yana Klichuk, Joana Monbaron The educational U-Turn: Who else is producing knowledges in culture? publ. Pushkin Museum & the National Center for Contemporary Arts (NCCA), St. Petersburg

2020 LK, LS, LY, MY, Y, Rose B Dicks, Margaret Laing Allen in eds. Monika Oechsler with Sharon Kivland, Salon for a Speculative Future MA Bibliotheque press

2019 The Disoeuvre: an Argument in 4 Voices (WASL Table); 6:27, book, MA Bibliotheque press

2018 The Disoeuvre: an Argument in 4 Voices (WASL Table); 4:27, artist’s project, Visual Resources, Vol 34, Nos 3-4, Sept-Dec, pps 420-435

About Art

2019 Erasure, Transformation and the Politics of Pedagogy: a feminist artistic/curatorial practice, article in Maria Buszek & Hilary Robinson (eds), A Companion to Feminist Art, Wiley Blackwell

2018 Re-visiting, Re-situating Gallery Education: reflections on education as a strategy for expanding the concept of ‘public’ in art museums and galleries, in an era of increasing privatisation, article in Jenna Ashton (ed.), Feminism and Museums: Intervention, Disruption and Change, MuseumsEtc

2016 Creating the Disoeuvre: interpreting feminist interventions as an expanded artistic practice in relation to art’s institutions, context statement for PhD by Public Works, Middlesex University 

This list only refers to texts authored by Felicity Allen. Others have also referred to the Disoeuvre in their critical writing.

Discussions (informal events plus academic presentations and conferences)

2022 Women’s Art Library archive, Goldsmiths, with Althea Greenan and Janice Cheddie, convening a series of discussion groups on The Disoeuvre

2022 ‘Identifying the Disoeuvre: artistic labour beyond the oeuvre’, Co-convening a session for the AAH Annual Conference

2021 ‘Circumventing fixed borders, from oeuvre to Disoeuvre’ for online conference Knowledge Production and Research in Art Practice, Shiv Nadar University, Delhi

2021 ‘Grounded in Lockdown: circumventing fixed borders in three collaborative works’ for online Terrain series at Das Learning Lab Arts, Institut Lehrberufe für Gestaltung, Kunst an der Hochschule Gestaltung and Kunst der Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz

2021 ‘The Disoeuvre’s Missing Mother’ for Missing Mothers, online conference convened by Martina Mullaney for Bolton University

A series of films relating to the Disoeuvre are currently in various stages of research and production

 

 

2019

The Disoeuvre no 1 a short film exhibited in Dark Energy, xhibit_Eschenbachgasse 11, Vienna, with Althea Greenan

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