New contemporary art exhibition 'Unravelling Times'

Published: 27 April 2023

First new contemporary art exhibition at The Hunterian in 2023 features works by pioneering experimental filmmaker Lis Rhodes alongside three Glasgow-based artists, who bridge the gap between art and activism

12 May 2023 - 15 October 2023
Hunterian Art Gallery
Admission free

Press view: Thursday 11 May, 10.00am - 12.00pm

The first new contemporary art exhibition at The Hunterian in 2023, Unravelling Times features works by pioneering experimental filmmaker Lis Rhodes which have recently been acquired for The Hunterian collection through a Freelands Art Fund Acquisition award. These range from the influential work Pictures on Pink Paper from 1982, a feminist exploration of gendered systems of value and power, to more recent works that track the social and political implications of neo-liberalism in the UK and internationally. It is the most significant acquisition of works by Rhodes in Scotland to date.

Lis Rhodes is recognised as one of the central figures in experimental artists' filmmaking. In addition to the profound example of her own work, Rhodes has been influential as a supporter of radical film practices—she was cinema curator at the London Film-Makers' Co-op from 1975–76, a co-organiser of the seminal exhibition 'Film as Film' in 1979, and co-founder of the feminist film distribution network Circles in 1979. Her influence was also felt through her work as a teacher at The Slade art school in London from 1978.

Unravelling Times is built around three works by Lis Rhodes acquired for The Hunterian’s collection: Pictures on Pink Paper (1982), Dissonance and Disturbance (2012), and Ambiguous Journeys (2019). The exhibition makes connections between the themes and formal approaches in Rhodes's works and the practices of three Glasgow-based artists: Anne-Marie Copestake, Francis McKee and Iman Tajik. Across the works included, feminist experimental filmmaking, strategies for representing political protest, and experiences of migration come into focus as critical concerns of the past forty years in Rhodes's work and that of artists who share her commitment to radical practice.

two film screens against black - one showing red, unidentifiable image, one showing police in bright yellow high-vis vests holding a protester on the ground

Image courtesy Lis Rhodes.

Rhodes’s work is notable for its rigorous attention to the possibilities of the apparatus of film projection, something that produced powerful and singular viewing experiences in her early work, which was aligned with the concerns of structural film. Her practice was from the beginning radical, in the strict sense of taking film back to its roots in the projection of light to construct environments that address and encompass the viewer. It has also been radical in a political sense, with work made of the past thirty years and more directly addressing the societal tensions and inequalities that shape social space and contemporary geo-politics. The three works proposed for exhibition here exemplify her use of radical juxtaposition, particularly in the interaction of image and language to create works that contest both the aesthetics of mainstream commercial cinema and the conventions of documentary. Each demonstrates how Rhodes uses powerfully engaged, activist filmmaking to re-vision what moving image can be and do.

In Pictures on Pink Paper (1982), Rhodes brings together a sharp feminist analysis of value systems and language with imagery focused on the natural world. The work is an important example of Rhodes's development of an artistic language capable of both disrupting normative film grammar and of allowing in other perspectives and subjective experiences. It was included in the influential survey of feminist art practice Wack! Art and the Feminist Revolution (Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles & PS1, New York). The catalogue entry notes that Pictures on Pink Paper 'analyses language as a cause rather than symptom of gender inequalities by looking at the ways in which the association of women with nature and men with culture is linguistically embedded, (seen, for example, in the consistent use of female pronouns to refer to “natural” objects). This film asks how women’s oppression can be articulated without mimicking that very expression and language which defines power relations.'

Dissonance and Disturbance (2012) is compiled from three existing works by Rhodes: 'A Cold Draft' (1988); 'In the Kettle' (2010); 'Whitehall' (2012). With a new soundtrack linking them together, these works form an expansive view of protest and resistance in the context of the economic and political character of the British state. Writing in Frieze, critic Martin Herbert described it as a 'barricade composed of fury, fear and frustration: conscience as form.’ With its images of police tactics such as the 'kettling' of peaceful protestors, and its descriptions of actions such as the bombing of a Palestinian bakery, it invites viewers to question the relationships between different manifestations of neo-liberalism and state violence.

Ambiguous Journeys (2018), commissioned by Freelands with Nottingham Contemporary, considers how neoliberal regimes have produced situations of statelessness and indebtedness in which people such as migrant workers are deprived of fundamental rights and needs. Combining abstracted, shifting imagery with spoken and on-screen text, and unsettling sound design, the work conveys in form the disturbing and unsettling realities that it attends to in its content.

Taken as a group, these three film works cover a wide range of Rhodes's mature practice, from 1982 to 2018. They trace the development of her politics, from feminist critique to a resistance to contemporary forms of political oppression, and they relay the developing character of British politics across that time. They exemplify Rhodes's singular aesthetic and commitment to radical thought and action within the field of moving image. Exhibiting them in 2023 would constitute a significant addition to our contemporary art programme, and build on a relationship with Art Fund as a key supporter of that programme.


For media information contact Nicola Jeffs / 07794 694 754. 

Notes to Editors

The Hunterian Contemporary Art Programme

The oldest public museum in Scotland, with collections spanning arts, sciences and humanities, The Hunterian is at the forefront of university museums around the world. Since it opened at the University of Glasgow in 1807, The Hunterian has been an invaluable academic and community resource. It is committed to becoming a more meaningful place for more diverse audiences.

The Hunterian’s contemporary art programme responds to and interacts with The Hunterian collections, spaces and histories to make new connections and to reflect people, ideas and stories. The Hunterian collection’s historic foundation is a repository of knowledge that materialises the problematic history of Western society and its fundamentally colonial and capitalist underpinnings. Taking this as a point of departure and critical reflection, The Hunterian’s contemporary art programme seeks to interrogate the institution’s genealogy, and to introduce different perspectives into its spaces.

Working with a wide range of artists on acquisitions, commissions, exhibitions and events, our contemporary art programme allows The Hunterian to find new ways of using our historic collections to understand the contemporary world.

The Hunterian’s University context creates room for intellectual inquiry and a process of learning and experimentation. As one of the few purpose-built art galleries in Glasgow — a city renowned for its large art community—The Hunterian offers a space in which work by emerging local artists and more established international practitioners can be exhibited to wide and diverse audiences, enabling connection, reflection and experimentation.

Since 2017, The Hunterian has featured solo exhibitions by artists such as Neil Clements, Ilana Halperin, Alex Impey, Ulrike Ottinger, Elizabeth Price and Jimmy Robert. Group exhibitions have included works by, among others: Sarah Browne; Phil Collins; Tacita Dean; Manthia Diawara; Andrew Kerr; Nalini Malani; Jade Montserrat; Shahryar Nashat; Otobong Nkanga; Charlotte Prodger; Carol Rhodes; Margaret Salmon; Simon Starling; Corin Sworn.

Hunterian has also supported projects with John Gerrard (a major outdoor video installation for COP26), Elisabeth Schilling (a week of dance performances and a symposium in 2019). They have undertaken collaborations with other arts organisations, including The Common Guild, Goethe Institute Glasgow, Glasgow International, Film and Video Umbrella, Leeds Arts University, and the Roberts Institute of Art, all of which have brought benefits through co-funding and knowledge exchange.

The Hunterian have commissioned new works from artists including: Claire Barclay, Alex Impey, Neil Clements, Minty Donald & Nick Millar, Louise Hopkins, and Georgina Starr (in partnership with Art Fund, FVU and GI). We have received funding awards from VNXXCAS 2021, CAS Rapid Response Fund 2020, Art Fund Moving Image Fund for Museums (2018), Henry Moore Institute (2018), the Kingdom of the Netherlands Embassy (2021).

Open Tuesday to Sunday 10am - 5pm.


Lis Rhodes is an artist who lives in London. She has played a key role in the history of British experimental filmmaking since the early 1970s. Rhodes studied at the North East London Polytechnic and the Royal College of Art. She participated in the London Filmmakers' Co-operative, where she was Cinema Curator 1975-6, and was a founder member of Circles (1979), the first women's artist film and video distribution network. An influential educator at The Slade, Rhodes was also an Arts Advisor to the Greater London Council between 1982 and 1985. Her early works such as Dresden Dynamo (1971) and Light Music (1975) utilized the projection of film to create powerful visual and sonic environments. The formal radicalism of this phase of her work is matched by an explicit political radicalism in films made from the 1980s to the present day. An active campaigner for women's rights, Rhodes has also made powerful critiques of contemporary issues in her work, ranging from . domestic violence to nuclear power, from migrant labour to the suppression of protest.

Rhodes’s films have been screened internationally since the mid-1970s. Among recent solo exhibitions are ‘Dissident Lines’ at Nottingham Contemporary (2019), supported by a Freelands Award, and ‘Dissonance and Disturbance’ at the ICA London (2012). Her work was included in ‘the Tanks: Art in Action’, Tate Modern (2012), ‘In Person’, Film Museum, Vienna, Austria (2010); the 47th New York Film Festival, USA (2009); and ‘WACK!: Art and The Feminist Revolution’, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, USA (2007). A collection of her writing, Telling Invents Told, was published by the Visible Press in 2019.

Francis McKee is a writer, curator and photographer working in Glasgow. His photography centres on protest and life on the street. In particular he is interested in the choreography of protestors, police and onlookers – the tacit rituals and ruptures of behaviour in protest situations. The microdynamics of interactions between photographer and protestors informs his approach to these intense scenarios.

His books include How to Know What’s Really Happening (2016), Even The Dead Rise Up (2017) and Dark Tales (2019) and recent essays include ‘Sweet Extinction’ (online, and ‘lo ultimo en la avenida’ to be published by Sociedad del Tiempo Libre in San Juan. His photographs have also been exhibited in ‘Over Over Over’ an exhibition at Simone de Sousa Gallery in Detroit.

Anne-Marie Copestake is an artist based in Glasgow. She works with moving image, audio, performance, print and sculpture. Recent moving image works have focused on portraits of a kind. These works foreground a number of women and aspects of their lives to consider conditions that have surrounded these women's choices—or their lack of choices—and to explore the landscapes and environments that may have contributed to these conditions.

Her recent exhibitions and screenings include: Stalking the Image: Margaret Tait and Her Legacy, Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow; Margaret Tait film/poems, The Pier Arts Centre, Orkney; Projections 2: A Blemished Code, Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne; Soft Fiction/And Under That, Irish Film Institute, Dublin; Prantik Basu, Ailbhe Nic Oireachtaigh, Anne-Marie Copestake, Old Hairdressers for Glasgow International, Glasgow (2018); Experimenta, BFI London Film Festival; New Edition, with Poster Club, Edinburgh Printmakers, Edinburgh, (2017); >>FFWD: Artists’ Moving Image from Scotland, Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum, Shanghai, as part of CURRENT, Contemporary Art From Scotland, Phase Two, Cooper Gallery, Dundee; Autumn Screening, Inverleith House, Edinburgh; Ripples on the Pond, Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow (2015).

In 2011 she received the Margaret Tait Award, and in 2015 was awarded the inaugural BFI Experimenta Development Award from BFI London Film Festival. Copestake works as a visiting lecturer at Glasgow School of Art. She often works collaboratively and was a foundation member of two long-term collective groups in Glasgow: Poster Club, a group of artists using the medium of print as a site for collaborative work, and the band Muscles of Joy.

Iman Tajik is an Iranian artist and photographer based in Glasgow, Scotland. His practice is anchored in a strong commitment to social issues and his work aims to function as a critical tool connected to international movements for social change. Tajik’s work addresses contemporary conditions of life with a particular focus on migration and globalisation, bridging the gap between art and activism to create work as a form of socio-political currency, addressing power structures.

He works across lens-based media, sculpture, installations and performance. Through these various mediums, he ’performs the border’, inspired by personal experiences of crossing geographical borders and socio-political barriers to insist on the right to freedom of movement. Iman Tajik founded the Who is? Project in collaboration with Jonas Jessen Hansen in 2017. Who Is? Project has been created as a space to open conversation surrounding the current migrant crisis and the rise of nationalism.

First published: 27 April 2023