This is one of a large group of Untitled collages the feminist artist and performer Linder created in 1976-8. A colour photomontage, combining imagery found in such mainstream women’s magazines as Woman’s Own with British pornography, it was printed in black and white in The Secret Public, a fanzine co-published by Linder and the writer and photographer Jon Savage in January 1978. Six pages in the magazine featured Linder’s collages, all translated from their original bright colours into duo-tone black and white.
The montage shows the torso of a naked woman, partially bound with string, emerging from a saucepan that hovers on a gleaming kitchen surface. The woman’s head has been replaced with a blender, on which Linder fixed an inverted pair of eyes and a smiling mouth. This female subject floats on one side of the kitchen; on the other, as a comic counterpoise, a glass jar of German würst sits on a work surface in the image foreground. The blender tilts slightly so that the woman’s eyes appear to be directed at the phallic jar as she smiles at the würst.
Born Linda Mulvey in Liverpool, Linder grew up in Manchester where she studied Graphic Design at the Polytechnic (1974-7). Following the precedent of the Berlin Dada artists George Grosz (1893-1959) and John Heartfield (1891-1968), in 1976 she altered and abbreviated her name. In the last weeks of that year, she began making satirical collages using a surgeon’s scalpel, a sheet of glass, and a large pile of magazines. At this time she was living with Howard Devoto, one of the founding members of the Manchester punk band, Buzzcocks. Linder’s activities of the mid 1970s are intimately bound up with the activities of the Buzzcocks: one of her best known images is a collage from 1977 that was used for the cover of the Buzzcock’s single Orgasm Addict of that year (see Tate T12501). T12502 inspired the title and the content of the band’s first album, Another Music in a Different Kitchen, released in 1978. According to Pete Shelley, Buzzcock’s lead singer, the group:
were trying to think up titles for the montages in The Secret Public and Howard said, ‘another housewife stews in her own juice in a different kitchen’. We shuffled it around a bit and it came out like that. It’s like an extension of Dada where you get a meaningless phrase and you free-associate with that to find out what it actually means. And it gets a meaning and then you DO the meaning.
(Quoted in Savage, p.13.)
While T12502 featured on page two, the back cover of The Secret Public advertised the Buzzcocks’ album Another Music in a Different Kitchen with a black and white collage of another naked bound woman in a kitchen, this time with a kettle replacing her head. Savage cites Heartfield’s summer 1977 exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London as a major stimulus for the use of photomontage as language of expressing the punk ethos of intense social critique. Linder’s use of the images of bound women sourced from pornographic magazines recalls photographs taken in 1958 by Hans Bellmer (1902-75) of his partner the artist Unica Zürn (1916-70) naked and tortuously bound with string. The transformation of the female body into comestible object was made explicit by Bellmer’s title for the photograph that featured on the cover of an issue of Le Surréalisme, même in 1958, Store in a Cool Place. In her 1977 collage, Linder’s placement of the bound body in the saucepan provides a feminist subversion of Bellmer’s disturbing image, transforming his faceless lump of bound flesh into a desiring subject, who eyes up the immobilised, severed and edible male body parts evoked by the potted würst. Linder has commented that: ‘The loudest voices in Punk tended to be male and heterosexual. The Secret Public was produced by a gay man and a feminist, so already we had an advantage ... [it] was really a rallying call for a different way of seeing’ (Catherine Wood, ‘The Working Class Goes to Paradise’, Untitled, issue 40, spring 2007, p.8). Like the politically subversive photomontages of German artist Hannah Höch (1889-1978) who was a similarly lone female artist in a circle of men – the Berlin Dada artists of the early twentieth century – Linder’s collages challenge gender stereotyping and traditional women’s roles in society and in the home.
Mark Sladen and Ariella Yedgar, Panic Attack!: Art in the Punk Years, exhibition catalogue, Barbican Art Gallery, London 2007, pp.13, 88-93 and 174-5.
Paul Bayley, Jon Savage, et al, Linder: Works 1976-2006, Zurich 2006, reproduced p.10 and p. 73 in colour.
Beatrix Ruf and Clarrie Wallis, Tate Triennial 2006: New British Art, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2006, pp.80-81.