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Locating Sylvia Pankhurst: Unfreezing time in the paintings and texts of Sylvia Pankhurst using documentary animation

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  • W120 Painting
  • Political Science


This website documents research undertaken by Ashworth to explore ways in which documentary film could be employed to reassess Sylvia Pankhurst’s work and methods of campaigning, drawing on the possibilities of animation to unfreeze her drawings of working women in Britain. Encompassing experimental animation techniques, film production processes, conference papers and public exhibition lectures, the research focuses on Pankhurst’s role in influencing political structures in the UK during a time of extraordinary change and revolution across Europe. Through the research, Ashworth examines Pankhurst’s actions and life choices as a way of understanding the evolution of the modern self, British society, the artist’s role and world politics. Pankhurst is best remembered as a key figure of the Suffragette movement, but her first ambition was to become an artist and she graduated from the Royal College of Art in 1906. Informed by primary research at the International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam (which holds Pankhurst’s notebooks and manuscripts), British Film Institute, Museum of London, British Library and National Sound Archive, National Portrait Gallery, Pankhurst Centre Manchester and Women’s Library London, the website presents a shift in Ashworth’s practice towards working with the real, exploring what animation tools can bring to documentary film. The examination of Pankhurst’s life and work is timely, with a number of important anniversaries occurring or imminent, including the 1913 event at which suffragette Emily Wilding Davison threw herself under the King’s Horse, the passing of the Representation of the People Act, 1918 and Eligibility of Women Act, 1918. The research was presented in the 2013 ‘¡Documentary Now!’ conference, London, and at the BP Spotlight ‘Sylvia Pankhurst’ exhibition, Tate Britain, London (2013). An animated film to be completed in 2014 is planned as a future outcome of the research.

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