Founders behind charity exhibition Hysterical share how they’re building community through activist art

Hysterical’s origin story is a tale of friendship for the digital age: creators Bee Illustrates and Eliza Hatch fostered an online friendship, navigating growing social media platforms as queer, feminist creators. When they met by chance at a post-pandemic IRL event in October 2021, they knew they were destined to be more than friends: they were the perfect match as creative partners.

Five months later, they launched Hysterical, a charity group exhibition celebrating the work of women and marginalized genders using their creative practice as a form of protest. Now it’s back for a second year, presenting a brand new range of art and events and supporting a new range of charities: Glitch, supporting victims of online abuse and The Outside Project, supporting homeless LGBTIQ+ youth.

Maddy Page’s ‘Women United Dress’, courtesy of Hysterical

This year’s exhibition will bring together a group of interdisciplinary artists at London’s Bermondsey Project Space Gallery from today until 25 March 2023.

Exhibiting artists include: Ciara Mohan, Maggie Williams, Aashfaria Anwar, Abby Richard, Simone Yasmin, Frannie Wise, Salt & Sister Studio (Halah El-Kholy and Heidi El-Kholy), Laurent Yee, Maddy Page, Fiona Quadri and Creaming Strawberries (Naïstini Valaydon and Coco Warner-Allen).

Of the many works on display, creators Eliza and Bee singled out one particular feature: the ‘Wearable Hot Water Bottle’ by Irish artist Ciara Mohan. “It looks like a matrix,” Bee Illustrates told Creative Boom. “And it’s just gigantic. It’s about endometriosis, raising awareness around it and highlighting the issue and the lack of reproductive health research, especially in Ireland.”

Ciara Mohan's Wearable Hot Water Bottle, courtesy of Hysterical

“Wearable Hot Water Bottle” by Ciara Mohan, courtesy of Hysterical

Ciara Mohan's Wearable Hot Water Bottle, courtesy of Hysterical

Ciara Mohan’s Wearable Hot Water Bottle, courtesy of Hysterical

Ciara Mohan's Wearable Hot Water Bottle, courtesy of Hysterical

Ciara Mohan’s Wearable Hot Water Bottle, courtesy of Hysterical

Another favorite at the show will be the flipping golf balls designed by Abby Richards, which are printed with the phone number for Planned Parenthood’s donation hotline. “They are going to be thrown at golf courses provided by the people most likely to oppose [abortion]Eliza explained.

“It’s a really disruptive peaceful protest,” Abby told us of trying to think of different radical ways to protest that weren’t violent. So make these golf balls – anyone can buy them online. And you’re essentially breaking into one of the most conservative spaces – big luxury golf courses by putting them on the holes.”

Hutch also hinted at a secret element of the show, which the curious will have to attend Hysterical to see. The primary goal is to overturn the concept of “dramatic” or “hysterical” women and marginalized genders, ultimately “reclaiming terminology that has historically been used to silence oppressed communities.”

The show is specifically curated through an interdisciplinary feminist lens in order to represent a wide range of themes from a diverse selection of artists whose work focuses on exploring issues such as gender, race, identity, politics, climate change, feminism and but. Hysterical will offer audiences a new and alternative way of engaging with art, highlighting that art can be fun and joyful, but also address serious issues.

But the exhibition’s founders are also incredibly keen for Hysterical to be more than a showcase. it should, above all, be a safe space.

“Walk Through A Woman’s Life” by Creaming Strawberries, courtesy of Hysterical

'NO, WHERE ARE YOU REALLY FROM?'  by Maggie Williams, courtesy of Hysterical

‘NO, WHERE ARE YOU REALLY FROM?’ by Maggie Williams, courtesy of Hysterical

“Tribute to Biragona” by Aashfaria A. Anwar, courtesy of Hysterical

“Beyond Belonging” by Fiona Quadri, courtesy of Hysterical

Given the trajectory of Bee and Eliza’s relationship – from fellow DMs to co-creators to close friends, it seems they want to facilitate for others what their experience curating Hysterical gave them: creative community, friendship, and safety. “We just wanted to create a really nice, safe feeling space for people who don’t feel like they fit into a traditional gallery kind of thing,” Eliza told us.

Whether this sense of belonging has been denied to people due to their sexuality, gender and expression, artistic style, or mental and physical health needs, the founders of Hysterical have strived to create a truly welcoming space for all.

From Bermondsey Project Space’s fully accessible facilities to working with the Body Love Sketch Club to subvert the stifling, objectification of traditional painting, the whole initiative is designed to facilitate the kinds of inclusive, meaningful experiences and artistic connections that Bee values and Eliza. in their own collaboration. Although neither will be exhibiting work in this year’s exhibition, their artistic and community vision is stamped throughout Hysterical. The initiative is all the better for their thoughtful, community-led approach to curation.

“Liberal Golfballs” by Abby Richards, courtesy of Hysterical

Hysterical series from March 15-25. Entry to the exhibition is free, with affordable ticketed workshops and events and artwork available for purchase. 100% of the money raised from ticket sales will be donated to The Outside Project and Glitch, with artists able to donate a percentage of the funds from their art sales to charity.

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