Who’s Who: Amy Charlesworth

Who are you and what do you do at the OU? What modules are you involved in/have been involved in?

I’m Amy Charlesworth, a lecturer in Art History, modern and contemporary art with a particular interest in photography and moving-image art, feminist politics and feminist art with particular reference to the 1970s-1990s. 

I am chair of A844 (the second part of our MA in Art History) and deputy chair for A843 (the first part of our MA). I wrote ‘Contemporary art: movement, migration and other histories’ for the fourth book, Art after Empire: from Colonialism to Globalisation for A344 Art and Its Global Histories. I have chaired AA318 Art of the Twentieth Century (which no longer runs) and most recently I have written online material on Benin art and culture for our A111: Discovering the Arts and Humanities. 

What got you interested in Art History?

As an art student I found I was better at writing about art and its histories then I was making it! For me, art and culture allows us to look at the world, our current environment, examine how things are, how different histories and cultures have contributed to this, and crucially, explore how things might change. 

What are your main research areas?

My research (publications, public events and teaching) largely comprise of three main elements: feminist politics and art; moving image and politics of visualising migration and mobility; and digital art and its relation to lens-based art.  

What Open Arts Objects films have you done? Are they related to your research or a module?

The OAO film I did on US artist Martha Rosler’s Service: a trilogy on colonialization from the 1970s also speaks to US and Mexico relations and politics through the subject of cooking. In Rosler’s postcard novel (later – and used in my film – complied as a book) the artist takes three different perspectives on cooking: two from Mexicans either working in private households or in fast food industry north of the border, and one on a US housewife trying to improve and expand her Mexican culinary skills. 

What did you love most about doing an Open Arts Objects film?

The challenge of extracting key information about a single work of art for a short talk to camera. It is always important to think about how one communicates and teaches and so this was a central element to the filming process and the information that needed to be conveyed. I also enjoyed working with the camera person and getting an insight in to how the process of filming and presenting works (the wonders of editing!).

What is your most significant publication or latest publication? How does it relate to the films?

My most high profile piece of published research thus far is on the filmmaker Chantal Akerman and some of her work she made for a gallery in the US on migration at the US-Mexico border in the early 1990s, for the journal The Oxford Art Journal. I also wrote about this work for my teaching material on A344 Art and its Global Histories

I also acted as consultant and co-producer on They Call Us Maids: A Domestic Workers’ Story. This animation short, which was scripted and animated by Leeds Animation Workshop in close collaboration with national campaign group The Voice of Domestic Workers, was made over a two-year period. It seeks to agitate and educate a wider public about the violent realities of women of colour working in private households throughout the UK as cleaners and nannies and the UK government policy decision in 2012 to change their visa status demoting their status as workers and rendering many ‘illegal’.

With the founder of The Voice of Domestic Workers, activist and domestic worker, Marissa Begonia, I co-wrote a chapter of the experience of making this film for Feminist Art Activisms and Artivisms, ed. Katy Deepwell (2020).

In 2016, They Call Us Maids was shortlisted for the AHRC Research in the Arts – Innovation Award. It has won many awards over the years, including Best Short Screenplay at the Philippine International Film Festival, Los Angeles (2016) and The Best Film on Modern Slavery in the UK (2018).

For more information about my publications and research interests, please see my OU people profile.

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