Gemma Blackshaw

Gemma Blackshaw is Professor of Art History at the Royal College of Art (RCA), London and Academic Associate at the Freud Museum. An interdisciplinary scholar, writer and curator specialising in what she has termed ‘clinical modernism’, she works on the intersection of modernist art and literature with clinical medical cultures in early twentieth-century Europe. With her ‘Sick Women’ correspondent Alice Butler she has theorised art historical research as an expression of lovesick attachment to the object of study in an ongoing collaborative project which includes cross-historical epistolary writing, performative readings, and sound pieces which experiment with repetition and reverberation. Current writing projects include BESSIE, an epistolary biography-in-pieces which works with the archival fragment to develop creative-critical, reparative processes of researching and writing a historical sick woman’s life through the letters that remain. Work in progress from BESSIE has been published in Map Magazine (‘The Sick Train’, 2022). Recent curatorial projects include The Body Electric: Erwin Osen and Egon Schiele (Leopold Museum, Vienna, 2021) an exhibition of drawings Blackshaw authenticated of patients in a military hospital receiving electrotherapeutic treatment for neurasthenia, created in 1915, which were contextualised with surviving letters between artists and doctors. Blackshaw leads the RCA’s MRes Fine Art & Humanities pathway and works across its School of Arts & Humanities, supporting postgraduate students’ practice-based research, especially in relation to their writing. She is the originator and convener of the CARE research group at the RCA, which meets to develop creative research methods that attend to the care of bodies, materials and environments across time, and co-editor of its two anthologies: CARE(LESS). A supplement to ON CARE (2021) and I care by… (2022).


Blackshaw & Butler perform epistolary exchanges across time to theorise letter writing as feminist care, enveloping sickness into love.



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