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Arts & Humanities Research (PhD)

Liz Murray

Research Project Title: The Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp as Artwork


Supervisor(s): Dr Tim O’Riley, Dr Jesse Ash, Professor Mel Jordan


Liz Murray is a London-based artist who works with sculpture, photography, collage, and moving image. Her PhD thesis The Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp as Artwork addresses the ownership and celebration of queer, resistant, and radical histories drawing on a personal archive of feminist and press materials from the 1980’s that trace this historic protest. A former peace camp participant, Murray remains involved in different forms of socio-political activism and artivism. She is a member of several artist-run collectives including Five Years, the Partisan Social Club, and GLAP Collective and is co-editor for the publication series Fragments for an Antifascist Newsletter. Recent exhibitions, collaborations, and performances have taken place at Beaconsfield, Five Years, Coventry Biennial, Tokyo University of the Arts, and online at Murray completed her PhD in Fine Art at the RCA in 2022.




Despite greater societal awareness of sexual inequalities, women are still more likely than men to experience workplace and salary inequity and sexual harassment, and to be victims of male violence. Given this fact, many of the primary goals of second-wave feminism remain largely unrealised. Performing Resistance speaks to feminist discourses and strategies of solidarity that have been overlooked or hidden. It talks back at a moment when museums are taming historical activism through inclusion in survey exhibitions. In reframing a creative protest as an artwork, this thesis seeks to extend and rethink the power of resistance by placing emphasis on its activating properties rather than on its ability to be archived in major public institutions. It asks: how does art practice best resist?


This practice-led research proposes an act of resistance for reconsideration within this context, one of feminist, all-female and queer protest. It nominates the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp (1981-2000) – its actions, bodies, archives, stories, site and materials – as an expansive and expanding artwork. The thesis does not claim authority or ownership over this singular protest, but instead uses nomination as a means to reconsider feminist practices and values, then and now. In so doing, it asks to what extent art practice can provide a method for engaging with feminist histories, stories and events and how might it allow a productive re-evaluation of gender equality.


The retroactive proposition of Greenham as an artwork locates it not within participatory art practices  or re-enactments, nor inside a virtual museum collated from archival materials or post-protest artworks. Rather, the method I propose of talking back to oneself is employed in order to better understand Greenham not as one event but as a means for seeing, thinking and doing – an ‘intersectional’ activist approach. As a strategy it exposes the compound discrimination against women, queers and anti-nuclear protesters in the past and suggests how dissent in the present can be constrained thereby reducing the capability for taking meaningful, transformative action. Nomination functions here as a mode of ‘backchat’, a resistant position that refutes and contests the contemporary prevailing hegemonies within art, society and politics.


My own experience of having been a Peace Camp participant is the basis for, and forms an important part of the proposition and analysis of, this research. I use my own archive of materials to generate new responses both in the studio and through writing. I employ writing letters to my past self in the present day as a method both of interrogating and of corresponding with memories and objects that trace the history of the protest. My hypothesis is that art can best function when it resists through testing limits, assumptions and boundaries, besides producing aesthetic experiences. Without resistance, art becomes nothing more than decoration, a tradeable commodity. Through nomination-as-artwork, the research reactivates an archive of bodies, voices, events and materials which, through reuse, generates new works and keeps the feminist legacy of the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp potent.



Liz Murray completed her PhD studies in Fine Art at the Royal College of Art in 2022. Her thesis Performing Resistance: The Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp as Artwork addresses the ownership and celebration of queer, resistant, and radical histories and their capacity for renewal in the present. The research draws on a personal archive of feminist and press materials from the 1980’s that trace this historic gendered protest.


PhD Thesis
backchat bender (2022)In support of the UCU strike and to prevent visitors crossing the picket line to enter the gallery, the photographic frieze is displayed on the inside of the RCA Dyson gallery windows. The main entrance to the Battersea campus is to the left of the Dyson windows facing onto Hester Road.
backchat bender (2022)RCA Dyson gallery windows with photographic frieze on Battersea Bridge Road.
backchat bender (2022)RCA Dyson gallery windows at corner of Hester Road and Battersea Bridge Road.
backchat bender (2022)RCA Dyson gallery windows with photographic frieze on Battersea Bridge Road.

backchat bender (2022) is a series of photographic images taken by the artist of demonstrations by women protestors at Greenham Common US Air Base during the 1980’s. At midday on 12 December 1982 30,000 women linked hands around the six mile perimeter fence in protest at the UK governments’ decision to site American Cruise missiles there. The following year another encircling of the base occurred and large sections of the fence were cut and pushed over with hundreds of women being arrested. The first exhibition dates for the photographic frieze were in November 2021 and coincided with strikes at the RCA by staff and members of the University and College Union (UCU). The workers union was protesting against casualization, increased workloads, and for equality and pay linked to rates of inflation. Rather than have visitors cross the picket line to enter the gallery, the frieze panels were installed within the RCA Dyson Gallery windows, facing out to Battersea Bridge Road and the passing public. Solidarity from a past protest was extended into the present and with the ‘Four Fights’ campaign.


Photographic frieze


1,288 x 250 cm
Barabara, Sarah and Sue (2022)Plywood, paint, feathers, softwood, rubber, workbench. 210 x 98 x 55 cm.
On the Roof (2021)Acrylic paint on paper. 120 x 120 cm.
Singing Wimmin (2022)Plywood, paint. Dimensions variable.
Sooz Shooz (2022)Jesmonite, plaster, paint, MDF, plywood, oak, rubber, polyester, enamel. 37 x 28 x 23 cm.
Just Before Dawn, an Embarrassment (2020)Jesmonite, scrim, paint. 48 x 35 x 22 cm.

Solo exhibition at FIVE YEARS, London

31 March - 3 April 2022

Five Years is pleased to present a solo exhibition of new sculptural and text-based works by Liz Murray. The exhibition title is taken from a news cutting in the artist’s archive of materials that document the Greenham Women’s Peace Camp (1981–2000). Established in resistance to militarism and nuclear proliferation, the camp became internationally renowned as the largest and most effective feminist protest since the suffrage movement. Actions at Greenham that made newspaper headlines were often large scale (Embrace the Base in December 1982 saw over 30,000 women take part) though smaller demonstrations were often reported on for their quirkiness. In 1983 a group of Greenham women – in a break from the usual route to incarceration - broke into Holloway prison in support of other peace camp women arrested and ‘sent down’ for non-payment of court fines. Newspapers reported on the size of wire fence holes the women had made in order to break in and the subsequent embarrassment of police officers on finding a dozen women on the prison roof at dawn. The cut-out holes were described as being ‘big enough for women’, suggesting there is a hole-size through which men do not fit. This corporeal revision of the hetero-normative structures of patriarchy (that oppress and restrict women’s behaviours and movements) demonstrates a queer activist strategy; of not fitting in, of making holes, of performing resistance.

The Studio Assistant (2020)Found object, paint. 125 x 33 x 12 cm.
Sooz Shooz (2022)Jesmonite, plaster, paint, MDF, plywood, oak, rubber, polyester, enamel paint. 37 x 28 x 23 cm.
Proposition #1 (2019)Wood, paint, LEDs. 190 x 50 x 30 cm.
Proposition #1 (2019)
Black Matters (2017)Jute, dye, chains, motor,
Black Matters (2017)Kinetic sculpture installed at Safehouses, London in 2017.
Partisan BingoPartisan Bingo was one of a series of events for ON BEING TOGETHER: MEMBERSHIP, COLLECTIVES AND UNIONS commissioned by Beaconsfield Gallery Vauxhall and led by Partisan Social Club founders Mel Jordan & Andy Hewitt. Partisan Bingo was hosted by bingo-callers Alison Gill, Simon Tyszko and Liz Murray. The game was played until a speakers number was called and who would then deliver a five-minute talk on Being Together. Play would continue until someone called ‘BINGO’.
GLAP CollectiveGLAP Collective are….. Artists John Hughes, Liz Murray, Simon Rattigan and Mia Taylor who formed GLAP Collective in 2015 to make artworks combining the technologies of social media, online dating and robotics with text, photography, sound and video. Working at the intersection between art and writing, with an emphasis on how text might exist in a more expanded field, our work is critically engaged with the dissolution of historical distinctions between books, files, and artworks.