Ailie Rutherford

Artistic Director of Feminist Exchange Network


2011 MCD, Department of Civic Design, University of Liverpool; 2004 MA Media Arts, Manchester Metropolitan University; 1999 BA(Hons) Fine Art, Edinburgh College of Art

Research Interests

Feminist Exchange Network (FEN) has evolved from my work The People's Bank of Govanhill, instigated during a residency with Govanhill Baths, Glasgow in 2015. Now a long-term collaborative project, FEN's  work explores ways of putting feminist economics into practice in community contexts, ideating radical economic models for a future beyond capitalism. Our women-led* collective has grown to include collaborations and inter-local projects across the globe, with one foot firmly rooted in the local community. Before seeking new solutions, we looks for what is already working at the community level, identifying existing networks as well as gaps and opportunities to find new ways of working. Our Swap Market feminist exchange project (2018-20) was devised in response to extensive research and development work with Govanhill’s multiple communities with a membership of almost 2,000 local people.

Crypto-Knitting-Circles (2019) was a year-long research project in collaboration with Dr. Bettina Nissen (Design Informatics, University of Edinburgh) exploring potential applications of new and emerging technologies within feminist and community currency. Inspired by a shared interest in feminist economics and the potential to subvert new and emerging tech to disrupt established power structures. Our work centred around Swap Market in Govanhill, working closely with groups of locally based women* to explore these questions in relation to feminist and community economies. If we are inevitably moving towards a cashless society where machines and technology have an ever increasing impact on our lives, we wanted to know how we might do this in a way that empowers people, enables us to share resources across networks, and meet our needs rather than allowing technology to further disempower people and exasperate inequality.  

My collaboration with Bettina extended into our project String Figures (2020) with the co-design of prototype collaborative software for collective working centred on a principle of mutual care and co-operation. 

As a freelance artist, much of my work centres on feminist economic thinking and making hidden economies visible. 

My work in collaboration with artist Janie Nicoll on the In Kind research project, began in 2018, as part of Glasgow International festival, interrogating the festival from within. We took the arts festival as a case study to explore the ‘under the waterline’ economy of the visual arts. Recruited other artists as co-researchers on In Kind to gather data on the economics of their own practices, we invited artists to map their local arts economy through digital technologies and co-develop a set of demands for action. This project explored ways of collecting, presenting and analysing data in a non-academic way, gathering both qualitative and quantitative data; displaying both via a peripatetic information kiosk situated within the arts festival itself. In Kind was subsequently presented at ‘Panic, It’s An Arts Emergency’, for Create London at the Barbican, London: for Axisweb at Kinning Park Complex; at the Scottish Parliament for the Cross Party Group on Culture; and at the Newbridge Project, Gateshead, for Newcastle University.

On Pouring Out, Pouring In: Mapping Women's Work, in 2023 I worked with Glasgow Women's Library to visualise the complex nature of work for many women*. Sitting alongside a University of Glasgow study into women's multiple, precarious, and low-paid employment, I led workshops inviting women to map out their various roles and responsibilities. Participants engaged in conversations about undervalued and invisible labour, exploring feminist economics together to consider how we might move towards a more equitable economic system. The results and visualisations of our collective thinking were exhibited at Glasgow Women's Library, October 2023 - January 2024 and compiled in the Pouring Out, Pouring In publication. 

*women and other marginalised genders

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