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Guerrilla Girls

FEMINIST ART - They are a secret society whose names, faces and number of members remain unknown. But their message is heard loud and clear, as in overseas-in-other-countries “loud” and billboard-sized “clear.” They are the Guerrilla Girls and they threaten to be anywhere at anytime. Their upcoming visit to Albuquerque, however, is no secret.

Co-founders of the Guerilla Girls, Frida Kahlo and Käthe Kollwitz (adopting the names of dead women artists as pseudonyms is part of the group’s shtick) will give a presentation at the Kimo Theatre promising to “educate, infuriate and entertain.” The feminist art group has been rocking the boat since 1985, admonishing institutions in the art and film world that perpetuate sexism and racism. Despite their trademark gorilla masks, these are women who should be taken quite seriously.
The Guerrilla Girls have produced posters, books, billboards and entire exhibits displaying the cold, hard facts about the low percentage of women and minority artists represented in art and film. One poster produced by the group is aimed at the film industry and touts facts such as “No woman has ever won an Oscar for direction, cinematography or sound,” “94 percent of writing awards have gone to men” and “In 1987, 2.4 percent of major films were directed by women. By 1999, that number rose to a whopping 4 percent.” Other examples of the group’s work include the White House receiving a gift of estrogen pills courtesy of the Guerrilla Girls and a slew of informative coasters found their way into bars in Europe.

Museums and libraries have collected entire portfolios of Guerrilla Girl posters and after 20 years of raising their own unique brand of hell, it is not uncommon for their name to pop up in art history and women’s studies classes.

What started as a way to vent frustration by tacking up posters in New York City in the dark of night has blossomed into an activist group manifesting a noticeable change in American culture. But despite these inroads, there is still a lot of work to do, as Kollwitz explained recently in an interview with Local iQ. Though seemingly intimidating with their hairy masks and black attire, this group is much less judgmental than one would expect. Kollwitz is somewhat understanding of why people are hesitant to associate themselves with the word “feminism.”

“(It) has been demonized for so long,” she said of the common feminist stereotype as humorless, dour, bitchy and ugly. “I can’t tell people what to call themselves ... the labels aren’t super important. But to me it’s important to call myself a feminist. It’s a whole new way of looking at the world.”

As intimidating as feminism can be for some, part of the Girls’ ammunition is humor and wit, hence the gorilla masks. Kollwitz noted that the group believes feminism could use a little humor and it certainly helps to spread their message to those who may not initially be convinced.

“We aren’t just interested in talking to people who agree with us,” Kollwitz explained, adding that when addressing people who may find their messages abrasive, a little humor goes a long way. “It lets you sneak in and surprise and disarm them.”

516 Arts invited the Guerrilla Girls to speak in Albuquerque as part of their Speak Out: Art, Design & Politics exhibition, which is on display through December 20. The co-sponsor of the visit, Through the Flower, is a local non-profit art organization founded by accomplished artist, Judy Chicago.

Susannah Rodee, executive director of Through the Flower, described her excitement about the event in a recent interview, saying that the efforts of the Guerrilla Girls, “Are directly related to the mission of Through the Flower, which is to educate the public about the importance of art and its power in countering the erasure of women’s achievements.”

In addition to their presentation, the Guerrilla Girls will also facilitate a workshop. After the masked avengers explain their philosophy on political art, workshop participants will be given the opportunity to work on their own political art pieces in small groups.

“Great projects have come out of these workshops,” Kollwitz said. “We get out of town and then the people (from the workshops) go and raise hell.”

Though the group has at times been in serious danger chased, threatened, etc., Kollwitz noted that not all Guerrilla Girls adversaries tend to react in such an inciting way.

“A lot of discrimination is unconscious, people just perpetuating the status quo,” she said.
Kollwitz added that the Guerrilla Girls has often received letters of apologies and thanks. Most importantly, the group’s unique and unparalleled work has prompted well-known museums to increase their displays of works by minorities and women. But the Guerrilla Girls aren’t relaxing one bit and will continue to roam the world, reinventing the “F” word along the way.

Ed Fox


"In the early days I just wanted to be given a chance. I got rejected numerous times by the fashion and adult industries, photo reps, and advertising agencies. I have kept every rejection letter and every fan mail I have ever received. The Art Center College of Design and the rest of the people that tried to put me down really held me back. I felt like Rocky taking a pounding. I knew that the harder I got beat, the greater the reward would be—that there would be more of an impact when I would finally get up.

While studying at the Art Center I was told numerous times I was wasting my talent by creating erotic imagery. I followed my dream, and on my way up with my head down, ten years had passed. Comments on my photography went from “You are stunting yourself” to “You are in the beam of the light.” I used to be the little boy flipping anxiously through the pages of adult magazines, and now I’m the one making them—I still can’t believe it.

My fascination with the female form and appreciation for light is what inspired me to become a photographer. I create to satisfy the need to see a better image than the last, and there is ample gratification if at least one other person values my work. I would rather be famous than rich. The fans validate my vision and inspire me to create more.

The most tempting part of a woman’s body is her feet. Feet are a woman’s second body, one I can enjoy without her being offended or even aware. I began noticing painted toenails at the age of 14 and slowly fine-tuned the fetish into my life. Never would I have imaged that my “little secret” would attract so many people.

I originally wanted to become a photographer so I could shoot for Playboy. Since I realized that wasn’t going to happen, I started focusing more on the type of imagery I secretly desired to make. I believe now that I will ultimately be appreciated more by shooting what I really want and for being published by Taschen. I am so grateful for the chance they have given me. I saved myself for Taschen because I wanted my first and possibly only book to be the best it possibly could. It’s printed documentation that I exist—I have finally left my mark. I want to be remembered as an esthete who made a difference in the adult world."

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Hasisi Park

FEMINIST ART - By Hasisi Park.

We assume that artists are of a different category to normal people, and they live a special life. As an artist and photographer, I’ve been trying to put myself in a general category of normal life. I create projects and series out of intimate life through my relationships or the roles I have to fulfill, and all the discordances between my circumstances and I. I’m female after all, so often my works speak for women. For example, being a femme fatal in The Housemaid (a series of work, homage to a filmmaker Kim Ki Young), trying to be a member of a whole new family in The Family (a series of work from Japan), and making a small funeral for bloody panties. I role-play a certain character in an absurd situation, or exaggerate trivial events of everyday life to give women a chance to reconsider their dejected viewpoint toward the world and themselves.

As a lazy and weird-looking Hikikomori (a Japanese term referring to the phenomenon of reclusive individuals who have chosen to withdraw from social life), which may explain why I don’t use pretty models in my work. I prefer to appear in front of a camera. Being a Hikikomori is certainly related to my attitude and perception of art because it limits what I can get from outside. Rather than being a spectator, I choose to be objectified by frightened women, including myself. When you first look at my photographs, it seems difficult to identify with the character because she plays out what most women can’t present in normal life. But it unconsciously arouses desires of becoming one of the characters in the image. By merging gratification of deviation and satisfaction of aspiration, my works could be classified as feminist art.

People who only believe what they see are easily cheated. Lacan once said, “Cynics believed in their eyes miss effectiveness of symbolic fabrication even though the fabrication is realities which compose our life.” I’d like to stimulate people with indirect seduction, which could be a total lie, meaning fictional. On the assumption that the lie itself makes people uncomfortable and insulted, the symbolic fabrication of the image affects people, and they automatically find a connection to their memories or experiences. That is the most important aspect of producing art for me. I don’t have the answer to what I should keep focusing on to awaken people or satisfy them. But I know I want to develop the relationship between audience and artist, and a genuine way exists through an interaction. I will keep providing interesting clues and narratives to make viewers click on their own memory so that they can create a brand new story of themselves.

Melanie Manchot

FEMINIST ART - Right: Melanie Manchot. Emma & Charlie I, 2001.

'Emma & Charlie I' is the first image in a triptych which belongs to the 'Fontainbleau Series', consisting of four such triptychs in total. The series takes as its starting point the well known anonymous image in the Louvre of Gabrielle d'Estree and her sister in the bath. Throughout its existence this work has over and again caught people's curiosity and attention and has recurred as reference for artists across generations.

Drawn to the very ambiguity of the gesture as well as to the contrast between the intimacy of the touch and the blankness of the protagonists expression I set out to work with different sets of women restaging the situation. The invited women have different types of relationships to each other and how this manifests across the three images is a process of discussion, collaboration and experimentation. In each case I ask the two women to first restage the image itself and to then continue to find gestures and moments of touch while remaining constrained within the confines of the bath.

A Victory for Obama is a Victory for Women

Congratulations to Barack Obama, the new president of the USA. A victory for Obama is a victory for men and women around the world.

Let all the world sing and dance in celebration!
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