Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Guerrilla Girls

"What is your philosophy for making activist art?

"We try to be different from the kind of political art that is angry and points to something and says 'This is bad.' That's preaching to the converted. We want to be subversive, to transform our audience, to confront them with some disarming statements, backed up by facts—and great visuals—and hopefully convert them. We carefully craft everything we do. We try to twist an issue around and present it in a way that hasn't been seen before. We usually test-drive a project by showing it to a few people beforehand to gauge their response. We've also learned that focusing on one aspect of an issue is better than trying the change the whole world in a single work."*

The Guerrilla Girls started in 1984 and they state that they are "a bunch of anonymous females who take the names of dead women artists as pseudonyms and appear in public wearing gorilla masks. We have produced posters, stickers, books, printed projects, and actions that expose sexism and racism in politics, the art world, film and the culture at large. We use humor to convey information, provoke discussion, and show that feminists can be funny. We wear gorilla masks to focus on the issues rather than our personalities. Dubbing ourselves the conscience of culture, we declare ourselves feminist counterparts to the mostly male tradition of anonymous do-gooders like Robin Hood, Batman, and the Lone Ranger. Our work has been passed around the world by kindred spirits who we are proud to have as supporters. It has also appeared in The New York Times, The Nation, Bitch and Bust; on TV and radio, including NPR,, the BBC and CBC; and in countless art and feminist texts. The mystery surrounding our identities has attracted attention. We could be anyone; we are everywhere."

They have created various posters and other means of advertisements that easily capture the attention of the public. They use art as both a means to get their message out and as the reason of their protests. They see themselves as "reinventing the "F" word - feminism!"

I love the idea that they want to take feminism and add some humor to it. They show that you can still fight for a cause and make it fun. I think you attract more attention by having a fun, outrageous demonstration than by having the normal protest.

The art world is, of course, largely dominated by men. Most disciplines always have the argument of the canon, most notability the literary world. This also happens in the art world. There has always been the question of why have there been no great women artists? You have the old masters such as Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo, etc... but where are the women? And what's worse is that the museum, like the canon, has very few women artists on display.

Check out the stats, courtesy of the Guerrilla Girls, of the percentages of male artists in museums and of their colour. I also like the Guerrilla Girls in that they also look at other forms of discrimination other than just gender. They are trying to be all inclusive in their fight and recognize that they're not the only ones being discriminated against. If people come to museums to learn about the history of art, then they need to realize that they're probably not getting the whole story. Tons of women artists have been left out of both the canon of the art world and in museums as well.

The Guerrilla Girls use their typical humor in one of my favourite pieces of advertisement: The Advantages of Being a Woman Artist. Obviously, women artists do strive to be world renowned, but this advertisement shows how women in the art world are treated.

The Guerrilla Girls not only deal with art, but also in politics. They started out in the art world, but have moved onto other subjects that have historically discriminated against women. They've attacked the Republican Party about a woman's right to control her body. Also, they've attacked them about health care back in 1991.

This shows that they clearly want change not just for women, but all oppressed groups. Their advertisements are clear, concise, funny, and to the point. I think their tactics are a great way to gather attention and raise consciences. They are clearly one of the more radical feminist groups out there, but I think they're doing their job well. They're gathering the power of the people anonymously and getting their messages out virally. Since the internet is a a great way to get your messages out to the masses quickly, this way of working anonymously works wonders. I think that the Guerrilla Girls are on the right track to raising awareness of not only what's happening in the art world, but also the world of women.

[All pictures and quoted text comes from the Guerrilla Girl's website at: http://www.guerrillagirls.com/ ]

[Check out more posters and advertisements from the Guerrilla Girls' campaign at: http://www.guerrillagirls.com/posters/index.shtml ]

[Listen to the Girls talk about who they are at the Museum of Modern Art in 2007: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHVBZh5HBgc&feature=player_embedded# ]

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