Tuesday, March 6, 2012

ms. behaving--ode to guerrilla grrls

who are they?  only the raddest ladies around.

super-heroines the guerrilla girls have been around for 25 years.  they have presented the facts, like vida and woman stats, that no one wanted to believe:  namely,  the fact that female artists and artists of color are facing gross discrimination.  


it's 25 years later.  and maybe some stuff has gotten better.  like the fact that there's a major retrospective at the moma by a female artist.  (see julie's post about the cindy sherman show and some other female artists at the moma.)  but there's still a long way to go.  i've posted a portion of a speech from the chicago art institute's 2010 commencement, delivered by an anonymous artist in a gorilla mask.  some of the problems that still exist are outlined below.

guerrilla girls are so good at making the tight place of women in the art world (and their movement has had implications for women writers, filmmakers, etc.) into a totally rad place.  i'm inspired by some of their ideas for taking little daily actions (see ideas below)  to raise awareness, as they say with "facts, humor, and a little fake fur."

let me quickly point out my favorite of their bigger ideas:  make cheaper art, make art that is more inclusive, collaborative, and less about winners and losers.  i think this is the thing women need to bring to the table in art, culture, politics, religion, business, etc.  collaboration and inclusion. 

i hate the notion that we need competition to make the world better, and that it's just human nature to have rich and poor, powerful and weak, success and failure.  it's probably partly because of my religious upbringing, but on this point, you won't move me. 

we can have a more just, inclusive world with less killing, sickness, hunger, violence, rape, and oppression.  and as an artist, that's where i'll start with my little idealistic manifesto.

so go to the g.g. website.  buy some posters and bumperstickers and books.  or make your own.  spread the facts, make are support artists in collaboration & your on your way to utopia.



The Guerrilla Girls’ Guide to Behaving Badly (Which You Have to Do Most
of the Time in the World as We Know It)

Be a loser. The world of art and design doesn’t have to be an Olympics where a
few win and everyone else is forgotten. Even though the art market and celebrity
culture is set up to support the idea of hyper-competition and to make everyone
but the stars feel like failures, there’s also a world out there of artistic cooperation
and collaboration that’s not about raging egos. That’s the one we joined, and the
one you can join, too. Get beyond the outdated assumption that only a handful of
you will "make it." Don’t all waste your time running after the same few carrots.
Be impatient. Don't wait for a stamp of approval from the system. Don’t wait
around to be asked to dance. Claim your place. Put on your own shows, create
your own companies, develop your own projects. To steal a phrase from the Dali
Lama, “Be the change you want to see in the world." In other words, Be the
artworld you want to take part in.

Be crazy. Political art that just points to something and says “this is bad” is like
preaching to the choir. Try to change people's minds about issues. Do it in an
outrageous, unforgettable way. A lot of people in the art and film world didn’t
believe things were as bad as we said they were and we brought them
around....with facts, humor and a little fake fur. Here’s a trick we learned: If you
can get someone who disagrees with you to you to laugh at an issue, you have a
hook into their brain. Once inside you have a better chance of changing their

Be anonymous. You’d be surprised what comes out of your mouth when you’re
wearing a gorilla mask. We started wearing them to protect our careers, but soon
realized it was one of the secrets of our success. Anonymous free speech is
protected by the First Amendment. So join that long line of anonymous masked
avengers, like Robin Hood, Batman, and of course, Wonder Woman.

Be an outsider. Maybe having a secret identity isn’t for you. But even if you end
up working inside the system, act like an outsider. Look for the understory, the
subtext, the overlooked, and the downright unfair, then expose it. We’ve
empowered lots of people inside museums, universities and film studios to jam
their culture and dis their institutions.

Lead a double life. Be a split personality. Be two, three, four, five artists in one
body, like me. I’m an artist / activist / writer / graphic designer. Be a hybrid.
Hybrids are so green.

Just do one thing. If it works, do another. If it doesn’t, try it another way. Over
time, we promise you it will all add up to something effective and great. Don't be
paralyzed because you can't do it all right away. Just keep on chipping away.
Don't make only FINE art. Make some cheap art that can be owned by
everyone, like books and movies can.

Sell out. If people start paying attention to you, don’t waste time wondering if
you’ve lost your edge. Take your critique right inside the galleries and institutions
to a larger audience. When our work appears at venerable venues like the
Venice Biennale, the Tate Modern, or The National Gallery in DC, we get
hundreds of letters from people saying they were blown away by our analysis of
art and culture.

Give collectors, curators, and museum directors tough love:
(Bear with me,
this is a long rant.) It’s a pity that public art museums have to compete with
billionaire art investors to own significant artworks. And then depend on those
investors to donate the works! It's outrageous that art by women and artists of
color sold at auction bring 10-20% of the price of art by white males. It's unethical
that wealthy art collectors who put lots of money in the art market can then
become museum trustees, overseeing museums that in turn validate their
investments. What a lousy way to write and preserve our history! If things
continue like they’re going, a hundred years from now, many museums will be
showing only the white male version of art history, with a few tokens thrown in.
You need to keep that from happening. Make sure that museums cast a wider
net and collect the real story of our culture.

How can you deliver tough love to the art world? Demand ethical standards
inside museums. No more insider trading. No more conflicts of interest! No more
cookie cutter collections of Art That Costs The Most (Eli Broad, do you hear us?)
While you’re at it, give some tough love to design and architecture, where women
and people of color face a crushing glass ceiling. And finally, educators out there,
don't teach a history constructed by corrupt institutions. Write your own!
Complain, complain, complain. But be creative about it. Sure we've done 45
feet high banners and billboards all over the world. But here's some simpler
things we've done: Put anti-film industry stickers in movie theatre bathrooms,
insert fliers with facts about art world discrimination into books in museum stores,
send anonymous postcards to museum directors. Want more ideas? How about
attaching political hangtags to items in clothing stores, putting up street art or
billboards across from your office, slapping stickers on fashion magazine covers.
You can probably think up a million better ideas than we can.

Use the F word. Be a feminist. For decades the majority of art school graduates
have been women. Your class is no exception. But after school, when you find a
too-small number of women and people of color in your field, especially at the
top, then you know there's got to be discrimination, conscious or unconscious,
going on. Don't just put up with it, say something. We think its ridiculous that so
many people who believe in the tenets of feminism have been brainwashed by
negative stereotypes in the media and society and refuse to call themselves
feminists. And guys, that means you, too. Time to man up, whether you're
female, male, trans, etc. and speak up for women. Women's rights, civil rights,
and gay, lesbian and trans rights are the great human rights movements of our
time. There's still a long way to go.

And last, but not least, be a great ape.
In 1917, Franz Kafka wrote a short story titled A Report to An Academy, in which
an ape spoke about what it was like to be taken into captivity by a bunch of
educated, intellectual types. The published story ends with the ape tamed and
broken by the stultified academics. But in an earlier draft, Kafka tells a different
story. The ape ends his report by instructing other apes NOT to allow themselves
to be tamed. He says instead: "break the bars of your cages, bite a hole through
them, squeeze through an opening…and ask yourself where do YOU want to

Make that YOUR ending, not the tamed and broken one.
Oh...And don't forget to have some serious fun along the way!!!!

legwear:  ripped jeans under a nightgown (yikes. it's a day to do s.o.l.e.)

inspiration:  facts, humor and a little fake fur

looking forward:  bookclub tonight

1 comment:

  1. Amen, Lara! I had not read anything by or about the GGs in a long time. A group of them--gorilla heads intact--did a panel discussion at Westminster College in the very early '90s, which I attended, and I had thought they had faded. But that's what The Man wanted me to think!!! So glad you posted about them.

    Ripped jeans under a nightgown is hot, btw, and is very "hybrid," "crazy," and "outsider."