VICE wrote up a cool panel discussion at Bard on the subject of politically engaged art today, but it was lacking an answer to the question it posed: Can art be a form of political activism?
The obvious answer is, well, yes, of course. I mean, look at Jacques-Louis David’s “The Death of Marat,” or practically any of the paintings that he finished during the French Revolution: It’s basically all political propaganda, and very effective political propaganda, at that (Marat was a revolutionary writer who was assassinated; David’s painting institutionalized him as a martyr of the revolution). Manet’s “Olympia” was a political challenge to the art world, its aesthetics and values, inasmuch as it very clearly depicted a prostitute who, rather than having an idealized body and rather than existing for the aesthetic pleasure of the viewer was painted with an imperfect, human body and a confrontational expression. In the 1970s, Mierle Ukeles challenged the art world on its class and gender politics by publicly performing “low” or “women’s” work at the Wadsworth Atheneum, cleaning the museum and washing its front steps as a way of pointing out all the things that must be done to support museums and keep them physically viable. Their boards of directors, their curators, and the artists displayed might get the public attention, but museums couldn’t function without maintenance work. Keep reading »
Ever wonder what happens to all the condoms that fail the quality control test? Artist and social activist Adriana Bertini crafts gowns out of them. Bertini’s Condom Couture project was created to raise awareness about safe sex and STI prevention. Using dyed defective and expired condoms, she puts together dresses that aim to get people talking about safe sex, though the dresses are so immaculate that it’s sometimes easy to forget what they’re made of! She’s also been known to weave condoms into images, like those of AIDS victims or activists. Bertini also teaches students how to create these dresses on their own, which provides an avenue to talk to them about safer sex. Bertini’s amazing handiwork has been shown in exhibitions at the United Nations and the International AIDS conference. They’ve even been featured in runway shows. [The Gloss] [Image via Condom Couture/Facebook]
In January, an actress from “Orange Is The New Black” appeared on Katie Couric’s daytime talk show and it made headlines for all the wrong reasons. Laverne Cox, who is transgender, appeared with trans model Carmen Carrera. Throughout the interview, Couric kept asking the two women questions about their transition, specifically their genitalia. Cox politely corrected Couric that focusing only on body parts detracts attention away from the issues that trans folks face, like lack of legal protection and violence. Couric was roundly criticized by LGBTQ advocates afterwards for her failed interview.
Recently, Laverne Cox appeared again on “Katie” and the two women addressed the previous interview. Keep reading »
The Law School of McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, has had enough of the negative stereotypes that sometimes come alongside the word “feminist.” Their campaign, “McGill Law Feminists,” aims to remind us that feminism doesn’t have just one face. Members of the McGill community from a diverse range of backgrounds were photographed as they reclaimed the f-word. “Feminist” is not a bad word, and I love this campaign’s efforts to make that clear. [Ms Magazine, McGill Feminists]
Caroline Heres, Julie Gelb and Jackie Reilly are on a mission to decrease sexual assault on college campuses. Last fall, Caroline and Jackie, who are students at Syracuse University, discussed the fact that they’d both been assaulted. What started as a chat between two friends evolved into a need to take action. Together, they decided to spread the word by contacting Syracuse sororities and holding a meeting about helping one another prevent assault
The pair received an encouraging response, and it quickly became clear that they had major potential on their hands. They teamed up with their sorority sister Julie Gelb, a PR major, to create Girl Code Movement. The organization aims to bring college women together across the country and encourage them to be active, empowered bystanders to help prevent rape through identifying possible victims and keeping them out of harm’s way. Keep reading »
Fahma Mohamed, a 17-year-old British student, is determined to make female genital mutation (FGM) a thing of the past in the UK. The process is intended to prevent sex from being pleasurable for a young woman so that she remains “pure” until marriage. The most common time for FGM to happen is over summer holidays, when families in Britain travel to other countries. So Fahma is petitioning Michael Gove, the British Secretary of State for Education, to take action fast and ask that head teachers train other teachers and parents on the horrific realities of FGM. Keep reading »