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ACTIVISM Does art imitate life or life imitate art?

That's the question posed by no-holds-barred activists The Guerrilla Girls in their latest assault on male behaviour in the arts, reports ANNE DOUGLAS

GUERRILLA GIRLS, the anonymous group of US feminist female artists devoted to fighting sexism and racism within the art world, are bringing their unique form of “culture jamming” to billboard displays across Britain.

They formed in New York City in 1985 with the mission of highlighting gender and racial inequality in the visual arts community and, to remain anonymous, members don gorilla masks and use pseudonyms referencing deceased female artists.

Their latest project involves large-scale billboards across Britain in iconic locations from Glasgow Barrowlands to London Bridge, countryside locations and seaside towns until July 18.

They are part of The Male Graze which explores bad male behaviour through the lens of art history.
“What art historians call the male gaze, the masculine, heterosexual perspective in European and American art, mostly by white men, that depicts women as sexual objects for the pleasure of the male viewer, we call The Male Graze,” The Guerrilla Girls said.

“Lots of women are naked in post-colonial Western art. Some are idle: sleeping, splayed out on beds and couches, lounging around with their friends, bathing and maybe even dancing.

“When active, there is usually a sexual element present — voyeurism, seduction, harassment, assault, rape and sometimes murder.

“When we looked into how some revered male artists used and abused women in their real lives, we saw a lot of grazing, not just gazing. So we want to ask: does art imitate life or life imitate art?”

Viewers of the billboards are then asked to go to museums, do a count of naked women vs women artists on exhibition and post their findings and comments on themalegraze.com.

This website also examines the real-life bad behaviour of many beloved artists who not only “gazed” on women in their work but “grazed” on them in actuality.

According to Helen Nisbet, artistic director of commisioners Art Night, the Guerrila Girls project is “galvanising a potentially new audience to consider or reconsider the question of who gets to be represented and who holds power."

The billboards can be viewed at:

345 Old Street, London, EC1V 9LT
London Bridge / Borough High Street, London, SE1 9OG
The Anchor Inn, Digbeth – Rea Street, Birmingham, B5 6ET
2 Forfar Road, Dundee, DD4 7AR
Cardiff, x Motorpoint Arena A – Bute Terrace, Cardiff, CF10 2FE
231 Gallowgate, Barrowlands, Glasgow, G4 OTP (from 23 June)
1 Warehouse, New Orchard Street, Swansea, SA1 6YL
A209, Lewes (opposite Elephant and Castle pub, adjacent to New Road) and Hoardings adjacent to Eastbourne Redoubt, Royal Parade, Eastbourne BN22 7AQ
1364 Neath Road, Swansea, SA1 2HL (14 June – 27 June)
57 Neath Road C/O Lyndu Street, Morriston, SA6 7BH (28 June – 11 July)
Compton Verney, Warwick, CV35 9HJ
Headingley Ln., Headingley, Leeds LS6 2AS

 

 

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