Friday, 25 October 2013

Guerrilla Girls: The Avengers of Art

Naming and shaming: the conscience of modern art
Before the likes of Pussy Riot, Femen and other gender-orientated activist groups that have recently sprung up and have somehow created a new wave of feminism that has, once again, put this issue high on the agenda (or at least, I would like to think so), there was a group of women who were true pioneers in shaming and reacting against the old and long-lasting male hegemony in the arts.
Guerrilla Girls, always hiding behind the gorilla masks, were born almost thirty years ago after a supposedly 'international survey' of contemporary art at MoMa in New York had featured only 13 female artists out of a total of 169.
Their direct and simple approach brought a new social conscience and awareness hitherto ignored or forgotten which was further enhanced when they incorporated racial inequality as one of their flags. Through banners, t-shirts, artwork, stickers and also protests, they managed to disseminate their powerful and indisputable message: how institutional art (galleries, museums, academia etc...) had failed to incorporate or take into account women and ethnic minorities, beyond sexual and racial stereotypes.
Art books and exhibitions were overwhelmingly populated by white male artists; these activists, with their gorrila masks as a symbol of anonymity but also what they understood as the beauty cannon, set out to challenge and debunk outdated realities in a post-colonial context.

Of course, things have changed since the mid-80s and we have the Guerrilla Girls to thank them for this. But as the previously mentioned Femen (a Tea & Sympathy old post has already covered this group), Pussy Riot and others have shown, there is still a long way to go; contemporary art, and the wider society, desperately need more combative voices prepared to challenge and raise awareness. There's plenty of issues out there worth the fight.