resource review: the punk singer.

i love bikini kill.  i remember sitting in my car after school my senior year, waiting for my popular, social sister to finish talking to her friends so we could drive home.  i would turn up the volume on my bikini kill mix tape as high as it would go and and feel my anger and frustration slip away with kathleen hanna’s words.  the riot grrl movement was central to my high school identity and to the identity of the awesome women (and men) around me at the time.  ok, so i have a million memories of bk, le tigre, riot grrl and radical feminism (and my bad ass little sister, who probably DID NOT self-identify as popular) but i want to talk about the punk singer.

so, i loved bk but i’ve always said that i want to do the visual art version of le tigre.  i didn’t really know what that meant, but after watching the punk singer it was illuminated for me.

kathleen talks about the formation of le tigre and how she and joann wanted to create a band that talked about all the things that were good.  she says that in bk they were singing to a outside asshole dude and that in le tigre they were singing to other women.  and i interpret that as, bk was responding to the dominant narrative, which needed to be done and i think they did it in the most bad ass way possible.  but le tigre was operating outside of the dominant narrative, creating a new one.

she mentions that they were creating a non-competitive atmosphere and a culture of praise which is absolutely outside the dominant narrative.

of course there is this element of raw beauty to everything she has worked on which i think aesthetically jives with what i love.  after the movie, there was a panel discussion and i noticed i got totally annoyed by the speakers intellectualizing punk and riot grrl.  it literally got me hot under the collar!

i think that so many of us have that left over valley girl accent with question marks on the end of everything or hairy armpits or a little bit of repressed anger and that by moving forward and being who we are and contributing something good to the world, with our imperfections, well, i think that’s all we can do really.

resource review: trespassing relevance, the interventionists catalogue essay by nato thompson.

this essay serves, as many catalog essays do, to superficially introduce the artists represented in the exhibition.  thompson states that political art is not dead but has been flying under the radar throughout most of the 90’s.  he, like helguera, talks about the way of making political art that is not restricted by representation.  he also talks about the use of “tactics” by the artists or “interventionists”.  the whole essay reads with aplomb and a little bit of aggression, kind of like a carl hiaason novel.  though the projects are assertive and exciting, like william pope’s black factory and lucy orta’s art fashion they kind of rub me the wrong way.  they have a common spirit, of course, that’s why they are being exhibited together, but there’s something about that that kind of cloys.  maybe they are very 90’s feeling??

i can’t help but feel like they are, collectively if not respectively, TOO dramatic.  they lack elegance and beauty and wonder.  the biographical film about steve kurtz, founder of the critical art ensemble exemplifies this for me.  after the unrelated, tragic death of his wife, steve kurtz was arrested and the art work of the CAE was seized.  the film felt exploitive and  flippant to me.

i guess it’s an aesthetic thing.

resource review: pablo helguera workshop, talk and book ‘education for socially engaged art’.

a couple of weeks ago i had the great pleasure to see pablo helguera speak at my school.  he is a social engagement artist, director of adult and academic programs at MOMA and the author of many books including ‘education for socially engaged art’.  as i prepared for the lunch seminar he would be leading by reading his book, i was immediately intrigued.  he mentions in his introduction that he wants this book to act as an introductory reference and i appreciated the fact that he offers up his definitions and criteria for art that is termed socially engaged or social practice.  he dismisses the term social practice because it doesn’t claim art explicitly and proposes instead socially engaged art because it makes it clear that the work is first and foremost art and not say, anthropology or social work.

i found that super interesting coming as i do from a family of social workers and from my planned parenthood background.  i love social work and i love ‘doing service’ to borrow (perhaps inaccurately) from bell hooks.  and i love doing art work and am interested in where these seemingly disparate trajectories can come together.

for his lunch seminar helguera focused on a critique of social engagement art.  in fact we literally critiqued three projects that he presented to us (just to name one, he proposed a “poverty project” in which the artist would spend no money what so ever but would live in a gallery and/or a fancy all expenses paid residency in france.  hilarious).  the majors criticisms of the projects were that they were self-centered, indulgent, not really helping or bring attention to the cause they purported to, etc.  totally valid and i was glad to hear him critique this kind of arty behavior but then i was even more surprised to see his own artist’s talk.  it was kind of a snore and i honestly didn’t see where his work really intersected with anything social.  his work was in my opinion self-centered and self indulgent.  in one project he didn’t have childcare so he took his daughter with him and performed a reading of a play, while holding his daughter and comforting her when she fussed.   in the second he has created this elaborate system of envelopes that will be mailed long after his death.  i wasn’t really sure how they enriched society at all or how they might “affect the public sphere in a deep and meaningful way” to quote his book.

not that they had too or that it was his intention but after reading the book and sitting in on the lunch seminar that is what i was expecting.

resource review (2): makers.com, loretta ross, that’s my abortion tumblr and a video by the guttmacher institute.

after my post yesterday my friend sarah tancred sent me some resource suggestions.  i had never heard of loretta ross though i was lucky enough to attend the 2004 march for women’s lives, of which she was the co-director.  though i have a whole list of resources to annotate here, i clicked the link and was smitten.  thanks sarah!

sarah’s link sent me to makers.com, which is a aol/pbs collaboration that does video showcases of women who are changing the world and/or “fighting for something bigger than themselves”.  watching the “about” video showed me snippets of features of ellen degeneres, gloria steinem, condoleezza rice, and many, many more, a really amazing and inspiring bunch.  i also like that the website makes a point to say they feature known and unknown women, high profile to everyday.  i guess that felt really inclusive, so i appreciated that choice of language.

the loretta ross video was about her experiences with reproductive injustice at an early age and how those experiences led to her becoming an organizer.  the most interesting part for me was the short history she gave of the term “reproductive justice.”  this was a new term for me and, in my opinion, such a beautiful term.  she begins by talking about how in 1994 she attended an international conference in which activists were using a human rights framework from which to talk about reproductive rights.  they were interested in how that created a more holistic movement, where abortion wasn’t the most important topic, where economic justice and access to basic healthcare were just as important.  she goes on to say, how the african american community has been subjected to population control in the past so, therefore, the right to HAVE children and toRAISE them is just as pertinent to the topic of reproductive freedom as is the right to abortion access.  she sums it up real quick here:

she goes into more detail about her organization sistersong, reproductive justice and the political term “women of color” in this video:

i’m just embedding part 1 but i definitely recommend going down the rabbit hole and youtubing everything on loretta ross because she is freaking amazing.

when i searched for more information on her personal abortion experience (since that is the topic of my current work) i found a tumblr called “that’s my abortion”.  this site acts as a space for women of color to tell their own stories of reproductive justice.  there is a huge movement by the conservative right to paint abortion as an attack on the african american community and this site combats this.  the front page of that’s my abortion.tumblr.com states “The right wing is targeting the reproductive agency and rights of black women and other women of color. Their messages are couched in a deceptive framework of anti-racism in billboards and advertising in NYC, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Austin, D.C. and Philadelphia.”

lastly, as i scrolled through that’s my abortion.tumblr.com, i came across this great little video by the guttmacher institute. just a great little reminder of what we’re all working for.

resource review (1): i’m not sorry.net

i’ve been scouring the internet for resources on the topic of my thesis exhibition.  to put it simply, i’m looking for resources that examine the dominant narrative around abortion in the united states.  i’m not sorry. net (imnotsorry.net) was a great first stop. “patricia” started the site about 14 years ago (!) in order to offer an alternative to what she saw as the “blood-spattered guilt trip so many make it out to be.”  the site hosts stories submitted by women who have had abortions and don’t regret it. all stories are submitted anonymously, only a first name is used to identify the storyteller and patricia reserves the right to minimally edit the stories or not to post them of they are deemed inappropriate.  the stores themselves are plentiful and there is even a section dedicated to stories by women who sought out abortions before roe v wade was passed in 1973, which is pretty amazing.  patricia, the host of the site is direct, sassy and unapologetic.  the infrastructure of the website (the about page, the faq and the section titled answering “pro-lifers”) all make her position very clear.

i wholeheartedly agree with patricia and admire her postion.  she states clearly the ambivalence often shown by well-meaning feminist or pro-choice individuals (and institutions) saying “Even many in the pro-choice movement subtly encourage the mindset that no decent woman really wants an abortion and that it’s done only when there’s no other alternative.” and tackles “pro-lifers” straight on in a section just for them.

the overt defensiveness in the tone of the whole site sometimes bothered me though.  i guess that it’s because, in my opinion, it seems to be responding to the dominant narrative instead of creating space that operates outside of it.  not that i don’t get that, it would be incredibly hard to operate outside of that after 14 years of fielding hate mail.

overall, i think its a great resource that provided hours of intriguing reading.  and honestly, her unapologetic nature is bad-ass and inspiring.

check back tomorrow for another resource review.