The Guerrilla Girls is a group of anonymous female artists from USA. They’ve been working on exposing sexism in art since 80’s. One of their pieces, It’s even worse in Europe from 1986 which had statistics about female artists in art institutions in Europe has been revisited and exhibited in The Whitechapel Gallery (Is It Even Worse In Europe?, 2016). Although, this time with a question mark – Is it even worse in Europe?
The piece was an extension to the old statistic, comparison wise – but at the same time it succeeded in creating a narrative within the actual timeline of the piece. Showing sexism and racial discrimination as a continuous process and common practice within European art institutions.
The piece began by a questionnaire being sent out to 383 art organisation across Europe. After receiving answers, they’ve been formed into an exhibition.
The actual piece is a graphic narrative set-up across the exhibition space in the gallery. Besides conventionally walls, the floor space has been used as well. The floor has a poster with all the art institutions which have not answered and visitors are encouraged to walk over it.
In a way the questionnaire has acted as a disobedient object. It has been re-appropriated, moulded in various ways by the answers given. The questionnaire has been used sarcastically, as the idea of female artists being under represented in art institutions would only be confirmed by this piece, so here numbers are not as important, or important at all. The responses were what formed the exhibition. Numbers acted as a factor only within the parameter of the responses – for instance, 1 in 4 galleries replied. This is what was important.
Overall, I quite enjoyed the exhibition. I was specifically drawn to the poster with Complaints Department as two galleries from Poland and Slovenia made a significant comment – why are Guerrilla girls not asking about representation of Eastern European artists?!
Is It Even Worse In Europe (2016) [Exhibition]. Whitechapel Gallery, London. 01 October – 05 March 2017).
Exploitation of the Dead – M. Stilinović, 1984-1990
Can a jar of pickles be considered political art?
M. Stilinović was a Zagreb-based artist who unfortunately passed away few months ago. He had a long history of challenging ideological atmosphere with his work, continuously working and building Exploitation of the Dead from 1984 to 1990.
I chose a detail of this work, a jar of pickles to prove everyday objects can indeed be political. These pickles have black and red stars and crosses painted on, both ideologically strong symbols for socialism.
With this work Stilinović challenges the notion of what purpose symbols have at all – when taken out of the context and put on everyday objects. They lose meaning, just like socialistic ideology faded away as Yugoslavia was falling apart. He also proposes a certain nostalgia and tradition, which today, and through the times of making of this were losing their strength.
An important part to the context of his work is his late father’s job. He was a Yugoslav diplomat, but disagreed with Yugoslav politicians, so it is no wonder Stilinović wasn’t afraid to provoke the ideology of the day.
One of my favorite pieces by Stilinović – An Artist Who Cannot Speak English is no Artist. The question that Stilinović challenges is whether it is necessary for artists to know English to be able to join in the global art conversation and worldwide exchange.
Globalization made it easy for artists to join-in this worldwide exchange, but at the time when this piece was made, this clearly applied to countries that skipped socialism and communism and were already in mature stages of capitalism, so West Europe and North America. At the same time, in the 90’s when this piece was made, Balkan was being torn-apart by war, but it had mature art scene and great artists and ideas worthy of international market. By this piece Stilinović opened up the conversation towards Balkan and Eastern European artists.
This piece of writing reflects on effects of political art – weather they even exist, who is the audience for this kind of work, importance of medium used and critics’ role.
The author starts of by explaining what good political art is – it’s not made about, but within. So, artists need to work within the very issue. It is important to note that political art shouldn’t be made for the very sake of making something political – but the consequences of it should be taken into the process of idea generation. This meaning, artists need to know what their work should do. It is important that the art made is changing the very way we see the world, the author explains.
Author goes on to explain that political art is created for everyone, and is not exclusive as some other kinds of art. It is also stressed that art critics should take this notion of audience’s inclusion into consideration when assessing the work.
When it comes to choosing the medium, author explains it’s an instrument to send across the message to the audience and depends on the political consideration, as well who the audience is.
Author continues by explaining how it’s important for artists to engage in popular culture – the more they integrate, the more successful their work is. This is so art wouldn’t seems so distant to the audience, but wave into.
As for art critics, author suggests they and the makers should live in symbiosis and almost lower themselves for the benefit of the audience seeing and understanding the work as more approachable. Ultimately, artists should work with the society – collectively.