The Guerrilla Girls will soon be taking over the Minneapolis/St. Paul Metro Area, and it's going to be bananas.
"We’re feminist masked avengers in the tradition of anonymous do-gooders like Robin Hood, Wonder Woman, and Batman. How do we expose sexism, racism and corruption in politics, art, film, and pop culture? With facts, humor, and outrageous visuals. We reveal the understory, the subtext, the overlooked, and the downright unfair." –guerrillagirls.com
Formed in New York City in 1985, the Guerrilla Girls are a group of female activists who fight against inequality in the arts. Their gorilla masks are worn to conceal their identity and to let the issues, rather than the girls, be the focus. Their many provocative works have included billboards, live performances, videos, posters, magazine spreads, and more.
Example of the Guerrilla Girls' work from their website
Organizations spearheading the Guerrilla Girls Twin Cities Takeover include MCAD, Hennepin Theatre Trust, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, St. Catherine University Department of Art and Art History, the Walker Art Center, and the Weisman Art Museum. Additional organizations include Altered Esthetics, Artistry, Bryant Lake Bowl, Carleton College, Christensen Gallery at Augsburg College, Concordia University Gallery, Gamut Gallery, Highpoint Center for Printmaking, Hopkins Center for the Arts, Instinct Gallery, Intermedia Arts, Juxtaposition Arts, Minnesota Museum of American Art, Public Functionary, Soo Visual Arts Center, St. Olaf College, The Soap Factory, Third Place Gallery, and Waiting Room.
The Guerrilla Girls will be at MCAD on Monday, October 5 at 4:00 p.m. in Auditorium 150. Their workshops will take place with the classes Site-Specific Print, Publication Design, and Gender, Art, and Society.
I got a chance to ask professors Lara Rodriguez and Gretchen Gasterland-Gustafsson a few questions about the upcoming proceedings.
Photo by Lara Rodriguez
What will the Guerrilla Girls be doing when they visit your class?
Lara: Hopefully the Guerrilla Girls will inspire students to get pissed off about sexism, racism, colonialism, .etc.
Gretchen: The Guerrilla Girls will not quite be visiting our class, but instead they are holding an evening session for both of the sections of the Gender, Art, and Society course. From what I understand, this workshop will involve the students working together to assess what their complaints are as well as what they would envision as solutions to their complaints. This is a form of consciousness raising for which there are long roots in feminist practice. In working with the students in this way, the Guerrilla Girls gain insight into what undergraduate students' concerns are.
What will students get out of the experience?
Lara: I'm hoping students who participate in the Guerrilla Girls' workshops will begin to reconcile themselves with the multiple and intersecting histories of unhappiness that constitute their own (PRIV·I·LEGED) artist communities.
Gretchen: We hope that students are empowered to think about ways to better voice their concerns and hopefully begin finding solutions to the problems they identify. Even if they are only able to accomplish the work of identifying the problems they face, this will help frame their understanding of their society and how it shapes them as subjects.
Are students excited to have them visit?
Lara: They better be.
Gretchen: From what I understand, there is a lot of curiosity about them and enthusiasm for working with the Guerrilla Girls.
Are you excited for them to visit?
Gretchen: I really am excited about the opportunity to work with the Guerrilla Girls because they began their art world activism and interventions when I was a studio art major in undergraduate school. I have known about their work for decades, and I really look forward to gaining insight into their working process through participating in the workshop with my students.
Photo courtesy of Kerry Morgan
Why are the Guerrilla Girls important?
Lara: The Guerrilla Girls are important for several reasons. Chief among these reasons are that they offer us models of accountability. In other words, if we are unhappy with the social realities we traffic within, then we should, if we are artists, prioritize that unhappiness and make it the subject of our art. The moment we stop interrogating the social, material, and historical conditions of our art-making is the same moment we ally ourselves with our oppressors.
Twin Cities Takeover Logo
Gretchen: The Guerrilla Girls are such an important model for collective action in the face of art world inequities. Their work still matters because the problems they identified are far from resolved. Much more work needs to be done, and I am so excited to see the kinds of interventions my students will work to bring to light.
From left to right: Kerry Morgan, Jo Yeh ’15, MFA, Käthe Kollwitz, Frida Kahlo, Megan Johnston
I also had the chance to speak with Gallery Director, Kerry Morgan, on the importance of the Guerrilla Girls and the impact the takeover will have on our community.
How did this takeover and the partnership with MCAD come about?
Kerry: The Guerrilla Girls Twin Cities Takeover has been in the active planning stages since spring 2014. The initial idea to bring the Guerrilla Girls back to the Twin Cities dates even earlier, to April 2013, when Megan Johnston was teaching the course Gender, Art, and Society. Megan had worked previously with the Guerrilla Girls and wanted to work with the them again on a research project and bring them to campus for a performance.
From the get-go I was very interested in bringing the Guerrilla Girls to our campus. They were an artist activist collective that I had learned about and admired, but I had never seen them in person and hoped to somehow connect them to our gallery exhibition program. MCAD has long supported feminist initiatives through the Women's Art Institute, a program cofounded by MCAD faculty member Elizabeth Erickson and Patricia Olson. When we learned that bringing the Guerrilla Girls to MCAD as part of our Visiting Artist Lecture Series would require more money than we had available I reached out to St. Catherine University and Pat Olson jumped at the opportunity to have the workshop at their campus.
A happy coincidence occurred when I also contacted Elizabeth Armstrong, then curator of contemporary art at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, to see if that institution would be interested in hosting the actual performance. Liz announced that Olga Viso, director of the Walker Art Center, had recently contacted her as well about doing some sort of collaborative Guerrilla Girls project as part of the Guerrilla Girls' thirtieth anniversary. Olga had reached out to both Liz and Lyndel King, director of the Weisman Art Museum. In January 2014 all five institutions—MCAD, St. Kate's, Mia, Walker, and the Weisman—connected and started to plan what would become the Guerrilla Girls Twin Cities Takeover.
What's cool about this partnership?
Kerry: This partnership has been extremely rewarding and significant. It was wonderful for those of us representing different organizations and missions, women of varying backgrounds and ages, to immediately identify with the Guerrilla Girls—we knew who they were, what they stood for, and that they were incredibly relevant to us personally and professionally. The partnership is also significant in the way it has grown and continues to bring more people and organizations into the fold. From the beginning there was an emphasis on engaging different generations. In addition to the college students we wanted high school youth to be involved. Joan Vorderbruggen, who oversees the Made Here storefront project for Hennepin Theatre Trust, got on board early and helped come up with ways of getting storefronts along Hennepin Avenue reserved for the youth and thinking of the city street as a canvas for new Guerrilla Girls work. Independent curator and artist Tina Tavera has also been instrumental in bringing in other partners and voices.
At MCAD I have had the pleasure of working with Sara Suppan, who had been in Megan's Gender, Art, and Society class. She attended the first organizational meeting we hosted in April of 2014 when we flew in Frida Kahlo and Kathe Kollwitz to visit for several days. Sara has brought her unique perspective and passion to bear on all aspects of the project. For example, she made the initial PowerPoint and Prezi presentations that the steering committee members took to their constituents to get them on board with the project.
I love that no one person or organization is in charge of the project. Several of us helped give it early support but what it becomes and ultimately what it ends up meaning is beyond the individual. It is collective action, collective activism that in the end, matters the most.
What's your perspective on the Guerrilla Girls and all they do?
Kerry: The Guerrilla Girls are what they say they are—the conscience of the art world. But they are much more than that. They use humor to tell the truths that we are too busy to see. Inequity exists, everywhere. And if we do not pay attention it will continue to go on, the same as always. Change happens, but too slowly and incrementally. The Guerrilla Girls make us pause, think about our actions, laugh a little, get mad, and hopefully change our behaviors and demand change from others. The mission of the Guerrilla Girls Twin Cities Takeover is to inspire individual and collective activism. The Guerrilla Girls are the inspiration.
Visit the Guerrilla Girls Twin Cities Takeover website to learn more.