Visual culture is huge part of every day life, defined as everything that that can be seen that does not occur by nature. This would mean that visual culture can be added to, altered and can transition through trends over time, leading us to assume that the arts play a big part in its assembly.
One part of our visual culture that I became very intrigued about was the Guerrilla Girls ongoing work for woman in art. In a Constellation lecture, I was shown the following poster, created in 1985 to draw attention to the imbalance between women and men in art.
As this screen printed poster clearly shows, over 95% of artists in the Modern Art sections of the Metropolitan Museum are men, while 85% of nudes are female. This suggests that men are better at being the artists, while a woman’s role in art is to be the subject of work, often nude, and to be looked at.
The Guerrilla Girls are not a man-hating, world-domination-wanting group of women. They are fighting for female representation in art because, as they so excellently put themselves in a television interview:
“Every aesthetic decision has a value and if all of the decisions are being made by the same people, then the art will never look like the whole of our culture”
I think this is a very fair comment. If art is not representing all of those who contribute to it, those who look upon it are not discovering a true collation of our whole culture, and all of the incredibly artists our culture has to offer. The Guerrilla Girls have worked hard for female representation in art, however the results of their efforts over the last thirty years are painfully minute. In an interview on Late Night with Stephen Colbert, I heard that in 1985, the Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum had zero female solo exhibitions while the Modern had just one. Thirty years later, in 2015, the Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum had one female solo exhibition each, while the Modern had two. The discrimination and misrepresentation of women in art, even after thirty years of such public work being done to improve it, is astounding. The persistence of Museums to not display the work of female artists as a solo exhibitionist is unbelievable, demonstrating clearly the perception of female artists and the views of those who choose artwork for exhibition which have stayed so unbelievable static over the past three decades. We can only hope that people open their eyes to the talent of female artists as well as men and begin to appreciate art in all its beautiful and diverse glory in the future.
The poster above is the most well known work by the Guerrilla Girls. To this day, they are rereleasing the poster with more up-to-date facts, shocking those who see the modern altered image that the facts still remain as they recognise it as an old piece of work. The Guerrilla Girls changed their poster more than usual in 2014, provoked by the release of highly controversial song “Blurred Lines”. The song included some very questionable lyrics, sang by the controversial character that is Robin Thicke and was accompanied by an even more highly controversial music video. After it’s release, the song was criticised massively in the media and by people everywhere for it’s lyrics with euphemisms of rape and a demeaning nature towards woman’s sexual choice. It was partnered with a video featuring three models, completely naked, dancing provocatively next to the men who sing in the song, fully dressed at all times. The Guerrilla Girls changed their poster as appropriate and released the following:
Noticing a fault in popular culture on a whole, the Conscience of Culture group asked why women were naked in music videos whilst 99% of the time, the men were fully clothed. The image of the left was taken from a still from the “Blurred Lines” music video. I believe very strongly that the Guerrilla Girls did good here. Instead of attacking Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams personally, the group noticed the overall imbalance in men and women’s place in music videos, (similar to their roles in art, funnily enough) and drew attention to the issue on a whole. I believe they made people think about the bigger picture and the issue with the music industry and media, and not just the issue with Robin Thicke and his lack of respect for women.