Arts Action Research

Arts Action Research

My research question for my MA Inclusive Arts was one which took me onto a completely new creative path, and resulted in an experience which underpinned the idea of street art as an inclusive and open practice. There’s a lot of info on this page, and that is because I’ve included my public text. The response you see here was born from issues about motherhood and achieving in your profession, particularly if you are an artist. Tracey Emin’s interview upon which I created a response to the questions she raises, (when she said that there are good artists that have children, they are called men,) is HERE.

Inclusive Street Art

“In what ways can feminism be explored through street art?”

In order to answer my research question I was intrigued to know what the public wanted to see more or less of in the general media portrayal and representation of women. If I was going to create art in a public space I needed to orientate myself about what people really thought about the way we see women. As a result of my questionnaire I gained insight into the public opinion about wider gender issues too and also learned that the public is still tired of seeing the “submissive female.” This theme of objectification still pervades despite the fact the public haven’t wanted to see this for five decades.  This resonated with me, I wanted to produce an intervention which not only got a message across but that also attempted to highlight how deeply our views are entrenched about gender roles. I then analysed this data to pick out the most frequently used words, themes and interesting ideas. By far the most frequently used word was powerful. I also consulted and interviewed many street artists and craftivists over this period to get their input including poems, painting collaborations and exchange of ideas. Seeking handy tips for best practice before I began to paint in the street setting from artists, was an important part of my research process.

By analysing and thinking about respondent’s feedback to my survey and artist’s thoughts surrounding the issues of how we represent women, I created and channelled some art responses of my own including “Gendercard.” This is an intervention concept to ask questions to the general public in the street setting; juxtaposing trivia with current affairs or other facts. Gendercard is a humorous, slightly retro interpretation designed to reproduce like an advert in large scale at sites where there are high amounts of graffiti & tagging. These environments and unregulated creative “free spaces” have a predominantly masculine feel, yet have a high footfall where there are all types of people accessing the area.  Despite these spaces being so open to all, most of the people making their mark on these walls are male.  I wanted to add a female voice into this mix that would work collaboratively with the existing artwork and I explored mixed media approaches in this environment to make the art intervention visually impactful. Passers by were all happy to see us working collaboratively in the space and without exception thanked us for undertaking a face-lift in a generally oppressive environment. The scope for Gendercard expanding and reinventing itself in response to current events is vast in its application potential.

Gendercard concept by S.o.S 2014 is a collection of artworks intended to be executed in spaces which have high footfall therefore high intervention potential. I do not seek to obliterate existing tagging, writing and name marking- rather I seek to work alongside what exists already and incorporate it into my overall design.
Intervention 1
Tracy Emin says that, “there are famous artists out there who have children- They are called MEN.”
My response is to open up the debate surrounding the dichotomy between motherhood and achieving, using the question of an “artists” career – which could be replaced with any given career. Women complain about the glass ceiling, so is this to do with “holding the baby”? Are men better artists really? Or is it the result of the controls of patriarchy?

Defining Feminism

Although feminism and street art together seem to be unlikely bedfellows, both are ever changing and in constant movement. There’s a history of female artists who have experimented with this medium including Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer and Melanie Manchot, who have used billboards and the street for maximum impact. It’s interesting to note how perceived opposing forces such as street art and feminism can still compliment the other despite their differences. The inclusive qualities of the art medium which is immediate and effective, the space and the message street art can convey make it an effective communicator. In order to include and invite men into a meaningful dialogue about female inequality it’s important to find the right method, tone of voice and space to achieve this. Street art is a very powerful method to engage with young people, but especially young men who may not have otherwise engaged with gender issues. “…in order for feminism to be useful in the future we have to keep thinking about how it is viable and engaging for a broad swathe of humanity rather than just seeing it as a historical moment, though it certainly grows from a very historical moment.” * Catherine Morris, Sackler family curator for the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Brooklyn Museum, New York
*Inclusive Arts Practice and Research: a critical manifesto by Alice Fox and Hannah Macpherson Page 21, Chapter 4

It is clear to me that including men into the process of redefining gender equality is an essential part of the mission. Things are beginning to change and there is an increase in women who have been forming their own groups in order to paint with their female friends and, children. The outcome of women artists taking to the streets with their children will play out in 20 years according to Professor Jessica Pabon, who is a specialist in women’s graffiti sub culture. In her TED x talk about this subject, she points out, “…right now we have a generation of women who are teaching their children to paint graffiti, so in effect we have a bunch of kids learning about graffiti sub culture by their mums and her girlfriends. “That’s a fundamental cultural shift, and one that will play itself out in 20 years “ She goes on to say…”their actions have broader cultural implications, their public subversive artistic acts provide a model for contemporary feminist movement. I truly believe that they are part of the movement and I want to thank them for that. So thank you all of you fearless women …and on behalf of all the women and girls who have been told that they shouldn’t or couldn’t do something simply because they were women.”*

Professor Jessica Pabon
My research project has helped me to underpin my practice and understanding of feminism which manifests through the creation of images and text in response to current issues which I feel need highlighting. Attempting to pin down a verbal definition of feminism as quoted by someone in an ever changing world which we are shaping feels almost impossible. Aiming for the inclusion of everyone in my process is the approach which was fostered throughout the project, to mirror the point that feminism is an inclusive movement. The way I measure the success of an artistic intervention in the street is how many individuals are able to engage with my art which carries a message of equality for both men and women.
Here are some shots from my MA final Exhibition at The University of Brighton

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.