Go inside the worlds of art, fashion, design, and lifestyle.
Tonight, the Bruce High Quality Foundation (BHQF) is hosting a fundraising event at Julian Schnabel’s abode that will feature a live auction with works by artists including Cindy Sherman and Kiki Smith. The evening will also present the artist activist group Guerrilla Girls BroadBand with the first-ever honorary doctorate degree from BHQFU, the organization’s free art school and community space. Whitewall caught up with the GGBBs about activism, the Internet, and their infamous gorilla masks.
WW: The Guerrilla Girls was founded after an exhibition in 1985 at MoMA that was severely lacking in diversity, particularly in terms of gender and race. Do you feel that these issues have improved at all since you began?
GUERILLA GIRLS BROADBAND: Race remains a persistent problem in the art world. To counter the racial discrimination that is a fact of life in art training, exhibition and sales, Guerrilla Girls BroadBand has adopted a constitution, which calls for racial parity among its members. This will not change the world anytime soon, but it does give our members a level of comfort in mutual respect.
WW: Much in the same way that the MoMA exhibition enraged the initial Guerrilla Girls, Guerrilla Girls BroadBand decided to tackle feminism and fashion very early on because of an article in New York Times Magazine. How has that battle in particular manifested for you?
GGBB: In 2001, the GGBBs worked hard on developing a fashion project in collaboration with FIT. But we wanted to discuss the issue of labor, asking professors to foreground where clothes were made and how much workers were being paid; and basically the people we were working with declined. This project never got off the ground; however, we did develop post 9/11 fashions. The Guerrilla Girls reclaimed the term, “girl,” and recognized they could use humor to set themselves apart from the feminist strategies of the 1970s.
WW: Part of your activism involves wearing gorilla masks and assuming the identities of dead female artists. Why do you think this replacement of identity is important? Is this an attempt to bring attention to women who were largely overlooked during their own lives? Is it a measure of safety?
GGBB: Early on, the Guerrilla Girls started wearing gorilla masks to maintain their anonymity; and to focus on the issues at hand rather than the personalities of the individuals involved. We took the names of dead women artists to call attention to artists whose work had been overlooked or forgotten by history…plus The New York Times was more likely to pick up the phone!
WW: When you began Guerilla Girls, your activism was fairly grassroots, and involved pasting posters all around the city. How has the immergence of the internet changed your activism? Was this new platform part of the impetus for founding Guerilla Girls BroadBand when the original manifestation began to separate?
GGBB: The art world has changed a lot during the last 30 years. In 1985, 420 West Broadway was the center of the art scene, so we put up posters in Soho, watching out for security guards who would chase us away. The Internet is a wonderful street that extends to all parts of the world. When the Guerrilla Girls formed three wings to accommodate our internal debate about how wide to cast our net, the Internet was there!
WW: You have an upcoming exhibition, “#ProvokeProtestPrevail” set to debut at BHQFUG on May Day, can you talk a bit about the show and what it will include?
GGBB: “#ProvokeProtestPrevail” will survey the work of the Guerrilla Girls from the inception of the group in 1985, through the early work of Guerrilla Girls BroadBand up to the present moment, tackling social justice issues like discrimination in the wired workplace; recruitment of youths for war; abortion access; and rape. Our 2004 poster, THE ADVANTAGES OF ANOTHER BUSH PRESIDENCY, is suddenly relevant again!