Michelle Kasprzak, Nina Czegledy, Sally McKay, Paola Poletto and Sheila Butler
October 1-3, 2004, Videomedeja Festival, Novi Sad, Serbia
September 14- 17, 2004, Lindart Cultural Centre, Tirana Albania
August 10– September 4, 2004, Dorottya Galeria, Budapest, Hungary
April 25 - May 24, 2003 Forest City Gallery, London, Ontario, Canada
The Girls and Guns Artists' Collective examines popular examples of the sensationalized power struggle between men and women and depictions of the women who fight back. The artists who form the collective all straddle the worlds of business and art by being both influential arts administrators and notable visual artists in their own right. As a collective, all of the artists use humor to critique and celebrate the dual role of the warrior woman. This prototype embodies the female sex-ideal suggested by fashion, at the same time. Taking the form of the heroine who is violent, carries a gun and reverses the traditional male-female roles. References include the stereotypical ways such women are depicted (e.g. Xena Warrior Princess, and Pamela Lee Anderson in the popular movie Barbed Wire), the positive elements of having strong female role models (such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who inspires legions of young women to be independent and tough), and the importance of multiple art practices. The collective has presented its work through a gallery exhibition at the Forest City Gallery, London, Ontario, April 2003.
The Collective is inspired by and was formed as a result of Kiss Machine's proposed sixth issue with the themes of "girls and guns." The magazine provides an independent women-run community based forum for writers forum for writers and artists who want to explore and create new work. The Girls and Guns Artist Collective was initiated in autumn of 2001. The artists invited into the collective were Sally McKay, who is best known for her role in co-editing Lola magazine, but who also creates public performance art that redefines the concept of the sexy heroine; Michelle Kasprzak, who curates for Year01.org, but is also an acclaimed new media artist creating work in a traditionally male medium; Sheila Butler, a professor at the University of Western Ontario, who co-founded the renowned printmaking program at Baker Lake, and MAWA (Mentoring Artists for Women's Art), and who consistently reinvents the traditional painting medium to address notions of violence and fantasy; and Nina Czegledy, internationally renown for her independent curatorial work, who is also a multi-media artist and Paola Poletto who, is interested in the dual roles of artist/administrator, and address issues of collective production to her artwork as well as her current role of co-curator of Digifest, a festival produced by the Design Exchange. Girls and Guns seeks to create a comprehensive and considered debate on issues surrounding popular concepts of women driven to violent positions, in which they become unlikely but powerful protectors of the forces of good. Their artistic policy is in line with Kiss Machine's strategy to support high-quality, innovative literature and art, while maintaining an accessible, community-based soul. It is a forum for a variety of art styles and disciplines that come together under the two themes.
By positioning girls who carry guns in a gallery context, the collective members share an interest in bringing into focus the personal struggles associated with wearing two "art hats." The intrinsic violence of the "girls and guns" theme is an invitation to turn that personal struggle inside out.
Description of artworks:
Some lobby groups contend that guns are simply a technology and that "guns don't kill people, people kill people." Certainly there are both positive and negative uses to virtually any technology, but historical context often reveals the impetus for technological inventions, which is never neutral. This historical context can be subverted, for example in the case of the popularization of the internet, which was invented by the US Military to ensure communication would continue even in a nuclear holocaust. Can the historically destructive and negative context of guns and ammunition be subverted? If so how can artists contribute to this process? My artistic practice often uses technological means to meet performative ends, and I will use this idea of a means to an end as a framework for addressing these issues.
Over the years I have often been exposed to guns. Not necessarily genuine firearms or employed by girls. Nevertheless, this meant to be engaged -sometimes as a frightened observer sometimes as an active participant- in bloody battles. Most of the time, combat took the form of unconventional warfare. The iconography of the examples included in this installation -whether they conform to market-driven capitalist or politically correct socialist ideology- reflect figments of masculine imagination. Yet in addition to standard practice the tools and methods of methods of frequently underground female dissent have often been and continue to be often highly unorthodox ranging from the subversive stitch of medieval embroideries to gunslinger tattoos in Stalinist camps or gunslingers on the Net..
My work in the Girls and Guns show reclaims and reconfigures Medusa, a flexible super-heroine, born long ago and recently revived as a power symbol in feminist art and theory. Fundamentally I am interested in Medusa's refusal to die.Following the 1986 publication of Helene Cixous's now famous essay "The Laugh of Medusa", the sneaku Medusa has lived beyond her decapitation in ancient myth to stage a theatrical comeback as an embodiment of woman's own power; returning in high art and pop culture sequels and spin-offs and re-runs. For men Medusa embodies an imperfectly realized desire to control women. And for women: Medusa represents a sense of their own power as women possibly hallucinatory, subversive, perhaps out of control. Contemporary artistic visions of Medusa encourage the growth of new possibilities where control and out-of-control are interactively negotiated in a way that enhances human strength in general, rather than pitting masculine strength against feminine subversion. Male viewers as well as female viewers may find this vision enticing.
I point and shoot the subjects with my camera. I am disarming the subjects by shooting the candid and specific moments and at the same time the subjects are disarming me.
Miss Mouse builds on her extensive Fight Club research into gender and violence to take on the topic of "Girls and Guns." This time she's got company, as community outreach activist Miss Teapot joins the fray. Together, the scantily clad duo pose for action packed trading cards employ sex and violence as a means of illustrating basic human powers.