Anita Sarkeesian, “Tropes Vs. Women in Video Games,” 2013-
This is another good example of a problem which I didn’t know existed until I saw the response it received. In her series of videos, Tropes Vs. Women,” Anita Sarkeesian explains how video games, in general, have not done a good job of including women, giving them agency, and developing their characters, among other things.
Watching the first two videos, I was astonished by how much I had missed. It was always obvious to me, for example, that women were under-represented in video games, despite classic examples like Metroid (one of my favorite series). However, when she pointed out that for almost all of the Mario games, Peach wasn’t really a player…she was the ball, I was floored. What a brilliant way to summarize why that situation is problematic!
Sarkeesian is a phenomenally gifted speaker and wordsmith (and really knows the material), and it’s no wonder that her videos have attracted so much attention. Unfortunately, as Helen Lewis once said, “The comments on any article about feminism justify feminism.” Sarkeesian’s videos are the best example I’ve seen of this. Her videos are tactful, well-researched, and she clearly loves the games which she criticizes. As she puts it, “…it’s both possible, and even necessary, to simultaneously enjoy a piece of media while also being critical of its more problematic or pernicious aspects.”
I have never been more glad that I installed an internet comment blocker. I made the mistake of turning it off to see what people had to say about the videos after watching the first one. They were some of the most vile, vitriolic, hateful words I had ever read. I was frightened, but not surprised, that Sarkeesian was briefly forced to flee her home because of all of the threats sent toward her and her family.
She was recently scheduled to speak at Utah State University, but e-mailed terrorist threats shut down the event. Initially, the university and Sarkeesian were both going to proceed with the talk despite the threats, but when Sarkeesian learned that the university would not prohibit weapons from entering the building, she canceled the talk for everyone’s safety.
I sincerely hope that she is able to continue making these important videos and is able to remain safe while doing so. We need her.
James Luna, “Artifact Piece,” 1987
For many, Native American culture is something to be studied and understood, rather than experienced, shared, and lived. Some don’t even realize that Native American culture is alive, modern, and growing. James Luna set out to break down these stereotypes by startling museum-goers into rethinking their views on his culture.
For this piece, he set up a fake display in the San Diego Museum of Man, in the Kumeyaay Indian section, in which he laid down in a glass case with his belongings, surrounded by labels pointing out scars (which the labels attributed to probable alcoholism) and describing aspects of his life and culture. Viewers treated this like any other display…until they realized he was alive. This was the essence of his statement: his culture is alive, even if people don’t realize it.
Luna explained, “I had long looked at representation of our people in museums and they all dwelled in the past. They were one-sided. We were simply objects among bones, bones among objects, and then signed and sealed with a date. In that framework you really couldn’t talk about joy, intelligence, humor, or anything that I know makes up our people."
Andrew Fishman, “The Baptism” series, 2012
**Trigger warning: Sexual assault, blood, violence, death**
In general, every heroic story, from “Kill Bill” to “Lawrence of Arabia” has the same basic structure. The character begins the story as a person with an unhappy or stagnant life, a series of things happens to the character, and the character ends up in a better place for the struggle.
There is a crucial moment in nearly every one of these stories in which everything seems lost. This is the lowest point for the character, often referred to as the “nadir” of the story. The character symbolically dies and is reborn in this moment. Because water is often symbolically used to represent rebirth, water almost always accompanies this scene.
Some of the most common things to watch for: The character may:
- almost drown.
- shower or wash his/her face in the mirror.
- fall into a puddle.
- or walk through the rain.
Because of the obvious relationship to religious iconography, I called the ones that I collected “baptisms,” partially as a reference to Verrocchio’s “The Baptism of Christ.” I collected fifty screenshots of these scenes for my series. View them all here.
Andrew Fishman, “Self Portrait with Gas Mask”, 2012
**Possible trigger warning: Eating issues**
I have always gotten migraines. A lot of different things can trigger a migraine, and so it’s often hard to tell why I get a particular migraine. Patterns do start to quickly, however. So when I started painting more frequently in college, I started to notice that I was getting a migraine at the end of almost every day that I spent in the studio. I concluded that it must be the fumes from the chemicals that I was working with and exposed to (solvents in particular), despite the adequate ventilation in the room. In an attempt to curb these debilitating headaches, I started to wear a gas mask every day while painting. During that period of time, I painted this self-portrait.
I realized a few years later that the problem was probably much simpler. I was often so intensely focused on painting that I would go for up to six to eight hours without eating or drinking anything. I would have a granola bar or two for breakfast, go to the studio, and work until 5 or 6 pm without any additional food. It never occurred to me at the time because when I’m focused, I’m not hungry.
Bert Stern, “The Marilyn Monroe Trip,” 1968
Bert Stern is best known as the last person to photograph Marilyn Monroe in a studio before her death (often referred to as “The Last Sitting” series—two examples above). His photographs are iconic, playful, and rightly famous. However, the famous images most people are familiar with aren’t the finished product. Stern wasn’t content with the photographs he had taken, believing that they did not accurately communicate what it was like to be in the studio with Monroe.
Stern spent the next five years experimenting with ways to transform the photos into something he said would “communicate the dazzling image of Marilyn that existed in my mind’s eye at the time I photographed her.” The end result was a bold combination of serigraphy and Day-Glo ink. Two examples of this series are above.
“This piece was primarily a trust exercise, in which she told viewers she would not move for six hours no matter what they did to her. She placed 72 objects one could use in pleasing or destructive ways, ranging from flowers and a feather boa to a knife and a loaded pistol, on a table near her and invited the viewers to use them on her however they wanted.
Initially, Abramović said, viewers were peaceful and timid, but it escalated to violence quickly. “The experience I learned was that … if you leave decision to the public, you can be killed… I felt really violated: they cut my clothes, stuck rose thorns in my stomach, one person aimed the gun at my head, and another took it away. It created an aggressive atmosphere. After exactly 6 hours, as planned, I stood up and started walking toward the public. Everyone ran away, escaping an actual confrontation.”
This piece revealed something terrible about humanity, similar to what Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment or Stanley Milgram’s Obedience Experiment, both of which also proved how readily people will harm one another under unusual circumstances.”
This performance showed just how easy it is to dehumanize a person who doesn’t fight back, and is particularly powerful because it defies what we think we know about ourselves. I’m certain the no one reading this believes the people around him/her capable of doing such things to another human being, but this performance proves otherwise.”
this is why performance art is important
So every single person who told me ‘ignore them they’ll go away’ and ‘you can’t let them know they bothered you’ and ‘They’ll stop if they don’t see you react’ and all that bull shit, my entire school career, I want you to look good and hard at this.
I want you to think about what you said.
What you keep saying.
What you are telling your children.
You are making them powerless.
that last comment. actually crying.
is there a link to the actual study/experiment?
This is a really interesting performance piece and the results are absolutely worth talking about.
That said, I think it’s important that people reblogging this hear another perspective on Marina Abramovic and the exploitative practices she upholds toward performers she hires for her larger-scale works—ironically, expecting them to keep silent about being underpaid and potentially abused with no safeguards.
Michael Landy, “Break Down,” 2001
An extraordinary protest against consumer culture and capitalism. Michael Landy spent three years carefully cataloging every possession he owned, from cat toys to his car. He then brought all of the possessions to a closed department store, where he set up an assembly line. He and nine hired workers spent the next two weeks carefully dismantling and shredding all 7,227 possessions he owned. Even though about 45,000 people witnessed the performance, he did not charge admission, did not sell the resulting refuse, and never profited in any direct way from the piece.
Super Smash Bros.
A new one from my set of minimalist pop culture portraits.
I’ve decided to pare them all down from sixteen to nine per set. I’m thinking of reposting the previous ones too to show the updated versions. Should I?
It’s my five hundredth post on Tumblr! I just wanted to express how lucky I feel to be welcomed as a member on a website full of such caring, passionate, intelligent people. I’m glad that I chose this site to share my art and the art that I love with the world. Keep up the good work, Tumblr.
Art School Confidential (2006)