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  • Writer's pictureChiara

Of Beds and Protests

I'm doing a lot of thinking about protest art. Where is the line between political art and protest art? This list of the 25 most influential works of American protest art since World War II gives me examples to think about, but also discusses the question of what constitutes protest art. Criteria such as impact, location, and reproducibility are discussed. In my thinking about hand-prints for protest the potential for multiple images from a single plate is certainly an important factor. As is the fist a a symbol of powerful defiance.

I wasn't familiar with Felix Gonzáles-Torres' 1991 Untitled (Billboard) before. 24 billboards of the artist and his partner Ross' bed to commemorate the day his lover died of AIDS and to challenge the issue in the public realm. The empty bed speaks of intimacy and loss. It is bigger than life size. It is silent and powerfully confrontational. It's repetition in multiple locations size place it in the realm of public protest, but a the same time it is personal and poignant.


Tracey Emin's 1998 My Bed on the other hand is singular and presented in the fine art-exhibition space. Its provocative power is unmistakable. It has been labeled as "confessional" rather than protest art. It confronts issues of mental health, alcohol abuse and sexuality. The emptiness of this bed results not from death, but from a moment of self awareness, which the artist seized upon to shift the evidence of her difficult personal experiences from the deeply private to the deliberately public realm of the gallery.


I am not deliberately referencing either of these works with my installation and yet the comparisons are relevant. Intimacy and vulnerability are key to my concept. But it making work about intimate, vulnerable personal, experiences I am shifting them from my protected private world into the world of ideas, critique, communication and potential misunderstanding or rejection.

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