Tag Archives: gender issues

10 Things about Yarn Bombing

+ The public loves yarn bombing.

+ Community festivals love yarn bombing.

+ Craft stores love yarn bombing and support it – Spotlight was promoting yarn bombing groups via Facebook in December 2011.

+ The media love yarn bombing. (Are you starting to worry now?) After years of hating the male dominated graffiti the media view of yarn bombing is completely different. Is it just a gender issue?

+ Yarn bombing reaches the parts that other street art can’t touch. An aerosol artist wants a big wall, a stencil artist or wheat-paster wants a bit of wall but yarn bombers aren’t competing for wall space.

+ Yarn bombing can be seen as a sculptural textile work, using readymade and already installed poles in the street as the support for fabric sculptures, like a street version of the knitted sculptures of Dorathea Tanning or Eva Hesse Hang Up, 1966. Or it can be seen as craft.

+ Anarchic women knitting anywhere they like – it is the end of the civilization as we know it?!? (This instantly brings to mind scenes from the French Revolution of women knitting at the guillotine.) Now that women my age are yarn bombing civilization as we know it is coming to an end.

+ What is connection between yarn bombing and bicycles? Bicycle racks are yarn bombers favourite targets. If you don’t believe me see the post by Art Hunter of SA and Vetti Lives in Northcote’s Yarn Bomb Bicycle. Or is it like Twilight Taggers wrote on Facebook: “Just another thing to cover.”

+ Land of Sunshine, Yarn Bombing Brunswick and Part Two.

+ There is no commercial potential in yarn bombing. When it is off the street it is just more craft knitting.


Rock Chicks @ The Arts Centre

Not a performance but an exhibition that spans a century of Australian female music performers. Although it spans a century, the first fifty years are over in an introduction and the story really starts in the 1960s with rock’n’roll.

The exhibition can be read as a history of Australian popular music with a focus on female performers. It is an exhibition of ephemeral fashion captured in countless band photographs and album sleaves; the length of hair or dresses along with the music style. There are mannequins displaying rock chic fashion; from the crocheted red dress that screams 1971 of Margaret RoadKnight to the Gallery Serpentine designed red tartan bodice and black tutu worn by Nitrocris’s Moragana Ancone.

It could also be read as documentation of sexual politics in Australian popular music. There is the politics of band structures from chanteuse, to girl bands, to rock chicks playing in mixed gender bands. What were the acceptable instruments for a woman to play – from Judith Durham’s tambourine to the grungy guitars of contemporary rock chicks? There is the representation of sexual politics in popular music and the politics of the gender image for a woman/girl performer. It is an exhibition that exposes the complexities of these gender issues rather than simplifying them. Chrissy Amphlett’s schoolgirl tunic and stockings are confusing enough without the promotional panties from Rebecca’s Empire.

I found myself interested in the fertility of rock’n’roll as a platform that allows the performers to contribute creatively to more than just the music and lyrics, for example the collaborative collages that Beaches make preparing for album covers. And that rock allows some performers to spring board into other creative work, e.g. Sara Graye from Nitocris now has a fashion label, 50ft Queenie. Obviously amateur creative work is also displayed like, Girl Monster’s decorated make up case and painted bass drum face. Or, Deborah Conway’s needlework which is good enough to make a stage costume; up close it looks a bit lumpy.

Some of the Rock Chicks posters

There is a lot to see in this exhibition however you want to read it. It is so packed with rock chick memorabilia that it continues with an exhibition of rock posters around the side of the Arts Centre.

There were just guys in the bands that I was in but my friend, Jamie Saxe, formerly of the Ergot Derivative, says that women make better drummers than men. So lets hear it for the rock chicks.


Gender & Street Art

Most street artists are male, in Melbourne and around the world. Unlike in other visual arts where the genders are more or less balanced the gender imbalance in street art is evident; there are a few women street artists. Boo asked why at the artist talk at the Melbourne Stencil Festival. Boo was the only woman on the panel.

Rhen Fray found the issue irrelevant: that he wouldn’t care if the gender balance were reversed, and that balance was irrelevant both equality and to the art. However the panel, including Fray, and the audience were keen to explore gender issues in stencil and street art. Boo was not complaining about inequality, repression or sexism in street art. Boo is planning to run some women’s only stencil workshops in an attempt to encourage more women to do stencil art (there are plenty of women doing the workshops at the Melbourne Stencil Festival).

It is very interesting area for discussion because it is not clear why there should be such a gender imbalance. Answers could elucidate gender differences in the way that men and women use the streets and alleyways, proclaim their identity and show off. Speaking of showing off, not one of the other artists on the panel was as well dressed as Boo with her peroxide blond hair and deconstructed style jacket. Fray’s clothes were grey and forgettable.

Perhaps the question should be why there are so many young male street artists? The arts in Australia are regarded as feminine in comparison to the masculine area of sport. Street art is an exception, as well as, the street artists there are a lot more men interested in street art. I know many middle aged men who photograph street art as a hobby and I see groups of young men who admire and discus street art.

What makes street artist particularly interesting to men? Street art combines aspects that appeal to a masculine image: exploration, daring, and large scale. Above all, street art is a public display of bravado, just like a lead guitar in a rock band (and nobody asks the question why there are so many young men aspiring to play lead guitar because the answer is so obvious and phallic). Is spraying aerosol paint a sublimation of the desire to spray on the walls like tomcats?

The nocturnal external urban environment where street art occurs, especially the laneways of Melbourne, is still largely the domain of men. The imbalance in ownership of the street is an issue for women’s groups like Reclaim the Night, as well as, the general public in having a safe peaceful environment. Street art is not a safe activity and young men and women have different strategies for personal security.

What are the young women doing instead of street art? Looking at the organizational side of the Melbourne Stencil Festival you see a different gender divide. The majority of volunteers running the Melbourne Stencil Festival are young women, including both the curators. And it is not just at the Melbourne Stencil Festival; We Make Stuff Good also has a large number of young women running the events.

Thanks for raising the question Boo and I hope that the discussion continues.


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