The Women’s Forum Street Art Project is art as an instrument of emancipation. Despite the rising popularity of street art, female street artists today enjoy far less recognition than do their male counterparts. Launched in 2014 by the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society, the Women’s Forum Street Art Project (WFSAP) seeks to support women street artists and increase awareness of their work.
Taking the urban space
These street artists, taking part for the second year in the Women's Forum Street Art Project, are women who inspire. We might see them (if we see them at all) from afar, at night, with a pot of glue and a roll of posters or a spray can in their hand. They brave the dangers of the city (it’s part of the job) and, in doing so, they point up the danger that’s an every-day part of being a woman in many of the world’s cities. Street artists, by definition, challenge the norm, reverse the establish order, drown stereotypes in litres of acrylic. “I like to bury the usual ideas and cover up the tracks,” says Kashink.
By painting the city they make it theirs. They transcend symbolism and literally mark their territory, making it safe for their sisters. They occupy artistic territory similar to Shamsia and Malina in Afghanistan, Zahra in Kuwait, Александра in Russia, and Milu in Argentina. “To paint outside is to be at the heart of something volatile and sort of mysterious, with people constantly coming and going,” Kashink adds.
Even if we leave aside for a moment the architectural context of the city, the political agenda, the public policy debates and the economy, it’s difficult to ignore the fact that the urban environment has been developed with men in mind.
Marking the urban space
Women street artists ask questions that need answers: is our metropolis androcentric? Are women subject to discrimination because of it? And what about the distribution of daily activities in the urban space? And the impact of the urban space on our ability to manage our free time and work hours (more info here and here)? But also, how does the city environment affect our safety, considering it is “inextricably linked to freedom, equality, to access to common space”? “The urban space needs this revolution,” says Jacqueline Franjou, CEO of the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society. “The Women’s Forum is planning to feature debates on this topic at our annual Global Meeting in Deauville, France, 15-17 October 2015. Architects, artists, but also sociologists, politicians and business leaders will be able to propose innovative solutions for rethinking the built environment.”
Street Art: Effective tool for women’s empowerment?
Can art be a tool for emancipation? At the Women’s Forum, we’d like to think it can – starting with a spray can in the hands of women street artists: “I like the idea of working with my hands, tracing an outline.That’s what tagging is all about: covering every available surface[…], dispersion. In the street, you feel like you want to paint everything, to make the spaces your own,” Kashink says. Without seeking to replace discrimination with more of the same, it’s important to note that, despite the rising popularity of street art, female street artists still enjoy far less recognition than do their male counterparts. And that’s why the Women’s Forum Street Art Project (WFSAP), launched in 2014 by the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society, seeks to support women street artists and increase awareness of their work. As Kashink says: “Women today are under-represented throughout the art world. It has been like that for a long time. […] I have a lot of affection for men, and a lot of compassion for people in general. […] It’s not necessarily easier to be a male street artist! Everyone has a cross to bear, but I find it interesting to question how we represent ourselves. I’m happy to be a women doing this kind of work, I don’t feel like I have to fight in any particular way, because I’ve never really expected anyone’s approval.”
An absence of machismo?
When you talk with street artists, both women and men tend to eschew machismo. The men tend to admire and respect work by their female counterparts, and the reverse is also true. Mr. OneTeas, street artist and spokesperson for the Wack Donald’s Project, explains: “MadC, for example, produced some incredible work with her 500 Wall. Technically she could teach us all a thing or two, women and men both. As this is still a fairly new artistic discipline, the usual codes and stereotypes aren’t always a given.” As it turns out, to decry street art as a macho stronghold is to miss the point. First, because women tend to lack recognition for their work in all fields of art and culture, and women are probably no less present in street art than they are in other forms of visual art. And second, because street art by definition seeks to be free of all convention, all social strictures. In fact street art undoubtedly encompasses a population of practitioners that is more diverse than it would be for, say, computer animation. So it would be wrong to blame the art form itself, even though today no more than an estimated 20 percent of street artists are women…
SAVE THE DATE: She Rocks the Streets from Paris to Berlin!
So now you know what’s happening. Join us in the streets and support KASHINK for the live event 17 March 2015 in Paris’s 13th arrondissement (map below). The performance by MadC the same day in Berlin will be available on the Women’s Forum website beginning 23 March.
FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL MEDIA VIA #SheRockstheStreets
They talk about us: