Not all art is political, but all politics are aesthetic. At their heart, political ideologies, systems, and constitutions are aesthetic systems: multimedia artistic environments. The image is at the heart of the political. Struggle has become an endless process of images battling, reversing, erasing, and replacing other images…Political struggle, then, is an inherently visually productive process. It is also visual to a large degree: It is struggle over presence, over visibility.
Through protest, humble flowers become potent symbols. In Bucharest, Romania, in October 2011, women took carnations in their mouths as they gathered for the country’s first-ever Slut Walk to oppose long-held anti-woman beliefs that placed blame on the victims of sexual aggressions.
LADY IN RED
In women’s rights demonstrations in Chile in 2018, activists used facepaint to visually express their experiences of rape, abuse, and intimidation.
Protestors in Cork, Ireland, in November 2018 demanded the reform of rape trials, in which lingerie is often used as evidence to falsely characterize a victim’s sexual consent. They took to the streets in just their undergarments.
ALL TOGETHER NOW
Solidarity need not be unsubtle. Symbols such as red flowers have united the likeminded within several movements, from anti-Vietnam War demonstrations to Pro-Choice rallies.
Shared aesthetic choices—in clothing, makeup, hair, or styling—create searing images and communicate the power and the promise (and, of course, the threat) of unification.
Women’s rights activists seize on classic (read: antiquated) markers of femininity, like the red-painted pout, and wipe them away in a long, sweeping, messy gesture. What’s left is a look that does not seek admiration.
In Brussels, Belgium, in 1996, hundreds of thousands gathered to protest suspected police bias and to demand greater child protections after the serial killer Marc Dutroux was arrested. The activists carried simple props like balloons, all in white, as a symbol of cleansing and hope.
TIES THAT BIND
Many of today’s world leaders are walking into the future blindfolded. In 2018, protestors challenging the election of Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro conjured such a potent image, underscoring their new leader’s lack of vision on (and abject opposition to) human rights and the climate crisis.
Employing nudity and body paint, FEMEN, the Ukrainian radical feminist activist group, holds a grasp on wild visuals and theatrics like few others do. Also residing within their arsenal: smudged makeup, pink high heels, bare buttocks, skimpy lingerie—all used to condemn sex tourism, homophobia, and a host of other societal plagues.
PHOTOGRAPHER ROE ETHRIDGE
FASHION CARINE ROITFELD
HAIR AKKI SHIRAKAWA
MAKEUP ERIN PARSONS
MANICURE ELINA OGAWA
CASTING EVELIEN JOOS
PRODUCTION SASHA BAR-TUR FOR CR STUDIO
SET DESIGN JESSE KAUFMANN
LOCATION SMASHBOX STUDIOS
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createdAt:Mon, 02 Mar 2020 17:09:10 +0000
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