When the women behind Guerrilla Girls attended a 1984 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, they didn't anticipate the event would propel them to ignite a feminist grassroots campaign sending them to universities and museums the world over.
Nor did they anticipate they would be addressing these international audiences wearing gorilla suits.
In conjunction with the Women's Coordinating Council, a division of the Central Programming Council, Guerrilla Girls will take the UC Auditorium stage tonight at 7 p.m. to expose sexism and racism in art while donned in their self-dubbed "jungle drag."
The coalition realized the need for discussions of this nature after the aforementioned MoMA exhibit, entitled "An International Survey of Painting and Sculpture," cemented the prevalence of discrimination in elite artistic circles.
"It was supposed to be an up-to-the-minute summary of the most significant contemporary art in the world," Guerrilla Girl Kathe Kollwitz said in an interview on the organization's website (LINK: http://www.guerrillagirls.com/interview/index.shtml). "Out of 169 artists, only 13 were women. All the artists were white, either from Europe or the U.S."
As if that wasn't "bad enough," Kollwitz reported that the museum's male curator said any artist who wasn't in the show should rethink "his" career.
"That really annoyed a lot of artists because obviously the guy was completely prejudiced," said Kollwitz, who, like the rest of the coalition, adopted a famous female artist's name as pseudonym.
Determined to expose the patriarchy and racist overtones of the art world, the group of female artists banded together to form Guerrilla Girls and have been actively touring ever since. Notorious for their audacious and creative presentations on serious social injustices, the Guerrilla Girls aren't afraid to use humor to drive their points home, as evidenced by the gorilla suits.
Khadesia Howell, sophomore in Hispanic Studies and Take Back the Night co-Chair of the WCC, advises audience members to "anticipate the unexpected."
"This event is so important for tackling the strength and nerve of women," Howell said. "Gorillas are usually dominant, male animals. When we think about a gorilla, it's an angry male, like King Kong. But women are just as feisty.
"We can't always be a dove or a cat, you know?"
Beyond traveling to voice these issues on a worldwide scale, the Guerrilla Girls have also collaboratively published several books, including "The Guerrilla Girls' Bedside Companion to the History of Western Art," "Bitches, Bimbos and Ballbreakers: The Guerrilla Girls' Guide to Female Stereotypes," and "The Guerrilla Girls' Hysterical Herstory of Hysteria and How it Was Cured."
In their performance event tonight, the self-described "feminist masked avengers" will raise provocative questions to the audience with topics such as "Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?" This is in reference to the 85 percent of females depicted as nude in the Modern Art section, a quota in stark contrast with the only 5 percent representation of female artists in the same section.
"What other opportunities are there on campus for one to see someone creatively address an issue so important to gender role dynamics and social norm expectations?" Howell said. "I'm pretty sure that through at least one of these Guerrilla Girls, you will see the guerrilla girl in yourself, your girlfriend, mother, or sister that you can respect and be proud of."