Can Art Ever Actually Make a Difference in the World: Analytical Essay

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Revolutions begin with a collective shift in public perception. “The 1960s was a decade of rapid change” (Watson, 2019). This period set out to re-establish the founding pillars and perspectives of contemporary society, which became the catalyst for social change. This shift in societal attitude inspired the women's liberation movement, which was a collective protest that embodied notions of equality, and which was most active during the late 1960s and 1970s. A pivotal artist responding to social inequalities at this time was Judy Chicago and her installation ‘The Dinner Party’ (1974). Chicago used art to challenge traditional views of women's domesticity, bringing to light the value of women’s narrative in history, in order to combat gender discrimination. In this essay, I will be looking at how art can be used to make a difference in the world by analyzing the collective group of feminist artists Guerrilla Girls, and how they challenge the absence of women in the global canon by embarking on a journey to overthrow male domination in historical and cultural documentation.

Guerrilla Girls harness the power of mass media by using wit and irony to point a critical finger at the double standards prevalent in the art world. By using facts as a technique to expose reality, it is an invitation to the viewer to understand the oppression that women have faced, allowing the viewers to discover the inaccuracies of the situation. Their work, ‘Do Women Have to Be Naked to Get into the Met. Museum?’ (1989) is an example of how they confront the lack of gender diversity in art galleries. The poster has achieved iconic status for its bold, eye-catching graphic design, which includes a reproduction of the female nude figure originally from Jean Ingres's painting ‘La Grande Odalisque’ (1814). “The machinery of perspective by incongruity and the comic frame, then, engenders a form of social criticism that seeks to correct the inadequacies of the present social order through demystification rather than revolution” (Burke, 1984). The poster questions the role of art and how it can be used to protest their exclusion from the institutional art world by expressing clearly the objectification of women's bodies and how they have become marginalized in society. This artwork was able to make a difference in the world by demanding equal female representation because of the authority of public scrutiny, which imposes pressure on organizations to actively change their attitudes towards sexism.

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Not only do they make a difference through the technique of advertisement internationally, but also members of the group disguise themselves as gorillas in public and take on the names of famous female artists to retain their anonymity. “Anonymity keeps attention focused on issues rather than individuals” (Demo, 2010). This confidentiality prevents public attention on specific individuals, but instead is a representation of a larger group, creating empowerment through a community. This concept of anonymity gives marginalized minorities a voice and serves as a catalyst for social change. By making the artwork both accessible and engaging for the general public, it disrupts the hierarchical social power and can begin to question how art can be used as a platform to expel prejudice and form a new dialogue about the feminine experience. However, by selling work to institutional galleries, are they just adhering to the corruption of the establishments they are critiquing? After consistently challenging forms of art galleries’ discrimination, is it hypocrisy to sell art as an instrument of capitalist investment? The ethos of the group, on the other hand, is not one of greed and corruption. Having their posters to be displayed in a gallery space is a clear positive step in the right direction, due to the approval of the art and thus the acceptance of changing how the institution will be operated by creating a space for female-centered representation. “Guerrilla Girls operate on a different economic paradigm of making small exchanges – books, posters, talks, workshops – with many individuals” (Bollen, 2012), which demonstrates that the main aim is to reach a wide general public audience, to diminish the patriarchal society.

In conclusion, Guerrilla Girls used unorthodox tactics that were instrumental in allowing the viewer to understand the oppression that women have faced by exploiting mass media and demystifying the factuality of the institutions. It demonstrated how important feminist art and ideologies are in terms of fighting for equality and having a voice. As the group gained more authority, they also gradually widened their focus, tackling issues of racial discrimination in the art world and also made more direct, politicized interventions. The importance of art in the context of making a difference in the world is that they have made a platform that allows them to express the opinions of marginalized groups, which previously would have been ignored, therefore catalyzing positive societal change.

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Can Art Ever Actually Make a Difference in the World: Analytical Essay. (2023, October 26). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 30, 2024, from
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