Archives for posts with tag: Shopping

Continued from Post #1 (written by Dani Abulhawa)

Images of women’s breasts, presented in a sexualised context within mainstream newspapers and advertisements have, for decades presented women primarily as objects of masculine desire. The No More Page Three organization, whose campaign began in 2012 and is aimed at the biggest selling newspaper in the UK – The Sun’s – ‘Page 3’ feature, want to see an end to the outdated and irresponsible representation of women as passive sex objects.

Criticism of the No More Page Three campaign typically focuses on freedom of choice for consumers, and the freedom for women to display their bodies as they wish. But, that argument exists against a cultural backdrop in which women have reported in news articles and on social media sites that they have either been discouraged, prohibited or simply felt too uncomfortable breastfeeding in public because of the way it is perceived. As a response to this, the 2010 Equality Act specifically clarifies women’s lawful rights with regards to where and how they are entitled to breastfeed in public places. Freedom of bodily comportment then, isn’t always reasonably extended to women, unless it is within a sexual context.

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No More Page Three’s Hidden Women Trail, which was presented in shop windows across the city throughout Hazard also subverted the shop window as a space for consumer display, by offering shoppers an educational treasure-hunt of great Manchester women. Maps were provided with clues to find particular shops in the city centre. Each shop window on the trail featured a picture and information about an inspirational woman, including Louisa Da-Cocodia, a Levenshulme resident, former deputy Lord Lieutenant of Manchester and community campaigner and activist in Moss Side, and Annie Swynnerton from Hulme who co-founded the Manchester Society of Women Painters in 1876, amongst others.

The hand-out provided for the trail included a section on the back for people to write their responses to the trail and to put forward their own examples of inspirational women, thus serving as a way to reflect on the achievements of women and to generate awareness of the various ways that different women have shaped modern life in Manchester and beyond.

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Image credits: Hazard / No More Page Three

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Written by Dani Abulhawa

Nicola Canavan’s use of a shop window in St. Ann’s Square during Hazard offered a place in which to frame her activity, but also situated her intervention within the characteristic space of consumer display and façade. Her performance played with the tension between display and function, ornament and use, which is connected with public opinion on the visibility of female breasts in public places.

Canavan sat within the window expressing milk, her body motionless, dressed in red and her face adorned with flowers. In the opposite window a skull was positioned on a low table, along with a taxidermy butterfly in a frame and a decanter with two glasses. The image was reminiscent of a still life painting – a style typically associated with domestic scenes and the absence of people.

Used to seeing plastic, unrealistically proportioned, headless bodies dressed in shop windows, people who had stopped to watch the performance questioned whether Canavan was real or a mannequin. The female body presented here spoke the language of the shop window, but this image was not selling a particular outfit, but rather presenting an image of womanhood. The mechanical action of producing milk – the regular, repeated movement of Canavan’s nipple, sucked by machine – offered a distanced, consumerist notion of the nursing mother and absent child.

With her head covered with flowers, her body covered in a long dress, wearing shoes, and with the pump almost completely covering her breast, the only exposed part of Canavan’s body was her nipple. One woman remarked that it was a ‘good job her face [was] covered’, in a way that suggested this act was something to be embarrassed by, or ashamed of.

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The second half of the piece saw a reversal of the space, as Kris Canavan entered with their son, and Nicola Canavan removed her headdress. Nicola and Kris clinked their glasses together and drank a sherry glass each of breast milk, in an act of honouring the production of milk, and then Nicola Canavan sat back in her chair and continued to breastfeed their son for the remainder of the performance. The previous mechanical image of producing breast milk was replaced with the organic machinery of child latched onto nipple.

Without the headdress and with the presence of a child, reception of the piece changed considerably. It felt as though this image, of a mother feeding her son, was one that commanded respect. Many people stood and watched the piece at different times, some waiting for ‘something to happen’, but many in silent contemplation, in what appeared to me as a kind of vigil. Some people questioned the action of putting breastfeeding on display, but the piece certainly seemed to draw upon concerns around what kind of popular representations of womanhood and motherhood are deemed appropriate for public space.

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Image credits: Hazard / Nicola Canavan

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Written by Dani Abulhawa and Sarah Spanton

During Hazard, Ann’s Square felt strangely like a gallery space, a physically contained rectangle with seating and sculptural features laid out within the space. The festival was contained within this rectangle, with a few of the pieces bursting out of this frame and into side streets. Some walks roamed the space, some were static. But regardless of their mobility you could understand many of the works presented during the festival as both interrupting their urban street setting and being assimilated by it.

In Stephen Sheehan’s Challenging a Brick, his 3 minute action of screaming at a brick created an aural interruption of Market Street, but this space is one in which displays of spectacle are part of the fabric and people are used to watching eccentric street performances.

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Carboot Disco Bingo by Bingo Megg and Disco Jazz invited passers-by to participate in games of bingo using disco dance moves. Hannah Rohn and Signhild Wærsted’s Do Touch the Artwork gave over a small section of the square’s pavement to a mass of beans. People could step into the area in bare feet and experience the pleasurable sensation of the beans underfoot. Both works interrupted a typical Saturday afternoon of shopping activity, by presenting an opportunity for all to take part in experiential play, however this was often capitalized upon by passing families seeking free entertainment.

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Dental Portraiture (Know By Mouth) by Harald Smykla, saw the artist sculpting participating sitters’ faces in apples, with his teeth: as the day progressed these dried out and browned like mini shrunken heads. Leo Burtin’s Homemade: Le Bistroquet offered free food in exchange for a recipe, to be published as a collection in the near future. In terms of assimilation these works borrowed their formats from typical stalls and artists stands that appear in city centre square’s such as this: the artists drew people into their works before confounding their expectations.

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Image credits: 1. /2. Stephen Sheehan / Hazard, 3. Sarah Spanton / Hanna Rohn + Signhild Wærsted, 4./5. Harald Smykla / Hazard