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xyx28: encrypted feminist magazine

Installation at CSM on Charing Cross Road, London. Magazine promotion and computer with on-line version. 2007

Xyx28: the encrypted feminist magazine is an encrypted feminist magazine and accompanying promotional material. The magazine contains real articles, poems and art projects sent by women who replied to a call on the internet. The encryption, however, makes them unintelligible and serves as a metaphor for the historical invisibility of women and of the barrier of prejudice that surrounds feminism.

Encrypted information for xyx28 in the exhibition catalogue
Encrypted information for xyx28 in the exhibition catalogue

Xyx28 is the anti-promotion of an anti-magazine. The format (posters, flyers, business cards and forms) is familiar and quotidian, but as it can’t be read the purpose becomes absurd. The absurd is often used as a political weapon because it disrupts normality.

Xyx28 was my final MA project at Central Saint Martins in London. It has three parts, two exhibitions in 2007 as part of the MA and a second version on the internet in 2009 with all the contributions included.

As I kept getting content for the magazine after finishing the initial project, I decided to create a complete version that I put on the internet. This version is not totally opaque. The content without encryption can be accessed by clicking on the feminist key symbol. I wanted the content to be accessible somehow, partly because of optimism and partly because of political accuracy. Alternative versions to the official can be found if they are looked for, perhaps someone keeps a copy of a censored work or new methods are developed to understand the past. If one goes beyond the appearances, stereotypes are transcended. It was also acknowledgement to the people that sent the content.

Go to the magazine

Some pages of the final version of the encrypted feminist magazine
Some pages of the final version of the encrypted feminist magazine

To be or not to be a feminist?

Trying out different background colours and poster positions for the room with the xyx28 art installation
Trying out different background colours and poster positions for the room with the xyx28 art installation

In 2006 I went to a talk by the Guerrilla Girls at the Tate Modern in London that impressed me. They talked, amongst other things, about how women avoid the subject of feminism for fear of rejection. They did it with humour, intelligence and pride. I felt identified and ashamed. After all that time exploring the manipulation of information, propaganda and stereotypes I still fell, like many other women, into the trap of being discrete about such an important subject. For whose benefit? Clearly not mine or other women’s.

Thus feminism emerged as the obvious continuation of my research. There is such a huge amount of propaganda, manipulation and stereotyping surrounding the fight for the liberation of women, surrounding the women that we ought to thank for many of our contemporary freedom and surrounding the real historical importance of women, that it is overwhelming. Many of my ideals of freedom and justice converge in feminism. It only takes a bit of looking to see the amount of lies that clog public opinion on feminism and on the people that defend it.

Feminism generates controversy because it questions the status quo. A classic propaganda technique to get rid of uncomfortable movements is to use mass media to create negative associations in the heads of people so that they end up rejecting the movement in question and its proposals of change. The logic works as follows: you have the idea, even though you don’t quite know where it comes from, that feminists hate men, or are bitter, or whatever. You don’t hate men and you are not bitter, and you don’t want to associate with bitter people that hate men. Therefore you stay away from feminism and you don’t declare yourself feminist. Simple. Who wins? Not you. The people that win are the ones that don’t want society to change, amongst whom there are men as well as women.

And feminist men, of which there are many, don’t even exist in the stereotypes. Censorship is another very effective technique to eliminate the uncomfortable. If it is not talked about, it doesn’t exist.

Examples of promotional material: press release, subscription form and poster.
Examples of promotional material: press release, subscription form and poster.

Acknowledgments

To Jane B. Stevenson, Regius Chair of Humanity at the University of Aberdeen, for sending me fragments from her book Women Latin Poets: Language, Gender and Authority from Antiquity to the Eighteenth Century.

To the Guerrilla Girls for allowing me to use the first chapter of their book Bitches, Bimbos and Ballbreakers: The Guerrilla Girls’ Illustrated Guide to Female Stereotypes.

To Nina Hoetchl, artist, for sending me her piece Two-thirds.

To Zellieh for her poem Ode to Victorine.

To Deepa Craig, artist, for letting me use a picture of her piece Husband and wife (Kali and Shiva) and sending me a text to go with it.

To Joyful Noise for her poem I am not your way out.

To Sharon Kivland, artist, for her text On irony.

To Éva Forrai for her poems The bitch and the go-go queen, Life models live close by and In the go-go cage.

Texts

In 2009 I was asked to write a couple of texts on feminism.

The first one, from the point of view of the funding of feminist art, for Switch Metaphors as part of the European Feminist Forum. It was called The future of art is feminist.

The second one was for the book Reclaiming the F-word. The New Feminist Movement by Catherine Redfern and Kristin Aune. It was called Propaganda against feminism, of which the first paragraph was included in the book.

Art exhibitions

xyx28: encrypted feminist magazine was initially my final project for the MA in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins. The first stage of the promotion of the magazine, with encrypted subscription forms, was shown at our interim show ‘11,472’. The second part, with the printed and on-line version of the magazine, was show as an art installation at the final MA degree show.

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