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Participatory Art: Suzanne Lacy

In this video, learn about artist Suzanne Lacy and how she creates public actions and live community participatory performances.
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<v ->Suzanne Lacy is an artist who frequently works</v> collaboratively with other artists and select communities in the creation of participatory actions, installations, performances, and exhibitions. Like the Guerilla Girls, her work is highly visible, public facing, and similarly intentional in its site specificity toward effecting awareness and change, challenging viewers to confront and rethink policies, laws, belief systems, and stereotyping that perpetuate gender and race discrimination. In her creative process, Lacy often works with local community participants, both artists and non-artists to recognize and amplify their voices.
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Suzanne Lacy and Leslie Lebowitz, “In Mourning and In Rage,” 1977, live performance at city hall, Los Angeles, California. “In Mourning and In Rage” is an early work of Lacy’s in collaboration with Leslie Lebowitz. Performed on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall, it addresses violence against women and the sensationalized tenor of news reports. Participants from the Women’s Building, the Rape Hotline Alliance and the Los Angeles City Council joined with the feminist community and families of female murder victims in creating a public ritual of rage as well as grief. Lacy and Lebowitz use the form of costume and spoken word amplified by microphone to present a counter narrative to sensationalized news stories of those murders.
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Each standing mourner recited a different form of violence against women. After each performer spoke, 60 participants surrounding the city hall steps responded as a chorus, “In memory of our sisters, we fight back!” Creating in a pre-internet pre-social media era, Lacy and Lebowitz strategically invited news media so that the performers voices would be heard far beyond the steps. The event was in fact widely broadcast on news media. Following an unprecedented election in 2010 of six women to the Anyang City Council, Anyang, Korea, Suzanne Lacy connected with local activists and women politicians there to develop and produce Anyang Women’s Agenda. The collaborators invited women of diverse backgrounds to publicly engage in discussions on the intersection between gender and socio-political reality in Korea.
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Lacy staged 15 discussion groups at unlikely places, such as this busy shopping district in Anyang, giving visibility to the women at intersections of daily life. The circular sitting formations put no one person at the center or head, in contrast to the hierarchical structures of patriarchy that value dominant voices and single leaders. The project culminated in a photographic installation of the discussion groups, pictured here at a central city park, and also a 90-woman action at Anyang City Hall, including a soundscape of individual voices created by Raul Vega. The women’s performative convening at the city hall was a subversion of the usual absence of women in Korean politics.
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Their vocal soundscape became a roadmap for a four-year women’s agenda, which they presented to the mayor and the city council.

Suzanne Lacy creates public actions and live community participatory performance that call out political and legal systems for overlooking and obstructing women’s health, safety and voices.

She’s an artist who frequently works collaboratively with other artists and select communities in the creation of participatory actions, installations, performances and exhibitions.

To learn more, view her website, her performance installation In Mourning and in Rage 1977 performed at City Hall, Los Angeles, CA, or her public performance, sound recordings, and photographic installation Anyang Women’s Agenda 2010.

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Visualizing Women's Work: Using Art Media for Social Justice

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