Posted: April 11, 2012
Amiris Brown is a student and artist at Appalachian State University who has taken a direct and passionate stance against rape culture. Through a series of art pieces and projects, Amiris hopes to bring visibility and concern to a culture that allows the lack of accountability in our communities to flourish. The Art of Dismantling is extremely excited to support Amiris and her projects and cannot stress enough the importance of addressing and combating cultural themes that reinforce the continuation of oppression.
To learn more about the project and to support it, please visit:
WE PAY CAMPAIGN
Greetings, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what it is that you do?
I am currently pursuing a BFA in Graphic Design as an undergraduate at Appalachian State University.
What is rape culture?
Power dynamics based on gender prior, during, and after rape occurs is defined as rape culture. When a society silences survivors and victims of sexual violence by disregarding the realities of rape to the point where myths are foolishly believed as common truth, yet preventative education continues to be denied or discouraged, that society then creates a cultural acceptance to rape people. When people are conditioned to not denounce nor stigmatize immoral acts of violence such as jokes about rape, victim-blaming, and even the act of rape itself, they perpetuate rape culture. Most of all, rape culture is a blatant lack of shared responsibility within communities that continue to treat rape as isolated incidents committed by deviant individuals, when it is actually a reinforced cultural phenomenon. Rape culture is the opposite of cultural accountability.
How can art and creativity play a part in combating and/or ending rape culture?
It is the current social realities that define how public works of art continue to be an invaluable asset within the struggle to end rape culture. Literally dismantling institutional, social, and internal silence by prying open what was once a confinement, art is an act of reclaiming space with a voice that cannot be ignored. Art is both intrinsically creative and divergent as an aesthetic language, endlessly permeating diffusive properties regardless of place and time. Being an aesthetic language, art can reach farther within people’s psyches and/or souls than logical or systematic language can. Art is an inescapable confrontation, where people must confront both themselves and their realities simultaneously. People then begin to formulate solutions to the problems faced, regardless of their reaction and/or interpretation of the art. So until society stops promoting false security through myths of safety, and start teaching NOT to rape by implementing community programs that educate people about sexual consent, the public must be moved to engage in internal and external dialog about the interconnected issues of rape.
Can you tell us about your project at App State?
Firstly, this is not a school assignment.
My inspiration to start an art series based on inciting discussion around the topic of rape culture came from attending the No Equal? No More! silent vigil demonstration. Consequently, my demonstration sign, “Silence is Violence: END Rape Culture!” became the first piece within this series. After attending the silent vigil demonstration I formally articulated my opinion in, “The Appalachian State University Rape Culture” blog post. I felt an informed articulation for myself was needed before committing to public discourse using the language of art. After all, I needed my artwork to engage unaware people to start becoming informed and talking about the issue, while getting people who were previously knowledgeable to continue and expand upon that conversation. That lead me to base my, “AppalachianState4Rape?” poster off of a quote found in a news article. That particular piece lead to backlash, mostly in the form of censorship that recently has evolved into social exclusion. So for my next piece, I consciously picked one of the Free Expression Tunnels on campus.
The idea was that censorship of the Free Expression Tunnel would involve more effort than a snap judgement carried out by a click of a mouse. My tunnel mural piece, “Stop and END” sought to challenge rape culture as a whole. Wrapped around the two tunnel walls was the phrase, “stop the silence” and “end rape culture”. I chose that statement because silence is a key factor that perpetuates rape culture. The reliance on silence even goes so far as to attack messengers with crude manipulative methods of institutionally enforced social exclusion, which to this day I would have never considered such groups to have been inclined to do. Such a reaction is an extension of victim-blaming, because it seeks to belittle legitimate concerns by casting an antagonistic veil upon the people voicing those concerns. These experiences have influenced my choice on the next piece in this series.
I would like to once again paint one of the Free Expression Tunnels, this time with an image of a female figure expressing that her existence is not an invitation to be raped. Just as I documented my first tunnel piece, I would like to document this as well. Which means I need to raise money for painting the tunnel, and for live streaming and editing of that and all other footage gathered during the creation of this series. Afterwards, I am looking forward to collaborating on a video anthology. The idea of the video anthology is to bridge the gender divide while spreading awareness about sexual assault on my campus, and maybe on other college campuses too. After that, I would like to design a marketable t-shirt to fund the last part of this series, which will be a zine. When all of the above is completed, I will have all the documentation compiled into a documentary.
Links to references I spoke about:
What other project do you have in the works?
Well I have been sitting on a similar art series regarding State rape, so eventually I would like to get it out of my sketchbook. I have my art projects that I am doing for school, mainly works of acrylic paint on canvas. I am currently working on a painting based off of a photo-collage I put together using my own photographs from the past. That assignment is due on April the 17th. I was recently informed about, “Art Takes Times Square”. In hopes of being chosen for that exhibit, I’m rushing to choose which artworks to submit. Additionally, I may soon be working on a website redesign for a local business here in Boone, North Carolina. Later, I hope to cover the upcoming NATO and/or G8 summit protest events live through my UStream, but that remains undetermined at this time. This past week I found an illustration contest while searching the web for college grants. So sometime between now but before the end of June, I will be working on a series of futuristic illustrations for that contest. Over the summer I need to work on getting my start-up business funded, so I can actually start it. Also during summer, I will have the daunting task of completing pieces for my art portfolio, in addition to choosing artwork from the last two years to include within that portfolio. Other than that, I will continue to work on this art series about rape culture at Appalachian State University, along with whatever additional inspiration and opportunities come my way.
How can artisans better collaborate with other forms of activists to unify their efforts?
Working on this particular series, I set out to do research first. That research lead me to seeking out opinions of feminist activists. It wasn’t very difficult for me to do, considering I have been an activist in the past and continue to identify as a feminist myself. If I wasn’t familiar with either, I think my advice would be to seek out local, regional, and national organizations related to the activism you think your art may contribute to. What I have done in the past and continue to do, is talk about my ideas and work to family, friends, and the community. I lump activists into the community category I just stated. I would suggest communicating what you plan to do or are doing, and keep talking about it. By spreading the message you build support for yourself and the cause your art focuses on, which subsequently aids activist work too. In fact I wouldn’t even be giving this interview had it not been for a friend who saw my Facebook post and put me in contact with, “The Art of Dismantling.” Realizing that art can be employed as both an awareness generator, and as an educational tool should alone unite activists and artisans in pursuit of social change. You might even get extra hands to help you out in creating the art, which is a very literal way of bringing the two together.