Shona Craven: Spreading Legs Artwork Had No Place In A Public Park

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WHEN I saw on social media that a pair of flared legs appeared at the gates of my local park, at first I was sure it must have been a mistake. Surely it couldn’t be my local park, I thought, because this park didn’t even have doors, is not it?

In all the years that I spent walking, running and lounging in this little park, I never paid attention to the doors because they are never closed. It is the last trace of the legendary Glasgow Garden Festival of 1988, and although it is no longer quite the hidden gem it used to be – the pond has dried up and the heron is gone – it is still enjoyed by the small number of residents who use it in the morning. , noon and night.

Last week, the gates were half closed: to better show the roughly rendered appendages attached to them. Even if my thorns hadn’t already been raised by the questionable nature of art, I would have been irritated to see this.

READ MORE: Art installation of a woman’s open legs removed from the gates of Glasgow Park

Public parks are for everyone which made it seem like access could be restricted or the park could be used for a special event. No explanatory information was provided on the artwork; not so much as a QR code to help explain that it was part of an intervention called “A Safari of All Kinds”. Perhaps it was just as well, given subsequent revelations about the artist’s intentions.

But the half-closing of the doors troubled me. I was struck by how easily a malicious person could close the other door behind him and push both locks through holes in the floor. Exit points count. They are especially important for women who use public parks.

These thoughts were particularly close to my mind because earlier this year a man appeared in court for raping an 18-year-old woman in the park. Surprisingly, it appeared that the artist behind the work was aware of this when she decided that a depiction of legs spread was suitable for this site-specific installation. Rakel McMahon says he has carried out “research in the field in particular with regard to the safety of women”.

Asked on Instagram about the thinking behind the art, she said she was aware that “this could be interpreted (sic) as sexist” but was meant to challenge assumptions. “Work is two legs in high heels, are they women? She wrote: “I think the work touches the discourse on blaming victims in sexual harassment and gives the park a feminine vibe that these green spaces need.”

Sorry, What?

Leaving aside the question of whether this piece adds to the “discourse” in any way, why the hell should a public park be given a “feminine vibe”? What is so un-feminine about the grass, the trees, the birds and the insects? Is the sky masculine? Are park benches? Gies peace.

Considering the almost endless array of contexts in which women experience sexual harassment, how about giving us a chance to avoid ‘touching the speech’ for a few minutes while taking a gentle walk, doing an invigorating jog or sitting on a bench with a book?

Men’s interests and concerns might currently drive the “feminism” of some misguided people, but I would venture to suggest that few members of the public in the park in Cessnock would have looked at a pair of legs spread wide, framing an elliptical hole. . in the ironwork of the door, and I thought “I really have to question my assumptions about gender.” Instead, many have rightly asked “why the hell was someone allowed to tie this rape art installation to the gates of a public park?” ”

The answer, it turns out, was that they weren’t. Glasgow City Council said it was unaware of the artistic “safari” and did not allow its park to host it. Shortly after local councilors were made aware of objections to McMahon’s article, it was withdrawn.

READ MORE: ‘We feel cheated’: Glasgow School of Art students launch legal action offer

Ltd Ink Corporation, the arts organization behind it, still features a photo of the installation on its Instagram account and has ignored comments asking questions about it. The group’s website notes that because it is privately funded, it can “take more risks” while promising to “engage with the public in a personal and intimate way.”

I wouldn’t question my own assumptions if I mentioned that at least four of the six people who run it have male names, but I have to say I don’t look forward to the next time they decide to take risks in engaging with me and my neighbors in an intimate way.

I expect them to make their own assumptions – for example, that anyone who opposes this particular work of art is a salutary-faced Philistine who does not deserve a response from the avant-garde guardians. , risky and male-dominated contemporary art.

But wouldn’t “the talk” win if this stooshie was used as a jumping off point for a conversation about sexual harassment and the public space? Or on artistic freedoms against the constraints of bureaucratic case-ticking? I would certainly be interested to hear it. The question is, do those who commissioned the piece have the balls to defend it publicly?


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