fighting patriarchal bullshit and capitalist misogyny in the art world
Samantha Conlon of the all-girl Bunny Collective shares her thoughts on art, gender and the internet.
Samantha Conlon has always had an interest in art. As a child, her parents would often enter her into competitions, while she spent her teenage years doing what all young girls do; taking pictures of her best female friends. Inspired by Nan Goldin and Cindy Sherman, Samantha honed her skills with a BA in fine art, and in 2013, she set up The Bunny Collective, an all girl art collective dedicated to showcasing and supporting work by likeminded women, bringing them together from all over the world for exhibitions both online and IRL. With allusions to all things soft, sweet and girly, the name "Bunny" playfully refers to the group's main objective: the emancipation of girlhood from notions of weakness, and the projection of femininity as a strength. Aside from the collective, Samantha's own work challenges the notion of internalised misogyny and capitalist marketing that all girls fall prey to. With references to pop cultural icons such as Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears, her short films, The Young Girl Blames Herself, and her photographic series' The Young-Girl Declares War and I Pledge allegiance to the Young-Girl, highlight the effects of patriarchal ideology on young girls in a refreshing and nuanced way. We caught up with her to talk gender, art, and the internet.
What is it you're trying to do with your work?
I am always trying to show the natural side of being a girl, to try and show that these facets of girlhood don't have to be seen as weakness, that we don't have to be strong to be strong, that there is more to girlhood than typical depictions of femininity.
What's the story behind the Bunny Collective?
It's very simple - to enable all people identifying as women to have a platform to showcase their work and collaborate with others. The internet provides a way of giving your message straight to an audience who want it. A lot of people won't like what we do or what we stand for, but we are here for people who do.
What would you say to those who don't take internet art seriously?
I really don't feel like internet art needs to be justified, there are plenty of people who take it seriously, people who are giving out grants like Rhizome and people who are actually buying the work. Those who think it's some sort of fad are maybe just opposed to the idea of visual art language changing by the introduction of seemingly 'low' materials that are being made by people from the comfort of their bedrooms, it shows an entirely new way of working for artists that people maybe aren't comfortable with yet.
Why is it important to have female only art spaces?
To me it all comes back to representation, if there's a 13-year-old sitting on her computer looking at other young females out there creating things, getting shows, working together, being supportive of each other, then I think that is a really healthy thing to see.
Are you not worried about being separatist?
If someone's offended they should take a step back and look at the art world as a whole and ask why we are doing this. There always has been and always will be misogyny in the art world, even now young curators are putting on shows with way more men than women. Anyone can set up their own collective, make a website, print a zine, and spread their message, so anyone who feels like men should be included should look around for their own place to make it. I don't feel it's important - for me or any other woman - to showcase men's work for them.
If you could change one thing about the art world what would it be?
The main thing, especially as a graduate, is how you are expected to work for free for years before you're even considered for a proper position. For people who aren't granted the luxury of a family with money it's a lot slower, you're spending so much of your energy thinking about survival that production just takes a lot more time.
With the rise of all girl art collectives and feminist zines occurring on the subcultural fringes of society, and subsequently trickling into mainstream culture, how do you feel about the idea of feminism as a trend?
If feminism is constantly talked about and widespread, then a generation of girls are growing up experiencing that. If that means a lot less internalised misogyny and a lot more support of other women then that's good. But there's also the sinister side of it, which is how brands are capitalising on the message and selling their message to young girls. I think the elevation of the feminist message is good, but it's also, like most good things, going to be capitalised on, so we have to be careful who the message is coming from and how we digest it.