Is My Body Public? is a collection that explores the borders between what is public and private in our everyday lives. The dresses resemble the aesthetics of women’s lingerie but are in fact banners for demonstration. The text ‘Is my Body Public’ is embroidered on every dress in 15 different languages, representing women worldwide. The fabric of the dresses is very fragile, and the work is subtle, but the message is strong. With Is My Body Public?, Framis questions what is public and what is still private in today’s world. The issues of privacy and body politics that Framis discusses in this work take on a different, more specific meaning for women.
The dresses offer a tool for women to explore different, playful ways of demonstrating important issues such as (systematic) sexism. By working together with women from different backgrounds in the performance the work gains a participatory and global character.
Framis often starts out from actual social dilemmas to develop novel settings and proposed solutions. She develops platforms for creative social interaction, often through interdisciplinary collaboration with other artists and specialists across various fields. The work can be seen as a social comment on gender patterns in our society nowadays. It deals not only with the more serious cases of sexual harassment but also with the general attitude that still exists amongst many men who think it is acceptable to harass or catcall women in the street. Some forms of sexism and ways of speaking about women are so engrained into our society that we hardly notice them anymore or brush them off as ‘locker room banter’. There are myriad ways in which women try to protect themselves in their everyday lives against sexual harassment and violence and these dresses make us aware of this crude reality. Framis employs elements of technology, activism and performance in this new work. With LifeDress she aims to bring women together and open the debate. Within this collection, the action is in the dresses itself, that blow up like an airbag when the wearer is inappropriately touched, confronting the perpetrator with the embarrassing realisation that what he is doing is not acceptable. The surprise occurrence is meant to set him straight. In this way, Framis discusses a serious issue, but through a surrealistic act.
The LifeDress collection is connected to Framis’ Anti_dog collection, that consisted of 23 pieces of clothing made from bullet-proof material to protect women, against violence, and with which Framis represented the Netherlands in 2003 at the Venice Bienal. Framis introduced this collection after being faced with racism while she was living in Berlin. With the dresses Framis wanted to talk about violence against women in general. The dresses were worn by women during performance protests in, amongst others, the cities of Berlin, Amsterdam, Madrid, Birmingham, Helsingborg, Venice, Barcelona, Istanbul and Paris.
Alicia Framis, Forbidden Collections, Upstream Gallery, Rotterdam, 23.11.2018 – 08.02.2019
images: (cover 1) Alicia Framis, «Is My Body Public? (Dutch)», 2018. Courtesy the artist and Upstream Gallery, Amsterdam (2) Alicia Framis, «LifeDress», 2018. Installation view of exhibition Forbidden Collections.Photo: Gert Jan van Rooij. Courtesy the artist and Upstream Gallery, Amsterdam (3) Alicia Framis, «Is My Body Public?», 2018. Performance during Amsterdam Art Weekend, 23 November 2018. Photo: Maarten Nauw. Courtesy the artist and Upstream Gallery, Amsterdam.