On a bloody red background, Miss Me – in cooperation with CHEAP – offers 150 meters of paste ups dedicated to the feminist struggles, to the self awareness by taking one’s body back to the personal pleasure claim. Her army of vandals is unapologetic. The battle is one of regaining what is primarily of women, in a bold street-guerrilla way.
I met Miss Me on the last night of her artful attack in Bologna, exhausted after 4 days of endless work, but with a sparkle in her eyes that never fades away.
She took her mask off and told me about her world.
You refer to yourself as an artful vandal. What does make you different from a street artist?
«Well, I don’t like to describe myself as a street artist since that term is very trendy.
There has been a lot of hype around this world for the last couple of years, too many people are riding this wave and I don’t want to identify with them. I haven’t started because doing it is cool, but I did it for myself. It has been, and it still is, the healing to recover from a violence I suffered from in the past.
My works are exclusively on paper since they are too elaborated to be painted with spray or paints and I always leave a strong message even though I never destroy anything permanently. Nevertheless my work is still considered vandalism by all means.
You know, it’s kind of funny: if you think about it, there’s an interesting contrast between these two words, vandal and artful. They normally belong to worlds that are distant from each other. The definition is a mockery, but it’s exactly what I do. So, when I work on the street and somebody stops by asking what I am doing, I usually answer “hey, this is artful vandalism”.»
So, you do own the copyright for it.
«I mean, I can’t tell people what to do but… yeah, it’s kind of my thing.» [laughs]
Your works talk about struggles, women, but also society, ethnicity and religion. Where do you take the inspiration from?
«From my life. I am a very upset person: there are many matters and attitudes that annoy me. It is a way to yell louder, to yell stronger, to have a bigger echo, to take more space. You know, the half-naked female bodies that I draw and paste up on the street, they scream rage and riot with gritted teeth, but they don’t have the purpose to create scandal. It’s just my thoughts that come up strongly and dash against a mentality and modality present in the society that has been suffocating me so far.
I want to establish a dialogue, make people understand that women must not always be sensitive and elegant while men are “allowed” to do whatever they want. To be born with a woman’s body is to bear the unsolicited burden of humanity’s unresolved attitude towards sex.
Women learn to adapt themselves to a patriarchal system that blames them for the misbehaviour of men, and I don’t like it all.
On the other side, I am pleased that more and more people recognize themselves in what I do and that my voice can be added to theirs. I find it surprising. Now I am more and more aware, I keep meeting and discussing with new people, I read, share many stories linked by the same principles. Honestly I didn’t start for others, like I said before, I did it for myself and for the few people that have felt the same weight and sense of constriction with me. I needed to speak my truth because if I don’t speak my truth other people will take my space and speak the truth for me. I don’t want other people to speak for me.»
Last week in Bogotá I talked to some local artists who made a sort of census among them and it came out that on 4000 active artists all throughout Colombia only 400 are women.
From your experience, rich in knowledge and journeys, do you think it’s really more difficult for women?
«For a woman artist it’s certainly more difficult, especially if she’s a mother because – even if the father is present – it’s her in most cases to take care of the baby. Doing this job, we’re often away from our country, abroad more than just out of the house, therefore you can easily understand..
A difference is that, at a social level, we are more often judged for our actions compared to men. You know, for instance, some people say “ why you’re doing this, you’re not 18 anymore, you must think well about what you do and your career”.. but apart from this, I don’t think it’s more difficult. We don’t miss anything. Nowadays it’s hard for everyone, out there we have not so many positive models to identify with and this can be less encouraging.»
Now I want to show you a picture that I took In your hometown Montréal, a few years ago.
Looks like it is a very special place for you.
«Oh yeah, it sure is!
This place has been for a long time a porn theatre, called Vidéo Erotica. It was in Montréal’s red light district, a neighborhood of gangs, drugs and prostitution. Now this area has been cleaned and almost totally reconverted, but when I moved into town around 20 years ago, it was the most difficult area overall.
I want to make this clear because things are complex and people tend to simplify. I don’t have anything against porn. I like porn, I watch it, too. I have a big problem with the porn industry and how it’s used against women, but the porn itself, I don’t have a problem with it. So, this building was not a problem for being a porn theatre, but for the dirty conditions and the neglected state it was. It was not a healthy place for sex, compared to some places specifically made for this purpose. Consider that it was open 24/7, I remember people going in and out continuously, at every hour. This is why I decided to take over it, it was a building where the female body and sexuality were sold and exploited. I set my army of vandals on walls, girls who are not here for others’ pleasure, but who fight for themselves.»
Speaking of Bologna, this is the second time that you are in town. This year you brought an important project..
«Correct, last year I just stopped by with my brother. This year, instead, I worked with CHEAP, thanks to Stikki Peaches who’s a mutual friend. He suggested to get in touch with CHEAP girls since we share a lot of ideas and thus, in cooperation with Festival della Violenza Illustrata, the inspiration to create the wall was born. It’s one of my widest pieces, 150 meters. Some writing is in English, the language I normally use to express myself; I know that in Bologna there are many international conferences and meetings besides tourism. I also used some writing in Italian since I wanted to frame my work and communicate to the highest possible number of people. “Taci anzi parla [Shut up rather talk]” is a quote from a book by the italian feminist Carla Lonzi. With CHEAP we tried to put together different generations of feminists, the actual situation, events from this territory. You know, feminism is a word that I describe as plural since it includes many aspects and my work here tries to unify many points on this subject.»
Are we going to see some other vandalistic and artful act here in town?
«I still have a whole night before leaving…»