Aleksandra Mir

Keep Abortion Legal 2.0 / 3.0

NEW YORK CITY—12 years ago I created the design above which recently has been brought back to life in an interesting way, in the form of a window installation at Printed Matter

At the time of its creation and while I was living in NYC in the 90s there were these really loud anti abortion protests on the streets. Next to just being fucking annoying, shouting at anybody passing by on lunch break, they also used these massively blown up photographs of bodyparts in a mush of blood, to scare and shame people off abortion. But if you were a New York City art student you were probably so jaded that you only associated this whole aesthetic with bad B movie gore and laugh, unless you were thinking of having an abortion of course

Worse still was the fact that the Pro Choice side never had any adequate graphics to put up against this form of bad visual abuse, and as an artist I was more offended by the aesthetic strategy than the point it was trying to make, so I made up a design that I thought would mostly suit the rationale that a health service like Planned Parenthood provides, and mock the sentimentality around children at the same time

Clearly, both sides of the controversy wish for less abortions, but while the Pro Choice side proposes the safest alternative for the difficult life situation a woman might be in, the Pro Life movement nevers offers up any practical or tender solutions like sex education or support for struggling parents once these unwanted babies are born, but revel in hyperbole, false information and even go as far as murdering health workers. I wanted to counter this cynicism, in clean and plain type

I used Helvetica, the most clean and neutral typeface I could think of, and picked a soft and calm pink and blue that brought my mind to sleeping babies at dusk or dawn. I initially thought it was a really quiet and relatively harmless proposal but it has proven more problematic than I could have imagined and it has mostly thrived underground. I originally put it on a series of cheap objects like nail files, sewing kits and lighters, items a woman would keep in her handbag but that also draws your mind to surgical devices, the kind that thrive and kill women during times of anti abortion rule. People have been flashing these items in bars and sharing them among friends

I also give the design away for free, I offer anyone to run with it and put it on anything, make money, exploit it to the fullest. Many people have attempted to use it but there have been more cancellations than actual uses so far, so a fairly good measure of where it stands

In 2010, I was asked by a Milanese fashion bag company to create a design for their annual series of handbags decorated by female artists. I submitted the design which then was courteously rejected with the phrase, 'too strong for our clientel.' The next season they put out a series of bags with women pointing guns in your face. Go figure

And as late as 2012, I was invited to the museum show GirlTalk: Female artists using text at the Contemporary Art Museum of Raleigh, NC. It had some powerful female artists like Marilyn Minter, Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, Kay Rosen and Lisa Anne Auerbach in it. I casually submitted the design asking they blow it up and paint it directly on the wall. The female museum director came back to me saying she was worried her funding would be cut if she went ahead with it

Considering the political climate around the issue in the US and the precarity of arts funding, I was not much surprised but didn't want to create a stink so cut both the design and myself out of the show. Ironically, the CAM Releigh has a partnership with NC State's College of Design which is one of the two places in the U.S. to offer a PhD in Design, which directly inspired the show and where one hopes this kind of design problematic woud be researched and discussed

So it is actually now with great surprise that I see it up in broad daylight on a Manhattan street, back to where it originated, much thanks to curator Cory Siegler who initiated the reprint in the form of an edition of posters and an events programme of talks to go with it, 'A wide-ranging conversation on art and activism, the cultural manifestations of the pro-choice movement, abortion narratives, feminist origin stories, and partying as a feminist principle'

I have never before or after done anything this overtly political as essentially it is not that interesting for me to speak that way as an artist. But the anti abortion rhetoric and those nutters on the street shovelling gore in the public's face while so many people in the city are just really working hard with no health insurances or social security to speak of, somehow touched a nerve and offered up an interesting visual problem. It will be interesting to see how the window installation will fare. A part of me believes they will get their windows smashed for it, and if nor, well then maybe the design has really become so familiar, or 'iconic' as they say, that it is part of the general fabric of culture and can no longer be denied

Still, I would dare any museum director to blow up the design and put it on an exhibition wall

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