The fierce pussy collective challenge lesbian and queer invisibility by asserting their identities through a number of public projects that push back against heteronormative culture. The increased attention to AIDS and gay rights in the early 1990s galvanized the group of queer artists to establish a collective. One of their early projects juxtaposed their baby photos with text that related to social assumptions about gender presentation, relationships, and identity. In one image, an infant in a striped pinafore is captioned with “DYKE” in large type. The crudely photocopied image reads as even more offensive when the viewer is confronted with a homophobic slur. By layering words or phrases traditionally used to incite negative judgment on top of their own baby photos, the group is able to reclaim hate speech while making a compassionate observation about societal pressures to label individuals from a young age. Additionally, the use of personal photographs creates a tension between the struggle for personal identity and a collective representation of lesbian or queer peoples.
fierce pussy collective, Dyke, 1991-95, (1161.2000)
The collective’s projects are largely based in street advertisement, using tactics such as wheat paste posters, redesigning and renaming public spaces, and public distribution of buttons and stickers. However, unlike traditional advertisements, the content of their work is not easily absorbed due to the intentional use of provocative language. fierce pussy confronts the passive consumer with messages designed to unsettle them.
fierce pussy’s work gains its power from the space between perception, identification, and our relation to society. Friction develops within their compositions—while visually minimalistic, the content is not easily digestible. Tension builds between the “impersonal” object (wheat paste poster, road sign) and captions that speak directly to the viewer with sincerity. More contradictions arise from fierce pussy’s choice of subject matter as they address and question sexuality, gender presentation, feminism, and power structures all in the public space—directly challenging social taboos.
The collective still works today, with their most recent exhibition at White Columns gallery in New York, September–October 2010.