One of our ongoing projects, The Patterns’ Vicious Influence, uses wallpaper as a conceptual vehicle to discuss the way language saturates our environment and imprints itself onto our peripheries. Our patterns are built using words that are used to diminish and minimize women; these words range from descriptors that disregard our ideas (ball and chain, crazy, emotional) to names that attack our bodies and sexuality (cunt, pussy, slut). This language is a symptom of a long-established patriarchal society; it is insidious and harmful, impeding progress towards social equality.
Our choice to expose this issue through design as wallpaper patterns was inspired by the early feminist text The Yellow Wallpaper, a short story in which a women is driven mad by the social minimization of her identity.
“This paper looks to me as if it knew what a vicious influence it had!”
– The Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte Perkins Gilman
The first iteration of The Patterns’ Vicious Influence was exhibited at the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, WI from December 2015 – March 2016.
While 12 of our wallpapers resided in the Overture Center, we also held two performances as a group, scratching, sanding, tearing, and otherwise removing the words from these patterns. This action symbolized our desire for social equality, the hard work that is required to achieve that goal, and the unfortunate truth of how far we have yet to go in this task. We invited the audience to join us in this performance, and while people removed words from patterns, interesting and intersectional dialogs ensued between participants, the work, and the performers.