Suzanne Lacy (California, 1945), an American visual artist, is a pioneer in using political activism to denounce violence against women. Her early works prefigure many of the themes found in current debates on contextual and community practices, defending the role of an engaged public and the active role of the artist in the design of public policies.
The Tattooed Skeleton is a metaphorical and updated rereading of the discourse on gender-based violence and a critical examination of how these stories are told and their repercussions in the public arena. It looks at the space between the experiences of physically and psychologically battered women and their social masks. For more than a year, Lacy worked on this multi-disciplinary artistic and political project based on a proposal made by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25 November).
The project's conceptual core lies in the need to create new narratives about violence against women, with the aim of changing public perception. Lacy has taken it upon herself to observe and comment on public discourses on gender violence in Spain in order to explore the narrative mechanisms used to portray this violence (what type of narrative predominates, who are the key players, who hears these stories, what types of myths exist, etc.) and to assess the extent to which this information differs from real life. The most effective narratives to modify attitudes and behaviours are those that break away from the hegemonic narrative systems that are subconsciously entrenched and deeply-rooted in cultural traditions in the form of clichés and stereotypes.
Lacy’s work includes photographic series, videos, performance pieces and large public installations, all documented on video and circulated via the media or exhibited in museums and art centres around the world such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA), the Verbund Collection in Vienna and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA).
The Tattooed Skeleton was presented on 19 February at the Museum. Since then, it has branched into different activities:
A campaign to gather women’s stories through the Internet.
The production of three videos (one in a local battered women’s shelter).
The organisation on 18 October of a working group to consider a new narrative about gender-based violence.
An action carried out by the group Toxic Lesbian and streamed by the Museum’s website on 18 November from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
A performance piece during the Ministry of Health, Equality and Social Policy’s ceremony to recognise actions combatting gender-based violence on 23 November.
Participation in the march for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in 2010 with a final rally at the Puerta del Sol in Madrid.