"What is Girl With Arms Akimbo / Boy With Arms Akimbo?The group is a network of cultural activists founded in San Francisco in July 1989. We are not a formal membership organization and have no leaders or spokespersons. To date, nearly 200 people have been involved in proposing projects, providing graphics, developing logistics, carrying out actions, doing media work, and so on. While the initial core involved gay men, the network has grown to include women and men of a variety of orientations. We use the names 'Girl with Arms Akimbo' and 'Boy with Arms Akimbo' interchangeably. As a shortened version, we prefer the term 'Akimbo.'What is the impetus behind Akimbo?The Reagan-Bush years have been a long, painful era and many people are increasingly ready to reassert their personal dignity. The first breaking point came with the new AIDS activism of groups like ACT UP starting about three years ago - a shift to much more assertive tactics, a return to direct action, and the construction of a community of dissent. The people who started Akimbo decided to take this energy into broader areas of cultural discourse. Sen. Jesse Helm's attacks on the National Endowment for the Arts in June-July 1989 - specifically his targeting of sexual speech - directly sparked the founding of the group.What does Akimbo do?We use a range of non-violent tactics that extend beyond the tradition of 'sit down and get arrested' civil disobedience. Our approach emphasizes intellectual subversion and visual intervention, seizing the territories of advertising and mass media, expanding the possibilities of technologies like fax and xerox - all with an assumption of no budget and with an emphasis on individual and local autonomy. All of our projects draw on the basic motivation of adolescent rebellion: An in the streets, in your face urge to say, 'You think you're the authority? Well fuck off, I'm running my own life.'Are all the individuals involved with the group artists?Some of the people who work on Akimbo projects are painters, photographers, graphic designers, art critics, art historians or others involved in the art world, but most come from other backgrounds. The group includes people with a variety of skills: students, teachers, writers, workers in business and industry, seasoned activists and the formerly apolitical. Because we explicitly challenge the role and function of the artist as they are currently constructed, we call ourselves a 'network of cultural activists' rather than an 'artists' collective.'Why do people who work on Akimbo projects insist on anonymity?The group has maintained the principle of anonymity to ensure that the critique we present takes precedence over personalities. We want to subvert the mass media conventions that trivialize cultural, social and political movements by fragmenting them into unconnected individuals (either 'stars' or 'villains') as well as the commercial art world fixation on 'authorship' and 'originality.' We also remain anonymous because all Akimbo projects are collaborative and collective efforts; the work would not exist without the group as a whole, so only the group receives credit. Finally, we resist the production of 'celebrities' because we wish to encourage open, flexible, non-competitive internal dynamics that focus on project goals rather than on individual egos.In September-October 1989 Akimbo distributed over 2000 photocopied posters with approximately 30 different images or texts (appropriated photographs, original graphics, quotations, etc.); more than 20 people contributed designs. Each followed a standard 11 by 17 inch format featuring the slogans 'Just Sex' or 'Sex Is.' The posters were glued individually and in groups to buildings, bus shelters, light poles, fences, billboards, newsboxes, dumpsters and other publicly visible surfaces in a variety of San Francisco neighborhoods. The Just Sex/Sex Is. project used text and images - often in a deliberately ambiguous, absurd, or disturbing fashion - to demonstrate the constructed nature of sexuality and to challenge viewers to deconstruct their own sexual ideology. We chose the medium of public site installations for this action to directly subvert the broad concepts of sexual regulation, 'natural / unnatural' dichotomies, queer invisibility, and propriety of discourse that we see as forces motivating censorship of sexual speech and similar restrictions on self-determination in American society. Following the local site installation, Akimbo distributed posters to cultural activists beyond San Francisco. Materials have appears in the streets throughout the Bay Area, and in Sacramento, Los Angeles, Boston, Provincetown, New York, Paris, Berlin, Tel Aviv, and other cities. Postering at Yale led to nine arrests for Posting Obscene Materials and Breach of Peace at a university-sponsored lesbian and gay studies conference in October 1989. From the beginning of this project, Akimbo worked to seize space in the media as a means of provoking discourse and rendering manifest the sexual politics of various media institutions. Just Sex/Sex Is. was remarkably successful in this regard, attracting a mixture of attacks and praise, confusion and careful analysis from publications across the country, including the New York Times, In These Times, Artnews, Outweek, Art In America, Inches, Homocore, and the Yale Journal of Criticism. This series of color copies shows posters from the San Francisco site installation. Many of the images include acts of drawing by passersby who have modified the posters in situ. Akimbo is continuing to document these modifications as an intrinsic elelment of the Just Sex / Sex Is. project.Male Couple (Just Sex). Mounted on a newsbox in the Castro neighborhood; gouged and torn. February 1990.Erect Penis (Sex Is). Mounted on a light pole in front of Art Lick Gallery in the Castro; landscape in black and white paint added. September 1990.Sexual Advice and Sociology Pulps (Just Sex). Mounted on a hoarding with 'Little Monsters' movie posters in the Financial District. September 1989.Nun and Couple (Just Sex). Mounted on a door of the Armpit Gallery in the Lower Haight neighborhood; gouged, torn, slashed, spraypainted, 'Sex Is' sticker added, 'lard' inscribed in greasepencil. March 1990.Young Men Masturbating (Just Sex). Mounted on a shopfront in the Financial District. September 1989.Boy in Briefs (Sex Is). Mounted in a phone booth in the Castro neighborhood; torn, covered with shreds of other posters, 'Just Bambi' sticker added at upper left. February 1990.Cunnilingus (Just Sex). Mounted on a trash dumpster in the Castro neighborhood; gouged, drawn on with a pencil, inscribed 'Jorgensen, Christine' in ballpoint. Febraury 1990.Sexual Advice and Sociology Pulps (Just Sex). Location unknown; torn, inscribed 'boring' in black spraypaint. October 1989.""Male Couple (Just Sex)" may refer to http://aep.lib.rochester.edu/node/44072"Cunnilingus (Just Sex)" may refer to http://aep.lib.rochester.edu/node/44077
Long paragraphs of text providing an overview of Boy With Arms Akimbo / Girl With Arms Akimbo, a "network of cultural activists founded in San Francisco in 1989," with a description of their major art projects.
AIDS Education Collection
Just Sex / Sex Is
Boy With Arms Akimbo / Girl With Arms Akimbo
San Francisco, California, USA
28.0cm x 43.0cm
University of Rochester, River Campus Libraries, Department of Rare Books, Special Collections & Preservation
[Item title, item date], AIDS Education Collection; Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation; River Campus Libraries, University of Rochester.
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