TURNING GENDER STATISTICS INTO ART
A PERFORMANCE BY OTALT
The Swedish feminist performance group OTALT (a play on words that literally means unspoken, but is also a way of saying that you have a quarrel, or unsettled grievance, with someone) was formed out of a frustration over the lack of interesting artistic expression, as well as the longing for a relevant political debate. Based in the small town of Arvika, the four members of the group, Helene Karlsson, Anna Ehnsiö, Emma Karlsson and Sara Falkstad, have different artistic backgrounds ranging from theatre to creative writing and visual art.
The performance 4 kvinnor, 100 statister, 36 m² handarbete (4 Women, 100 Extras, 36 m² Quilting) was performed for the first time on International Women’s Day 2014 in Arvika. The second performance took place at Rådhustorget in Umeå during the Swedish Forum for Human Rights in November 2014, in collaboration with Konstfrämjandet Västerbotten.
During the performance, 100 people, that were recruited during the months leading up to the event, represented 100 percentage points by standing on a 36 m² handmade patchwork quilt made from 100 fabric squares. The quilt was an homage to thousands of years of unpaid female labor and the diversity of Swedish society.
OTALT’s intention for the performance was to breathe life into statistics on gender inequality through artistic interpretation. The participants moved in a choreography directed by four women with megaphones. Each woman called out harrowing statistics on labour, economy and crime (such as gender-based violence and rape) that the 100 participants visualized with their bodies. In addition to the emotional reflection created by the performance, the visualization also created a physical experience and a memory of the need for action in the bodies of those who participated.
OTALT is based on a collaborative thought: we want everyone to take part and be co-creators of art. The public space is our arena. The common image of Sweden as the world’s most equal country is a reason for pride and gratitude, but in some ways is a false image. This is the reason why we have been forced to go back to talking about statistics. The issue is not settled and we are not equal.