Written by Melanie Schlemmer
Amsterdam – Passengers on the Brouwersgracht probably looked twice when they saw a group of giant breasts floating around in all sizes and shapes on Friday the 8th of March. The breasts transported a message not everyone seemed to understand at first glance. But they were part of a supportive message for the freedom of boobs.
One big breast with a nipple piercing, a small round breast next to it- what seems like Art Activism is, in fact, an action of the advertisement company 72andSunny Amsterdam, one day before the annual Women’s March. Mareka Stake from the company says that “it’s women’s day, so we want to spread the message that boobs are just a body part and they should let be free.”
The action refers to the #freethenipple movement which criticizes that social media policies still judge differently over female nipples. 72andSunny Amsterdam certainly attracted attention with their floating “body parts”, but has the message been noticed?
Emily Gelder, who took part in this year’s Women’s March, thinks positively about the action: “It certainly attracts attention to the Women’s march and it looks cool. But I’m not sure if I’d have more associations concerning female rights.”
Tim Driessen, Emily’s’ partner, also wasn’t sure what the breasts were meant to say. “Nice arrangement, I can certainly see where it comes from when you explain it, but otherwise no, not really”. Like other Amsterdammers, they view it as something that provokes some kind of reaction. No more and no less. But in general Emily and Tim see Art Activism as a welcome form of Street Art. And Amsterdam has a lot to offer when it comes to Street Art. The floating breasts may won’t be a serious competitor with the latest Banksy exhibition artwork “Love in A Bin” in Stuttgart, but it fulfills its purpose. It draws attention and provokes debate.
Debates about women’s rights for example. After the women of Soviet Russia won the right to vote and gained suffrage in 1917, the 8th of March was celebrated as a national holiday. In 1967 the day was adopted by feminist movements. Now and then Art Activism accompanied feminist protests. Especially Nude Activism is one of the most commonly used forms of provocation in a feminist context. Feminists like Pussy Riot show that Nudity still stimulates global discussions. In the meanwhile, Emily and Tim believe that you can’t really provoke someone with a nipple in Amsterdam nowadays, however, “female nudity is still seen differently. In an equal world we have to change that,” Emily adds.