Miss Pokeno: Beyond the Barricade exhibition

‘If you want real social change then you just gotta keep on keeping on.’ Miss Pokeno

As with most political and social issues, change is only possible if there is force. Alannah Currie, working under the name of Miss Pokeno, infuses her work with a lot of that much needed driving force. Her art is unapologetically feminist and striking to the point where a discussion is not only needed, but necessary.

Miss Pokeno provided four pieces for the Beyond the Barricade exhibition, taking place in Studio 3 of the Art Building.

On your way into the studio there is an armchair intrusively hanging from the ceiling. The ‘Riot Chair’, that was created in 2013, boasts striking scarlet colours which immediately grab it’s viewers’ attention. In my mind, it perpetuates the message of militant feminists on which the piece is based on. Further to this, the words ‘the Sisters of Perpetual Resistance’, implies the strong unity of women who campaign for equality and justice, a message made more poignant in light of the #MeToo movement.

The second piece, called ‘Strange Fruit’, is another chair but in a different condition. The chair is hung up on a tree and set ablaze, transforming it away from the static object to an uncomfortable force. The burning ‘Lotte’ is remarkable, and as it falls and lands on all four legs it exudes confidence and power.

The centrepiece of the exhibition is a long wooden table surrounded by chairs. ‘Too Ugly for Words’ is what appears to be written, but at a closer look, the words written on the wood elicit introspection. The table is branded, like most if not all women, with slur words such as ‘slut’, ‘c***’ and ‘bitch’.

To create the table, Miss Pokeno would invite women over to have conversations about their experiences and struggles in life; she would then use a pyropen to burn the words that were used to belittle them into the surface of the table. There are various books and journals that lie on the table, allowing audiences to engage with the artwork and understand its underlying messages.

On exiting the studio, you come across the hanging exhibit of ‘Fuel for the Fires’. It once again portrays striking scarlet colours, but for a different purpose. Twenty-eight red rags hang by a single washing line, which metaphorically refers to the menstrual cycle. This however, can be further interpreted as a change in mentality, by which Miss Pokeno is literally ‘airing out the dirty laundry’. It can be seen to criticise antiquated gender roles, telling women all across the world to refute outdated patriarchal practices and create their own ideals.

Without a doubt, Miss Pokeno’s exhibition is thought provoking. This exhibition serves as an inspiration to all women and everyone who supports gender equality.