As part of the Fairground, (a collaborative week-long workshop that the University of Kent, Valley Kids, Canterbury Christchurch University, People's United, and Whitstable Biennale put on in the Tate Exchange space (Level 5 in the Switch House, Tate Modern) as part of the associate's programme that's running throughout Spring 2017), I proposed to subvert a traditional popular fairground game by sculpting a High Striker/Test Your Strength machine through my feminist artistic practice of melting wood.
Alongside the stalls I co-created with Valley Kid's artist-in-residence, Anne, and CCCU's Jess, which were the Peace & Judy stall, the Medicine stall, and the Merry-Go-Round of Art & Ideas; I proposed to create a feminist reconceptualisation of the Test Your Strength machine, entitled, Smash The Patriarchy.
This interactive sculpture proposes to subvert the traditional version that aims to measure the arm strength of the participant. Instead of presenting numerical measurements that increase as the puck/chaser ascends the high striker board, I have presented empowering feminist messages.
In sketch 6 and 8, I have labeled the materials I planned to use. Sketch 6 shows that I proposed to stick two sewing needles in the puck/chaser, as the idea is to pop the patriarchy party balloon at the top of the high striker, and sketch 8 shows that I have proposed to use hairpins to hold the balloons in place at the top of the high striker. The idea of using sewing needles and hairpins is also to use tools that have been traditionally considered more for female use/activities (craft/sewing etc.). Using two of each tool also works in with the feminist theory of Luce Irigaray, where she proposes that we think not for One (as conditioned by the phallogocentric structures of thought), but for two (as Irigaray would suggest is possible by thinking through the labial).
I also planned to sculpt the wood to appear as though it is melting. This reflects a continuation of my feminist artistic practice of resistance, where I explore a process of melting to convey a transformation of the mechanics of solids into the dynamics of fluids. I planned to use wood for this sculpture, because (1) high strikers are often made from wood (sometimes metal) and as such is considered a strong material. Such material would then be considered as masculine, because it is being used for a (masculine) strongman game. (2) Wood is a familiar sculpting material, as I have used it in previous sculptures. By sculpting drips and droplets into the wood, I can therefore recreate this strongman game with feminist sensibilities and make a high striker that is not for men only to use to show their strength, but for everyone to use and engage with feminist ideas.
At first, I envisioned the sculpture having a splash at the top where the balloon would pop (see sketch 1 and 2). However, I then thought about whether to paint the "We Can Do It!" poster on the top instead, in order to run in more with the colourful theme of the fairground and the feminist empowering messages (see sketch 3,4, and 5). Nevertheless, I decided to stick with the first idea, as that would follow my theme of melting wood, and also set the exciting challenge to carve my first splash out of wood. The last two sketches present a refined version of this wooden splash.
*The first 6 sketches were created on 7th February 2017, and sketch 7 and 8 were created on 27th February 2017.