Artists continue to be the most revolutionary in our communities – pushing boundaries and making intense political statements. Anna Fallia, a local to the Pittsburgh art community, is no different. Fallia has been creating safe spaces for artists to explore topics around anti-sexual assault advocacy, healing from trauma and fighting back against oppressive powers. Her most recent passion project is titled “Yes And -” a conversation around sexual assault and “how we cope and thrive in-spite of or in alignment with outside influences and stresses such as friends, work, and everyday activities,” quoted from her Facebook event page for the show.
You might have heard recently that the Delta Foundation (which organizes Pittsburgh Pride) sold out the name of the 2017 march to an anti-LGBTQ corporate sponsor. The pride march is now called EQT Equality March – EQT standing for Equitable Gas, a local gas company that has been criticized for fracking and funding anti-LGBTQ legislators. In response, a local organization SisTers PGH has planned a resistance march called the Peoples Pride March.
GO spoke with one of the featured artists for “Yes And -” to learn more about the movement and what local anti-sexual assault communities are doing in Pittsburgh that we all can learn from. Ren Rathbone is a genderqueer and bisexual artist who works to understand vulnerability, moving past trauma and the physical space.
When speaking about “Yes And -” Ren told GO, “The whole shows and programs are a really cool way of processing sexual assault awareness. My art is not just reactionary but also participatory. My thesis was a lot about hoping my photo shoots would be a means of healing [for the models].”
This year, Ren is displaying a new work that is about moving forward from trauma and “what that journey can look like in vulnerability and community.” The postcards displayed show a sense of involvement for the viewer to understand where Ren is coming from.
The phrase “Yes And -” is different than most consent focused campaigns in that it allows room for nuance and furthering the conversation. “The important thing is that consent is a dialogue for two or more people. It’s not a one sided conversation,” Ren said. “It’s this beautiful thing that inherently creates a dialogue and is more about normalizing that conversation. It creates a nice dialogue of how our sexual dialogue should be and how to talk about them when these things fail.”
In response to the Delta Foundation sell out for Pride, Ren said “There’s been a lot of issues with Delta for the past few years. I think it was maybe the final straw for the leftist and queer community. Fracking is such an intense issue in the Pittsburgh area, everyone could be drinking poisoned water. Delta is selling out pride and it’s very frustrating. I’m so glad she [Fali] moved the date for the speaker panel.”
It takes a whole community to create change the way that Ren, Anna and SiSters PGH are doing in Pittsburgh. If you’re in the area this weekend, I highly recommend attend the artist/activist meetup on June 10 or the Peoples Pride March on June 11.