Every seat was filled, with an overflow crowd accommodated via closed circuit in the lobby. As the audience entered, a carefully curated soundtrack broadcast the Guerrilla Girls’ message of intersectional feminism, consisting of tracks by Queen Latifah, Billie Holiday and Chicks on Speed. While the room buzzed with excitement, “Kathe Kollwitz” stealthily entered from the rear, handing out “feminist bananas” to delighted audience members. Like every member of the Guerrilla Girls, the gorilla-masked “Kathe” takes the name of a dead female artist as a pseudonym when speaking in public or in print. As she explained, the Girls’ desire to remain anonymous began as a career preservation move, but “our anonymity keeps the focus on the issues. Plus, you wouldn’t believe what comes out of your mouth when you’re wearing a gorilla mask.” Of the Guerrilla Girls’ characteristic wittiness, she explained, “humor helps you fly under the radar; if you can get them to laugh,” you can get them to listen.
The slideshow lecture spanned the history of the Guerrilla Girls’ poster/print activism, including the surreal experience of being commissioned to participate in institutions of which they were highly critical (like the 2005 Venice Biennale) and being honored in a retrospective at the Alhóndiga Bilbao, and previewed a forthcoming publication called The Hysterical Herstory of Hysteria and How It Was Cured. Spoiler alert: Kollwitz gives feminism the credit for curing “hysteria.” Most inspiringly, Kollwitz ended her lecture with a call to creative activism, and encouraged the audience to embrace the oft-demonized word “feminism,” because, “the F word really is the future.”