I only went and finished university! And as this post goes live, my final year exhibition is opening it’s doors.
Ifs and Butts is a photographic zine about sexual misconduct and defensive language, focusing on people in positions of power, abusing that power to get away with anything and everything. I have chosen specific case studies and statements to embroider quotes from onto clothing garments and photographed them on women to creative this narrative.
TO BUY IFS AND BUTTS AND TO DONATE TO THE SURVIVORS TRUST, PLEASE VISIT WITCH CRAFTS STORE OR MY INSTAGRAM!
Brace yourself; it’s gonna be a long one.
First things first, I couldn’t have pulled this off without my absolute hero of a dad. Pat Mozza is the king of the exhibition. Not only did he help me but he offered a hand to every other struggling student he crossed paths with.
So let’s get into it. The. Entire. Process.
It was very important to me to make sure the last university project I would be doing represented a cause worth fighting for. Sexual assault has become more and more prominent as time goes on and unfortunately it will always be a relevant issue in society.
October 2017 brought the national reckoning against sexual assault when American newspapers reported on Harvey Weinstein’s eighty accusers and the Me Too movement gained momentum. The question I asked myself was; ‘if all the people accused of sexual assault were confronted with their own words of apologies or defense statements, just before committing the assault, would it change anything?’
Defensive language is the focal point being addressed through ‘Ifs and Butts’, hence the play on words in the title. At first glance, the title is amusing and catchy, intended to draw the audience in before discovering the uncomfortable truth of the concept. The title is one of the parts of this exhibition that I’m most proud of.
The first obstacle I came across was the embroidery. I did attempt to do it by hand but quickly realised how fast time ran out! And so I moved onto the machine, which was equally as frustrating, but at least five times faster.
I shot digitally to incorporate a modern aspect into the work that also includes mediums that are not considered so modern such as embroidery.
During the research that supports this project, I discovered artists that influenced and supported my decisions and ideas. Specifically Rora Blue’s ‘Handle With Care’, an exploration of sexist comments and Zoe Buckman’s ‘Every Curve’, on the topic of complementary and contradictory influences of feminism and hip-hop music in her upbringing, which both involve embroidery on clothing garments.
Then came the preliminary shoots to test lighting, poses, how the embroidery came across on camera etc. I had six of my incredible, beautiful, amazing friends model for me and I can’t thank any of them enough.
To drive my concept I made the decision to utilise a different form of presenting photography; zines. Creating a mock up of the zine turned out to be a good idea, trust me to start getting good at uni work as I’m about to graduate! I was dead set of printing on pink paper and it took me a good while to find a printing service that catered to what I was looking for. But until someone recommended Awesome Merchandise, I tried my hand at printing myself.
Once all of the kinks were worked out I soldiered on with the rest of the garments, I went back to Hull for Easter break and got my productive on. Being in Hull is where I feel the most inspired, I have all of my creative pals and gals around me and the fire gets fuelled!
The remaining shoots took place in HubA, the non-profit artist space that my amazing friend Alan owns. I owe him hugely for letting me work there for a few days. I set up my own little DIY studio to shoot the rest of my work.
Over two days I photographed five garments, super late nights and we all went a little stir crazy but I had the most fun being silly with my girlies and getting stuff done. I always get rose tinted goggles on when I have to leave Hull and go back to uni, but being horrendously excited about my degree show took a little of the sting away.
Once I was back in Sunderland after being in Hull for Easter break I cracked on with the prints. Frames, mounts and paper got bought! The budget got nasty but in my opinion, more than worth it.
There was no doubt in my mind that I would be printing and framing my images myself rather than sending it off to a company. I was adamant on using gaudy, grotesque, ornate, extravagant frames. It took a fair amount of time for me to convince people that it would work and compliment my photographs rather than take them over, but they look fantastic and I have gained approval!
I wanted to be in full control because that way, any mistakes made were my fault and sending them to a professional framers would’ve pushed my budget too far.
When my zines arrived I could’ve cried with happiness (a tear or two did appear…)
The result was perfect, the colour was perfect, the size, the finish, and the double page spreads fit beautifully together. The realisation of my idea coming to be a physical thing I could hold and turn the pages with my hands was honestly overwhelming.
I decided to write edition numbers on each 150 of the copies and signed them all, like a real proper fancy artiste. And from doing so, I found out I actually got 152 copies, which threw off my groove so two remain un-numbered. But each of you that order a copy will get a lovely little thank you note as well!
I ordered my artist statement from DigiLab, my beautiful friend Emma even delivered it to me! It reads:
‘Ifs and Butts
October 2017 brought the national reckoning against sexual harassment. The Harvey Weinstein scandal triggered many allegations against powerful people, and also led a great number of women to share their own experiences of sexual abuse on social media under the hashtag #MeToo. The scandal’s impact on powerful men in various industries came to be coined the ‘Weinstein effect’ by American publications. The allegations were described as a ‘tipping point’ or ‘watershed moment’ is and precipitated a ‘national reckoning’ against sexual misconduct, harassment, abuse and rape.
‘Ifs and Butts’ is a commentary on the defensive language used in admissions of guilt and apologies. Specifically the ones given by those of celebrity status defending themselves against accusations of sexual misconduct, assault, abuse and rape.
The work is inspired by feminist activist practices such as embroidery, nudity and provocative imagery that have been curated into a zine.
USA TODAY, February 9, 2018.’
The installation began with a trip to B&Q, one of the three in total throughout the two installation dates, this one to choose paint! Two solid 9am-9pm days and the pride, self fulfilment and heart warming satisfaction felt unimaginable.
I had the best two days with my dad, I’m beyond lucky and ridiculously appreciative to have such an incredible relationship with him. He’s the most selfless, kind, friendly man in the world and nobody has a bad word to say about him. Pat Mozza 4eva, my hero and my role model.
I nearly said that the zine wall was my favourite wall, but I can’t choose between the three. They’re like my babies; all beautiful in their own way, different yet similar, and the fruit of my labor!
Choosing a rail was difficult, I wanted something interesting, quirky and unorthodox. The one I went for has four interactive rails so my audience can have a proper rake through, but I imagine the gallery style setting will have everyone fearing to touch the art!
The table was a relatively last minute decision but one I thought necessary to have to sell the zines during the show. I do love a bit of flat pack!
Hanging the six framed prints was the most daunting part, if this went wrong, the whole thing would look ridiculous. But thanks to meticulous maths and a DIY dad, they hung flawlessly.
The penultimate step was to display twenty copies of the zine up on the grey wall using bulldog clips hung on screws.
Putting the finishing touches to the installation was an incredible feeling. I’ve done it. I’ve finished university. I can’t believe I’ve pulled it off?!
My overall thoughts of my time creating Ifs and Butts are that I’m capable of a lot more than I thought, discussing sexual assault is difficult, it’s uncomfortable, it’s painful and I was worried it would be too tough on my mental health for me to be able to successfully create something considerate, impactful and in a way, educational.
I feel that working with a charity and raising money for The Survivors Trust through the sale of my zines is a good representation for the cause. If every copy of the hundred and fifty sold, I’d have raised three hundred pounds for the charity and that would be the cherry on top of an amazing exhibition and the most incredible four years of university.
This module has made me realise just how far I’ve come, how much I’ve learnt, persevered through and improved and I’m so happy that the high note I’m ending university on is the exhibition.
Sexual Assault and Rape Support
0808 168 9111
Rape Crisis England & Wales
0808 802 9999
Helpline For Women
0808 800 5008
Helpline For Men
0808 800 5005
Young People’s Helpline
0808 800 5007
The Survivors Trust
0808 801 0818
The following services will also provide treatment or support and can refer you to another service if you need more specialist help:
A doctor or practise nurse at your GP surgery.
A&E (accident and emergency hospital).
A genitourinary medicine (GUM) or sexual health clinic.
A contraceptive clinic.
NHS, dial 111.
The police, dial 101.
Or in an emergency, dial 999.