THE X-GIRLFRIENDS Billboard
Region: North America
Medium: Public Art
Artist: THE X-GIRLFRIENDS
Confronting Bodies: Anonymous
Dates of Action: 1992
Location: Chicago, IL
Description of Artwork: In 1992, THE X-GIRLFRIENDS displayed a 14'x48' outdoor billboard challenging symbols of mass appeal in a predominately patriarchal society. The five panel broadside juxtaposed images of commercial objects bearing the faces of deceased media idols (Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and John Lennon) against a photograph of a crucifix. The last panel made the bold observation: "One of these things is just like the others... ". The project was sponsored in part by the New Forms Regional Grant, a program administered by Randolph Street Gallery and the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center and funded by the Inter-Arts Program of the National Endowment for the Arts and The Rockefeller Foundation with additional support from the Illinois Arts Council and Randolph Street Gallery.
The Incident: Shortly after its display (after an article in The Chicago Tribune profiled the project), the billboard was vandalized. Red paint had been poured over the image of the crucifix. The annonymous vandal(s) left the following note taped to the back of the billboard. It is addressed to the billboard company Patrick Media. "Dear Patrick: In most instances I would have mailed a polite letter asking you to please review your policies concerning the content of your billboards. In this case I felt that such a civilized gesture would mean almost nothing to a company such as your own. By posting this inflammatory sign you have provoked me into taking action that will prove to be costly and time consuming for both myself and Patrick. I am very angry with you for providing this childish group with a forum for their emotional frustrations. The penalty for this serious error in judgement will be born completely by Patrick. Perhaps the next time that a sniveling bunch of spoiled malcontents approaches you with the intention of renting advertising space for the sole purpose of ridiculing Christianity, you may have second thoughts. If not, then welcome to the wonderful new world that you have helped create by vomiting on every fundamental belief that our society was founded upon. WE WILL NOT TOLERATE YOUR UNWARRANTED ATTACKS ON OUR BELIEFS." In an interview with "Artistic License" (WBEZ, Public Radio, Chicago), Kulov, founder of THE X-GIRLFRIENDS commented: "We expected the controversy and although differences of opinion are part of the dialogue we are trying to create, we encourage their manifestations in other ways than physical damage to the artwork. However, as a result of this vandalism, we now have this very feminine symbol of blood poured over the patriarchal image of the crucifix. It is perfect. I wish that we had thought about it ourselves. I do have a pretty good idea of the intentions behind the symbolism of the action. I do feel, though, that it was self-defeating."
Results of Incident: No actions from either side followed. THE X-GIRLFRIENDS and Patrick Media left the billboard on display for 40 more days.
Source: Kulov/THE X-GIRLFRIENDS