ARIADNE: A SOCIAL ART NETWORK (1977-82) originated as a conceptual art work to provide a structure to amplify the political impact of Suzanne Lacy and Leslie Labowitz's public performance interventions on violence against women.




During the 70’s the sense of urgency for radical social change by feminists motivated us to work with activists in the public sphere rather than the confines of the art world. As artist/activists we knew that in order to affect cultural change our practice necessitated reaching as broad an audience as possible. Working collectively with women in the arts, media, activism and government broadened our effectiveness and expanded our community.  

Given that it was estimated that 1 out of 3 women would be raped in their lifetime, we all shared the resolve to stop violence against women. From a creative perspective as performance artists, our vision perceived all who participated in ARIADNE as collaborators, including the media makers who were “on the public stage.” The role played by TV and news journalists was critical to the success of the performance. They were the “editors” who communicated our message and images the public. To achieve that end we formulated a media strategy that was equal in our production to that of the actual performances.

It’s such incredibly important work—honestly, it’s what has inspired me for my entire career, and it is the example I always share with audiences about how much a small group of artists with limited economic resources can envision, create, and accomplish.

 Carolyn Bronstein, author of  Battling Pornography: The American Feminist Anti–pornography Movement, 1976–1986.


If rape is a household experience, let’s give it a public name.

Two distinct models for the public performances characterized ARIADNE’s body of work. Three Weeks in May by Lacy and Record Companies Drag Their Feet by Labowitz were art works created before ARIADNE was officially an entity. Learning from these works, we organized our Violence Against Women work under this rubric, as a way to extend our impact within the arts, political and activist circles. ARIADNE: A Social Art Network, including the two seminal works, made sense, as they were models for all the works following them. 


Three Weeks In May by Lacy was the first model of public intervention on rape and set the stage for those to follow. It was a three week production that encompassed over 30 activities as “platforms” for the performance of media, art, and political events and discussions throughout Los Angeles. The idea was to educate the public on the incidence and prevalence of rape in LA. It’s complex performance structure involved community organizing, art performances by artists, exhibitions, media strategy, press conferences and city council involvement. This is where we (Lacy and Labowitz) met and worked together for the first time. 

Record Companies Drag Their Feet was a collaboration between Labowitz and WAVAW (Women Against Violence Against Women). It was a media performance as a singular artistic and political intervention, that took place on Sunset Blvd under the sex-violent KISS billboard. Labowitz joined with WAVAW and the National Organization of Women to announce and promote the boycott of record companies for using violent images of women to sell records. It was specifically designed for optimum coverage through TV and newspapers. 


Media Interventions

The performances under the ARIADNE umbrella were much more than only media interventions but the importance of directly targeting the media can not be overlooked. As women artists and “image makers,“ we were aware of the link between real life sexual violence and the proliferation of violent images of women in advertising, news, and entertainment media including pornography. A “reboot” was needed and we seriously took on changing the cultural acceptance of violence and sex... Our challenge as artists was to support cultural change by deconstructing the demeaning and dehumanizing images of women while creating alternative images to replace them.

Community Organizing 

All of our work was based on aligning the organizations and people who would actually deliver the social change we sought. How could police change their tactics without women inside the department and outside of it, in rape hotlines, working toward transformation? We analyzed each group and sector of our community, including politicians in city hall and media reporters, and deliberately created events where they could meet, exchange ideas, and become emboldened to work together. 

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The success of ARIADNE: A Social Art Network to contribute to the movement for real life change on violence against women can be acknowledged by looking at where we are today.

Laws have radically changed and expanded to protect women, and women from all walks of life are speaking out, united in a far-reaching exposure of violence including sexual harassment by men in the workplace using their power, date rape, abuse of women in the military, child assault and the continuing homicide of women by their partners. We did not do this alone, and this is the strength of our work. In bringing women from different disciplines and professions together in Los Angeles in the late 70s we modeled and exemplified the strength of the global feminist movement and the role of art in social change.

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