Public Art Performances

Los Angeles City Hall Mall: Vicinity of the Rape Maps,
Photos taken by Suzanne Lacy, 1977


Four public performances in the City Mall at lunchtime in the vicinity of the Rape Maps. Performed sequentially over four days, each performance took the audience through stages of the reality of rape. The fourth one at the closing of Three Weeks In May offered a break-through to empowerment and social action.


View our collection of rape related myths:
Myth vs. Fact

In 1977, I had just returned to LA from living in Germany. While living there I had been creating feminist street performances on issues such as abortion rights. I worked with activist feminist groups. This ultimately defined my practice. Upon my return to the US, I met Suzanne and she invited me to take part in Three Weeks In May. The performances produced were consciously very raw, using symbols of protest, signs, banners and low cost materials for costumes and props so as to be easily re-created. They were staged ‘demonstrations’ as political theatre.
— Leslie Labowitz

Myths of Rape


The first of four public street performances “Myths of Rape” performed by members of the Feminist Art Program at The Women’s Building. Six women in black and white wearing see-through white gauze blindfolds carried hand painted signs, emulating protest signs with the myths and realities of rape on them. Blindfolds had a dual function of representing society’s  false beliefs about rape while  acting  as a “shield of anonymity” for the performers. The performers marched single file march through the mall while Labowitz handed out a flyer of the myths.  At the end of the march the performers took up positions at sites in the mall. Each performer held positions of self-defense or defenselessness in front of their sign, silent and unmoving.


The Rape


The second performance was performed by Women Against Rape, Men Against Rape.. It represented the “bind” that women who have been raped experience, finding themselves a victim in both the assault and the social institutions established to treat them.  A woman was encircled by performers wearing paper costumes, each representing a social institution painted on it. The cone hats represent the patriarchy. Taken from the Klu Klux Klan and Catholic imagery (Santa Semana pageantry), vigilante behavior permeates this performance as a woman is being sacrificed and silenced.


All Men Are Potential Rapists


Performed by the Los Angeles Men’s Collective, this piece was purposely titled to cause discourse. Since it is primarily men who rape, it is critical to look at the early childhood education of young boys and the effect on their attitudes towards women, It is virtually impossible to isolate children from the the media and advertising that perpetuates the message that violence towards women is acceptable behavior. Male aggression is valued over more “feminine” traits and early childhood toys reinforce this message.


Fight Back


The last performance coincided with the closing rally for the entire project. Hiding under the large cones that have sayings from self defense classes like “gouge eyes” and “turn fear into anger” painted on them, women break free while the women wrapped up is unbound and no longer silenced.