To celebrate the new Girls Rule issue, Dazed is running a month-long online series of girl-centric interviews, thinkpieces and features. From exclusive head-to-head interviews with some of our favourite females to all-out takeovers like last week's Stacy Martin special. Now we've enlisted girls-only talent spotting blog The Le Sigh to bring us up to speed on fresh new art group, Bunny Collective. Keep checking our Girls Rule page for more content.
If you can’t beat them, join them – right? But what if you aren’t interested in competition, and your messages and means are so different, that to join and embody “their” (whoever they are) identity would be a betrayal? Female artists have encountered this problem for centuries. But instead of waiting behind the fence for a scrap of recognition in a world they ultimately had no interest in joining, or one that can feel far too out of reach, female artists took to the Internet: where gallery space and curious viewers seemingly multiply with every click.
Suddenly there is a platform – one that exposes an artist’s work to millions in minutes. Whereas an artist just finding their footing wouldn’t get a second glance in a room of traditional critics, there's now a virtual audience just waiting for your next move.
Enter Bunny Collective, the brainchild of visual artist Samantha Conlon. In search of not only a place for female artists, but for Irish artists and others in the UK, Conlon formed this collective of women, whose work ranges from photography to illustration and everything in between, and explores the manners in which females exist online. Think that’s cut and dry? Not quite. With a wave of young feminists gaining speed, voices, and—with the Internet—a space for expression, it’s easy to see women overtaking worlds once dominated solely by men. Candid, creative, and always original – the physical gallery space won’t know what hit it.
The Le Sigh: What inspired you to start Bunny Collective?
Samantha Conlon: I wanted to create a group where meeting up in real life and collaborating and setting up shows was possible. I feel like there are some excellently-curated collectives online but all of them were sort of based around the artists working in America and I felt like Ireland especially was underrepresented. I wanted to bridge this gap and make a space for emerging artists in the UK and here in Ireland who were all concerned with similar topics to showcase their stuff and create a new dialogue (maybe).
TLS: Bunny aims to feature female artists and explore their existence in the online world. How do you think men and women "exist online" differently?
Samantha Conlon: I mean, I can’t speak for all men and all women, but I feel like girls have more of a carefully curated existence online and I am much more drawn to how females use the Internet because that’s always what I’ve been surrounded by and involved with. I think there is a major question of transparency and how females are/were using “selfies,” blogs and social media as a way of “being seen.” I’m speaking solely based on my own experience here, but I feel like the Internet allows an uncomplicated platform to voice your opinion. I mean that in a technical way: you can snap, edit and share in minutes. So I think women are trying to take over the platform to get their place to represent themselves without having to go through all the old establishments, which sometimes favor male artists. There are still problems, but things are changing all the time and I feel like it’s a good time to be alive and making things. I’m constantly surrounded by supportive people online, so it’s hard to feel anything but enthusiasm for the future of the Internet.
TLS: How do you seek out members for the collective? Are members encouraged to apply or do they have to be personally invited to join?
Samantha Conlon: At the start I put out a call for artists to submit, and through that some of the girls joined but there were also people I was aware of online and wanted to join, so I emailed them and asked. Fiona, Louise and Aoife all studied at the same college as me and I approached them to join up. Some girls just emailed me and asked if they could be in. I’m extremely open to submissions and really enjoy talking to people who are interested in what we’re doing. For the next while, we’re focusing on our show, but submissions will open back up when we’re back on track.
TLS: What main themes are present in your members' artwork?
Samantha Conlon: The personal as political, the filter of "The Young-Girl", menstrual cycles, quietness, sexuality, violence, femininity, alienation, the chopping and mixing of bodies, teenage feels, and appropriation.
TLS: Without social media, do you think it would be harder for a collective like Bunny to exist?
Samantha Conlon: Yeah, I think so. I mean, it would just be a lot of silence in between having shows, if shows would even be possible without the exposure to different online audiences that social media provides. I feel like even having a Facebook group to talk to the girls makes everything work much easier and means that things can basically happen overnight if we need them to. Without the accessibility of social media, I feel like our audience would be much smaller, and besides, the group was born out of a sort of questioning of how females use the online platform, so it would be a totally different thing without Tumblr and Facebook.
TLS: In what ways has starting a zine and going to print benefited you as a group?
Samantha Conlon: I didn’t really anticipate the zine as something a lot of people would be interested in. I really just thought the zines would be a nice thing to have, but some people I really admire bought some, and it seemed to push us out to a different audience, which was nice. The interview element of the zine felt good, in a way, that the members were all speaking for themselves and could control how their work was positioned. It’s very hard to be a person, with likes and dislikes.
TLS: The members of the collective are relatively spread out. What would you do if you had the chance to all be together for one day?
Samantha Conlon: I think and hope this will happen soon. I’d just like to meet for tea and talk and maybe go to a gallery, take photos together. Maybe it would be cool to video the day and make a diary out of it, or do some small interviews. I’m looking forward to the day when I meet them. I find feminine energy really energizing.
TLS: Define feminism in Bunny's terms.
Samantha Conlon: Every member has an entirely different life experience and an entirely different filter with which they view the world through. For me, to define what we as a group think and feel would be impossible. I just know that all the girls are entirely supportive of the endeavor and supportive of each other. There’s a really good feeling throughout the group, with sharing experiences and knowledge; Aoife helped design our amazing website, Rosemary created a document full of reading material on current race/gender issues for everyone to share and edit. The one sole thing we all have in common is supporting the betterment of females. We just happen to be using this one group as a small way of doing it.
TLS: What does Bunny have in the works for the future?
Samantha Conlon: We have a show in Soma Contemporary in Waterford, Ireland opening on the 4th of April, running for three or four weeks. A new and more polished zine is hopefully going to materialise before summer and hopefully a lot more shows. I’m pretty sure there are going to be some meet-ups soon, considering a lot of people are based in London. I’m hoping for more shows and more interviews. Bunny was only established in September 2013, so we have a long way to go.
TLS: If you could describe yourselves using one Beyonce song, what would it be?
Samantha Conlon: I asked the girls, but we couldn’t agree between “Diva” and “Flawless.” We fought savagely over this, naturally.
The Le Sigh deal in female talent. Founded in 2012, the blog puts the spotlight on women in music and art. Check them out here.
Follow The Le Sigh on Twitter here @thelesigh