Fusion’s latest interactive uses art and activism to tell women’s stories

February 10, 2015
Category: Uncategorized
Art from Tatyana Fazlalizadeh's project in Mexico City with Fusion. (Submitted photo)

Art from Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s project in Mexico City with Fusion. (Submitted photo)

In September, Anna Holmes went to Mexico City to tell a story in a way she’d never tried before. Holmes, editor of digital voices at Fusion, traveled with artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh and a small crew. They gathered with women in the city, found them on the streets and spoke with them, through a translator, about street harassment.

Holmes wanted to see if it was possible to take something that was art project and activism and make it a visual interactive. With more than 38 hours of video and hundreds of photos, it could have been a four-minute documentary, Holmes said, “and that would have been it, but that wasn’t as interesting to me as documenting it as a trip and trying to show how she draws.”

On Monday, Fusion published the full interactive, “All the Time. Every day.”

Artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. Fazlalizadeh is the artist who created "Stop Telling Women to Smile." (Submitted photo)

Artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. Fazlalizadeh is the artist who created “Stop Telling Women to Smile.” (Submitted photo)

Holmes worked with Fazlalizadeh for “The book of Jezebel” in 2013. Fazlalizadeh started the street art project STWTS, or Stop Telling Women to Smile.

“I thought it was important to talk about street harassment where it actually happens, in the environment,” Fazlalizadeh explains in a video on the project’s site. For STWTS, she talks with women about their experiences, creates a portrait of them and pastes those portraits where they can be seen on the streets of New York.

“I’d asked her at one point, ‘Have you ever done this outside the U.S.?” said Holmes, who is also the founder of Jezebel, “and she said no.”

So Holmes pitched the project to Fusion, commissioned Fazlalizadeh and decided to start with Mexico City, where the problem of street harassment is notorious. From the project:

Street harassment, also known as “acoso en las calles,” is an enormous problem in Mexico City and the country as a whole, where rates of sexual violence against women are some of the highest in the world. In Mexico, as elsewhere, says Laura Martinez, director of the Association for the Integral Development of Raped Persons, female bodies are seen as objects, as “something a man can have access to, even if the woman doesn’t want”; a United Nations report in 2010 ranked Mexico number one globally in sexual violence against women, estimating that 44% of females have suffered some sort of sexual violence, from groping to rape. The situation is so bad that Mexico City offers female-only cars on the city’s subways and, in 2008, introduced female-only buses, painted the color pink.

“All the time. Every day.” unfolds in a series of short videos of women and men speaking about street harassment in Mexico City. There’s text about the project, videos that include meeting with women, drawings by Fazlalizadeh and images and maps of places her art was posted.

The trip only made up about 20 percent of the actual work that went into the interactive, said Holmes, who is the project’s executive producer. The rest of that work was trying to figure out how to present it.

Creating “All the time. Every day.” was expensive, too, more than $10,000, Holmes said.

Because they’ve now created this project, she knows what works and what doesn’t. The structure of what they learned could be used as a template for other countries. If it’s not this project in another country, Holmes would like to continue creating interactives that involve artists and their work.

But she hopes to visit another country with Fazlalizadeh.

“I would really like to,” Holmes said. “I think it depends on the reception to this.”

“All the time. Every day.” ends with a video of the women in the project saying what they’d like to tell the men who harass them. There’s also a call to hear other women’s experiences on Twitter and Instagram.

“This is something that women I know deal with all the time in the United States,” Holmes said, “and I think that my interest in this is because I want to better understand what other women go through.”

In Mexico City, the women she met spoke honestly and movingly “about what it is like to be a female in that particular city, moving around in public space, and the sort of abuse that they have to endure every day.”

One of Tatyana Fazlalizadeh's drawings from Mexico City. (Submitted photo)

One of Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s drawings from Mexico City. (Submitted photo)