Carrie Moyer and Sue Schaffner are the founders of public art project called Dyke
Action Machine! (DAM!).
They created campaigns that placed images of lesbians into identifiable ads. Their first project in 1991 featured a series of posters that replicated popular GAP ads of time. “The campaign replaced the ‘underground’ celebrities featured in the GAP ads with pictures of lesbian activists.”(1) They use humor in their activism to promote what they call Lesbian propaganda. In 1995 they created their first website called “The Girlie Network,” which presented a mock all-lesbian television network that included shows called “OB-GYN,” “Leave Us The Beaver” and “The Snip Squad.”(2)
The streets of New York City
Their biography says they were active from 1991-2004 but their projects page displays works as recent as 2008.
Their aim was to depict the lack of lesbian representation in American culture. Particularly in the GAP ads, they aimed to show that the media would only acknowledge the existence of an individual if that individual fits in to a “recognizable consumer group.” (3) With the television network they were making a critique on the lack of television dedicated to the Lesbian viewer. Television shows are typically for and by straight, white, Christian, male viewers. Because the straight, white, Christian, male is accepted as the standard and everyone else is the “other,” these shows are accepted as being universal.
Over the course of one month, 5,000 posters were wheat pasted in New York City neighborhoods. They chose these neighborhoods based on the amount of people who lived there and how diverse it was. Additionally, they aimed for areas that had a history of “graphic intervention and public discourse.” (4)
I think what is so effective about DAM! is their use of humor. Sometimes before we can make people step up and act we have to make them laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. Advertising is a ridiculous concept to begin with- Give people complexes about issues that don’t really exist, so they will spend money on crap they don’t need with money that they don’t have. Moreover these ads not only tell us what we should buy but who we should be and that person is usually a young and perfect looking straight white person. It is truly ridiculous. “Dyke Action Machine!” fights the blatant propaganda used in mainstream advertising by creating their own humorous Lesbian propaganda and laughing in the face of the mainstream media.
It also speaks strongly to the ethics of artists and designers. As creators of images, I believe that artists have the responsibility of taking an active role. We should be commenting on and questioning the injustices that plague humanity. To create images, ads in this case, just for the sake of selling is to perpetuate Kitsch propaganda. While DAM! does create their own form of propaganda, I would categorize it as belonging to the world of Camp, because it is making fun of such evil, kitsch advertisements.