"Authority" Still Wears a Suit and Tie


What Does An Important Person Look Like?, 2011, 137 archival photographic prints mounted on cintra, each print: 4" x 5"; installation 50" x 240"

I’ve been flat on my back with sciatica the past couple of weeks, watching a fair amount of talk TV, so I can tell you anecdotally that what Jennifer Dalton shows you in her solo exhibition, Cool Guys Like You, at the Winkleman Gallery is the real deal.

Her premise? That the voice of “authority”—in the form of talk show guests and talking heads on the political and culture shows—is overwhelmingly male. Even if you haven’t spent months reasearching, as Dalton seems to have done, you know this to be true. Just turn on the tube.

Click pics to make text readable

But Dalton went beyond the anecdotal. She went into the archives and got the figures. Then she made her trademark charts and graphs. Here’s an excerpt of the statement for the show:

Dear Bill/Brian/Charlie/Jon/Leonard/Rachel/Stephen/Terry:

I listen to or watch you regularly, in most cases for years running. Let's just get this out of the way: I admire you. I admire you for finding a wide variety of intelligent, interesting guests, and for having entertaining and illuminating conversations with them. You radio hosts have made it possible for me to work for hours and days in the studio without going bonkers. And to be completely honest, I have also made artwork while watching all of your TV shows too. . .
. . . But when I looked closely at whom you interview—the people you collectively decide are the most important of the moment . . . what I found was this:

In 2010, the most lopsided show among you featured only 17.5% female guests. The most balanced among you still only featured 34% female guests. The rest of you are in between, but mostly huddled around the more lopsided end of that spectrum.

If I may be so bold, WTF?”

WTF, indeed. That "high" of 34% female guests is just not high enough. Once she makes you look at the gender, you realize that these shows haven’t done so great in the ethnicity department, either. And it’s not all politics, as the images indicate: the lineup of musicians and writers is equally skewed.

I've got to hand it to Dalton: She tackles a topic that seems to be out of fashion with artists (actually, with anyone) under 35. And she makes gender inequality graphically interesting, which means she's getting people to look.

So, Dear Bill/Brian/Charlie/Jon/Leonard/Rachel/Stephen/Terry:
I’d like to propose a guest for your show: Jennifer Dalton. What she has to tell you isn’t pretty, but you need to hear it. And then you need to do something about it.

To Whose Opinions Am I Listening?
A month-by-month chart of eight programs. The numbers don't looks good, as the legend below

The Brian Lehrer Show: 32% female guests
The Colbert Report: 17.5%
Charlie Rose: 20%
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart: 21%
Fresh Air with Terry Gross, on NPR: 20.5%
The Leonard Lopate Show: 34%
The Rachel Maddow Show: 19.3%
Real Time with Bill Maher: 26%

Click pic to make numbers legible



Donna Dodson said...

It's true if you're not thinking in terms of gender equity, you're not achieving it, same goes for ethnic/racial diversity. It's often seen as a lesser or secondary value to the caliber of achievements in a field, but if the value of diversity is tantamount, then it takes equal place at the table, as should women and people from diverse cultural backgrounds that reflect the population of our country and the world. Check this out,

Gwenn said...

Fascinating work! I think the source of these issues is still biological: women are not taken seriously because some of us still choose to have babies. The only way out of this mess is to stop making the future generations possible...unless, of course, males and society in general want to renegotiate!

Mark Warren said...

Sean Scully commented on such "Art" saying it wants to be both art and social science and it is neither. This would be a nice little graph in a magazine but nothing more. Very tiring.

Tamar said...

It is so sad that even those media hosts whom I admire have such lopsided guest lists. Decisions about which people to interview start at the top and the consistent lack of diversity is painful.

@ Mark-- it is precisely because this is presented visually and fills a gallery that it demands that we take notice. It is too easy to ignore a 'nice little graph' published in a magazine. And such statistics represent people's lives.

Joanne, Hope you recover soon.

Mark Warren said...

Every gallery should be filled with a high school sociology project? Thank God there are women out there making real art advancing women in a positive manner not griping. This kind of politics has never convinced anyone of anything except fellow travelers. And I am feeling fine; just tired of the same banalities being put forward as art decade after decade. Thanks

Joanne Mattera said...

Mark, I think you're overreacting. You don't have to like the concept or the exhibition.

annell4 said...

hummm.... we think things have changed. "The more things change, the more they stay the same." There is a truth somewhere, perhaps everywhere. Often art that is too literal just isn't art. And there is a fine line, although it seems this exhibit is saying something important. I'm not sure...

Victoria Webb said...

Happy to see Dalton's provocative exhibit. Having worked in broadcast media for a quarter century and in the arts for longer, I can vouch that gender diversity continues to be a huge problem. Especially so in news.

However, there is one voice that should be noted; Amy Goodman, the host of DemocracyNow!. Originally her show aired on Pacifica Radio, and I first heard her programming when I lived in San Francisco.

She is one of a kind and has a devoted following, offering an egalitarian mix of guests and programming.

I wish Dalton had included stats from her shows, it might have proved interesting.

Nancy Natale said...

Joanne, in light of the recent FB discussion about the generational divide between younger women and those who were actively involved in the development of Feminism's Second Wave, the statistics that Dalton developed prove that women are still way behind in their effort to be taken seriously in our society. The fact that these statistics were presented in an art gallery means that Dalton put them together in an interesting, visual way. And there's still THAT guy bitching about women pushing their "banalities" decade after decade.

Two points: I do think that art with this much message walks a fine line between sociology and art, however, Dalton has upped the visual ante on it to make it more interesting to look at. As my dear wife Bonnie said after going to one really statistically overloaded show, "If I wanted to read, I would have gone to the library." But I applaud Winkleman Gallery for showing the work.

Second point: women keep carping about this because it doesn't fucking change. We need to keep saying it everywhere we can so it sinks into people's minds: women are not treated equally in our society - on TV, in jobs, in art galleries, everywhere. This needs to change.

Mark Warren said...

Since everything appears to be art then why have a privileged wall in an expensive building selling cliches for big dollars? Certainly anything on TV must be art so why not view Fox News as an ironic masterpiece? Crude politics is everywhere and there is very little art. And Joanne ...If I don't like the exhibit I shouldn't comment? What is a discussion?

Joanne Mattera said...

Mark, Here's my previous response to you. Nowhere does it say that you should not state your opinion:

I think you're overreacting. You don't have to like the concept or the exhibition.

JanB said...

Sadly, I don't see our culture rising above viewing woman artist as little more than bored housewives with a "hobby". I hope for the sake of our future generations, society can learn to look past the tall white male with perfect hair and a nice bright smile (insert image of the political talking heads here) and give the rest of the population a chance.
ps, sometimes art is about an appealing and thought provoking display with a statement....not just a pretty picture.