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Being Dangerous: Women, Art, and Activism (1980-Now)

In 1989, just months before the Tiananmen Square crackdown, she walked into the National Gallery of Art in Beijing and fired a gun at one of her sculptures. Her action would later be described as “the first gunshots of Tiananmen.” The consequences for the artist were immediate. The exhibition was promptly shut down, and she was arrested and forced into exile. (Xiao Lu)

At the Venice Biennale in 2009, the official Mexican contribution included the daily mopping of the floor of an abandoned villa with rags soaked in blood and mud from crime scenes in Mexican cities. The exhibition vitrine displayed artist-designed jewelry that had been created from shards of glass removed from dead bodies involved in drive-by shootings. Because of the artist’s relentless critique of the Mexican drug cartel, she is under constant surveillance. (Teresa Margolles)

The group came to prominence in 2012, when five members burst into Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior to protest ties between the Russian Orthodox Church and Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Their art protest — the performance of a song they described as their punk prayer, “Mother of God, Drive Putin Away” — took place as the then prime minister was campaigning for his return to the presidency. Following a farcical show trial, two members of the group were convicted on a charge of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” and sentenced to two years in a penal colony. (Pussy Riot)


Being Dangerous: Women, Art, and Activism (1980-Now) is a groundbreaking exhibition focused on women and women-identified artists from around the globe. In an art world known for its rebels and rule breakers, this exhibition makes the case that women have become its true disruptors, claiming their own bodies for expressive material, challenging gender and race inequities, fusing art with social activism, and challenging the power structures of patriarchal cultures. As art historian Lucy Lippard observed about feminist artists, their work was built around “a value system, a revolutionary strategy, and a way of life.” Being “dangerous” for these artists refers to the great risks taken to make art that confronts racism, misogyny, and other inequities supported by dominant cultures in ways that threaten the status quo. These artists have put themselves in physical danger to make their work and faced the dangers of losing their families, their livelihoods, and, in many parts of the world, their personal freedoms and lives.

Opening at the Arizona State University Art Museum (ASUAM) in April 2025, Being Dangerous brings together an international and intergenerational group of artists whose work challenges the status quo and addresses issues of compelling urgency around the globe. Conceived by guest curator Elizabeth Armstrong, the exhibition is organized in association with ASUAM curator Brittany Corrales, in collaboration with a diverse curatorial team including ASUAM Director Miki Garcia, ASUAM Windgate Assistant Curator Ninabah Winton, and Delphine Sims, Ph.D. candidate in the History of Art Department at UC Berkeley. The project is co-produced with the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography (FEP) and has received critical support from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Curatorial Research and the National Endowment for the Arts.

The exhibition and accompanying publication will focus on 30 artists from around the globe working in photography, film and video, sculpture, performance and installation. No two of the artists are alike; they are differentiated by culture and identity, by generation and geography, by support systems (or lack thereof), and by personal and political circumstances. What was dangerous for a female artist in Los Angeles in the 1990s might be entirely different from what is dangerous for an artist working in Cape Town today. Yet, across these differences is a kinship, a shared experience of defying oppression. “There is no hierarchy of oppressions,” Audré Lorde proclaimed in 1983. “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”



Being Dangerous will be accompanied by a comprehensive, fully illustrated publication that amplifies the subjects of the exhibition. It will feature an introductory essay by Elizabeth Armstrong and commissioned texts by select scholars and writers related to issues of female mythology, body politics, intersectional feminism, autocracy and gender, and social activism in art, among other topics. The publication also will include interviews with key artists, along with biographical entries, in-depth documentation of their work, and a detailed bibliography. Armstrong has consulted with curators, artists and scholars from different generational ties, geographical areas of expertise, and disciplines, several of whom will contribute to the book. These include Connie Butler, Bridget Cooks, Miki Garcia, Nor Hall, Candice Hopkins, Naima Keith, Karen Moss, Kristine Stiles, Olga Viso, and Nico Wheadon.

Venue list

Being Dangerous: Women, Art, and Activism (1980-Now)
The exhibition will be available to travel starting in April 2025 and continuing into 2025-2026 in the U.S. and abroad
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