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City Gallery City Gallery Wellington

Don Driver: Boxes: Documents

Women Against Pornography to John Leuthart, 11 March 1988.

Dear Mr Leuthart,

We are writing to express our anger and disappointment at the staging of the pornographic Boxes exhibition, particularly as part of your prestigious Arts Festival programme.

 To enter the installation we are forced to trample on pictures of the faces and bodies of women only to be confronted by walls lined with old wooden boxes and opened into the room, while wall collages depict cut up and grotesque images of women and objects. The total effect of these mutilated images is an overwhelmingly woman-hating and hostile environment for us.

 One of the strongest messages in pornography is that women are objects, available to be used and abused, cut up and degraded. And that’s precisely what Driver’s installation says.

 In today’s Dominion he says I’ve completely missed the point of his show and that he’s making the point that society treats women as packages and objects.

 Well, let’s have a look at what his artist’s statement says: ‘… the modest and the immodest, the commercially manufactured and the artistically created can and do exist satisfactorily side by side’.

 So, are his pornographic images of women what he means by the coy reference to ‘immodest’ and are they co-existing with his other objects in a satisfactory way in society? I would hardly call this a damning criticism of society’s objectification of women.

 Driver’s show—which he would purport supports women—has alienated and angered every woman I’ve spoken to who’s seen it. We leave it feeling violated and degraded. But men can have an orgy of pornographic feasting without the installation anywhere criticising this response.

 If Driver does want to champion the cause of women—and we can well do without his ‘help’—he could take a leaf from the Barbara Kruger exhibition at Shed 11. She is strongly critical of women’s oppression and I left her show in absolutely no doubt about her perspective, feeling affirmed and stimulated. She is a true supporter of feminism and critic of society’s objectification of women; whereas I was totally unable to distinguish between Driver’s piece and the pornographers’ material with I see around me every day.

We’re appalled that you’ve selected this particular artist to represent your high profile arts festival programme and especially concerned that it’s being held alongside the popular holography exhibition which is attracting large numbers of children to the gallery. Given the total absence of any critical context for this work, are these the sort of images of women we want to present to young people, sanctified by the aroma of being ‘art’ and endorsed by their acceptance into a cultural institution?

Yours faithfully, 

Claire O’Brien, 

for Women Against Pornography