The documentary, Slut Nation, which accompanies the exhibition in the Helen Christou and Main Gallery, is a testament to the power of citizen journalism by providing an alternate and more accurate narrative of public protests. At first the images included in the exhibition seem to reflect what the ‘Slut Walk’ protest looked like from the ground level. However, as shown in the film, within the crowd of people holding placards and chanting in unison, was a separate ‘force’ trying to alter the message from one of gender-equality and violence against women, to frivolous and confusing statements about sexuality and self-expression. These attempts to weaken the legitimacy and influence of public protest are not new. Usually they are uncovered in the form of masked and police-boot wearing thugs trying to encourage people to smash stuff. However this time it came in the form of bright and flashy costumed individuals distracting the media with their outlandish signage and theatrical movement throughout the crowd. These distractions worked in many ways and leading newspaper and television outlets across the country used images of these individuals to represent, inaccurately, the crowd’s messaging.
The tactics used by police and law enforcement agencies, in an attempt to manipulate the public perception of street protests, is becoming a well-known fact. Activists everywhere are educating themselves on the characteristics of this type of sabotage and are arming themselves with a powerful weapon of truth… their cameras. Because the media can’t seem to stop themselves from focusing on this distracting behavior, and contributing to the misrepresentation, we need to start telling the stories in the way they should be told. The transition of how stories and truth are being generated and shared has been exciting to watch. Technology has created a more inclusive and diverse ‘soap box’, encouraging people everywhere to find their voice (be it visual, audio or lyrical) in order to speak out. The streets are where people, within a democratic society, have the right to gather and bring awareness or spread a message. Those in positions who consider street protests to be a threat to their idea of social order will continue to try and disrupt it, but will be met with a growing number of individuals armed and ready to ‘out’ them as provocateurs. Artist, Wendy Coburn, has become an example for me that finding the truth isn’t hard when done with conviction… and a camera.