Force: Upsetting Rape Culture, an organization founded by MICA grads Hannah Brancato and Rebecca Nagle, has a studio in the former thrift shop at 1400 Greenmount Ave. around the corner from The Copy Cat Annex and City Arts. Since its inception in 2010, Force has been working to change the dialogue surrounding rape and sexual assault and harbor an environment for survivors to speak out and be heard.
Nagle and Brancato were both working with themes of sexual violence as independent artists prior to founding Force. Nagle wrote a play called Darb TV, which was a subversive satire posed like a children’s television show. Brancato was an artist-in-residence at a domestic violence shelter and was doing art therapy and advocacy with survivors at the shelter. They both wanted their work to reach broader audiences and first came together to curate an art show – Force grew from there.
Force’s first big initiative came in 2012, when they launched a fake Victoria’s Secret website during the Victoria’s Secret Fashion show, unveiling a line of women’s underwear called “Pink Loves Consent.” With a site designed to look just like Victoria’s Secret’s “Pink” line, Force was able to generate quite a buzz around the underwear, which feature phrases like “No Means No” and “Ask First” as opposed to phrases like “Sure Thing.”
Force also launched a fake Playboy website, partywithplayboy.com, mocking Playboy’s “party school countdown” with a clever, informative list of “Top Ten Party Commandments: The Ultimate Guide to a Consensual Good Time.” In the fall of 2012 Force projected the phrase “Rape is Rape” on the Capitol building in Washington DC and the following winter floated the phrase “I can’t forget what happens but no one else remembers,” in the reflecting pool of the Lincoln Memorial.
Last spring, Force initiated their most ambitious project yet, a quilt by and for survivors of rape and sexual assault made up of over 6,000 individual squares, all designed by survivors and allies. “By stitching our stories together, survivors are creating and demanding public space to heal,” said Brancato on the Force website.
This summer, Force is taking The Monument Quilt on the road to ten cities across the country. “We are going to work with schools, churches, advocacy groups, crisis centers and community organizations in each city to plan their display,” says Brancato.
In July, Force will release a mixtape called From Baltimore with Love, comprised of all local Baltimore musicians, with all the proceeds going to support the Monument Quilt tour. Artists such as Dan Deacon, Abdul Ali and Ami Dang will be featured on the mixtape. Force hopes to have a live concert and album release party mid-summer to celebrate the mixtape and to kickoff the Monument Quilt tour.
Force has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the Monument Quilt tour. Follow the link to donate and help them create a safe environment for victims of sexual assault. On Wednesday, May 7th, Force will host an Open Studio Party at 1400 Greenmount Ave to celebrate the final days of the Kickstarter campaign. More info can be found on the Facebook event page.