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Anonymous feminist artist Ambivalently Yours captures our most mundane to our most intense emotions in her wonderfully fierce pink drawings. She celebrates that part of being a feminist is advocating for the right to choose, one choice being not to choose. ‘Boldly undecided’ is the decision she often takes, particularly in choosing between traditional femininity and radical feminism.
Litro: Where did the idea for Ambivalently Yours come from?
Ambivalently Yours: I created Ambivalently Yours when I was studying feminist art and simultaneously working in the fashion industry, which seemed like a huge contradiction at the time. At work, I became the feminist killjoy every time I raised a concern about the sexist undertones in our campaigns, and in art school I was the fashion girl who many assumed was duped by the patriarchy just because I liked cute clothes and girly colours. I felt caught somewhere in-between two worlds that I both loved and hated at times, in other words I felt ambivalent. Eventually, I decided to embrace my contradictions and put them at the forefront of my artistic practice. Ambivalently Yours became my fierce alter-ego who would explore my feminist questions from this in-between place where things are undefined and pink can be powerful.
Litro: You often mention being ‘boldly undecided’. Could you tell us what you mean by this? How does this come in to play in your work?
Ambivalently Yours: Feeling undecided or ambivalent is often thought of as being a sign of weakness, yet I’ve found that there is a certain liberty that comes from allowing your convictions to be fluid. When I say boldly undecided, I mean that my indecision is not a place of passivity, but rather a conscious and active state, where ideas can be approached from multiple angles. By allowing myself to be boldly undecided in my work, I have created a space where I can ask more questions instead of getting stuck with incomplete answers.
Litro: How do you think social media has affected your art?
Ambivalently Yours: When I started Ambivalently Yours, I tried exploring ambivalence through different media like sound, video and blog writing. I also created drawings about my ambivalence, but at the time, I didn’t think they were important. It is only when I started posting these drawings on Tumblr and that people started responding to them and sharing them that I realised the potential for affect and empathy that exists in the act of drawing. My online community also started writing to me about their own ambivalence and feminist questions, which I respond to with more drawings. Therefore, social media, and more specifically the people I have engaged with through social media, have completely shaped the emphasis of my work and have provided me with much of the personal content that fuels it.
Litro: You draw a lot of requests for people, which they adore. How do you go about capturing the stories and troubles people share with you?
Ambivalently Yours: I want the drawings to be an act of empathy, but at the same time I think that empathy is always limited. We can’t ever truly understand how someone else is feeling, especially if our life experiences are very different. When I respond to people’s messages online I try to keep that in mind, I try to be very transparent about the pieces I can’t quite relate to while also highlighting the experiences in my own life that may be relatable. The drawings become a sort of collaboration that illustrate the interactions between strangers online.
Litro: Your work is very unique, what inspires you the most to create?
Ambivalently Yours: I believe in the feminist understanding that the personal is political, and I am inspired by my own personal stories and the stories that people share with me online. I am also inspired by the community of artists I have met online. They have helped me realize that while it was often criticised for being too weak or girly, my soft pink aesthetic can successfully represent ideas of strength and radical feminist thought.
Litro: On your blog you speak about refusing to choose between traditional femininity and radical feminism. In what ways do you think the two can co-exist? How can we promote choice as being also, as you term it, ‘a space of undeciding?’
Ambivalently Yours: I think that feminism and femininity can only comfortably co-exist if you admit that this juxtaposition implies a certain amount of contradiction. Learning to understand these contradictions can provide a productive tension that increases the joy of what we love (like pink, hearts and all things soft and girly) without burying the pain caused by the things we hate (all the rules and expectations imposed on us by a patriarchal society). We are often told we have freedom to choose, but are only offered a limited amount of choices, none of which properly fit our needs. In my work, I try to look at what it means to choose not to choose, to remain somewhere in-between, constantly looking at both sides and asking more questions.