Dyke Action Machine!

Dyke Action Machine! (DAM!) is a two-person public art project founded in 1991 by artist Carrie Moyer and photographer Sue Schaffner. Between 1991 and 2004 DAM! blitzed the streets of New York City with public art projects that combined Madison Avenue savvy with Situationist tactics.

The campaigns dissected mainstream media by inserting lesbian images into recognizably commercial contexts, revealing how lesbians are and are not depicted in American popular culture. While questioning the basic assumption that one cannot be “present” in a capitalist society unless one exists as a consumer group, DAM! performed the role of the advertiser, promising the lesbian viewer all the things she’d been denied by the mainstream: power, inclusion, and the public recognition of identity.

DAM! began as a working group of Queer Nation and quickly evolved into a stand-alone agitprop unit whose exact membership remained anonymous for many years. Dyke Action Machine! campaigns presented a hybrid form of public address where civic issues such were packaged to fit seamlessly into the commercialized streetscape.

A typical DAM! campaign was comprised of 5,000 posters wheatpasted over the course of one month. Neighborhoods were targeted for both the volume and diversity of pedestrian traffic as well as their long histories as sites for graphic intervention and public discourse. As corporations and activists battled for the ever-dwindling public space in New York City, DAM! turned to other modes of propaganda (lightboxes, catalogs, matchbooks, buttons and stickers to name but a few) and distribution (the US Postal Service, the Internet and by hand).

Dyke Action Machine

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