Leslie Labowitz & Suzanne Lacy, In Mourning and in Rage, 1977
Leslie Labowitz & Suzanne Lacy
In Mourning and in Rage

Suzanne Lacy is one of the feminist cultural pioneers in Los Angeles who exposed the hidden themes of violence against women in mainstream culture during the 1970s. Leslie Labowitz is an artist who studied in Los Angeles and in Germany, where she developed her early activist performance work with other women artists. Lacy and Labowitz collaborated for several years after 1977 (when Eleanor Antin introduced them), working on large-scale performances involving political lobbying, media intervention and grass roots organisation around the issue of violence against women.

In December 1977, the ‘Hillside Strangler’ was a news sensation in Los Angeles. But media coverage focused primarily on the randomness of the violence, and less on systematic violence against women, thus contributing to a climate of fear and superstition. In Mourning and in Rage was a media performance offering an alternative interpretation of the case-one that included a feminist analysis of violence. Participants from the Woman’s Building, the Rape Hotline Alliance and the City Council joined with the feminist community and victims’ families in creating a public ritual of rage and grief. The performance consisted of a motorcade of sixty women following a hearse to City Hall, where news media reporters waited. Ten tall women wearing black mourning robes climbed from the hearse. At the front steps of City Hall, the performers each spoke of a different form of violence against women, connecting these as part of a fabric of social consent for such crimes. After each of the ten performers spoke, the motorcade women, now surrounding the City Hall steps, yelled, “In memory of our sisters, we fight back!” The tenth woman, clothed in red, stepped forward to represent fighting back against all forms of violence.

Courtesy Suzanne Lacy & Leslie Labowitz