I wore this heavy chain mail LED neon light dress to the 2019 LA Art Show, the most comprehensive international contemporary art show in America.
The NY based artist behind the Lock Her&Him Up dress is Michael Seri. Seri is a 60-year-old Army veteran who served in Germany and was wrongfully imprisoned on allegations of sexual violence. Seri has used his struggles with PTSD and drug addiction as a source of insight and material for his art. According to Seri, he did not intend this piece to be specifically political or feminist but to reflect his own life experiences and perceptions of the current state of discourse in our society. He is not as interested in taking sides as he is holding a mirror up to society, and believes that everyone should be held accountable for their actions.
The weight of the dress (15 pounds) reflects the pain that survivors of any kind of violation endure and carry, including the potential burden of a persistent need for vengeance and blame.
The “Lock her up” message has its roots in Russian and Ukrainian politics. This slogan was famously used in Ukraine in 2010 when Trump’s campaign manager, the now disgraced political operative Paul Manafort, helped Victor Yanukovych win the election and put his presidential opponent Yulia Tymoshenko in prison for 3 years. It later became a popular catchphrase leading up to the 2016 Republican National Convention and found resonance during the elections on both the far Right and the far Left in ginning up disdain for Hillary Clinton.
This piece creates a distinct but unresolved dialogue that is ironic and open to wide interpretation. The artist does note though that we are, as a society, increasingly willing to be polarized, point a finger, and jump on anger-fueled bandwagons which, like Lock Her&Him Up, can be succinctly caricatured.
For the 2020 LA Art Show, I wore another piece by the same artist. The LEGAL/ILLEGAL jumpsuit made out of images of border walls and concrete fences around the world is a reminder of the detrimental effects of Trump’s racist and discriminatory policies on immigrant families and vulnerable people. More importantly, it invites us to contemplate how physical barriers affect the human psyche and why we keep building them, but also to look inward and recognize our emotional barriers, prejudices and indiscretions.