Hey little lady, is that a gun in your pocket?

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The Independent Culture
THE IMAGES of raunchy- looking babes bathed in chic icy-blue now on display at assorted bus stops in London's East End must be, one assumes, advertising something. Except, unlike most glamour adverts, these women are armed with saws, knives or guns. There is no text on the images, which, of course, is nothing new in the wacky world of advertising. They could be a teaser campaign for a new Armani perfume called Terrorist or Baader- Meinhof, or some radical techno music.

In fact, they are the work of a young German photographer, Rut Blees Luxemburg, commissioned by the east London gallery Camerawork, as part of her 'Women at Night' series. 'I'm interested in the German tradition of strong women, from Valkyries to Baader-Meinhof,' says Ms Luxemburg, 'but I wanted to get away from old-style feminism, which seems to have got stuck'. Certainly, the photographs, situated on bus shelters opposite Mile End tube and on several sites throughout the East End, are neither passive lovelies nor the 'positive images' beloved of conventional feminism.

While she shares with the 'Reclaim the Night' movement a concern for the limited accessibility of urban public spaces such as bus stops for women, her photographs, made after interviewing women waiting for transport at night, are 'a reaction to the media's demonisation of the night - women are far more likely to be assaulted at home'.

Ms Luxemburg says she wants to get away from the victim mentality, the night for women should be full of 'mystery, unexpected possibilities, fantasy and desire'.

Ms Luxemburg describes herself as a romantic and an ironist rather than a propagandist. She talks of the need for a female version of the male flaneur, 'dandies taking on the dangers of the night'. The disturbing quality of the images is, she says, because the women in them are unheimlich - an untranslatable German word much used by Freud that means something like uncanny but also, literally, 'away from the home'.

Whether those staggering home after a curry and a few pints of lager will have their sexual politics rearranged at the bus stop remains to be seen, but the ambiguity and strange glamour of the photos makes a welcome subversive change from pretty underwear ads and are guaranteed to provoke at least some late-night arguments.

(Photograph omitted)