2.25.2009

Whoa

That was the first word that came to mind when I stumbled onto "Domestic Arsenal" this afternoon. I stopped by Living Arts/Liggett Studio to pick up my New Genre festival pass, and Steve and a handful of volunteers were prepping the exhibit, which opens tomorrow night at Liggett.

Centered in the gallery space was a pile of regular, random household objects, each of them a possible weapon in a domestic violence situation. Even without the lights, the background noise, the ambiance that will be in full effect tomorrow night, the work is stunning. I circled the pile, perched atop a wooden bed frame, and noticed items like a small garden shovel, bars of soap, a hair dryer. Then there were the more grotesque things: a pick ax, a golf club, hockey sticks. But perhaps the most emotive of all of the objects were those that, apart from the exhibit's connotation, were the most innocent: child's toys, a baby doll, a wooden spoon. Looking at those items, especially the toys, and imagining a child playing with them, then to have them torn from their little hands and used to hurt them, left me with a sick feeling in my stomach. I stopped to pick up a piece of soap laying on the floor and had to put it back down almost as quickly as I touched it.

The toys are painted to appear rusty and old, and I'm not sure if, even without the varnish, their symbolism wouldn't have been as powerful. But, the dark, dirty paint applied to them left them with the appearance of being worn, weathered and gruesome.

On the walls surrounding the installation work are large sheets of paper on which are plastered news articles describing real cases of domestic abuse. I stopped to read a few of the stories, and I was most compelled by one in which a source asserted that, in order to understand and attempt to put a stop to the problem of domestic violence, we have to stop criticizing women who refuse to leave their abusers and rethink the society in which we live that somehow thinks it is OK or understandable for a man to hit a woman (or vice versa).

I'm not sure if Eileen Doktorski, the artist behind "Domestic Arsenal," has ever experienced domestic abuse firsthand. None of the articles or information I read about her made it clear one way or another. She certainly does have a morbid fascination with the thing, but, translated into a work like this, that fascination could quite possibly provoke a viewer of her exhibit to take action against what she's portraying. I'm pretty sure Domestic Violence Intervention Services has been alerted to the nature of her work and encouraged to be present at the exhibit, should someone need their services after seeing it.

4 comments:

Justin said...

DVIS was contacted and are part of the group expected at the artist's talkback session tomorrow. Should be quite moving.

Holly Wall said...

Awesome, "dude." Thanks for the info!

Natasha said...

I saw it as I walked past that same day and didn't know what it was; I just saw painted remote controls through the windows and wondered. Thanks for filling me in!

Jessica said...

An intervention is the action taken by family, friends, employer and/or concerned others to actively assist someone to change unacceptable behavior.