|WITNESS TO VIOLENCE collaborative public artworks|
Witness to Violence was founded in 1993 by artist Robert Markey to address the issue of violence against women through the creation and presentation of public artworks.
Witness to Violence especially aims to increase men's awareness of this violence and to inspire them to take greater responsibility for ending it.
As art is a powerful tool for social and political change and artists are a valuable and underutilized resource, Witness to Violence strives to promote collaboration between artists and non-arts organizations.
The Witness to Violence Project was the collaborative creation of a 'painting' in a series of performances in locations throughout the country during the year of 1995. These performances focused public and personal awareness on the epidemic of violence against women and mobilized thousands of men and women to demand that the violence must end.
On a large stretched canvas under the words 'Number of women battered in 1995' was the tally of the number of women battered in the year to date. This number was updated every fifteen seconds (the rate of battering in this country) by men who wished to express their outrage at the level of violence against women in this country. Their participation was a public outcry to members of their own sex against the magnitude of this violence and a personal commitment to work to end it. During this time women survivors of violence signed their names on the canvas. Their public witness was a statement of empowerment and a demand from tens of thousands of women that the violence must end. Friends and family of women killed by their batterers wrote the names of the victims in red on the canvas (other names were in black) both to honor those women and to demand that no more women die at the hands of their abusers. At the end of the year the canvas was covered with names, and the 'battered women count' was over two million.
The Witness to Violence Project is best described as a collaborative, conceptual performance piece which focuses on a compelling social issue. The performers in the piece are the men who change the numbers and the women who sign their names. The intense personal interaction of the men updating the count of batterings side by side with the women signing their names creates a performance based not upon a script but upon each person's history and emotional response to the action at the painting at the moment.
Conceptually, the piece juxtaposes the occurrences of events in the past and at the present time. At the very moment a man updates the battered women tally, a woman is being beaten. When a woman signs her name on the canvas she is bearing witness to an event in her past. The intersection of the images of brutality from past and present in the mind's eye of the viewers and the participants is the conceptual driving force of the piece. Visually, the intensity of the painting builds during the year as the tally increases into the millions and signatures completely cover the canvas.
An estimated two to three million American women are battered or assaulted each year. The public needs to be made aware of the magnitude of the problem and of the devastating consequences it has both on the personal lives of the women and their children and on our society. The uniqueness and power of this project is that it gives a face - many faces - to the women who have survived battering. Many men don't know or don't think they know women who are being abused. To see a women, to stand next to her as she signs her name, to tally the number of one more woman battered as she looks on brings the reality of it into his life and his experience in a way that demands a dedication to end the violence.