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.

to WTV Photos

Project Description

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.

Project Itinerary

January 1: Greenfield MA
January 7: New York NY
January 11: Queens NY
February 14: Boston MA
March 8: University of Massachusetts, Amherst MA
April 13: Northampton MA
April 26: Hampshire College, Amherst MA
April 27: Hampden County Correctional Center, Ludlow MA
April 28: Western Massachusetts Correctional Alcohol Center, Springfield MA
August 27: Minneapolis MN
September 20: Philadelphia PA
October 10: University of Texas, Austin TX
October 12: Dallas TX
October 16: Houston TX
October 28: South Hadley MA

Project Funders

Aid to Victims of Abuse, Houston
Boston Council for the Arts and Humanities
Coalition Against Domestic Abuse, Houston
Greenfield Arts Lottery Commission
Hampshire College
Houston Area Women's Center Guild
Massachusetts Committee on Criminal Justice
Massachusetts Cultural Council
National Endowment for the Arts
Northampton Arts Council
Northeast Utilities
Northwest Assistance Ministries, Houston
Texas Council on Family Violence
University of Texas Volunteer Board Domestic Violence Committee
generous contributions from individuals

Media Coverage

Western Massachusetts
WFCR Morning Edition, Amherst, December 27, 1994, interview with Martha Guild
Daily Hampshire Gazette, Dec 29,1994, story and photo, Bruce Watson
Greenfield Recorder, January 2, 1995, story and photo, John Giniusz, Jim Henry
Union News, Springfield, January 2, story and photo, Nicole Letourneau
New York
Newsday, January 16, photo,Viorel Florescu
Flushing Times, Little Neck Ledger, Bayside Times, Whitestone Times, Fresh Meadows Times, January 19, story and photo, Laura Fasbad
Queens Chronical, January 5, story; January 19, photo, Betty Cooney
WFNX, Boston, February 6, interview on1 in 10
WBUR, Boston, February 13, interview
Boston Herald, February 13, story and photo, Mary Jo Palumbo
Neighborhood News Network, February 14, coverage of event, Chris Harding
New England Cable, February 14, coverage of event
WBZ Channel 4, February 14, coverage of event
Channel 5, February 14, coverage of event
Channel 7, February 14, interview and coverage of event, Vicky Blake
Channel 56, February 14, coverage of event
Boston Globe, February 14, mentioned project in lead editorial
WRKO, Boston, February 14, coverage of event, Mary Blake
WAMC, Albany, February 14, coverage of event
WKOX, Framingham, February 14, coverage of event
WHYN, Springfield, February 14, coverage of event
Boston Globe, February 15 story, Doris Wong
Boston Herald, February 15, story and photo
WNNZ, Westfield, February 16, radio talk show with Celia Hahn
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
University Video Channel, March 8, coverage of event, Kathleen Horten
Daily Collegian, March 8 and 9, story and photo, Colleen Shanahan
Channel 4, August 27, coverage of event
Channel 10, August 27, coverage of event
KYW-TV (CBS), September 21, coverage of event
Greater Media Cable TV, September 21, coverage of event
Philadelphia Enquirer, September 21, story and photo Russell Eshleman
WPLY-FM, September 21, coverage of event
W10Q-FM, September 21, coverage of event
KVUE-24 (ABC), October 10, coverage of event
The Texan, October 11, story and photo
KPRC-TV (NBC), October 16, coverage of event
KNWS-TV, October 16, coverage of event
KXLN-TV, October 16, coverage of event
KTMD-TV, October 16, coverage of event
Houston Chronicle, October 17, story and photo, Stephanie Asin
KPRC-AM, October 17, interview and story
KNUZ-AM, October 17, interview and story
KQUE-FM, October 17, interview and story
KILT-FM, October 17, interview and story
KUHF-FM (NPR), October 17, interview and story
Magazines and Videos
Public Art Review, St. Paul MN, Spring/Summer 1995, story by Jack Becker, photo by Toru Nakanishi
Peacework, Boston MA, March 1995, story, photo by Ellen Shub
Labyrinth, Philadelphia PA, October, story by Lisa Rafter, photos by Crystina Ciavardone
WPVI (ABC), Philadelphia PA, November 4,Visions - news magazine with Johnnie Braxton
DUTV cable 54, Criminal Justice Today: Witness to Violence , Philadelphia PA, September 1995, producers: George McCollough, Maria Elaina Mongelli

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