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Two Essays In Search of an Art Against Rape Culture 2016

This two-channel sound installation takes as a point of departure a conversation between Akbari and Granados on the relationship between art and rape culture. The two essays contained in the work are spoken in the voices of the artists. These voices carry the traces of their variously gendered and racialized bodies (female, Iranian, Guatemalan, queer) and draw on their shared language: the training in the visual. The work creates parallel meditations on the possibility of an art against rape culture. The artists quote and discuss a wide variety of art historical and contemporary works, as well as feminist and queer theory, in order to question visual culture’s complicity with and resistance to sexual violence. The artworks referenced range from the problematic to the liberatory, asking the listener to ponder images and ideas by Ana Mendieta, Rebecca Belmore, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Ricky Varghese, Antonio da Correggio, and Paul Gauguin. 

Artists Roya Akbari & Francisco-Fernando Granados

The white cube and art institutions are also implicated in rape culture and its supports—a theme that is taken up by artist Francisco-Fernando Granados and Roya Akbari in their collaborative two-channel sound piece Two Essays in Search of an Art Against Rape Culture.

The latter piece grew out of three years of conversations between Akbari and Granados around “the suffering of victims and family members of victims of rape and also what the barriers are to bringing justice to the victims,” says Akbari in an email.

“In my [sound] essay… I am particularly talking about how artists address the issue of rape in their artworks by looking at Greek and Roman mythology and paintings by Caravaggio that whitewash the violence of rape,” says Akbari. She also includes consideration of “the work of Ana Mendieta that represents violence directly.”

The form of Two Essays—as non-visual—was also an important choice, say the artists.

“By reading the essays for the audience but removing our bodies from presence and view, we want to create parallel meditations on the possibility and necessity of an art against rape culture,” says Granados in an email. “We talk about a range of historical and contemporary works, as well as feminist and queer theory, in order to question our discipline’s complicity with but also resistance to sexual violence.”

Collaboration was also a significant choice in a context of talking about rape culture and resistance to it.

“It was important for us to make something collaborative, and something that staged a conversation, in part because it feels like in order to create lasting social change around the issue of sexual violence, there needs to be a shift in our culture,” Granados says. “It certainly feels like rape culture is being unmasked in terms of the visibility of increasing conversations around it.”

Written by Leah Sandals

Part of the Canadianart magazine

Photos by Andrew Butkevicius


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