Telling Garments: The Rapists’ White Shirts
seit 2001 | Work in progress | Seven white shirts, one white blouse, each printed in one of seven languages: German, English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, Turkish
Like the tie, the spotless white shirt is a symbol of male authority. In western culture, the colour white is commonly associated with cleanliness, purity and innocence. Here, in bright red lettering, in seven languages, I have printed my text on the back of seven shirts:
WHITE FACADES – BEHIND WHITE CURTAINS – AT WHITE FAMILY TABLECLOTHS – THE SHIRTS OF THE RAPISTS – WHITE.
With this work I highlight the fact that society’s treatment of sexual violence as an “ordinary” everyday occurrence, and likewise its broad acceptance and integration of sexual offenders, is part and parcel of established patriarchal social structures, world-wide.
Also, I perform with the shirts in public spaces, often in collaboration with other activists and victims-survivors, so as to raise awareness on the streets or at art venues, as, for instance, on 30.04.2004, at a protest march against the Evangelists’ “Christival” event in Bremen, with its sexist and homophobic workshops (photo, bottom right) or in 2002 at the documenta (photo, top right). The documenta has taken place regularly in Kassel, since 1955, allegedly to showcase the broadest possible range of international contemporary art and yet – despite presenting many other artistically and politically controversial themes – the very little space it allotted the issue of sexual violence so far was disproportionate to its global incidence. Through my work I disrupt this everyday tendency to “turn a blind eye”, temporarily put the issue in the spotlight and demand that people deal with it.
Since 2016, a white blouse has been included in the work:
WHITE FACADES – BEHIND WHITE CURTAINS – AT WHITE FAMILY TABLECLOTHS – THE BLOUSE OF THE FEMALE RAPIST – WHITE,
to connote women’s perpetration of, or complicity in, sexual violence. It is estimated that 10–20 % of sexual offenders are women.