Friday, January 20

Something to deflate more than a man's ego

In the future, it will be assumed you are asking to be raped
unless you wear the standard "Don't rape me" uniform

I don't know why I didn't write about this earlier. It made it all the way to Broadsheet with nary a peep from me. Shame on me. Double shame on me since I even laid out a photo of one of these scary devices in our Daybreak column a week or more ago, and clicked my heels and whistled down the street, oblivious to what the hell it was actually about.

Artist Ira Sherman, who specializes in wearable, technocrat, calls his creations "impenetrable devices," and they are currently on display through March 18 at the National Ornamental Metal Museum in Memphis, the show's only stop.

His inspiration for the anti-rape devices comes from interviews he had with five victims of sexual assault who were trying to regain a sense of physical safety. What they wanted, Sherman said, was body armor.

"When you talk with someone who's been raped, you start getting details that are just horrifying. That horror I transform into my work," Sherman said. "But if I were to make pieces horribly ugly and brutal, there's no redemption. The beauty of the work has a kind of redemptive quality."

The devices have names like "Bear Trap Corset," "Saber Tooth Speculum" and "Intimate Electric Fence," and are made mostly of steel and brass, with some electrical wiring and mechanical parts.

"The Injector," with hypodermic needles, can deliver tattoo dye to mark an assailant and a sedative to lay him low. The "Intimate Electric Fence," lined with electrodes, is capable of delivering a serious shock, as Sherman discovered when he accidentally shorted it out in the studio.


His most impressive security device is the "Cremasteric Reflex Corset," an 84-inch-tall mechanism that needs support from crossing metal bands around a wearer's neck.

By far the most complex and elaborate piece in the show, it's equipped with steel spikes driven by pneumatic cylinders that, according to an exhibit flyer, "perform basic cutlery functions when activated by a strategically located pressure sensitive air valve."

So I'm sitting here thinking about the redemption Sherman mentioned and what, exactly, is being redeemed by these pieces. The women's sense of power and control? And what do these pieces communicate about rape and women's bodies and naturally existing boundaries vs. boundaries constructed from harsh goth-fetish metal? Is Sherman, channeling the rape victims, shouting out in desperation: Is this what it takes, motherfuckers? This is how it has to be to get you to stop?

Sherman said the assault victims he worked with had one common desire: "They all said, 'I want to be secure. I want to be behind a security fence.'"

Even though I'm having a hard time deciding how I feel about the artwork (I think I'm actually just furious that there exists such a dark place from which this kind of artwork can spring), you best believe I'm going to get out to see it while it's here. And I'll report back if I stumble upon any miraculous revelations.

You can go here to see some more of these fascinating pieces.


Blogger J. R. said...

Maybe the artist is reflecting in his art the impressions he got from the women. Well, I mean, that's obvious. What I mean is- these women (understandably) are very insecure, so with these ridiculous looking devices, perhaps he is saying "Look at what you've inflicted upon women- this is what they feel like they need."

I don't think he means to empower or demean women at all. It's just a reflection of how he thinks sexually-assaulted women feel.

I swear there is a cogent point in here somewhere.

Sat Jan 21, 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger theogeo said...

I agree with you, and in fact, you've said it much more coherently than I could have.

I do think the artist is doing his best to be benevolent and take something horrible and create something expressive and powerful from that.

I guess I'm just supremely angered that this kind of shit even has to exist, that women -- any women, all women -- need such drastic measures to be taken to feel safe from the ever-present danger of intrusion.

Sat Jan 21, 03:31:00 PM  

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