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Rape Archive and Memorial, or rape in a socio-cultural context

Jana Leo de Blas - 2010

Hypothesis: Rape has not decreased in twenty-one centuries of civil life. Treated as a women's issue, what ultimately increase the rapes and stigmatize the victims, discussed among professionals or in the media, rape is an open secret not addressed in a cultural or social context. There is a gap here. 

 How the idea of the RAM started

During the show, Rape New York-An Open Archive, at Invisible-Exports from June 26-July 3, 2009 in New York’s Lower East Side and because of the sentiments expressed by the visitors for a desire to continue the experience, the idea of finding an institution to permanently house this archive on a more permanent basis arose and from then the idea of an Archive of Rape.

Michael White from St Roosevelt hospital crime victims center, misunderstood my idea of finding and institution to house the archive and said: an archive of private archives, a place where people can donate their own “rapes archives". Uhmmm …my main idea in presenting the archive was to illustrate the idea that violent acts through private records can be made a “public concern”, following the same logic, it made sense to have a public space to archive rape. I have waited ten years to transcend my own experience. This archive could be the first archive dedicated specifically to rape.

The days that followed the show in the summer of 2009 I meet with people whose work related to rape. I met with Jennifer Baumgardner. She did a project about abortion “ T-shirts: I have had an abortion”. She tried to help me to published Rape New York in 2008. I told her about the archive… The response of the people, once they entered they were really into it…She is about to get birth couldn’t go…. I told her about how I was looking for a permanent place, a museum…. A museum of Rape Jennifer said, A museum of rape, I am sure is going to be controversial. Not a way to celebrate rape but to keep a record of it, I said. Later on I share the idea with Merle Hoffman, through who I met Jennifer, she is the principal of an abortion clinic and edit the “on the issues magazine” she said: Museum of Rape is an interesting idea--perhaps there should be a War Against Women Museum in Washington next to the Holocaust Museum-rape is only one theater of war....

If archives are forms of control, in the institutional level, -keep the records, this archive can work as a collective rather than institutional way to keep control (in the durkheim way, whether society work as an equilibrium of forces rather than from imposition. Also an archive of private records, might act as a way to pass control to the victims –what a victim can do is remembering; transmission of memory, an open archive, a threat for the rapists…their character and description will be on public, collective records, acting as a threat for them. This private archive can potentially also is a danger for the victims who can be victimized twice; so this need to be carry on with care.

The show Rape New York-Open Archive, wasn’t a metaphor of an archive it was an archive for real (my own documents open up to the public); often now the archive in art is merely a metaphor. “A monument while being built is related to something that happened. The reason for the monument is that this significant “something” actually happened. Here is a paradox: what “happened” wasn’t made up; the monument is made. Regardless of the way it was experienced, recorded or remembered, what “happened” has a unique existence. The monument cannot be built as a “rebuilt” since it is related to something that wasn’t built. The monument is something made: fictional. What happened was real, factual. I wrote in 1995, The Monument as a Paradox: “ In the monument, the only thing that can be recreated is the structure of what happened. The recreation of the totality in a symbolic manner is a reduction of the reality to its image, a souvenir, a sacrifice of the individual in name of the universal. The recreation of the experience in a referential way, as if suffering for the other (while helping identification) is perverse, since it not only takes away the meaning of the other’s suffering but offers the occasion to dramatize innocuous suffering, to monumentalize to the scale of pain what has become trivial discomfort. “

…. An archive different from a memorial, or a monument doesn’t have a form, or its force is not on its form, but on its content. Documents in an archive don’t re-create what happened (police officers in Japan made the victim re-enact their rapes; but careful the fictionalization of rape make it non real and non important). Documents are not built, in the sense that they took place for another purpose different than to archive them, they have a life on themselves.  

Pretty much in the same way that Virilio Museum of the Accident shows not only science advances but its failures, a museum of rape will show the failures of a culture. Every body visits museums these days. If people who are not art specialists are interested in art because is a manifestation of our culture, a museum of rape, will take rape to its place: the culture that produce it.