#youtoo

 

The project #youtoo is a single-room installation consisting of three images projected on separate walls. Each of the pictures is a silent movie focusing on a body part of a person – an eye, a mouth and hands. The videos were recorded during interviews with people who experienced sexual harassment and who still carry the stigma. The installation allows the viewer to follow the body language while the people recall their experiences. The texts projected on the floor are extracts from the interviews recalling the emotions and reactions that followed the traumatic experiences. All the sentences were paraphrased by replacing ‘I’ with ‘you’. The room is silent. Every person entering the room disturbs the projections. Every person has a choice – reflect and be sensitive or deny it. 

 

When the #metoo movement started gaining momentum, giving a voice to many people who up until that point had remained silent, I was shocked by the number of stories that came to the surface. Not only those from the celebrity world, but also from people of my immediate environment, of all ages and genders, sadly in the vast majority from women. Sad stories of abuse and hopelessness were voiced, often for the very first time after being suppressed for years. What nearly all of them had in common was a feeling of shame. Even though all those people knew what happened to them wasn’t their fault, their stories were usually recalled with a memory of shame and anger.

 

The experiences of sexual harassment and sexual violence vary from verbal to physical, from catcalling to rape. But all of them start with blurring the line between what is right and what is wrong. Most of them are based on stereotypical ways of thinking: ‘No means Yes’, ‘Women like to be conquered’, ‘Men have to be tough’, and obviously they are coming from the way many of us were raised (‘Be kind and polite’, ‘This is part of growing up’, ‘Man up!’, ‘Boys will be boys’). Based on these expressions that were carved into our minds we tend to take on roles – either of victims or perpetrators. I listened to stories about colleagues, friends, partners and spouses, bosses and strangers that couldn’t take a ‘NO’ for a ‘NO’ or used their power and authority over someone. Each time they left their victim silenced with shame.

 

The main aim of this project is to invite the audience to reflect on the stigmatising long-term effects of sexual harassment and sexual violence, the stigma of shame that remains.