Sophia Hewson Creates Controversial ‘Rape Representation’ Video for New Exhibition

The artist says she arranged her own rape to fight the patriarchy.

Sophia Hewson. Courtesy photographer Michelle Tran, Sophia Hewson.
Sophia Hewson. Courtesy photographer Michelle Tran, Sophia Hewson.

Australian-based artist Sophia Hewson has released a challenging new video that is a “self-orchestrated rape representation,” according to her artist’s statement.

The three-minute video, titled are you ok bob?, is currently on view at Mars Gallery in Melbourne. It shows Hewson staring dead ahead into the camera, while a stranger she invited into her apartment is largely off-screen during the sexual encounter, with only his arms and hands entering the frame.

Hewson, who is 31, described the work to the Sydney Morning Herald as “militant feminist” piece.

Sophia Hewson. Courtesy photographer Michelle Tran, Sophia Hewson.

Sophia Hewson. Courtesy photographer Michelle Tran, Sophia Hewson.

“The raped woman is nearly always depicted with her face downcast and her eyes averted,” wrote Hewson in her artist’s statement. Instead, she stares boldly back, confronting the viewer.

The work recalls Emma Sulkowicz‘s Ceci N’est Pas Un Viol (“This Is Not a Rape”), in which she filmed a sexual encounter in her dorm that turned violent. The artist rose to prominence through her senior thesis project, Mattress Performance: Carry That Weight, where she protested Columbia University’s handling of her sexual assault complaint.

Sophia Hewson, <em>are you ok bob?</em> (2016), video still. Courtesy Sophia Hewson and Mar Gallery.

Sophia Hewson, are you ok bob? (2016), video still. Courtesy Sophia Hewson and Mars Gallery.

The question of who is taking of advantage of who is also present in Hewson’s work. “I’ve never had rape fantasy and I didn’t enjoy making the work physically,” Hewson told the Independent, acknowledging that some viewers may find the video disturbing. A Facebook user wrote in response, “Rape is not an artistic medium.”

Nevertheless, the artist thinks the taboo around sexual assault needs to be overcome. “Perhaps the question is not ‘who is using whom in this situation,’ but ‘why are we forced to choose at all?'”

Sophia Hewson’s “are you ok bob” is on view at Mars Gallery, 7 James Street, Windsor, Melbourne, Australia, May 19–June 2, 2016.


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