Australian artist Sophia Hewson made headlines this week when the Internet learned about her new piece, Untitled (are you ok Bob?), in which the artist simulates her own violent sexual assault. Filmed in her New York apartment during a consensual sexual encounter with a stranger, the “self-orchestrated rape representation” is Hewson’s attempt to devalue male privilege by exposing the anguish of female subjugation, and in doing so, the importance of expression in combating the patriarchy.
“The raped woman is nearly always depicted with her face downcast and her eyes averted,” said 31-year-old Hewson, a multidisciplinary artist whose work focuses on sexuality, feminism and representations of the female body. “The most confronting aspect of Untitled (are you ok Bob?), isn’t watching as a woman is struck or penetrated, it’s seeing her look back out at us from the experience. Caught in her gaze, the viewer is not only forced to bear witness to her subjectivity, but implicated in her desolation.”
Untitled (are you ok Bob?) is a visceral view of female repression. By simulating her own assault, the artist sought to subvert female victimization, while also disrupting the concept of male autonomy. A loaded topic to tackle, the Internet, of course, had plenty to say about Hewson and her work.
Sophia Hewson got exactly what she wanted – free publicity. The moron has no sensitivity towards REAL rape victims https://t.co/rNBkdp6WQf
— ரசிதா (@itsRachita) May 20, 2016
Art as political act for women? Is it ok to channel pain/suffering as tools for resistance & political agency? https://t.co/MQ8knC1HcI
— Laurene Leon Boym (@laureneleonboym) May 25, 2016
— Project Casting (@ProjectCasting) May 24, 2016
Many victims of sexual assault found the piece to be triggering and offensive, while news outlets like The Daily Mail asked, “Is this really art?” Regardless, Hewson has sparked a very necessary dialogue about sexual assault and the factors at play within a culture where victims are more likely to ask their rapists, “Are you OK?” Though the full video is only available for viewing at Melbourne’s Mars Gallery, you can read Hewson’s full artist statement, online.