BY SARAH STEPHEN
An exhibition of photographs depicting women in a series of degrading poses — bound, handcuffed, chained and hooded like tortured Iraqi prisoners — aims to highlighting the epidemic of domestic violence in Australia.
"Last year the Abu Ghraib torture photos were made famous across the world", photographer Angela Fitzpatrick told Green Left Weekly. "I've done a parallel within our own society. Within Australia there's so much violence. I was trying to get that across."
The specially commissioned photographs form the centrepiece of the Vanguard exhibition of 20 female contemporary regional artists at the Broken Hill City Art Gallery, that opened on February 18 to mark International Women's Day.
"It seems unrealistic", Fitzpatrick wrote about her work Terror Begins at Home. "Terror within our own country. Like the Iraq prisoners shown in the tabloids on the front covers, that it could happen within our own shores. Daily subjection of mental and physical torture from the mundane to the extreme violence within our society. In ordinary neighbourhood homes and the workplace; that isn't reported — which isn't deemed suspicious or circumstantial to everyday existence."
"Broken Hill has the third highest rate of domestic violence in NSW", Fitzpatrick told GLW. "You can be sitting in lounge at night and hear people fighting; you see kids frightened to go home. Just the other day a neighbour from across the road came to my door bleeding profusely. He said he'd had a fight with his missus. I wondered if he was so badly hurt, what state was his wife in? I called the police and they brought around an ambulance."
Director of the art gallery Jacqui Hemsley defied a directive by the local council to take the photographs down after a member of the public complained that they were offensive. "There's no way I'm taking the works down", Hemsley told the February 16 Australian. The art gallery and the local council agreed on a compromise to remove them from their prominent window position.
Commenting on the council's attempt to ban the works, Fitzpatrick explained: "It became such a censorship issue, as well as people putting their heads in the sand about domestic violence. The council said it was offensive, but I've had grandmothers in shops saying 'good on you'."
"The community really stood by me, as did art gallery director Jacqui Hemsley. She is a woman of integrity. She put her job on the line to stand up for what's right."
"Once art starts getting censored, where does it stop? We already have enough censorship in Australia." Fitzpatrick commented that she couldn't remember seeing a film in the Broken Hill cinemas for more than 10 years with a rating higher than PG.
From Green Left Weekly, March 2, 2005.
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