Artists Boris Beja, Mina Fina, Jaka Babnik, Valerie Wolf Gang, Hana Karim, Nina Koželj, Tadej Vaukman and Tanja Radež have depicted ten stories of women who have fled violence and found safety in the SOS Help-line’s shelter. A process of collaboration between the artists and women who have experienced violence has resulted in artworks with added narrative value, which come in various forms: from photographs, installations, posters, to films, designs and useful objects. Above all, these artworks have become tools to learn about the stories of individuals who were brave enough to talk about their stories and write them down, sharing their experience with many others who need further encouragement to make a new beginning and additional assurance that there are organisations that can help them. People who will support them in their decision.
“When he hit the door the second time, I covered the hole with a poster” is project developed by the Association SOS Help-line for Women and Children – Victims of Violence in collaboration with the City of Ljubljana (Department of Culture and Department of Health and Social Care), curator Božidar Zrinski of the International Centre of Graphic Arts, Radio Slovenia Channel 1 as a media partner, and funded by the U.S. Embassy in Slovenia. Further collaborators include the DOBRE ZGODBE storytelling studio, KOFEIN DIZAJN, and O.K.VIR. The Honorary Patron of the exhibition is the Mayor of the City of Ljubljana, Zoran Janković.
The project coincides with the 11th international PLAKTIVAT competition for a city poster design interpreting the theme “NO EXCUSE”. The competition is organised by TAM-TAM INSTITUTE in collaboration with SOS Help-line. The winning design will be announced in mid-November, printed and distributed through 500 TAM-TAM poster sites across Slovenia.
Violence in an intimate relationship is a volatile, long-term process, escalating in intensity, frequency and the brutality of the forms it takes. The most common causes of keeping violence secret include fear that it can no longer be contained, shame, feelings of guilt, lack of awareness, economic dependence, and attributing high value to the image of a “perfect” family or the traditional role of a woman. The reasons why women are unable to walk out of an abusive relationship are truly manifold: they have nowhere to go, see no possibility or have no safety net of supportive relationships outside their families.
In a vast majority of cases, violence is the decision of the perpetrator, its aim inevitably being to exercise dominance and control and to humiliate the victim. Violence goes on behind closed doors, usually for years. The confinement of an abusive environment and maintenance of secrecy lead to isolation. The tipping point is usually reached when the woman realises that her efforts to save the relationship with the perpetrator are to her and/or her children’s detriment. This is when she seeks help, claims the right to her own life and ends the relationship at last. This is often her only chance to have a life without violence and to prevent the pattern of abusive behaviour from being transferred to her children.
The title of the exhibition, “When he hit the door the second time, I covered the hole with a poster”, is a direct quote from one of the victims’ stories. It is a graphic illustration of the repetitive cycle of violence and the victim’s inability to escape. On the one hand, the hole in the door indicates the terrible harm done to one’s private living environment; on the other hand, it symbolises fear, the victim’s shattered mental state. With the simple gesture of covering the hole with a poster, the victim hid her tragic reality, replacing it with an image that offers salvation and a new beginning. The door can be seen a metaphor for the boundary between what is public and what is private, for the point of entry into a world one can only enter if invited. So, what can you do if you hear or learn that beyond some of these points there are repetitive cycles of violence, a ceaseless struggle for sheer survival and human dignity?
No-one should think twice about doing something to help victims of violence. This is the least one can do. In addition, support to victims of intimate partner violence may be offered through a broader awareness about these issues in the society. These issues should be made the subject of honest discussion, brought up again and again, in every possible way, on every possible occasion. The artists featured in the exhibition have created, in collaboration with victims, artworks that should spark off debate and raise awareness of the unacceptability of violence. Needless to say, violence is not limited to the familiar cultural and social spheres; it can be found worldwide.
With the exhibition “When he hit the door the second time, I covered the hole with a poster”, we aim to send a message to victims of violence that leaving an abusive relationship is possible. That said, this is a process that can prove very challenging and traumatic for the victim. Any judgements or unnecessary questions only make the already difficult decision harder, while perpetuating prejudices and stereotypes. This is what makes it so vital to be aware of the rootedness of violence and the complexity of the situations the victims find themselves in.
By allowing art to take one by surprise, one can recognise the visionary potential of artworks to gradually change one’s perception of social issues, and realise its aim and power to ultimately contribute to a better society. As domestic violence happens within the four walls, this exhibition is an opportunity to speak up about it in various contexts, to give voice to the often unheard victims.
Božidar Zrinski, curator
Špela Veselič, Association SOS Help-line for Women and Children – Victims of Violence