Artistic expression, depraved voyeurism hits new low.
By Sujeet Rajan
For instance there’s this middle-school teacher in Camden, New Jersey, Charles Reilly, who is in jail for asking 17 male students last month to bring semen-stained tissues to make art projects. Consider this also: a photographer in Mumbai, Raj Shetye, has done a ‘fashion’ shoot, that depicts in a series of photographs a woman struggling, her anguish visible, to get out of the clutches of men inside the confines of a bus, that instantly brings to mind the terrible gang rape and murder of a student on a moving bus in Delhi, in December, 2012.
Which is lower form of violation of art? Hard to decide – both display depraved voyeurism.
Shetye also seems to be an ‘artist’ low in courage and confidence. In an interview to BuzzFeed, he says his photo shoot is not based on the Nirbhaya gang rape.
Then what was the perverted demonstration for? To display how a woman is slowly disrobed of her designer outfits by men who have her in their power, how they violate her?
For some sick, perverted reason, Shetye brings in his mother, sister and girlfriend too into the conversation.
“But being a part of society and being a photographer, that topic moves me from inside,” Shetye said. “I stay in a society where my mother, my girlfriend, my sister are out there and something like this can happen to them also.”
The question that comes to mind for Mr. Shetye is: what possibly can happen to your mother, sister and girlfriend inside the close confines of a bus with strange men who are physically abusive?
In the photo shoot, it doesn’t look like the woman in the bus – who in one photo is sprawled on the floor of the bus with her legs open, with a man standing above her, and in another is being forcefully held by her arms by one man at the long back seat of the bus, as another man kisses her bare legs – is being attacked by zombies.
Shetye had this to say to IBNLive of his project titled ‘The Wrong Turn’ and featured on Behance (which since then has been taken down): “I wanted to throw light on Indian patriarchy and a male dominated society. I actually was using the photoshoot to highlight women’s empowerment and lack of safety in India. It’s not true that I used the Nirbhaya incident to create awareness. This is my depiction of the current situation using a medium I know and can communicate well in. Consider this. I did with photography what a writer would do if he had to write about that incident.”
According to Shetye, the garments worn by the models are all made by top designers, and none of them have been credited publicly, because the intent of the shoot was not commercial gain.
That part is understandable: probably most women would boycott in future anything created by those vermin, after this reprehensible collaborative shoot.
It’s not that the Nirbhaya gang rape has not seen artists in action.
Last year, an NGO, Apne Aap Women Worldwide and the Press Club of India organized a photography exhibition by Chandan Gomes, titled ‘Confronting Rape Culture’ in New Delhi. It comprised of more than 30 images of the demonstrations that erupted all over India after the Nirbhaya gang rape.
The lack of Shetye’s artistic vision and crass imagination in the photo shoot to highlight an evil in society was summed up by Bollywood music director Vishal Dadlani, who tweeted: “Did i just see a fashion-spread depicting the Delhi gangrape of Nirbhaya? Disgusting!I hope all associated, die of shame! Insensitive swine!”
Exhibitions on rape itself is uncommon, even in the western world. In the US, there was focus last year on an exhibition in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, by a survivor of rape in the military, by an artist named Rachel Beauchene. Her display “Project Retrospect: Flipping the Script on Rape,” featured 20 photos that had questions people have for sexual assault perpetrators, like ‘Why Me’. Another display at the exhibition had glass blocks decorated by sexual assault survivors.
The reality is that, with figures coming out that has India third in the world, behind the US and Brazil in rape cases reported worldwide – a total of 22,172 rape cases were registered in India in 2010, according to UN figures, forget the unreported ones – and more and more violent rape and murder cases now coming out in the media, it’s time that responsible citizens take a stand against the issue: demand more law enforcement and vigilance as a state responsibility to reduce crime, get generous financial help from the center for this, and demand swift justice for criminals.
If the likes of Shetye want shock value for sexually-charged, vicariously titillating projects, it’s there to be had in a nation with a billion plus people.
But it’s not 15 minutes of fame that people like Shetye get. It’s 15 minutes of ignominy.
(Sujeet Rajan is the Editor-in-Chief of The American Bazaar)