Richard Whitehouse1, an artist from Ohio is constructing a piece called The Rape Tunnel. It’s an installation in a gallery, a long narrowing tunnel that can be walked through, and he’s promising that anybody who enters it during the exhibition, he’ll attempt to rape.
In 2007 at the Seward Projects Space in Columbus, I had my first breakthrough with an installation that was to be the prototype for this current one. It was called THE PUNCH-YOU-IN-THE-FACE TUNNEL. It was the same set-up as THE RAPE TUNNEL except at the end of the tunnel I’d punch the subject in the face instead of raping him or her. The impetus was completely reactionary to the current state of art, and motivated by pure frustration.
As it turns out, I ended up breaking the nose of the third person to crawl through the tunnel, an aspiring model. She went to the hospital and eventually sued me. Her modeling career was put on hold. The civil case was long and drawn out and the matter still hasn’t been resolved. To this day she still has unpaid medical bills. The point of this long aside is that all this took place two years ago, and I’m still having an impact on this young lady’s life, something not many other artists could claim about their work
Rape seemed like the next logical step.
Ah, but was it a positive impact?
There’s a certain kind of “artistic” thinking, where the “artist” believes that his “art” has no relationship to morality or ethics, and that its merits as art have no relationship to its value to society. A variant of this is the belief that the power of an artist’s art cancels any personal sins the artist might have, or any debt to society for crimes committed. Thus, we have the parade of Hollywierd lunatics agitating for the release of Roman Polanski. Now, really, the typical American doesn’t care about Polanski’s guilt per se. People rape 13 year olds all the time (yes, rape-rape, not statutory rape), they’re locked up as the dogs they are, case closed. One escaped… that sucks, but now we have him. But people care very much about other people getting 13 year old girls effed up and “running the triathlon” on them while they’re saying “no.” And when you have an entire industry (so it would seem) speaking out in defense of somebody who did that (and at that, an industry not doing so well these days), it tends to leave a bad taste in the mouth of its patrons. I might tend to give Salman Rushdie a pass, given that he knows what it’s like to be a fugitive. But there’s a difference between getting a death sentence for writing something that offends somebody’s religion, and getting prison for taking something which was not yours and was not freely given, and I’m sure that Rushdie can articulate what it is.
Personally, I think that a really satisfying piece of performance art would involve a female carrying concealed, entering the Rape Tunnel, and defending herself from rape. Would it be considered self-defense if she had deliberately entered a tunnel where it was promised she would be raped? For that matter, does entering the tunnel imply willingness to be raped…which would make it not rape at all? “Let me introduce you to my new installation, the Self-Defense Tunnel. Anyone who enters this tunnel and attempts to rape or otherwise assault me will die.”
1 not to be confused with the English jeweller, who apparently really is an artist.
UPDATE: Maybe it’s a hoax. And maybe the artist’s name is actually Whitehurst. Either way, there’s no Web presence for him, or for the institutions he’s exhibited at, except for this story. I’m still posting this piece though, as there are things that need to be said that are not dependent on the existence of Mr. Whitehurts.