Untitled (Mugshot) Project: The proxy Artist Statement
As this project is still in progress, I do not yet have a title or finalized artist statement. For now, I shall explain my concept and outline my methods.
Sir Francis Galton's studies interested me, especially because it brings up a very important and hotly debated question: what is the difference between Nature and Nurture?, or more importantly, what behaviors/characteristics are nature and nurture each responsible (or to blame) for? There are scientists, anthropologists and psychologists on both sides of the debate, and some that argue that who we are is an interaction of the two. I belong to the school of thought which argues that we are the product of the interaction of the two. My piece, Untitled (Mugshot) Project, is a comment on the interaction of nature and nurture in sexual assault and sexual abuse.
Although the exact percentage is debated, it is generally agreed upon by the scientific community that one-third of victims of sexual violence/abuse will become abusers themselves, and about half of all sexual offenders were sexually abused themselves. Among offenders who molest young boys, this percentage is even higher (around 60%). A history of sexual abuse is also prevalent in juvenile sexual offenders (around 60%). In 70% of sexual assaults/sexual abuse cases, the offender is someone close to the victim, typically a relative, close friend or spouse. This percentage is even higher (80%) when the victim is a child.
These statistics suggest that there is a link between being abused and becoming an abuser. To me, this raises some interesting questions in relation to the nature vs. nurture debate: when someone is abused by a family member and later they perpetrate sexual assault/abuse, are they doing so because they LEARNED to (nurture), or because they INHERITED those behaviors and urges (nature)? My piece, Untitled (Mugshot) Project, uses Sir Francis Galton's "Composite Portraiture" to map the complex relationships between offenders and victims in those 70-80% of cases where one or more victims and/or offenders are related.
Mugshots of offenders and victims are printed on transparency film, and layered linearly in rows to depict the order of offence, starting with the principal abuser and ending with a victim. The resulting composite image in each row is a portrait of a victim, composed of the complicated histories of abuses and victimizations of their attacker, and the offenders/victims before them. There are three separate boxes, each containing four rows of images that depict the sexual violence within one family. Each row, box, and the series as a whole will be a portrait of the cycles of sexual violence.
Food for thought:
Are any physical similarities within one box (between each of the final composite images) explained by genetically inherited physical characteristics (i.e. children look like their parents)?
When comparing the final composite images in one box to the final composite images of the other boxes, are any physical similarities explained by genetically inherited physical characteristics (i.e. all offenders have thin lips)?
Would these composites be useful in identifying those at risk of becoming offenders or targets of sexual violence?