Off the Beaten Path – Issues of Gender-Based Violence at the Stenersen Museum

A new international exhibition of contemporary art brings together artists from around the world to explore the many dimensions of gender-based violence. In “Off the Beaten Path: Violence, Women, and Art,” set to open June 20 at the Stenersen Museum in Oslo, Norway, 17 well-respected artists from 14 countries create new stories through their artwork addressing gender-based violence from a global perspective. To promote social change, Art Works For Change serves as a catalyst within the community. Through its partnerships with museums, galleries, and advocacy and educational organizations, Art Works For Change provides a forum for which local education and outreach can take place within each host city the exhibition travels.

“Throughout the world, women and girls are victims of countless and senseless acts of violence. The range of gender-based violence is devastating, occurring, quite literally, from womb to tomb,” explains Randy Jayne Rosenberg, executive director of the nonprofit group Art Works for Change and the show’s curator. “The stories that underlie these artworks return us imaginatively to the event of violation and allow it to affect us.”

“Off the Beaten Path” utilizes artworks to promote awareness and behavioral choices; inspire the belief that communities can change a culture of violence; empower girls and women with respect to domestic violence, exploitation and discrimination; and address systems for social change. The project combines art with storytelling.

The goal of the exhibition is to help create a new conversation on the full spectrum of issues that surround this important topic: Within the context of the exhibition Art Works For Change explores various definitions of violence against women and girls as it relates to the themes of: Violence and the Individual; Violence and the Family; Violence and the Community; Violence and Culture; Violence and Politics. They hope the audience leaves the exhibition with a better understanding of the roots of abuse in addition to feeling empowered through empathy, information, and alternative choices to change their action and beliefs.

These problems, though widespread, are often invisible, says Rosenberg. “When we encounter violence against women, we often overlook the facts and experience a sort of blindness. We choose not to see the devastation of domestic violence, calling it ‘a family affair’. Honor-killings of women in faraway regions of the world become nothing more than a ‘cultural difference’. We find it hard to believe that sex trafficking and exploitation occur in our cities, close to home. The rape and torture of women during armed conflict is the inevitable ‘messiness of war’. As such, the political and systemic sources of violence are underestimated or overlooked.”

Organizational partners for “Off the Beaten Path” include Amnesty International; Art for Amnesty;; Family Violence Prevention Fund; Global Fund for Women; International Rescue Committee; the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM); the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); and The Voices and Faces Project.

Participating artists include : Marina Abramovic, Laylah Ali, Lise Byjorne, Maria Campos-Pons, Luciana Fina, Icelandic Love Corp, Yoko Inoue, Kim Myung Jin, Jung Jungyeob, Amal Kenawy, Almagul Menlibayeva, Wangechi Mutu, Miri Nishri, Yoko Ono, Lucy Orta, and Cecilia Paredes.

“Off the Beaten Path” will run through August 9, 2009, before touring to other cities.