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This is Not an Invitation to Rape Me art gallery opening

In 1984, Tina Turner famously asked the question, “What’s Love Got to Do with It?”

Last week, artist Charles Hall led a room of about 80 people in a rendition of the pop hit in hope of answering Turner’s question at the opening of his exhibit, “This Is Not an Invitation to Rape Me.”

The exhibit — an attempt to change the perception that when a woman is sexually assaulted she deserved it, asked for it or wanted it — is made up of three parts with controversial photos, banners and graphics, located in three different sites on campus. Featuring the work of 29 artists, the exhibition will be displayed until March 5.

“I don’t know how to talk about this other than to put it in the context of love,” Hall remarked at the exhibit’s Feb. 18 opening.

The first iteration of the exhibit came into being 16 years ago, he said. “I would’ve preferred to have not had to do this,” Hall said, explaining that his motivation was the sexual assault of a close friend.

According to Hall, the day after his 30th birthday party, he received a phone call from a friend of his who had been with him the night before. Another party guest had assaulted her.

Hall said he asked her if she screamed, and she said, “No, I didn’t scream. No, I don’t want to press charges.”

“She was afraid they would blame her, tear apart her character,” Hall said.

He explained that he couldn’t just let the incident go and decided to put his talent to use.

“I’m not a therapist. I’m not trained. I’m just a guy standing up for a friend, standing up for all women,” Hall said.

New York to Scotland to Penn

The first portion of the exhibit, featuring a variety of photos, is located in the Fox Art Gallery at Claudia Cohen Hall. The exhibit occupies four rooms — one focusing on relationships, one with photos of bodies and body types, one about lifestyles and one with images of sexual activity.

A second part of the exhibit — pink and red banners centered around the theme “The Joy of Consent” — was installed Tuesday on Locust Walk. Each banner features a unique phrase such as “consent lubricates relationships,” “consent is best when consensual” and “consent can be revoked.”

The final part of the exhibit, a display of graphics, is set to open at the end of the week in the Forum at the Annenberg School of Communication. The theme of the images will be “I am the Me.”

Before coming to Penn, the first iteration of the exhibit took the form of guerilla art in New York City. The exhibit then found a place at the University of California Los Angeles, where it was picked up as an anti-sexual assault campaign by the city of Los Angeles and eventually the state of California. In 2008, the government of Scotland started their own campaign featuring Hall’s work.

The exhibit finally made its way to Penn when School of Social Policy and Practice professor Susan Sorenson, who had worked with Hall at UCLA, met up with him again.

“I reconnected with Hall by chance,” Sorenson said, explaining how “This Is Not an Invitation to Rape Me” began its journey to Penn.

Sorenson — who directs SP2’s Evelyn Jacobs Ortner Center on Family Violence, which focuses on violence against women — said she worked with the Hall to bring the exhibit to Penn by raising funds, making the exhibit a priority for the Ortner Center and getting students and community agencies involved.

“One focus of my work has been people’s beliefs and attitudes about sexual violence in relationships, including sexual assault. The exhibit is directly related to the research interests,” Sorenson wrote in an e-mail.

Unique to Penn

Hall and his collaborators expressed excitement about bringing the exhibit to Penn.

Graham Clifford, the graphic artist who did the typography for the logo, said a college audience allowed him and Hall to be more provocative than the Scottish government had wanted.

“My subjects get associated with sex because they are nude, but that’s not the statement I wanted to make. This allowed me to have my work in context,” photographer Kelsey Henderson said, explaining that nudity does not have to be an invitation for sex.

Photographer Circe Hamilton, whose work was featured in the photo exhibit, was initially hesitant to have her artwork displayed.

Hall found Hamilton’s work on the internet and asked her to contribute some of her photographs, she said.

The artwork featured in the Penn exhibit is different from that of previous iterations. In the initial campaigns, the photos were black-and-white and didn’t show the faces of any subjects.

“Including the face and eyes added sexiness,” Hall said.

Hall’s attempt at making this particular exhibit more provocative appeared to be successful based on reactions to the opening.

College junior and One-in-Four President Drew Rizzo, who spoke at the opening, said “the event was certainly provocative. There are a lot of questions to talk about.”

College junior Liat Fleming-Shemer agreed. “The exhibit is provocative and powerful,” she said. “I definitely think it can stimulate good discussion.”

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