While in residence at Occidental College in 2015, collaborative duo CamLab developed its Reguarding Room project, where workshop participants are invited to remake feminist works of art from history about rape and sexual assault, in miniature.
For example, a detailed ‘Sharpie’ marker sketch on canvas paper of the Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith Slaying Holofernes, which depicts the artist herself attacking the man who was both her teacher and rapist. From the same workshop, a pencil rendering on blue paper of contemporary artist Andrea Bowers’ 70-foot-long drawing of the text messages sent between the teenagers in the 48 hours after the assault on “Jane Doe” in Steubenville, OH. Both artworks, while from vastly different eras and employing different artistic strategies, present the complexity of a survivor’s experience.
The three-hour workshops consist of a research period in order to find relevant works of art, conversation about how to most effectively reproduce those art works, and time for crafting with materials as varied as air-drying clay, paint, needle & thread, or scaled-down canvases. Workshop attendees can work on their own in a self-directed fashion, or take up the opportunity of the communal environment to engage in conversation or a shared research process. CamLab provides the framing and context for this hands-on experience, and moves between working one-on-one with participants and addressing the group as a whole. This experimental, horizontal strategy of bringing people together to discuss rape and sexual assault while engaged in a hands-on activity allows for non-confrontational expression around the topic, without being tied to any one individual’s narrative. The opportunity for “parallel crafting” (referencing the child development concept of “parallel play” that describes how children of a certain age play adjacent to each other without trying to influence one another’s behavior) allows for the consideration of the historical context of rape and sexual assault communally and safely. The workshops can be conducted with already existing groups on campus, such as an athletic team, sorority or fraternity, or any student group looking to shift the climate around these issues. They can greatly contribute to the current conversation around rape, using art strategies to supplement and improve upon more authoritarian, top-down methods already in place on campuses.
CamLab maintains and preserves the core collection of the Reguarding Room miniature artworks, and will eventually make it available in a digital archive that can be accessed by institutions and curators alike.