Set against the unfortunate and ongoing backdrop that is an epidemic of campus sexual assault, the cultural debate around college rape has given rise to many forms of expression. One product of the heightened focus is the 2015 documentary, The Hunting Ground, which received both accolades and criticisms over its statistics-heavy format. Nevertheless, the film shined a light on an issue reaching the peak of national consciousness and may have, in part, provoked action from the Obama Administration.
It's a difficult issue but not one that has deterred artist Violet Overn from applying her magnifying lens. Her ongoing Fraternity House photo series, which documents Overn sprawled out in the bright daylight in front of fraternity houses, is provocative, to say the least.
The New York-based multimedia artist traveled to the Solo Cup-covered enclave of USC's so-called fraternity row, and threw her party-dressed body onto the lawns of frat houses. The searing photographs depict a seemingly unconscious Overn surrounded by emptied plastic cups, along with other remnants of a riotous “last night.”
In a statement, Overn explains, “Tradition has become an excuse for misconduct. Fraternities and men associated with fraternities have been able to sidestep repercussion because of wealth, whiteness, and privilege. My series of photographs [...] is supposed to evoke unpleasant feelings and make viewers question their own choices.”
With her series, the artist makes a strong visual gesture towards the sexism rampant on college campuses, but notes that she does not wish to take sides: “My goal isn’t to target individuals but to challenge the systemic issues within the institution of fraternities and sororities.”
"When I release a photograph from this series, I keep the caption vague," Overn shares. "I want to see the projections the viewers place on the photo themselves, so I can learn from them, see how they see, make them take a second look later on, and hopefully change their view. Victims have been silenced and my artwork is to help start a dialogue and voice for those who were censored."
Overn explains, “While releasing these photographs, I have received responses by men telling me that they are ‘polarizing’ and ‘unnecessary.’ This is what charges me to keep doing them.”
Overn plans to take her photo series on the road by traveling to college campuses and frat rows throughout the country.
To see more of Violet Overn’s works and to follow her progress with the project, visit her website.