Endlessly: The Shadow Pandemic
Seeing the sharply increasing cases of Domestic Violence, UN Women has termed Domestic Violence as the "shadow pandemic" within the COVID pandemic. High-profile Domestic Violence cases such as that of Gabby Petito seem to confirm UN’s findings. It is ironic that all this has played out in October, the National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In addition, we learn that there are many more women of color that have gone similarly missing but the media does not give them any air time.
As the makeshift, spontaneous memorial for Gabby Petito was removed, I found myself thinking about how difficult it would be to meaningfully memorialize her. And now that it will not making news anymore, it will be easy for people to soon forget. It is even more difficult to memorialize Black, Latina, Asian, and other domestic violence victims of color, since they are already absent from the public consciousness. as a more permanent and meaningful way to not forget about domestic violence victims, and the widespread occurrence of domestic violence.
Anti-Memorial to Domestic Violence
When a memory is unbearable, how do you memorialize it? Traditional rituals and forms of memorialization don't seem to do justice to Domestic Violence, given how widespread it is and how damaging it can be to victims. What is needed is an anti-memorial that will not let people forget. "Endlessly" is a sculptural poem that speaks to the complex experience of domestic violence in several registers:
Language - Victims of domestic violence don't talk about what they are going through, maintaining the façade of a happy relationship. Violence is perpetrated in the guise of love by the partner who claims to be hurt by the victim's actions, with the victims blaming themselves for the violence meted out to them. The perpetrator uses language to control the victim by planting self-doubt and self-blame while dangling love as the reward if the victim would just be what the perpetrator needs them to be.
Composed as a poem, the words "belonging," "forevermore," "endlessly," and "unstill" reflect Pritika's personal experience of domestic violence, with the hope that these words will have universal resonance. The work problematizes language itself and its limitations by breaking and fracturing words: beLONGING FOREVERmore ENDlessly unstill. Incomplete in itself, the words can only exist in the viewer's imagination as a phrase they complete themselves, such as "endlessly seeking," or as "endless cycles of violence," and so on.
"For this work, I picked ambiguous words and fragments of phrases, which can be interpreted in different ways based on the subjectivity of the viewer." Pritika adds, "this work is an exercise in paring down to the essentials and an attempt at finding the 'more in less."
Visible/Invisible - The sculptural poem is installed as wood letters painted white, on a white wall, with the edges of the wood letters blended into the wall, continuous with the "skin" of the wall. If one is walking by the wall, one may not even notice them, which is the artist's intent. Domestic violence occurs behind closed doors and is not visible. And, Domestic Violence victims feel compelled to hide what they are going through, emotionally and physically, by using makeup to hide their bruises. Installing this sculptural poem in this manner is a visually poetic way of expressing the visibility conundrum unique to domestic violence.
If these walls could talk – Often, walls are the silent witnesses of domestic violence because it usually occurs in the privacy of a home. The letters of this work are about 12" high each and installed at this scale, the poem becomes a mural. I will be installing this work as a public art mural on an outside wall, so that it can function as a public anti- memorial to all domestic violence victims.
Pritika Chowdhry is an artist, curator, and writer whose artworks are in public and private collections. Pritika has displayed her works nationally and internationally in group and solo exhibitions in the Weismann Museum in Minneapolis, Queens Museum in New York, the Hunterdon Museum in New Jersey, the Islip Art Museum in Long Island, Visual Arts Center of New Jersey, the DoVA Temporary in the University of Chicago, the Brodsky Center in Rutgers University, and the Cambridge Art Gallery in Massachusetts.
Pritika is the recipient of a Vilas International Travel Fellowship, an Edith and Sinaiko Frank Fellowship for a Woman in the Arts, a Wisconsin Arts Board grant, and a Minnesota State Arts Board grant.
Born and brought up in India, Pritika is currently based in Chicago, IL, USA. Pritika has an MFA in Studio Art and an MA in Visual Culture and Gender Studies from UW-Madison. Pritika has taught at Macalester College and College of Visual Arts, both in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Published scholarship about Pritika’s work has come out in peer-reviewed research publications and various exhibition catalogs. Pritika has presented her studio research projects at various national conferences, such as the International Arts Symposium at NYU, The Contested Terrains of Globalization at UC-Irvine, and the South Asian Conference at UW-Madison. Pritika also participates in panels and gives lectures and the artist talks about her work by invitation.