You may have noticed a disturbing domestic violence campaign out right now that involves Photoshopping celebrities to look like they’ve been abused.
The campaign—which uses the tagline “Life Can Be A Fairytale, If You Break The Silence” and the hashtag #BreaktheSilence—is the work of an artist named Alexsandro Palombo, whose intent is to raise awareness of domestic abuse through the use of familiar faces. Stars like Madonna, Kendall Jenner, Emma Watson and Gwyneth Paltrow were all made to look beat up for the campaign. Artistically, it’s in line with Palombo’s previous works, which includes similar shocking sketches like “Disabled Disney Princesses” and “The Simpsons Can’t Breathe,” all pieces predicated on shock value.
The problem with his latest purported art-to-raise-awareness piece is that—on top of being disrespectful to actual domestic abuse victims—there’s no artistic integrity behind it. It also manipulates abuse into a hypothetical incident, and puts these famous women in a position where they have to, of course, support the cause while also defending the right to their likeness. Kim Kardashian did just that, according to TMZ, whose sources say she obviously backs the message but never approved of the use of her image (Palombo used paparazzi photos from a 2014 Valentino show).
An emailed press release about the campaign reads:
The contemporary artist and activist aleXsandro Palombo has always used his satirical Neo Pop Art as a tool to raise awareness and reflection about important social and cultural issues...
In occasion of International Women’s Day he launched the social Campaign #BriefMessage inviting all women to rebel against violence writing a message on their panties and then share it on the web.
Palombo’s satirical and Neo Pop art is a testimony of keen intelligence, able to stimulate the imagination and spy on us through the hole of our consciences.
“Keen intelligence,” right. But what’s the point of Photoshopping famous faces other than to exploit their visibility? What’s highlighted here is not the reality of domestic violence but the shock of seeing a celebrity with Photoshopped injuries: there is no need to raise awareness for that.
Palombo said in a statement, “The biggest accomplice of violence is the silence, a silence which every year kills or causes permanent disability more than diseases or accidents. Domestic violence is a social cancer that knows no boundaries nor social status, it can affect anyone, whether you’re an ordinary person or a celebrity.”
This tactic—combining “raising awareness” with woman-centered plays for virality—is continuing in popularity. A female artist launched a series of photos last year that depicted Disney princesses as victims of assault, with the tag: “When did he stop treating you like a princess?” The cartoons are unsettling, but for mixed reasons: there’s enough shock to go around in witnessing the real thing.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Images via press release/Facebook