Vagina-inspired art goes on the block for charity

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Vagina-inspired art goes on the block for charity

In Korea’s conservative culture, artworks inspired by the vagina are not something you expect to see when you walk into an art auction. But such artworks are going under the hammer tonight to raise funds for and remove the stigma against unwed mothers.

The silent auction is organized by V-Day Seoul, a nonprofit movement which seeks to end violence against women. Publicity coordinator Zachary Garfinkel said that the vagina was chosen as the theme because it is “representative of women.”

“It is also an interesting reference point for artists to create from,” he said. “In Korea, even the word ‘vagina’ is a bit taboo, so bringing the image, and even the word, forward brings attention to the importance of V-Day and stopping violence against women.”

The auction will feature works by local and international artists, including Lauren Bedard, Vincent Sung, Hellen Choo and Dann Gaymer. It is the first time V-Day Seoul has held an auction, and it was a collaborative effort between the organizers and artists.

“There is such a vibrant art scene in Seoul, and we saw a lot of potential to get artists from all different media involved,” Garfinkel said.

Along with the auction, there will be live music, music by DJ Jeff Rands, raffles and performances. The organization hopes to raise 1 million won ($822), and the proceeds will go to the Korean Unwed Mothers & Families Association. V-Day Seoul wanted to help erase the social stigma attached to unwed mothers, a group that is “basically shunned by society.”

“There is a complete lack of empathy for these women and their families, so we thought V-Day had the responsibility to bring light to the situation,” Garfinkel said.

V-Day is a growing international movement that aims to stop violence against women and girls by tapping into community creativity. Founded 10 years ago, it has organized artistic events to raise more than $30 million for antiviolence organizations.

The campaign has branched out to over 81 countries, including in Seoul in 2007. And what started as a tiny bud within the foreign community has blossomed into a diverse and successful organization. Garfinkel is particularly proud of the increased involvement of Koreans, including artists who have donated their work for the auction. “This year really feels special,” he said. “We have a very strong interest from the Korean community.”

In April, six Korean actresses will participate in a bilingual performance of “The Vagina Monologues,” a play by Eve Ensler exploring women’s sexuality and the stigma surrounding abuse and rape, which provided the catalyst for the V-Day movement.

Violence against women is still a taboo subject in Korea. According to a 2010 survey by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, 15.8 percent of female respondents said they were beaten by their husbands, a rate five times higher than in Britain or Japan.

“As someone who feels incredibly sheltered, and even somewhat here, I was personally unaware of the prevalence of violence against women in Korea,” said Garfinkel, who moved to Korea a year ago.

But while the violence may occur behind closed doors, Garfinkel explained that “women simply do not have the same rights as men, especially within a domestic relationship.”

“I have heard horror stories from friends about screaming matches in the middle of the night, and physical altercations between men and women,” he said. “It is definitely a problem that is not really addressed or recognized in Seoul and all over Korea.”

V-Art is today from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. at The Alley in Itaewon, behind McDonald’s. Visit http://vdayseoul.com for details.


By Philip Chan Intern reporter [enational@joongang.co.kr]
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