ARTIFACTS (Pam Patterson and Leena Raudvee)
for the Feminist Art Conference
March 9, 2013
Foundery, 376 Bathurst, Toronto
According to a 2002 report by the Violence Policy Center, at least 662 people died in murder-suicides in the United States over a six-month period the previous year—an average of nearly two murder-suicides each day, every day. Three-quarters of murder-suicides involved “intimate partners,” the study found, and of these, 94 percent involved men killing women and then themselves.
In 1984 ARTIFACTS performed Headaches for the Unit at the first Feminist Cabaret at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto. In the week leading up to this event, we gathered newspaper reports of violence against women and were astounded by the number. In one article we came across "headaches for the unit", a phrase used by police in speaking about domestic violence. Now over 20 years later, we are revisiting this context, this time with a focus on murder-suicide in domestic violence. With Internet access, the media reportage now is tightened into bite-sized bits, with colour images, video clips and running commentary. This has shifted our aesthetic. What has startled us, though, is the absence of any meaningful critique: we are shown the empty house, the shocked neighbours, the police lock-down of the site. This bare-bones, shocking commentary seems to speak of only a cursory consideration. Why is it, in these murder-suicides, that the reporting centres on the couple? In most cases the women and the children are shot, stabbed, beaten to death as unsuspecting victims. It's not as if it is a shoot-out between domestic partners. This and other questions framed our ongoing work with these images.
photography by Miklos Legrady