By Aukje Lepoutre Ravn
“Pain in The Eye; a textile book, sewn in rough silk, written with black Indian ink and presented as page-by-page photographs hung on the wall. In narrative and pragmatic sentences the book describes the sequence of events of the violent attack, the objectifying examination of Brandt at the police station, and the experience of the later reflection on the loss of self-worth and bodily integrity. The entire story is also given a social-cultural perspective. “Violence is” as Brandt himself puts it somewhere in the book, “Something we in our society take for granted, but none the less we refuse to acknowledge its concrete existence, and the fact that it could happen to you”. (Aukje Lepoutre Ravn, extract from I Died in Italy But No One Knows It, extract from the book I Died In Italy But No One Knows It – Survival, change and trauma treatment in Peter Brandt’s art, page 51, 2010).
Pain in The Eye, artist book, applicated silk, marker pen 23,50 28 x 4 cm, 66 pages, 2009
The text from the Pain in The Eye:
On September 23, 2002, was I attacked and beaten up in Rome. The man who assaulted me was a complete stranger. After I was rescued and taken to the hospital, I was told repeatedly how ”lucky” I was to be alive, and for a short while I even believed this myself. For about an hour the doctors went over me like a piece of meat, calling out the damages, as if they were performing an autopsy, questioning me and looking for signs of battery and contusions. Perhaps I’m not really here, I thought, perhaps I did die in that park. The police questioned me for 3 hours. I felt as though I’d outlived myself. I went home with my swollen head. People stopped me in the streets to ask me what had happend. I told them. My assailant was never found. I wasn’t sure whether I had died and the world went on without me, or whether I was alive but in a totally alien world. My sense of unreality was fed by the massive denial of those around me. Who told me I should be grateful for surviving. Most people take violence for granted, but deny that it really exists – or that it could happen to them. Unlike survivors of wars or earthquakes, who inhabit a common shattered world, single victims of violence face the destruction of their world alone, surrounded by people who find it hard to understand what’s so distressing. And Imagining what it is like to be a victim of violence is no simple matter, since much of what a victim goes through is unimaginable. I exhibited every symptom of brain injury. And post-traumatic stress disorder. A sense of a foreshortened future. A life with no dreams. Why is it so horrifying for survivors to be unheard? Not to be heard means that the self the survivor has become does not exist for others. Since the earlier self died, the surviving self needs to be known and acknowledged in order to exist. Victims of violence often report drastically altered senses of self-worth, resulting from their degrading treatment. That one person – one’s assailant treated one as worthless can undo an entire lifetime of self-estem. Certain drugs, such as Prozac, can give PTSD suffers greater self-control, by making them better able to choose their reactions to things and the timing of their responses. In order to recover, a trauma survivor needs to be able to control himself, control his environment and be reconnected to humanity. Living with the memory of trauma is living with a kind of disability, and whether one is able to function with that disability depends on how one’s social and physical environments are set up. People sometimes ask me if I’m recovered now, and I reply that it depends on what that means. If they mean ”am back to where I was before the attack?” I have to say, no, and I never will be. I am not the same person who was on my way home, from an evening out. I left him in the outskirts of a park in Rome. I had to in order to survive.