Studio Proof: Installation piece addresses sexual violence

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Sexual violence is never an easy topic. An employee in the Office of Student Life at Ohio State spearheaded an installation to change that mindset.

The project started with the university asking students to answer two questions on Post-It notes: Why should consent be asked for before a sexual encounter? And why doesn’t that happen?

Natalie Spiert, the sexual violence support coordinator at the university, took the hundreds of answers — ranging from something simple like “awkward” or “I don’t know” for why the conversation doesn’t happen, to the surprisingly astute (“Just because I’m a guy doesn’t mean I always want sex”) and even the whimsical (“When it’s mutual, it’s magical.”) as to why it should — and created an installation piece using 361 responses.

“I think the messages captured that they feared being rejected in the moment, or it being awkward to ask their partner. On the flip side, I found that they really wanted their partner to ask for consent — to have that validation and respect by someone showing they really care about you,” Spiert said.

Local ceramicists Grace Cooper and Nathan Klein created Post-It note-looking tiles with the responses in individual typefaces, linked and hung collectively. The piece immediately draws the viewer in, reading over the different answers. But there’s an even more important component.

“I hope this starts a conversation. That’s very important to me. I don’t want this to be a scary topic — I know it is scary. The reality is it could happen to potentially anyone. If we’re able to communicate our fears, it will shift the culture around it. And destigmatizing that this is only a women’s issue — it’s a people issue. We don’t like to acknowledge that as a society, but it can affect anyone, regardless of socio-economic status, gender, race or anything. This goes into this idea that this could be anyone’s experience,” Spiert said.

The piece is planned to be displayed at Bricker Hall in May and the Ohio Union later. Make sure you see it — as well as think and talk about it.

Jesse Tigges photo

Photo caption: left to right, Klein, Spiert and Cooper