This Art Project Glamorizes Domestic Abuse By Photoshopping Female Celebs

Image: Via aleXsandro Palombo.
Earlier this week, we published a gallery of images by Milan-based artist aleXsandro Palombo. Using celebrities as his canvas, he created a series of portraits meant to illustrate the horrors of domestic abuse, with the generic agenda of "raising awareness."

For Palombo, that meant photoshopping a swollen eye onto an otherwise sultry Kendall Jenner and a bloodied nose on Angelina Jolie, among others. The series, titled "Life Can Be a Fairytale, If You Break the Silence" is admittedly disturbing. But it's also a highly problematic project that glamorizes violence against women.

The world doesn't need fictitious renderings of bruised celebrities to understand the horrors of domestic violence: Sadly, there are enough real-life incidents to draw from. Palombo's "victims" may bear strangulation marks, but the message is that they are red-carpet ready all the same. Kristen Stewart with a pouty split lip has nothing to do with actually confronting abuse. Palombo just borrowed her face and beat it up a bit with Photoshop instead of a fist — without any concrete call to action, or even a resource offering assistance for potential and actual victims.

Another baffling layer to his poorly conceived plan? We doubt that any of these featured celebrities agreed to be part of this stunt, unlike this highly effective PSA Kiera Knightly appeared in several years back. Lest we forget: Domestic abuse is as much about consent as it is about violence.

What's more: Palombo's pictures don't scratch the surface of what domestic-abuse victims are up against. Globally, up to 38% of murders of women are committed by intimate partners, according to the World Health Organization. In the United States during 2013, 80% of sexual assaults on women were committed by men they knew. And the depressing statistics certainly don't end there.

This isn't the artist's first project that co-opts a typically female struggle on his quest to create viral content. Last fall, he capitalized on the ever-expanding Disney Princess meme, swapping out the characters' breasts for mastectomy scars in the name of — you guessed it — raising awareness. Unsurprisingly, he's also tried his hand as turning empowered cartoon and comic-book characters into victims of intimate partner violence: Behold, Wonder Woman's black eye, courtesy of Superman.

Why the insistence on conflating beauty with blood and bruises? What does that really accomplish, apart from a continued fetishization of violence and vulnerability?

Those questions certainly aren't being addressed by Palombo, and these creations seem more like carefully selected bids for media attention than an act of true activism. According to his press release from the "Fairytale" project, the "antidote of culture" is the answer to defeating the domestic-violence epidemic.

But speaking in platitudes without a clear call to action accomplishes nothing. And whipping up wounds with a computer program in the name of "awareness" seems more like voyeurism than a way to actually help victims.

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