Retracing the trace

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Caroline Luzene Hill (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site:
Matt Liddle

Abstract: Silence shrouds the experience of sexual assault. A woman is often strangled to silence and control her and the aftermath is characterized by a different kind of enveloping disquiet. Retracing the Trace presented an imprint of rape and exposition of the number of unreported sexual assaults that occur within a twenty-four hour period in the United States. The foundation for this work derived from the original marks of my own trauma and was realized by inserting myself (my body) into the process of making an imprint, as well as my presence in the gallery each day. This installation had three components. Numbers, indicating each hour in a day, were stenciled in a line around the gallery walls. Material volume, knotted cords, was pooled on the floor around the outline of my body and re-presented the traces of violence left in the leaves and mud where I was attacked. Each cord signified a specific number between one and 3,780, the estimated number of unreported rapes that occur in the United States each day. I borrowed principles of the Inka khipu, an ancient cord knotting system used for accounting and storytelling, to count and give voice to those women who remain silent. The third element was my daily ritual of moving a portion of the cords from the floor to the walls. These three parts merged into one visual image by the end of the exhibit. The body trace of violence slowly diminished, then disappeared, through my ritual. The counting cords that had been on the floor encircled the gallery walls in a unified, reckoning retrace of the marks left on my neck. Among contemporary artists who have employed similar methodologies, or addressed similar issues, Ana Mendieta’s earth-body prints, Ann Hamilton and Wolfgang Laib’s use of non-art materials and ritual in installations, along with Suzanne Lacy’s use of art for social activism were most relevant to this work. Marina Abramovic influenced me to explore performance, in order to change the dynamic of the materials and the spatial energy.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2012
Installation Art, Khipu, Performance Art, Violence Against Women
Installations (Art)
Rape in art

Email this document to