A Belgian art show conveys the scourge of sexual harassment

By Johnny Cotton and Adrien Chable

BRUSSELS, Feb 14 (Reuters) – A team of Belgian artists aims to teach men what it feels like to be a woman subjected to street harassment, through an immersive project that plunges visitors into a dark tunnel filled with lewd holograms.

The installation, called “Male Poetry,” will open to the public later this year. A preview in a Brussels hangar has drawn the attention of lawmakers, activists and people who work with victims of harassment and abuse.

“It was hell. But there are no surprises. It looks like what we are used to,” said Louise Van Brande, a social worker who attended the project on Friday.

The walls of the installation are lined with images of men making comments to passing visitors, activated through sensors on the walls. The dissonance ends with a female voice yelling “I’m your mom, I’m your sister, I’m your girlfriend.”

“I feel like I just lived through a week, months of street harassment, walking in the shoes of a woman who is constantly being watched,” said Jonathan Vard, another social worker.

The artists Nathalie Erin, Frederic Durieu and Gilles de Boncourt are behind the project. Erin and Durieu, who are married, said the play was inspired by her daughter’s experiences growing up in France.

“We did this project for men and realized it had a huge impact on women as well,” Durieu said, adding that he had prompted some attendees to talk to their partners about past experiences for the first time.

Priscillia Vercaigne, a police officer who works with victims of domestic violence in Comines-Warneton, a Belgian city on the French border, said she hoped to bring the project to her city.

“There is a lot of work to do,” he said. (Reporting by Johnny Cotton and Adrien Chable; Writing by Kate Abnett, Editing in Spanish by Ricardo Figueroa)

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