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'The Untouchables': by Erik Ravelo

Posted by
on February 24, 2018 at 02:23 PM

“Los Intocables” or “The Untouchables” is the latest, and rather shocking series of photographs of ‘human installations’ by Cuban photographer and artist Erik Ravelo. Not a stranger to controversy, the artist is in fact quite used to having his artworks censored! 'Don Nadie', which in Spanish means 'Mr. Nobody' is a name Ravelo often uses on his artwork, probably as a reminder of how inconsequential we all are. Best known, and notoriously so, for being the guy behind the UnHate Campaign by United Colors of Benetton - which featured doctored photos of world leaders kissing one another – Ravelo takes the art world by storm once again! His latest photographic project driven by the theme ‘right to childhood’ is controversial, for sure, but raises valid issues plaguing children around the world…

© Courtesy of internet resources

“The right to childhood should be protected,” Ravelo writes on his website, about 'The Untouchables'. Visually disturbing though they may be, they hold up a mirror for us to see some ugly truths. Can we not accept that problems exist? Why should we scorn upon an upfront confrontation of the issues? Art has the power to raise pertinent questions and force us to do intense soul searching – so why do we react so vehemently to an artist confronting some harsh realities of life through his art? Are we justified in running away from reality?

Each of the human installations presents a child as the protagonist, with the many abuses surrounding children, as crosses they have to bear – and represented by men in varied get-ups. In countries across the world, children are abused in various ways. The loss of innocence is aptly captured in each of these works featuring a child and an adult posing to demonstrate a contemporary evil.

"The untouchables" – a series of human installations revolving around a child crucified for his supposed oppressors – seeks to reaffirm the right of children to be protected. The focus in this series is on the abuse suffered by them in countries such as Brazil, Syria, Thailand, United States and Japan. “The first image refers to paedophilia in the Vatican. The second one represents child sexual abuse in tourism in Thailand; the third refers to the war in Syria; while the fourth image alludes to the trafficking of organs on the black market, where most of the victims are children from poor countries. The fifth image refers to free weapons policy in the U.S. and the sixth image focuses on the increasing number of cases of childhood obesity, blaming fast food outlets.

The human sculptures are then photographed with the child’s face blurred. The resulting images are emotionally disturbing - deeply saddening and provocative. 

Unfortunately, the artwork has stirred up many controversies, with people criticising it, either on religious grounds or ethical, and some even calling it pornography! “My intention is not to offend anyone but make people think about a problem. I don't understand why some people are mad at me, but they're not mad about those problems. People get offended by the photos but not by the problems the photos wants to talk about,” muses Ravelo.  “Kids represent innocence and the series of Los Intocables aims to preserve and defend the right to childhood, to a clean childhood. So, we are in fact preserving kids here. The children’s faces in the images are also pixelated to preserve and protect their identities. It’s art, it’s communication,” explains the artist.

The portrayal of the paedophilia in the Vatican; as well as the use of the Cross in the installations may have raised the hackles of the Christian community; but Ravelo believes that the religious icon of Jesus on the Cross does not belong to any one person or group. Besides, he is a Christain himself, and art is certainly a manifestation of a person’s beliefs, it derives inspiration from culture, religion, education, upbringing, and environment. Moreover the artist has not shown disrespect towards the Cross, in any way. "The religious icon is not someone's else religious icon," he said. "It's my icon too, it's my culture, it's my education, it's the way I was taught to communicate. So, in any case I'm talking about me too,” he is quoted to have said.

In any case, these are the burning issues of the times that we live in. We need to protect children – that’s a fact no one can deny. Ravelo is conveying the same message – in his own, inimitable, provocative way…

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