Artist Erik Ravelo has created a series of images which has sparked intrigue and disgust but it prompts the question, should art come with a disclaimer?
In his series of photos, Los Intocables (The Untouchables), artist Erik Ravelo has depicted children adopting a crucified position on the backs of their personified threats. The children are seen hanging lifelessly from figures, among them a priest and soldier. Each picture represents one of the evils endangering children across the world, threats such as paedophilia, prostitution and organ trafficking, in a collection of powerful and distressing images.
While the visualisation of these issues means that his work has proved publicly inspiring across the internet, Ravelo’s work occupies controversial territory. His use of the cross has provoked negative responses from viewers eager to denounce it as secular self-righteousness. The backlash from such critique, however, has bypassed the entire purpose behind these images.
The images serve as an uncomfortable reminder to society that we are currently failing to protect children and that every day wasted in ambivalence costs a child their life and wellbeing. Ravelo has not used the symbol of the cross with malicious intent but has built on its sacrificial meaning. The artist condemned pedantic criticisms claiming “some people get offended by the photos but not by the problems the photo wants to talk about”.
This shock factor is a necessary device in the campaign for awareness. The apathy surrounding these issues has been exemplified by Facebook’s removal of the images within only a month of their posting. Clearly Facebook was reluctant to be associated with incitive art, regardless of its intentions. This kind of response only justifies the need for Ravelo’s art, because an unwillingness to face painful truths cripples the possibility of any kind of decisive action.
Ravelo’s art removes this obstacle and has prompted difficult questions; the kinds which filter up into government and make politicians feel very awkward. There is certainly a dangerous element to this art and Ravelo has not emerged unscathed from public opinion. He admitted in a Huffington Post interview that “I had people writing to me, threatening me”. However, this level of response will only further his cause. The controversy which has ensued has inadvertently brought these issues to the forefront of society.
Ravelo’s art rests precariously between awareness and antagonism, just enough to provoke a response without detracting from its message.