“alles wird gut”
(everything’s gonna be fine)
a project about child abuse
It all started in1996 with Julie and Melissa, two of the girls kidnapped in Belgium by Marc Dutroux and then raped over a period of many months. They died of hunger in his vault, while he was in prison for another, minor crime. Since then, the suffering of these girls is tattooed in my soul.
The idea for the project “alles wird gut” (everything’s gonna be fine) came up ten years later, on a flight back from Thailand and Cambodia, where I had taken pictures for the Swedish ELLE, a documentary on UNICEF’s work with HIV-infected children.
Although the subject of the reportage had been positive, I felt sick. It were the pictures I did NOT take, that haunted me; pictures of thousands
of mistreated street-children, selling their skinny bodies to whomever
would pay a bowl of rice. And there I sat on this plane, squeezed in among
all those single, contentedly smirking men on their way back to daily live.
It was so obvious: as if each one of them was wearing a souvenir t-shirt with the words “temporarily satisfied sex-tourist” printed across his chest.
But I couldn’t do anything about it, could I? Just close my eyes and pretend
I had not seen their contented faces, that I was wrong.Behind my closed eyelids I saw worse. I saw those men touching little boys, I saw them naked on filthy hotel beds asking bravely smiling teenage girls "to be nice to them”, I saw every rape they perpetrated. Every childhood they destroyed. Other images came to me, images that I had kept at a distance. Parents beating up their babies, letting them starve to death, child-soldiers, child-pornography, every story I had read in the papers, heard on the news. Unsupportable pictures.And it was obvious that I could never ever take them. It would have made me a criminal myself. A reportage on child abuse would be child-pornography, only in another packaging.
Then I had the vision of a dollhouse. My daughter’s perfect little Victorian world. So tiny. So innocent. Like a soothing whisper in the ear of a crying child: alles wird gut (everything’s gonna be fine.). I realized that not only I needed to act, but also that I had the means to do so. Child abuse is a taboo. To show a taboo might sound as a contradiction in itself. But by choosing fiction, using my daughter’s dolls and interiors for scenes of violence against children, I had found the perfect setting.
But very soon I felt that I needed to be involved in a more direct way, that
it was crucial to make everything myself. I started building little cardboard-boxes with detailed interiors and light design. I molded the characters and arranged them in different scenes of horror, which I then photographed. Creating these little figurines could take many days. During that time, while my fingers smoothed their cheeks and bellies, I got very close to the characters and almost felt what they felt: the victim’s pain on one hand,
the sexual excitement of the pedophile on the other.
A very scary experience, I can tell you.
None of my photos shows the immediate situation of abuse or violence, you’ll never see the “act” itself. It would have been too much of a peepshow. Instead I force the spectator to fill in the missing parts with his own fears and imagination.
Katrin Jakobsen, 2011
P.S. In addition to the cardboard-sets and photographs, the project includes a broad record of my research and activities in connection with my work. This includes my daughter’s dollhouse that I have “raped” as well as an installation documenting my illegal actions as a “street art worker”. Together with videos, logbook–photographs and different installations around the subject, I try to stitch together an intense, overall project against child abuse.
Production: Nikolai Jakobsen Music: Agnes Berg
Hamburg 2009 Production: Nikolai Jakobsen