Rape New York - The Story of a Rape and an Examination of a Culture of Predation

Jana Leo


Book, 13 x 19.5 cm, 127 p, language: English, publisher: Book Works, London, ISBN: 978 1 906012 14 4.
Materials: ink, paper

Collection: Collection M HKA, Antwerp (Inv. no. B 2024/841).

Literary synopsis

Starting with a rape in the author’s own apartment, this experimental autobiographic novel defies traditional rape narratives by exploring the complex relationship between domestic violence, urban planning and a corrupt property market. Moving from police disinterest and landlord culpability, via way of a Robocop narrative, prison statistics and a B-movie hit-and-run ending, Jana Leo maps the fault lines of capitalist property speculation and the intersection of sexual crime, class vulnerability and the US justice system. Rape New York is published as part of Book Works’ Semina series (No.4). Edited by Stewart Home.

Relation of the novel to the artist’s practice

In 2009, Jana Leo exhibited in NYC gallery Invisible-Exports a project called Rape New York, which was an open archive. The documents assembled there accompanied the release of her book, also called Rape New York. The archive consisted of photographs from her emergency visit to the hospital, police reports, crime scene photographs, notes from her therapist, as well as records from the civil suit and other assorted items and documents related to the rape and the legal case that followed, none of which could be reproduced, or even reviewed without the victims’ consent. The documents were kept in organized boxes to be retrieved by the archivist, not displayed on the gallery walls. The archive was not presented to the visitor; instead, each guest had to fully identify (photo ID was required), and request materials from the archivist. This way, the visitor took responsibility for what was requested, making private again what was made public by Leo—the latest revolution in a cycle of public and private that began with the rape itself. To Leo, the archive is a necessary investigation into the “disruption of [her] close memories.” Rape New York is a raw, deeply personal work, but also a fully public endeavor, in which the artist asks the viewing public to reexamine in clinical detail her own harrowing experience.

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