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This brave, amazing artist illustrates the brutal reality of rape

Visual artist Shannon Mackenzie is having a moment. Her new work, “Rotatio”, deals with her own personal history as a rape victim, and it’s getting a lot of attention. 

Rotatio is not what it seems at first. To a casual viewer, it might look like a huge number of tiny marks, forming a large circle on the wall.

But closer scrutiny will reveal the hidden message of the piece: there are tiny words inscribed among all those lines. And they tell the story of the night Mackenzie was raped.

In creating the piece, Mackenzie made thousands and thousands of tally marks, night after night, and gradually worked in the hidden snippets of text, writing them in tiny handwriting that hides among the tally marks:

Through her art, Mackenzie was able to share her experience; something that is often very difficult for rape survivors to do. And she included the name of the perpetrator in there among the other details.

As a symbol of her moving on from the experience, Mackenzie ended her showing by painting over the entire piece in white paint, blotting out the words forever in a powerful symbolic statement.

So why is it called “Rotatio”? Mackenzie said she got the name from the writer Thomas Moore: “All the work on the soul takes the form of a circle, a rotatio.

Thankfully, the whole thing was the subject of a short film. So now Mackenzie’s work can live on, even though she decided to paint over it:

And as a result of the film and other media coverage, Mackenzie has been getting an unexpected amount of attention, saying she’s blown away by the response. So we can probably expect to hear more amazing things from this young artist in the near future.


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