Manal Al Dowayan’s installation illustrates Saudi women’s struggle for freedom

Manal Al Dowayan- Sculpture

Manal Al Dowayan- Sculpture

suspended-4

Manal Al Dowayan is a Saudi Arabian contemporary art photographer based in London, Dubai and her native land of Saudi. The basis of her work is black-and-white photography, however she recently introduced more layers to her work by working on sculpture and installations .

Suspended Together, first displayed on the 54th Venice Biennale’s The Future of Promise exhibition is comprised of 200 fiberglass doves that hang from the ceiling by transparent nylon thread. Each of these doves are imprinted with images of written postcards and stamps.

The piece is visually striking and it evokes an interesting set of complex emotions and ideas that challenge the spectator’s view on Saudi women and their initiatives and downfalls to find freedom. At first glance, Suspended Together gives the impression of movement and freedom, however, a closer look, leaves the spectator looking at doves that are static in movement, suspended in flight. Manal tells Nafas Magazine that the written text and images imprinted in the doves are real “permission documents issued by an appointed guardian when they [women, in this case successful professionals] have to travel [get surgery, or any type of important procedure]” ; women in Saudi are not able to conduct themselves freely, and although reforms to improve the visibility and freedom of women look promising, they don’t seem to pass through King Abdullah, Saudi Arabia’s leader. This struggle is visually present in Manal’s work, as she successfully implements imagery that illustrates the contradiction of many important women that found success in their profession [the dove], yet find themselves suspended in flight, as they try to find their way to do the small tasks of everyday life with volition and freedom from their ‘guardians’.

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Artist Raphael Hefti Turns Gallery Into A 19th Century Metal Factory

Raphael Herti- Sculpture/Performance

Raphael Hefti- Sculpture/Performance

Raphael Hefti- Sculpture/Performance

Raphael Hefti, an artist interested in the factory-like production and performative qualities of art making, puts a twist on ‘land/earth art’ by using sand, iron oxide, aluminum and a 19th century welding process on an enclosed gallery space in London.

His works blur the boundaries between natural/industrial, as he shows new ways of considering the artwork outside of already established narratives, in this case, setting up a foundry (a factory that produces metal castings) in a gallery space, and/or creating a natural process in an industrialized way/setting.

‘Quick Fix Remix’, a performance and exhibition, demonstrates the artist working with the process of ‘thermic welding’, a 19th century industrial process originally devised to weld steel train tracks together. The sand underneath the artist’s feet is composed of iron oxide and aluminum. With the help of both the portable casting vessel (located towards the back of the gallery space) and the artist’s physical labor, the sandy landscape is transformed into an improvised metal casting factory. (via mousse magazine)

“For me the idea of performance is related intimately to the idea of production. Often the situation I work in has its own sense of choreography – from the dunes of a beach to the machinery of a factory floor.”

 

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Pieter Hugo’s Portraits Reveal Skin Impurities To Comment On Race And Beauty

Federica Angelucci, Cape Town, 2011

Federica Angelucci, Cape Town, 2011

Ulrica Knutsdotter, Cape Town, 2011

Ulrica Knutsdotter, Cape Town, 2011

Rob van Vuuren, Cape Town, 2011

Rob van Vuuren, Cape Town, 2011

Pieter Hugo, a South African photographer, plays with color channel manipulation to create portraits that highlight the impurities on his subject’s skin to make a statement about race, the colonial experiment in South Africa, and contemporary ideas of beauty.

There’s a Place in Hell for Me and My Friends entails portraits of the artist’s friends- all whom call South Africa their home. Through the manipulation of color, Hugo emphasizes the sitter’s blemishes and sun damage making them look darker than they would normally appear without the editing process.

In these portraits one sees how the sitters’ environment, a place where there is incredibly harsh sunlight, has started to ‘corrode’ our epidermis. This speaks to me about the South African colonial experiment – all these people from all over the world, thrown together within the confines of a nation by the forces of history. The damage left by the sun and the environment becomes allegorical of the burden of South Africa’s tempestuous and fraught past. History leaves its marks on us. It eats away at us. We cannot escape its heavy weight.

Besides the political allegories found in the work, Hugo is also interested in highlighting the errors of racial distinction by revealing that beneath it all, beneath our skin, we all look the same. As the critic Aaron Schuman writes about Hugo’s work, “although at first glance we may look ‘black’ or ‘white’, the components that remain ‘active’ beneath the surface consist of a much broader spectrum. What superficially appears to divide us is in fact something that we all share, and like these photographs, we are not merely black and white – we are red, yellow, brown, and so on; we are all, in fact, colored.” (Images via Stevenson)

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Rania Matar’s Photographs Of Teenage Girls In Their Bedrooms

Rania Matar-Photography

Rania Matar-Photography

Rania Matar-Photography

My room as a teenager was a sanctuary-my only safe place. My room was me, more specifically though, it was what I wanted to be at the moment. I wanted to be as bold, tough and flawless as my favorite musicians on the magazine cutouts on my wall. Truth is, I wasn’t any of those things. In fact, I was timid and self-conscious, an anxious girl who found it hard to make it through some days as I struggled with an anxiety disorder.

Every girl battles with herself and the burden of the transitions that come along with the teenage years; whether good or bad, her room is just an imprint of what she is going through.

Photographer Rania Matar’s recent collection of photographs, A Girl in her Room, explores the teenage girl in her habitat (her room), to further understand the origin of a teenager’s way of being. Matar wanted to capture the universality of teenage behavior by photographing girls in the U.S and the Middle East- both cultures she is very familiar with.

I became fascinated with the similar issues girls at that age face, regardless of culture, religion and background, as they learn to deal with all the pressures that arise as they become conscious and aware of the surrounding world wherever this may be.

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Florentijn Hofman’s Giant Sunbathing Bunny Sculpture

Florentijn Hofman-Sculpture Florentijn Hofman-Sculpture Florentijn Hofman-Sculpture

Florentijn Hofman, mostly known for her interactive, cutsey and giant sculptures of children’s toys (ie. Rubber Duck, Max), has created Sunbathing Hare, another eye-catching and adorable installation for everyone to find their inner child with, yet again. It was taken down yesterday Oct.13th, 2013 as it was part of the Netherlands Bilateral Year and the Russian public arts program and was only allowed to be on site for a few months.

With outstretched arms, the over-sized lazy creature suggests a lazy, happy pose, as it lays on the green grass of Hare Island near the St. Peter and St. Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg, Russia. It has contagious vibe; people lie and sit next to it with intentions to relax and forget about their problems for a moment.

Sunbathing Hare measured 15 meters long by 8 meters wide and 2.5 meters high. It was made out of plywood boards, a pink painted nose, eyes, and smile with a touch of charm and humorousness. (via designboom)

“My sculptures cause an uproar, astonishment and put a smile on your face. They give people a break from their daily routines. Passers-by stop in front of them, get off their bicycle and enter into conversation with other spectators. People are making contact with each other again. That is the effect of my sculptures in the public domain.”

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Selina Roman’s Burqa Project Offers Viewers Lateral Perspectives

Growth

Growth

Memories of Childhood

Memories of Childhood

Pink Float

Pink Float

The Burqa, full-body cover up worn primarily by Islamic women of faith, has been subject of much controversy for decades, especially in Western societies. Many say that the garment oppresses women, leaving them astray and without a voice in a world were men dominate them.

Selina Roman‘s Burqa Project takes the Burqa and turns its literal meaning around through the medium of photography and visual composition in order to challenge the viewer’s mainstream knowledge of it.

Roman, a former reporter, hopes to offer her audience a different view point, a new way of seeing, she comments on her artist statement.

Although the Burqa is shrouded in religious significance, I take it out of this context in an attempt to explore these other attributes. Instead of showcasing it as an oppressive garment, I place the Burqa in idyllic Florida landscapes to let it float and billow. In turn, it becomes an ephemeral and weightless object removed from its politicized context.

Apart from Roman’s obvious emphasis on the beauty and femininity that these garments project,  she also wants to shed light on the qualities that we often forget to acknowledge. There are many interesting characteristics that the Burqa provides to any that wears it- i.e anonymity, security, and power.

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Petros Chrisostomou’s Photographs Trick Your Sense Of Scale

Chrisostomou, Photography

Chrisostomou, Photography

Chrisostomou, Photography

Petros Chrisostomou, a New York based photographer, plays with scale, mass-produced and ephemeral objects, and hand-crafted mini architectural models in order to challenge the viewer’s visual certainties, and visual signifiers of contemporary mass culture.

The multi-faceted works resemble lively assemblages of what seem to be large-scaled mundane objects in exaggerated interiors – some resembling wreckage, and others referencing the extravagance of a Rococo palace.

Christosomou’s photographs become the field for mixing the high- and the low-brow, mass culture and genre painting, the luxurious and the expendable, as indications of social class distinctions. At the same time, the relations between the real and the imaginary in his oeuvre are a commentary on the mediated images of contemporary mass media that distort the natural and immediate dimension of our relation to reality, determining, among other things, the conditions for viewing and receiving art. 

The relevance of this body of work does not completely rely on its technical complexities, and cultural commentary, but also in its visual power. We know that the artist is not fabricating monumental sculptures resembling stiletto shoes, instead he is fabricating small-scaled architectural spaces- that play out with the objects, making them look bigger than they seem. It is important to notice, as curator Tina Pandi points out that “the alteration of scale and reversal of the relation between object and environment, between imaginary and real space.”

(Photos via Ignat Quotes via Artist’s Website)

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Zanele Muholi Explores Representation Of Lesbian African Women

 Zanele Muholi

Katlego Mashiloane and Nosipho Lavuta, Ext. 2, Lakeside, Johannesburg 2007

Zanele Muholi photos

Nando Maphisa and Mpho Sibiya, Sasolburg, Johannesburg 2006

Zanele Muholi photography

Busi Mdaki and Malesedi Nthute, Katlehong, Johannesburg 2007

Zanele Muholi, a South African activist and visual artist, explores and re-imagines the intimate portrayal of the lives of black lesbian women in South Africa.

Moreover, Being, the title of this collection, according to Muholi, aims to question the construction of sexuality “and then [the] deconstruct of ourselves […] in order to see the parts that make up [the] whole.”

Black women and sexuality, in conjunction, have always been topics of heated conversation, as it not only refers to sexuality, but also a matter of colonialism and white patriarchy.

The artist is concerned with her sexual identity coming off as ‘un-African’ – perhaps a product of years of stigmatization on behalf of white colonialist and patriarchal societies, deeming the black female sexual identity as one that is hyper-sexualized and strictly heterosexual- or even then, the image of a black female to “reproduce” heterosexuality and white patriarchy.

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