The project SURFACE has been inspired by the question posed in the anthology
Thinking Through the Skin: “how skin becomes, rather than simply is, meaningful”.
This question suggests that skin must be read in order to produce its meaning. Different readings produce different meanings. For example, in the current consumer culture, especially women’s skin is being read as something in need of being artificially rejuvenated and corrected, so as to uphold the smoothness as a gender marker and conceal the signs of puberty, hormonal changes childbirth and aging.
SURFACE is Zuhra Hilal’s reading of the skin.
Fusion Art Gallery in Torino
Absorption of a woman. When the body is too heavy to carry, the performance ends.
A collaboration with performance artist Avon Bashida.
Photo by Malthe Hilal-Harvald
There exist numerous synonyms, nicknames, to describe what concerns at least half of humanity and what humanity among other things depends on. Vagina is a term that is generally accepted and yet it’s merely
an assumed name which demands a deeper analysis of the perception of the female gender and the
Photo by Susanne Baumann / Model : Judith Burmester
The acceptance of this misnomer is merely a symptom of a gender narrative that exclusively exists in relation to the phallus and the masculine. The notion of vagina – as opposed to the term vulva – describes the organ only as a body opening, not as
a sex organ as such. As a matter of fact, the word vagina is Latin for “sheath” or “scabbard” which only buttresses the perception of the female genitals as being just a holster for the male organ, just as the sheath is for the sword. These are just some examples to elucidate how central the male perception of the female sex organ is.
It’s a discourse in which the female sex organ have been diminished in relation to the male. Yet it is the culture we have grown up with and which has left its stamp on us. The outcome is most often either denial and total tabooing of the vulva or the staging of it as an oasis of fertility solely created for the sake of being penetrated. On the other hand the vagina is in the absence of penises stylised as a place of shame and vulnerability as it could always be violated. The latter narrative makes us victims of our own sex.
The avant-garde movement in art has already begun to revolutionise the communication surrounding the vulva and feminists has sought to reclaim the power of definition of the female body. Yet prevails an androcentric discourse in our minds and that calls for more images that can symbolise the worth and self empowerment of the vulva. The sexuality must be emancipated from false dichotomies and instead be acknowledged as something valuable and individual.
The tabooing of the discussion and the current depiction of the vulva must vanish but at the same time also be redefined. While not erotising or perverting it for a potential male audience, the vulva must be regarded as something distinct and valuable.
Photo shooting in Delhi Nov. 2017
Photo by Ayush Gupta
Model: Tanya Maheshwari
Exhibition at Huset for Kunst & Design in Holstebro, Denmark 23.02-25.03.18
Nāmūs is the Arabic word of a ethnical concept, literally translated as "virtue". It is used in a strong gender-specific context described in terms of honor, attention, respect/respectability, and modesty. The concept of namus in respect to sexual integrity of female members of the society is an ancient, exclusively cultural concept which predates Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.
Photo by Susanne Baumann
Model: Noemí Martínez Tejero and Daniel Andrés ospina López
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