Monday, February 2, 2015

'She Who Tells A Story' at the Cantor Arts Center

 Boushra Almutawakel

She Who Tells a Story, " now open at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford, presents the work of 12 Arab women photographers from Iran and the Arab world. The artists explore identity, narrative, representation, and war in daily life, presenting the Middle East through their eyes. Interestingly but not surprisingly, several of the women represented in the show no longer live in the Middle East.

        SHIRIN NESHAT (B. 1957). Untitled, from Women of Allah, 1994

 The exhibition highlights three themes: "Deconstructing Orientalism," " Constructing Identities," and "The New Documentary." While most of the work was made between 2008 and 2012, the exhibition includes two series from the 1990s that marked a turning point in the recent history of representation and inspired other photographers to follow different approaches.

This was such an overwhelming show that I know I didn't say anything insightful - relied far too much on the press release. My main thought as I looked at all their work - critical of war, the position of women and probably some political nuances that I didn't get is how soon will their voices be silenced in their native countries? Some are already silenced as their work is not shown there. Being shown at Stanford is wonderful but that's such a tiny elite sliver of the country. What about the rest?

 The good thing is that artists of whatever political beliefs or ethnic/ national origin can still exhibit in selected venues. That may not be true for much longer:

What women artists in France are facing - censorship under threats of violence.

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