Kuwaiti actress Maha Al-Asaker breaks the invisible cage

Under the title “My Name is a Woman”, the Contemporary Art Platform (CAP) is holding an exhibition by Kuwaiti artist Maha Al-Asaker, which includes a group of works of art whose media used variation between photography, embroidery, installation and collage. but they all adopt a theme, which is the search for oneself, that is, a woman who seeks the Arab for herself in the mirrors of herself and others.

This exhibition comes as an extension of Al-Asaker’s interest in the issue of women in the Persian Gulf and Arab societies in general, which she has previously expressed artistically in a series of works she has presented in individual and group exhibitions in Kuwait and the United States. United, where she studied photography, in addition to London, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and added to the project “Women of Kuwait”, for which she held two exhibitions in the United States and was published in a book of the same title.

Due to the conceptual nature of the exhibition, Al-Asaker wanted to create an artistic formula in which artistic and conceptual could be achieved together, so she used the designer of the exhibition, artist Mohammed Qassem, who is among the young Kuwaiti artists who are explode. in this field, in interior design

The interior of the showroom faces a white wall holding a set of phrases that look like formulas of the thoughts of a woman seeking herself. Then, on both sides, there are two corridors, right and left. On the right, a set of works is distributed on two opposite walls, it raises its arms and repeats in two adjacent shots, but it seems unclear between “photographing” and photography (drawing).

A modernist image of the model idea, which captures a vague feminine state and its repetition suggests a mixture between the individual and the collective, just as she describes her interest in the issue of women in general as an individual concern in contact with the collective .

On the left are three color “photographs,” each of which includes a “portrait” of a girl with long black hair, wearing a thin, plain white bridal gown. Each portrait captures a moment in which the girl moves between two social ranks. from girl to woman. The artist uses the symbolism of the fruit to convey messages of desire and instinct, a symbolism that has been stripped of heritage and literature to give an artistic message to a conservative society that adheres to its values.

The artist says: “In classical arts, body material is usually treated using drawings or body images on various occasions, including the naked body, but if I were to send a message to a conservative society that adheres to the specifics. values, the symbol would be the alternative, as well as in the textile and embroidery works in which I tried to present through materials, color and embroidery a kind of feeling of femininity, sensuality and softness, but almost in silence. ”

female voice

There is almost no work in this exhibition that does not include the message or theme stated in the title of the exhibition, as if the works are part of a message skillfully formulated to be gathered next to each other, confirming the meanings that the artist gave . her voice through artistic media.

Al-Asaker says, “Most of my works are inspired by my personal life, my childhood, my youth and my experiences, and my experience is a personal and individual experience, but it touches on the issues of other women. It has a dual character that gives us the feeling of how women live in freedom, but as women in the Arab world we live in an invisible cage, a system that imposes prejudices on how to dress certain clothes or on dealing with specific topics or a girl’s freedom to travel alone and things like that. ”

Soldiers find in art the tools and rather the layer of sound that suits them and find a way to express that sound, so the media is multiplied according to the idea. A house has a mural of a woman dressed in a simple dress and hiding her face with her hair, as the artist has used herself as models in the photo, in addition to the mirrors in front of which is placed a dress or short white dress, so that the person standing in front of the mirrors appears as part of a scene belonging to a woman to whom this dress belongs.

The artist started embroidering during a period during which she suffered, as she said, from some health problems represented by severe depression and anxiety disorder, and had to follow a doctor, “Because of this condition, my mind was interpreting every disease. symptoms bringing it to the maximum and to the extreme, and this leads to more psychological problems, and I waited for the test results and lived in a difficult psychological state and during that period I pulled out the sewing tools and started embroidering, and from here it started the idea of ​​embroidery and the ideas and materials I started using as a kind of therapeutic art without knowing that I was doing this unknowingly for the idea of ​​art therapy and during the period of quarantine and closure, joined a workshop at Sadu House which focused on the relationship of colors, and I was painting the pottery and found that manual work puts the mind in a state of silence, and thus reduces obsessions and anxiety, and during this I began to bring what looked like an old book and tried to reproduce it . “Also, every day I did something like draw or make collages.”

art trip

As the exhibitor’s return journey begins across the corridor opposite, he finds this time a variety of “photographs” that Al-Asaker used to make a composition of several photographs of the same size, each with a black-and-white photograph of the artist. in various psychological states. On the wall opposite the group of photos, pieces of fabric embroidered with the word “Woman” were scattered and the fabric looks stained with a stain that has been washed more than once. The relationship between a person and his body is vague, complex and built on warnings.

Al-Asaker says: “I used the raw material used for the shroud, which is cotton, (my body is my art), and avocado to give another layer to the fabric, then I used some of my own bunches. date to different periods of time. Human hair is the part of the body that does not decompose but is characterized by beauty as long as it is in the head if cut turns into contradictory concepts like ugliness or a tool of magic or evil, which is the same part of body, and the words “woman” and “stain” were used as if drying the blood in a symbolism of the idea of ​​reducing women to the idea of ​​virginity.

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The visitor finally arrives in a room that has a narrow private entrance, and its walls are all black, while in the middle is a dining table covered with a white tablecloth that creates a deliberate contrast with the walls of zeza. They were sitting. until dinner. On the table are scattered small mats, in each of which a popular proverb used in the oral tradition, which usually presents a stereotypical image of the woman.

This experiment comes as a confirmation of the expanded horizon of military experience represented in multimedia and its relationship to the concept, from photography and film – collage using images, tearing them up and then reusing them and testing the idea of ​​time in a digital world, then using digital imaging technology and printing it in the form of digital printing and then reinstalling it so that the question appears Is it a photo, or a copy of a photo? Is it an attempt to make a composite collage of a picture and a sculpture? Where does photography begin and where does it end? Then it fades and only the memory of the collage remains.

In a special and small hall, Maha Al-Asaker designed “Video Art” to complement the show, to complement the idea of ​​self-reflection in broken mirrors.

She says: “I’m looking at myself and the mirrors are looking at me and the video has the voice of a woman talking to herself in the way thoughts accumulate inside the head and follow each other, the idea of ​​discovering inner strength. From self to to the point of being afraid of yourself, or the idea of ​​discovering the monster inside you and bringing it out. “

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