This project was developed during a residency in Project Space at Mathaf: Museum of Modern Arab Art. For Images and Text of the residency:
Crash explores the phenomena of women teachers from Saudi Arabia appointed to teach in remote villages across the country. These teachers are dying in gruesome car crashes for a variety of reasons, with reports on these accidents appearing in the press on a weekly basis. The general public in Saudi Arabia is aware of this tragedy because there is no shortage of reporting on the subject. But through their endeavors to highlight the atrocities—sending in a journalist to document the details and a photographer to take images that shock—both end up standing at a distance from the tragedy promoting active forgetting. It’s in this gap that the viewers find themselves separated from the information they are receiving.
The project dissects how these tragedies are memorialized; where the events unfolded and how the details were recorded. Because of local traditions linked to hiding women’s names to protect the honor of the tribe, the deceased women teachers’ names are never mentioned in the media. How do you protest a loss of something deemed inexistent? How do you mourn if the suffering has no face? How do memorialize if the memory is suppressed?
Images can be used to condemn an act of gross negligence to human life and make the viewer absorb the horror as if it were a reality of their own, just for a moment. But once the image is repeated the observer is able to disengage the initial shock. They become a spectator and the news becomes entertainment that is eliminated from memory at the same speed as it was consumed, encouraging an intimacy with the idea of death and destruction.
The images of these car crashes always carry traces of what is not included. Just like the articles that omit the names of the car accident victims, none of the teacher’s bodies can be seen in the images. Creating sterile images of wreckages that feature no human life, nor portraits of death, these repetitious images erase the last remaining traces of a teacher, a woman, a human.
Crash examines the power of the single image when removed from the overwhelming data, sound and video sources we live through every day. I experiment with memory and how long it can hold a single frame image compared to fluid data. I try to re-instate the image and its capability to shock and instigate remembering.
Although a photograph that belongs to journalism is consumed very differently from a photograph that is conceptually framed as an artwork, I experiment with the idea of authenticity and acceptance into memory by balancing the factual representation and visual beauty. Can art in this case attempt to stop a tragedy and create a viewership that internalizes the subject?
This project attempts to collect physical data that will be synthesized by an artist who reuses the photograph, not to mirror the image of the event, but to create an emotionally driven visual representation of the undocumented loss of these women.
Produced in 2014 - Medium: Research objects, Maps, and silk screen on Hahnemule paper Dimensions 152 x 101 cm Editions of 3 +AP