THE STATE OF DISAPPEARANCE
My constant questioning of the state of disappearance led me to its counterbalance - the necessary act of preservation. I began examining two subjects and setting them against each other: the Arabic language that acts as a gateway to understanding and the terminology/lexicon utilized often is integral to comprehending a subject matter. The beauty and complexity of the Arabic language, with its multitude of descriptions for any given word, has been repeatedly lauded.
At the same time I explore the media portrayal of the Saudi woman. Specifically in daily newspapers where a filtered image is fed to the masses through repetition creating a gender stereotype that can dramatically alter how women and girls are viewed in society. By setting the language against the photograph I create a tension between the power of the written word and the visual image.
I selected my words from the ancient book of Abu Mansour AlTha’alby AlNaysaboury “Jurisprudence of a Language: The Secrets of Arabic.” This book, written in the late 10th century during the Abassid era, stands unique over the centuries for containing a detailed categorization of thousands of Arabic words.
Documentation through creating descriptive groupings and placing labels on a collective body is a delicate task. It can deepen understanding or become a negative grouping that encourages marginalization of the singular within the group.
This book was written one thousand years ago and with the passing of time and the onset of modernity, what is not rendered useful is actively erased over time. “The Arabic language is a living being,” as described the scholar Jurji Zaidan in his book of the same title. Zaidan concluded that “once a word is neglected… it can disappear from the Arabic language.”
I implement this idea of “repetition gives life to a word” onto the media image that is usually selected by a small group and distributed to the larger group and within this process creating a system for preserving a manipulated image that is far from reality.
By scrutinizing adjectives from AlNaysaboury’s book, this series highlights the current dangers of the labels employed to describe diverse collectives. The creation of these groupings imply a sense of preservation and protection. However, in reality, these labels are grouped according to AlNaysaboury’s delineations and carry his biases and perspectives. Ironically, he thus actively pushes some characteristics into the realm of disappearance by attempting to preserve them. In my fervor to document my present, am I contributing to a failed formula?
Who creates these groupings and whose selection determines the descriptions that fall under them? The act of labeling immediately places individuals – it is an act of erasure, rather than one of preservation. The somewhat contradictory act of documentation functions as a double-edged sword; we archive selected images and memories of individuals and of the collective, creating our version of history through a preservation which, far from being objective, is specific to our selection, thereby fuelling active forgetting.
In my execution, I use typical media images that I have collected over the past two years and place descriptions that have always been linked to the persona of the woman. Love, courage, happiness, and intelligence. Creating a struggle between the word and the images they lay on. They are awkwardly linked to each other highlighting the negligence in how women are portrayed and the danger of continuously evoking this imagery. There is a danger of instigating what Nietzsche termed “active forgetting” by continuing to repeat an inclusive grouping at the cost of the unique individual.
Produced in 2013 - Medium: Archival Giclée Prints on Hahnemule paper disect mounted into strips with acrylic lettering Sizes variable. Editions 3 + AP