Kuwaiti actress Maha Al-Asaker breaks the invisible cage

Entitled “My Name is a Woman”, the Contemporary Art Platform (CAP) holds an exhibition by Kuwaiti artist Maha Al-Asaker, which includes a group of artworks whose media have used between photography, embroidery, installation works and collage, but all of them adopt one theme, which is the search for yourself, that is, a female search Arab about himself in the mirrors of himself and the mirrors of others.

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

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

The inside of the exhibition hall looks at a white wall with a group of phrases that appear to be formulas of the mind of a woman looking after herself. Then, on the two sides, there are two corridors, right and left. On the right, a group of works is spread on two opposite walls. She raises her arms high, and this is repeated in two adjacent shots, but it seems ambiguous between “photograph” and photography (drawing).

A modernist view of the idea of ​​the model, which captures an ambiguous female state, and its repetition, points to 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 colored “photos”, each of which includes a “portrait” of a girl with long black hair wearing a thin and simple white wedding dress. 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 stripped of heritage and literature to convey an artistic message to a conservative society that adheres to its values.

The artist says, “In the classical arts, the subject of the body is usually treated using drawings or images of the body in various cases, including the naked body, but if I want to send a message to a conservative society what to specific values, the symbol would be the alternative, as well as in textiles and embroidery in which I tried to Through the materials, the color and the embroidery I offer a kind of feeling of femininity, sensuality and softness, but almost silent. ”

female voice

There is almost no work in this exhibition that does not include the message or the stated topic in the title of the exhibition, as if the works are parts of a message that has been artfully formulated to build side by side, confirming the meanings that gave the artist. her voice through art media.

Al-Asaker says, “Most of my works have been 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 that we as women live in freedom, but as women in the Arab world we live in an invisible cage, a system that enforces preconceptions about the way to wear certain clothes or around specific topics or the freedom of a girl to travel alone and things like that. ”

The soldiers find in art the means, and rather the layer of sound, that suits them and find a way to express this sound, so the media is multiplied according to the idea. A house has a mural of a woman wearing a simple dress and hiding her face with her hair, as the artist used herself as a model in the picture, in addition to mirrors for which a short white dress or gown was placed, so that the person standing in front of the mirrors as part of a scene belonging to a woman to whom this dress belongs.

The artist began embroidering during a period during which she, as she put it, suffered from some health problems represented by severe depression and illness anxiety, and had to follow up with a doctor: “Because of this condition my mind interpreted any disease symptoms by taking it to the maximum and extreme, and it led to more psychological problems, and I waited for the results of the tests and I lived in a difficult psychological state, and during that period I took out sewing tools and started embroidering, and from here the idea of ​​embroidery started and the ideas and materials I started using as a kind of therapeutic art without knowing that I was doing it without an awareness of the idea of art therapy and during the period of quarantine and closure, I joined a workshop in the Sadu House that focused on color relationships, and I was coloring the pottery, and I discovered that handicrafts make the mind in a state of silence, thus reducing obsessions and anxiety, and during that I began to bring something like an old book and try to reproduce it. I also did something like draw or collage every day. “

art trip

When the return visitor of the exhibition visitor begins through the opposite corridor, this time he finds a variety of “photographs” that Al-Asaker used to make a compilation of several pictures of the same size, each with a black and white picture of the artist in different psychological states. On the wall opposite the group of pictures were scattered pieces of embroidered material with the word “Woman”, and it seems as if the fabric was stained with a stain that has been washed more than once. The relationship between a person and his body is ambiguous , complex, and built on warnings.

Al-Asaker says, “I used the raw material used for the garment, which is cotton, (my body is my art), and I used the avocado to add another layer to the fabric, then I use a few tufts of mine.Hair dating back to different periods Human hair is the part of the body that does not decompose but is characterized by beauty as long as it On the head, when cut, it turns into contradictory concepts such as ugly or a means of magic or evil, which is the same part of the body, and the word “woman” and “stain” was used as if it had dried blood in a symbol of the idea of ​​reducing women to the idea of virginity.

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Then the visitor finally arrives at a room that has a narrow private entrance, and its walls are completely black, while in the middle of it is a dining room table with a white tablecloth that creates a deliberate contrast with the black walls. They sat down. down to dinner. Small placemats were sprinkled on the table, each with a vernacular used in oral tradition, usually representing a stereotypical image of women.

This experiment comes as a confirmation of the broadening horizons of the military experience represented in multimedia and its relationship to the concept, of photography and film – collage by using images, tearing them up and then reusing them, and the test idea of ​​time in a digital world, then use digital image technology and print it in the form of digital print and then install it again so that the question seems 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 the picture begin and where does it end? Then it disappears and all that is left is the memory of the collage.

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

She says: “I look at myself and the mirrors look at me and the video has a woman’s voice talking to herself in the way that thoughts accumulate in the head and follow each other, the idea of ​​discovering the inner power of. yourself to the point that you are afraid of yourself, or the idea of ​​discovering and taking out the monster in you. “

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