“I was born a woman. I was brought to this world with no consciousness of how this term would have affected my behaviour as an individual in society. I was born a woman, and this word has built and solidified the bars of the cage of my existence. My womb confines my body to the eternal feminine. I was born as a female and not as a human being. From the very first moment of experiencing life, my ‘sex’ wrote the ‘terms and condition’ of my being, starting from the very first component that differentiates us amongst others: the name. Afra, the perfect name for a girl."
The two proposed terms are labeled as ‘femme-x’ and ‘femme-y’ to reference the scientific terminology of sex differentiation, acknowledging the female as XX chromosomes (homogametic sex) and respectively the male as XY chromosomes (heterogametic sex). By doing so, I attempt to contemplate through irony the conception of gender and its implications, that are embedded in a contemporary society. In the series of images I undertake the performative act to embrace a combination of both the ‘femme-x’ and the ‘femme-y’, resulting in the “femme-xy”.
The‘femme-x’goes together with my understanding of the stereotyped woman, seen for instance in the familiarised term of the ‘femme fatale’. By description as the attractive and manipulative woman that through the sexual attractiveness of the female body and seduction accomplishes the intentional discomfort of her victim: the man. On the other hand, I am to expose an opposing yet parallel phenomenon that could be named as the ‘femme-y’. This term is part of my understanding of the woman, in its biological definition. It is however the woman that appropriates and impersonates the stereotyped attributes of the male character. Courage, demanding personalities and physical strength can be outlined as some of her qualities, already seen in a popularised depiction known as the ‘female heroin’. The ‘femme-y’ attempts to re-construct the history of men, by incorporating and substituting the female in the roles that men played throughout history and resulting in the history of her. Herstory.
Therefore, the ‘femme-xy’, could be interpreted as the collision of the two phenomenas appealing to each-other and result in the bonding of gender stereotypes.
In the series of images, I intentionally undertook the performative act in the pursuit to create a juxtaposition of the childhood costume and the stripper’s uniform, while playing the daily roles of the police officer, the fire brigade and the army. The characters chosen address both their authoritative role in society, yet the same is applied within my understanding of the sexual attraction on the behalf of women towards these masculine figures. The desirable becomes absurd as the figures appear with heavy make up and toy guns, in the attempt to defamiliarise the audience through dark humour. Fascination mutates in a sense of repellence as the series breaks through the boundaries of gender categorisation and sexuality.
“Forbidden” is without any doubts a project that began as an exploration but that surely has developed into something which is remarkable to my artistic pathway. Exhibited as a series of three digital collages (A3 sized) alongside with a video installation, I have attempted a conceptual response to the question of censorship. As a starting point, I have been focusing most particularly on the impacts of visual imagery and its symbolic representation within given cultural contexts and how such representation could affect our understanding.
I undertook an analysis towards the middle eastern rudimental and primitive censorship methods in aspects of a daily life visual communication (cereal boxes, magazines, advertisement posters, etc..) and its further censorship carried out through the use of a black marker.
The collages somehow create, through the juxtaposition of two different realities, a third one that strives to unveil the unconscious desires. I purposely decided to explore visually the voyeuristic depiction of women in their domestic environment in the first piece. While the second has a sense of oppression due to stereotyped depictions of females in society and the third refers to an idealised vision of female fertility. Moreover, the compositions are created to be deconstructed through the black marker censorship that in the long run almost adorns the bodies of the female figures and hints to the idea that all the covered material is unsuitable, yet does not omit its existence and can be easily read between the “lines”.The images appropriated, however belong to the history of nude photography and this somehow condemns their immaculate beauty in comparison to the commercial-like images applied through digital manipulation that represents a modern artistic approach.
Contrastingly, the moving image piece puts in evidence the methodology of censorship itself as in this performance I become the immigration police and I am in charge of marking over the “inadequate” images. The movements are fast forwarded hinting to the idea of frustration and an intentionally built anxiety; as it continues it seems that the censorship becomes almost an automatic behaviour. The flow of video is interrupted by flashing images of extreme female nudity. This can be reasoned in my attempt to claim the failure of censorship in eliminating the so called “inappropriate” from its tied reality but rather in putting it in an even more outstanding evidence.