Parastou Forouhar, Friday, 2003-07. Courtesy of the artist.

Footnotes and Variations on the Practice and Culture of Veiling

Shahram Entekhabi,Little Black Dress, 2003-05, Courtesy of the artist.

Shahram Entekhabi,Little Black Dress, 2003-05, Courtesy of the artist.


Kunsthalle Vienna
+ 43-15-85-21-89-33
Mahrem, Footnotes on Veiling
January 24-March 16, 2008

Whether as sensuous sculpture of long, concealing hair, or on simple prohibitive signs showing a woman in a chador or using decorative patterns of stylized genitals; whether made of cutting implements, which almost lose their aggressive symbolism in Oriental ornamentation, or as painted-over western advertising posters of lightly clad women in lascivious poses: the exhibition Mahrem is a playful and associative commentary on the theme of the veil.

In the recent debate on veiling practices, the changing self-portrayal of Muslim women and the associated tensionst have been ingrained in the public mind. Even after taking into account the broad range of political contexts involved, Islamic veiling practices can help to shed light on countless broadly relevant, up-to-the-minute issues concerning religion and secularism, piety and politics. Feminism and fundamentalist Islam. Concealment via clothing denotes above all the special role of the female body and women’s sexuality in Islam, while at the same time symbolizing the clear distinction between acceptable and forbidden behavior and the organization of behavior in public life.

In this context, the significance of the veil is multifaceted and multivalent to a degree similar to that of the wig in the video installation Women Who Wear Wigs by Turkish artist Kutlug Ataman; it can be simply a piece of clothing, or it can represent religious dictates, be a voluntary declaration of faith, an identity-forming accessory, a visual shield, a tool to create anonymity, a symbol of one’s belonging to a tradition or even — on the contrary — a preemptory measure in defense of one’s individual values. Even as a means of personal portrayal, the veil still remains an outspoken symbol, although often enough the wearer’s self-image and the views of others are starkly divergent.

Those distinctions between intimacy and publicity, between concealing and showing, between hiding and seeing — as well as society’s acceptance and non-acceptance of this special piece of clothing — are all given attention via pictorial and the examination of both their ethical and aesthetic dimensions in the exhibition Mahrem Turkish for “discrete,” “secret,” “intimate,” “confidential”) by nine male and female artists.

This exhibition's first venue was October 17-November 21 at santralistanbul art and education center, Bilgi University, Istanbul in the context of a Non-Western Modernities Project. Kunsthalle Wien is shows a selection of works adapted to available space.

Participating artists include Kutlug Ataman (Turkey / Germany), Shahram Entekhavi (Iran / Germany), Bruna Esposito (Italy), Parastou Forouhar (Iran / Germany), Shadi Gadirian (Iran), and Mandana Moghaddam (Iran / Sweden).

Mandana Moghaddam, Chelgis I, 2003. Courtesy of the artist.

Nezaket Ekici, Agirlik / Gravity, 2007, still, Courtesy the artist.