VB Previz #18 – Veil

VB Cast Member Lyssa showed me Etain Peregrine’s Disney Life Burka yesterday. I think it’s fair to say that the burka is a lot more on Western radar these days than it once was. The burka has something to say about Islamic women… and something to say, perhaps, about all women in our culture.

On seeing Lyssa’s Disney Life Burka I started visualizing a performance working with this thought provoking garment. But the problems rushed in as fast as the inspirations.

I’m not really sure who all is represented in the VB Cast… but my sense is that we’re predominantly Western women… my sense is that we’re predominantly white women… (note to self: diversify the cast!)

And a bunch of Western/white women critiquing somebody else’s culture feels like pretty shaky ground. When Bobby Kennedy was assassinated, his brother eulogized him as, “a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.”

So, if women anywhere on earth are unequally treated, perhaps people everywhere on earth have an obligation to speak up. Still, if your own house is less than perfect, the hypocrisy could be agonizing… or deafening.

Further, one might ask why a Western woman should address such a subject when we have artists like Iranian born Shirin Neshat doing such compelling work.

And yet like a mantra, that voice still asks me, “Are we nude and silent? Or naked and unmuzzleable?”

I am overwhelmed by the entire, extraordinary oeuvre of artist/fashion designer Hussein Chalayan, but in the current context, one must think of his use of the chador in his Spring/Summer 1998 collection Between. Shouldn’t we rerealize Chalayan’s fashions here in SL and use them as wardrobe for a performance?

As Lyssa and I played with Etain Peregrine’s Disney Life Burka, I felt that the “Censored” texture that works so well as an individual garment she gives away in her shop, might, even beyond the above reservations, be too much in a multi-avatar performance work.

I thought of trying a more neutral texture, covering arms, legs, face, but with exposed breasts – a Chalananesque wardrobe manipulation that might be a powerfully incisive torquing of cultural codes.

Finally I took off everything but the veil, and that was remarkably compelling. Formally it’s striking to see a pair of eyes radiating forth from a thin mail slot, and, at least for me, in this presenting it felt less like Western women trying to say something about someone else’s culture, and more like considering the nature of the female in all of human culture, the censored veil here replacing the paper bag over the head.

POSTSCRIPT: No sooner did I click Post on this “Veil” blog than what should Google Ad-Sense serve up, but an image of a veiled woman advertising for SingleMuslim.com

As a virtual public artist my work invites avatar communities to express their identity, explore their culture, and demand their civil rights.

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