Throughout history, the female body has been the subject of political, social, and philosophical discussions – but only more recently, from feminist angles.
In the performing arts, cinema and visual arts, it is body movement that, as the artist desires, brings to life the work’s conceptual message and its dexterity expresses the power and influence of the work.
However, when a government such as the Islamic theocracy in Iran considers itself as the protector of womens’ bodies and identities, this fills the woman’s body and soul with anger and dissatisfaction, which are portrayed in fairly conspicuous ways in cinema, through female performances and storytelling strategies. Meanwhile, in male-authored art, the female body has long-been a reflection of womens’ subjection to some of history’s most brutal abuses and aggressions. In our contemporary world, the female body, and its needs and challenges, is emerging as a site of political discourse – defined, this time, by female artists and activists.
Mania Akbari grew up in a society characterised by patriarchy and autocracy, under a government that, based on values driven by religion and tradition, desires to control the female body and subsequently intensifies the historical aggression against it.
In both pre- and post-revolution Iranian cinema we witness restrictions on the female body, whether as an object of male desire, or presented in a clichéd form, as dictated by religious restrictions. The hazardous history of the female body has tired the soul and spirit of women, yet through addressing this misrepresentation, womens’ activism gains energy and is allowed to break its historical silence.
This event will explore the navigation of these restrictions through various visual forms that allow women artists to use their bodies expressively. Examining images and film clips, we will delve into the reflection of the female body in the visual arts, from both the pre- and post-revolution era.
Mania Akbari will be in conversation with Sophie Mayer (author, Political Animals: The New Feminist Cinema) and Vali Mahlouji (art curator and founder of Archaeology of the Final Decade).
Image: Mania Akbari’s Reconstruction 2015, photo by Douglas White