Hayv Kahraman’s Bodyscreens: Skin, Depth, and Surface
Metadata[+] Show full item record
Hayv Kahraman is most widely known for her large-scale paintings of pale women with skin like silk and soft clouds of dark black hair. She often draws on her experiences as an émigré from Iraq to represent the challenges that surface as a result of one’s identity. Having observed in such works how the body is undermined by volatile abstractions like nationality and gender, I will argue that in introducing the operation of a scanning device into her practice, Kahraman comes to reconfigure these terms through what Christine Ross has termed “precarious visuality.” Destabilizing optical perspective requires that the interface of the viewing experience be reshaped, and seeing the female body threatened by a loss of agency, Kahraman reconsiders its very surface, turning body into a screen. This thesis will therefore examine what I will call “bodyscreens” made by Kahraman. The first chapter will argue that in meditating on surface and body, the artist is revising minimalist practices, such as those of Robert Morris, which confront the viewer with objects that emphasize their exteriority. In asking why Kahraman chooses to represent the body as a minimalist object with Icosahedral Body and Quasi-Corporeal, I will rely on the philosophy of Elizabeth Grosz to demonstrate that by inscribing her internal body on an object’s skin, the artist is showing that as a screen, the body’s significance can permute, dismantle hierarchies, resist categories, and expand the possibilities of subjectivity. The second chapter will discuss how this melding of inner and outer is also an explicit engagement with architectural spaces. Kahraman links together memories of mashrabiya screens; the category of sexuality; and the viewer’s immersion in architecture to produce what Giuliana Bruno describes as what can be called filmic spaces. This intersection of traditional Islamic media with the ongoing redefinitions of the screen in museographic spaces establishes new forms of dwelling and journey that contrast with the colonizer’s desire to enclose and fix. I will conclude by discussing Kahraman’s performance art and ask what relationship between evasion of identification and intersubjectivity she proposes in projecting her story onto the bodies of her actresses.
Table of Contents
Introduction -- Havy Kahrman's geometric bodied and minimal art -- The filmic body as a new site of dwelling -- Self-effacement and intersubjectivity across Kahraman's bodyscreens -- Illustrations