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Jowhara AlSaud

Jowhara AlSaud (b. 1978) holds a BA in film theory from Wellesley College and an MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts/Tufts University. She has exhibited her work internationally and most recently had recently a two-person exhibition at Howard Yezerski Gallery, Boston, a solo show at Schneider Gallery, Chicago, and was runner up for Aperture Foundation’s 2008 Portfolio Prize. AlSaud splits her time between New York and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Out Of Line

The latest body of work began as a comment on censorship in Saudi Arabia and it's effects on visual communication. There are regions in Saudi Arabia where people still draw a line across throats in photographs (figuratively cutting the head off.) There are blurred out faces on billboard advertisements. Skirts are crudely lengthened and sleeves added to women's outfits in magazines with black markers. Figurative work is still considered by many to be sinful. As with everything else here, there's a lack of consistency, and things change from region to region, but overall images are highly scrutinized and controlled.
In an attempt to comment on this censorship, I tried to apply the language of the censors to my personal photographs. I began by making line drawings from the photographs to abstract them. I omitted faces, referencing the aforementioned
adverts. And kept only the essentials. This preserved the anonymity of my subjects, which allowed me more freedom since it is still a taboo to have one's portrait hanging in a gallery or someone else's home. This is true of many Middle
Eastern countries.
It became a game of How much can you tell with how little. When reduced to line drawings or sketches, the images achieved enough distance from the original photographs that neither subjects nor censors could find them objectionable. For me, they became autonomous, and I became interested in the minimal narratives they created.
I've always been interested in how photography functions, and I try to undermine any documentary authority it may possess as a medium. I've always felt that a photograph functions more like a memory, in that it's a singular perspective of a split second in time, entirely subjective and hence impressionable. By etching these drawings back into film and printing them in an analogue darkroom, I'm trying to point out how malleable it is as a medium, even before digital manipulation became so advanced and accessible. So here you have a sketch (from a photograph), drawn into a photograph of a sketchbook/envelope/index card etc. It becomes a highly coded and self-reflexive language. What also interests me is that the information omitted (scratched away emulsion) creates an image of its own, as do the censors to our cultural landscape.