Greenbox dictionary of Saudi Arabian artists

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Jowhara Al-Saud (1978) is one of those people who have lived 'out of Jeddah' in America. In Massachusetts she was thoroughly educated in the arts and most interestingly started with film theory to end with mixed media at the school of The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Presently her American home appears to be New York.

Al-Saud's work can be seen on her own website and on sites of several galleries in London, New York and soon in Berlin and even Amsterdam. Of these websites only the artist's own site allows us to have a look at older work like White Trash Barbie and a harrowing fantasy of Orlando Barbie murders in what looks like a set designed for the Thunderbirds starring in a Hitchcock movie.

On her website Al-Saud allows us not only older work, but also more words than galleries usually find necessary. They are about her current project, which is a series by the name of 'Out of line.' Again, it looks like a storyboard, but this time the movie is not about reality dolls but about the real lives of Saudi's whose pictures have been brought in line with demands of censorship on showing personal imagery. For this the artist has removed their skin and faces. The people in the images may however not really be bothered by any official censorship. Foreign stamps and airmail letters imply they are mostly 'out of border' living Saudi's, which raises a question. Is it the official, sometimes silly, censorship in KSA that Al-Saud was dealing with or is it perhaps the universal struggle every artist has with telling all without implicating family and friends, who prefer privacy over the stage? It seems that where the official censor stays within the borders of KSA this unofficial one reaches far beyond such lines.

About the adapted work the artist writes: 'when reduced to sketches, the images achieved enough distance from the original photographs that neither subjects nor censors could find them objectionable. For me, they became autonomous, relatable, pared down narratives.' And she adds a note on photography in general: '
I try to undermine any documentary authority it may possess as a medium.'

It does confuse: narratives without authority. We may get lost or put our trust in the titles the artist has given her images. Some of them like Clowns & Jokers and The Harrowing Adventures of.. appear rooted in the exercise of bringing Barbie dolls to reality, but now reflect behaviour of perfectly normal people, who may prefer to live within their borders. (25 June 2010)

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From top to bottom: Connected (2009) and Halos (2008) from the Out of Line series.