DOPPELTE ANSCHLUSSFÄHIGKEIT | Fotoposter | 100 x 150 cm | 2016

View of the HGB Catalog 2017

Text by Jasmin Holtkötter

The bans passed by the French and Dutch governments added a new chapter to the ongoing discussion about the traditional concealment of Muslim women. Media coverage and especially press photography on the topic are promoting a rather one-dimensional pictorial quality of the Burka and the Niqab. Stereotypes are further reinforced by the synergy of press photographies that depict women with face covering and increased media coverage. Contemporary Art tries to circumvent this view and takes on a more ambivalent position on the concealment of women.

Through works such as „Niqabitch” from 2011, artists put their focus on the hybrid character of the shawl. The video of the performance shows two women wearing concealing garments that cover their bodies from head to hips. The lower part of their bodies is merely covered by hotpants and high heels, the viewer sees them walking through the streets of Paris past the offices of the Parti socialiste and other ministries. Art performances like „Niqabitch“ and their highly ambivalent statements can be regarded as meta comments on the media coverage and hybridisation of the veil in religious, political, historical, artistic and fashion discourses. Jula Müller’s five photographies follow this course and negotiate the symbolic ambiguitie of the Burka.

The series’ title „Doppelte Anschlussfähigkeit“ – Double Connectivity – cites classic lenticular images that offer multiple meanings that change with the viewer’s perspective. The picture shows a figure clothed in black focussing an object through a camera‘s viewfinder. The viewer can easily recognize the cloth to be a Burka but the object focused by the photographer remains unidentified. Additionally, the white background prevents any contextualization.

The camera in the picture is a baseboard camera which was designed at the beginning of the 20thcentury and then often used by travellers. Together, this temporal notion and the Burka reference historical Orient photography. In the late 19thand early 20thcentury, travellers tried to capture the European view on the so-called Orient which gave birth to “Oriental images” that were supposed to present life in the foreign space. Women and their dress were a popular motive. The veil, a common garment, covers and mystifies the female body, providing a canvas for the erotic-exotic Western gaze.

Here, this “Orientalism” as stated by Edward Said, is manifested in Scoptophilia, the pleasure of watching. The photographic work “Double Connectivity“ turns the concept of watching around and makes the women, normally the viewer’s object, stand behind the camera to assume the viewer’s position. Susan Sontag fittingly stated that “To photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed. It means putting oneself into a certain relation to the world that feels like knowledge — and, therefore, like power.”2

The womanbreaks free from her role as an object and assumes the position of an active subject but her photographic motive remains unknown.

While the tradition on the Arabian peninsula demands the women’s eyes to be covered by a gauzy cloth that imposes an optical filter on the women’s view, the Afghan tradition features blue Burkas with woven mesh to cover the eyes. Three photographs show what the surroundings look like from inside a Burka. To achieve this effect, the Burka was draped over the lens to simulate the view from inside the Burka. The mesh’s pattern creates blind spots in the field of vision.

Since disruptions in a human’s field of vision are usually leveled out by our brain, this technical view cannot be equated with the human way of seeing. The small-format photographs suggest that the viewer is looking at the photographs that were taken by the woman wearing the Burka. At second glance, this narrative appears both unlogical and uncanny – the mesh’s pattern should not be visible in the photograph. Therefore the camera assumes a first person point of view which is emphasized twofold by the mesh’s presence. The last photograph presents another introspective. The invading light unfolds itself onto the Burka’s fabric and makes it appear both sacral and menacing. The view into the empty Burka makes it an inhabitable space – a shell that protects its wearers from the outer world but also separates them from it.

The photographs do not assume an openly stated opinion, neither on the Burka nor concealment in general. They point to the multiple meanings and the symbolic character which reappear throughout the debates on concealment and the veil. At the same time, they act as a counterpart to the ever present press photographies and comment on medial moments that assume orientalist viewing habits and turn them into contemporary images of Muslim women.

A description of reality that is acknowledged as possible or appropriate is compatible by people of a certain society because it matches their conception of the world, their way of thinking or their viewing habits.
Descriptions of reality that are acknowledged as coherent by members of different cultures and communicative communities are twice as compatible.
The artwork “Double Compatibility” takes up this double meaning. The cultural imprint influences our perception of the situation: the viewer sees a photographer taking photos with an antique camera. The viewer sees a woman wearing a burka behind an antique camera. This dichotomy of possibilities leaves behind irritations and unanswered questions about cultural interpretations.
This work was inspired by the story a of small boy in an American supermarketwhispering to a woman wearing a burka: “I love you Batman!”

Anschlussfähig ist eine Wirklichkeitsbeschreibung, die von Menschen bestimmter Gesellschaften als möglich oder sinnvoll akzeptiert wird, weil sie in ihr Weltbild, ihr Denken oder ihre Sehgewohnheiten passt. Doppelt Anschlussfähig sind Wirklichkeitsbeschreibungen, die von Mitgliedern verschiedener Kulturen und Kommunikationsgemeinschaften als stimmig angesehen werden.
Die Arbeit „Doppelte Anschlussfähigkeit“ greift diese zweifache Bedeutung auf. Die kulturelle Prägung trägt zur Wahrnehmung des Gezeigten bei: Der*die Betrachter*in sieht eine*n Fotografen*in bei Aufnahmen mit einer antiken Kamera. Der*die Betrachter*in sieht eine Frau in einer Burka hinter einer antiken Kamera. Die Dichotomie der Möglichkeiten hinterlässt Irritationen und offene Fragen zu kulturellen Deutungsmustern.
Die Arbeit wurde inspiriert von der Geschichte eines kleinen Jungen, der in einem amerikanischen Supermarkt einer Frau mit Burka zuflüsterte: „I love you Batman!“