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Fiona McGregor was invited to write a lecture as part of the ‘New Eyes, New Voices’ series, supported by the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund and the Power Institute. In this essay that has derived from her lecture, McGregor considers the work of Sydney artist Cigdem Aydemir through the lens of McGregor’s own cultural upbringing.


I first came across Cigdem Aydemir’s work in Sexes, an exhibition at Performance Space in Carriageworks in 2012. The curators, Deborah Kelly and Bec Dean, had asked me to do a performative lecture, which involved taking an audience on a quirky sort of guided tour. I visited the exhibition several times, witnessing Site Occupied 2 inhabited by the artist, as well as empty. The work consisted of some 80 metres of black fabric wrapped along a corridor. Over the entrance, the artist’s body was discernible through the fabric, her eyes visible in an oblong aperture. In her absence, artificial eyes replaced her. On the day I did my lecture, the artist was present, her eyes darting to and fro while we assembled below.

In order to access this corridor therefore, we had to walk right into the artist’s niqab, a multivalent move for me: into the womb of art, the underworld, the subconscience, into the clandestine feminine realm. A deeply transgressive penetration, given this garment has come to represent Orthodox Muslim women. My god, we had walked right between her legs! But those mischievous eyes, and their alternative kitsch fake ones, held us on the brink.

I knew I had reacted in this way largely because I’m a Catholic. That this work was about me, as much as the artist or garment or religion or culture she was invoking. I could sense a variation of this unease, tempered with amusement, in the audience that followed me. The niqab was a mirror.

I’m naming myself as a Catholic not to enable a solipsistic appraisal of this work, rather to open an aperture to broader attitudes our predominantly white Christian society holds towards the women who wear these garments. This, for Aydemir, rather than Muslim specificity, is what these works are about. Yet my religious childhood may give me as much distraction as insight. Its strictness is so unrecognisable today as to seem quaint, even cultish. However its vestiges are everywhere. Recent Australian Prime Ministers Abbott and Howard exemplify a politicised, zealous Christianity not uncommon in our times. Let’s hope for insight, then.

Consider the veil as garment: timeless, ancient; pragmatic in evolution like any enduring form. It began in the same place as sheep, wheat, and the written word. A place that degraded into desert, according to Jared Diamond, [i] through exhaustive agricultural practices. The veil – or scarf as we also call it – was useful in this climate, offering protection against sun, wind and sand. It was worn in variation by all sexes, across social strata, and then across the religions that emerged from here: Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, then Muslim. It was a useful, versatile garment. Perhaps, at night, draped over one as a blanket, folded to a pillow, wrapped around one’s belongings. The veil may be cousin to the turban. It thrives millennia after millennia. The tying of the veil is a choreography of culture, gender, caste.

Since Middle Assyria (c. 17-11th century B.C.), the veil in various places at various times has been applied to women by law. Wives and women ‘who go out onto the street’ may not have their heads uncovered; prostitutes and slave girls must.[ii]

As the daughter of a tailor, Aydemir understands this. The veil is her canvas. Instead of fixed white material, she works with mercurial black. She studied fashion design for two years before enrolling in art school. She was artisan before artist. Fashion and dress and their attendant codes, are intrinsic. The enormous swathe of fabric in Site Occupied 2 was reinvented several times.


Figure 2 hair_veil_inst_CCG-600

Cigdem Aydemir, Hair/Veil, 2011. Video installation, veil: made from artist’s own hair, 100 x 100 cm; video: single-channel video with sound, 12 min 21 sec.


There is a performance that prefigured the Extremist Activity series. It was done for video, shown as a video installation, and as such carries the sense of private ritual. In Hair/Veil 2011, Aydemir cuts off her hair and makes a veil from it. This performance seems acutely personal, a leave-taking of self, a profound transformation such the head-shaving many young women enact, including myself some twenty years ago, when crossing to queerness. The cutting of hair resonates across many cultures, including first Australians’, as an act of mourning. In Hair/Veil, the creation of a veil from the artist’s actual body has a contrapuntal restorative note. It is binding, with all the ambivalence such attachment carries. The work also refers to the ban in Turkey on women wearing hijab in public. Decades old, the ban was altered in 2011 but not fully rescinded. In response, many women tied their scarves tight to their heads, then pulled wigs over them, at once obeying and defying the rule in a clever form of subversion.

Aydemir does the same. What is supposed to be covered, becomes the covering. The dance between revelation and concealment recurs constantly.


Figure 3. rile nile_600

Deborah Kelly, Rile Nile Kraft Kit, 2002–03.


Understanding the veil as a cross-cultural form, I often chafe at hearing it represented as other in Christendom. It is, and it isn’t. In Veiled Woman Deborah Kelly recalled the veiled woman in Christian iconography, to point to contemporary Islamophobia.

I also employed the veil in a performance work entitled Arterial, 2003–05, done with my duo senVoodoo, in collaboration with AñA Wojak. The War on Terror had just begun. Troops were amassing in Iraq, and the Taliban in Afghanistan was under the spotlight. Burqas featured heavily in the media as symbols of this conflict, and the abuse of women’s rights by Islamic extremists. senVoodoo wanted to avoid conflation with that. Our veils were inversions in a sense, being white and translucent. We were pursuing an image of loss and mourning, feminine yet also depersonalised as per Polish theatre director Tadeusz Kantor’s theory of emballage. I was trepidatious about employing what I think has great totemic power. To this day, my feelings remained unresolved. I am uneasy with imagery of the veil. It’s partly why this work of Aydemir’s is so provocative to me.

My first experiences with veils were via nuns. I went to Loreto Convent. Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary is an order like the Jesuits who emphasise education and social work. There was only one nun at my school who wore a full-length habit and a veil that covered all but the face. Sister Jude was an Irish octogenarian who applied the school’s rule against jewellery with such conviction she was known to have upbraided a student for wearing a necklace that was the sign of the Devil. It was the 1970s: Sr Jude was considered a relic, and mocked mercilessly. At this time, nuns were scaling down to simple knee length uniforms, bare arms and legs, perhaps a simple veil that left the neck visible. Now they wear virtually no uniform, perhaps just a crucifix badge.

Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary was founded by Mary Ward, an Englishwoman who, in 1607, frustrated by the vow of silence, left the cloister to actively serve in the community. In contemporary Australia and other parts of the world this calling has transmuted to educating middle-class girls for large sums of money, albeit sometimes with a feminist bent.

Other sartorial regulations for students were a ban on make up and a minimum length of school uniform, (not well enforced, it being the 70s and 80s). Most sensibly of all, the rule to tie back hair over shoulder length.

So I come to the other pragmatic origin of the veil, alluded to in Aydemir’s galvanising Hair/Veil. The common sense of tying back hair over millenia is now overwhelmingly associated with religious law. At the apex of this law structure is a man; whilst the socially sanctioned wearers of long hair are mostly women. Sikhs come to mind as an exception: I also think of the regulation of hair within Judaism. Why so much fuss over this stuff on our heads that keeps us warm?

Hair is unwieldy, sensual, volatile. At once of the body and separate, coming from flesh but not skin, it grows but is dead, and numb. It demands attention, encouraging vanity and favouring the affluent. Hide your hair, to display your modesty.



Stitched Panorama

Cigdem Aydemir, Site Occupied, 2011. Installation view, Alpha Gallery, Newtown.


Aydemir’s work is full of contradictions, the tension between access and obstruction primary. Our penetration of Site Occupied 2 was imperative to movement through the exhibition. Come into my culture, enter my sex. Cross the line: take responsibility.

Before Site Occupied 2, was Site Occupied 1, 2011, which seemed to say the opposite. How can we experience a work of art when we can’t even enter the gallery? Aydemir’s niqab installation kept the audience on the outside, looking in. She used alternatively a mannequin and herself to prop up the fabric.

These conceptual space-bending practices, or situation aesthetics, are part of the legacy of the 1950s avant-garde.[iii]

By interrogating the space in which art is presented, they involve the viewer in its making and interpretation. Often employed to best effect by artists from minorities, situation aesthetics have become reified in this era of multicultural biennials. But Aydemir’s work is fresh, because it is speaking from an Australian community that has had little voice until now; and female artists across the board remain muted. Aydemir is claiming a space, occupying a site, for an often beleaguered and vilified minority.

I find the obstruction of the audience in Site Occupied 1 a more uneasy position than Site Occupied 2. It pares the work back to the central action of visual art: the gaze. Within these large sculptural forms, the most active elements are the eyes. They deflect the gaze. By activating the art object, Aydemir becomes subject and makes us look at ourselves. She returns power to the woman in niqab, who presides over the site with authority. At the same time, she is immobilised, completely restricted by her attire. She is herself a site occupied, the territory of the female body one of the most contested of all time.

Who has colonised her? Men? Foreigners? The powers that decree she don the veil? Or the powers that demand she remove it? The gaze of an art audience could be compared to the coloniser’s: rapacious, invasive, acquisitive; something to be repelled. Or the traditional male gaze, dominant in art discourse to this day, even if subverted by works such as these, which assumes power.

The shifts in Aydemir’s work keep me hopping about in a constant state of doubt. But it’s precisely in that doubt, that shifting ground, that the work is nailed.

The rise in Islamophobia throughout this century is well documented. Here in Australia, women in hijab receive more abuse than any other Muslims. Most recently an incident on a train was filmed on the phone of a person who intervened. Islamophobia, especially the egregious notion of niqabs and burqas as security threats, was a central motivation for the Extreme Activity Series. Aydemir wore hijab for ten years, until the age of twenty. When she removed the veil, she suddenly found anonymity. In that was both relief, and loss. In jeans and short hair, in the inner city, not of Arabic heritage but blue-eyed and blonde, she was not read as Muslim. She ‘passed’, like a femme lesbian, or a white Aborigine. Put on lipstick and grow your hair, and you won’t get hassled anymore. In fact, people will feel so relaxed around you, they won’t hide their bigotry about ‘them’, assuming you are one of ‘us’.

So, having this great swathe of fabric from Site Occupied 1 & 2, feeling frustrated by her loss of identity and angry with Islamophobia, Aydemir performed some guerrilla actions.


Figure 5. EA_swing1_600

Cigdem Aydemir, Extremist Activity (swing), 2012. Single-channel HD video, no sound, 2 min 49 sec.


What a woman might smuggle beneath her burqa is excellent fodder for an artist’s imagination. Often what is beneath Aydemir’s is easily apprehended, which is part of the point. [iv] For Swing 2012, the artist veiled a swing in a park, leaving the usual aperture for eyes. In the photos, what she seems to be doing is … swinging. In outdoor settings, exposed to the elements, the burqa becomes reactive, shaped by the external environment as much as the internal. The movement of the veil is mesmerising, like a sail, or waves, infinitely variable, the body within tantalising, now here now gone.

She then veiled the giant onion in the children’s playground adjacent. What better site to foreground the essential playfulness of this work? Aydemir’s talents for plasticity and structural elegance are surpassed only by the sheer audacity of appropriating sites in the middle of the city.


Figure 6. mount

Cigdem Aydemir, Extremist Activity (mount), 2012. Lambda print, mounted on wood, 95 x 95 cm, edition of 5.


If Aydemir felt invisible and harassed as a Muslim woman, she sure articulated a strong response.

Through much of her work runs a preoccupation with architectural forms. How we dress sites, how we dress ourselves. In Swing and Mount, there is no attempt to hide what is beneath, the structure pressing through in the latter, clearly named in the former and activated by the artist as recorded on video. I think this is one of her funniest images, assuming a sort of gigantesque, even monstrous, caricature of femininity. When I look at works like this, I think they are all about the imagination. How we anthropomorphise – how I just did – applying the female form to a neutral structure made of metal. How gendered the world can become, down to objects and machinery, the corollary of which is a raft of temperamental and corporeal characteristics, and an ineffable hierarchy.

Both works were done in the middle of the day, during the week, in Prince Alfred Park right next to Central station without council permission. Such spontaneity and bravery are rare now due to public health and safety regulations so tyrannical that Sydney has become known internationally as one of the most difficult places in which to produce public art events. Self-censorship is inevitable in authoritarian contexts. Artists here also tend to wait for funding, invited audiences and the attention of critics, gagging much work with decorum. The vocational urgency of Aydemir’s Extremist Activity tears off such timorous concerns. They are not done for money or acclaim; rather because Aydemir had to claim that space.

Looking at them now, they seem to have been constructed for the camera, in order to speak to us later, in this hall, or gallery or book, but first and foremost they are action and encounter. I wonder about the experience of passersby, confronted with these enormous black cloth manifestations, whose simple rectangular eyehole stamps the entire structure, at once surreal and literal, larger than life and everyday, as something specifically Muslim and female?

I think of Christo and Jeanne-Claude and their wrap works, alerting us to the mystery of the every day. We don’t notice what’s there until it is covered. Apparently a passerby did actually call up to Aydemir, What are you doing? Are you trying to do a Christo?


Figure 8. beuys-kantor-pamiec-israel-museum-jerozolima-small

Tadeusz Kantor, Assemblage for the End of the Twentieth Century. Photograph of sequence in his theatre piece ‘I Shall Never Return’, 1988. Cricoteka, Centre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor, Kraków. Photo © Jacquie Bablet.


I also think of Tadeusz Kantor, both director and scenic designer, who cut his teeth in the political cauldron of Poland before the Second World War, surviving that inferno to work through decades of Communist rule and Martial Law. Kantor’s emballage or wrapping, began in 1956. He wrapped his actors as well as parts of the set in dark cloth. I quote from his manifesto –

I was looking for systems that were artificial – that is, systems that had a chance to become autonomous. …

One needs to eliminate certain parts of an object; “erase” and make them invisible so as to be aware and to be conscious of them (these principles were well known to the Old Masters).[v]



When we want to shelter

And protect,

to preserve,

to escape the passage of time.


when we want to

hide something



‘A huge black ’emballage’

is the final and radical

complete tool of



Kantor applied his philosophy of wrapping to other artforms. Around the time he began emballage, he also began attaching umbrellas to canvases, describing this move as ‘a day of liberation through blasphemy’. The sort of blasphemy Kantor was referring to, was artistic blasphemy, the umbrella being a ‘utilitarian’ object, substituting the ‘sacred object of artistic practices’. He wasn’t trying to elevate a ‘ready-made’ to an art object, like Duchamp, but to reveal the function of the umbrella. Nor would he have used the word ‘blaspheme’ without a Catholic sense of heresy and law breaking. [vii]

At work in Kantor’s theatre is not just depersonalisation and desubjectification, but, according to Kantor scholar Michal Kobialka also deterritorialisation. His emballages erased the individual in the context of political crisis, but also highlighted what lay beneath. I see resonances with the woman in niqab. She is one of today’s most potent representations of femininity. Through being hidden, she has been put under a spotlight.


Figure 9. EA_stroll_600

Cigdem Aydemir, Extremist Activity (stroll), 2011. Live Performance, Newtown, Sydney, 3 May, 2011. Documentation: Single channel video with stereo sound, 13 min 42 sec.


The public setting of these works make the elements of chance and risk central. [viii] Their unauthorised nature amplifies this. There are three more performances done guerrilla style, with that same urgency. Art as Encounter is apposite to how the niqab exists in life. In these three ambulant works, focused on social interaction, the veiled woman gets in and amongst it.

Stroll 2011, featured an umbrella worn on the inside of the burqa, creating a Kantoresque silhouette. King Street, Newtown, was an interesting site to conduct such an intervention, being a leftist, multicultural epicentre. An inventory of Aydemir’s audience on her stroll in her umbrella’d burqa might yield six different religions, five sexual orientations, four genders, ages from nought to ninety, and scores of nationalities. It’s a work that more than any other might point to the paradox of our time and place. One can practice a variety of beliefs and lifestyles in this city, especially in Newtown, but in the same suburb in 2010, a mural was painted of a woman’s veiled face with a red cross through it and the slogan Ban the burqa. This mural was incendiary to Aydemir, and a big motivation for this series.

She tried to have the mural removed under the anti-discrimination law, but the law deals on the basis of race not religion. The mural has been altered, and now says Say No to the burqa. It can’t be removed as it was created by the owner of the wall, Serge Redegalli, known for his racist and sexist views.

It’s interesting to note that the loudest voices against hijab and niqab are non-Muslim males. Sadly, I think the non-Muslim man is almost never acting with feminist intent. I think he is boosting his sense of cultural superiority, as well as engaging in a sort of competition. What an affront for this woman to refuse him access. One of the most routine forms of male domination is the presumption with which men look at women. If you look at them with the same presumption they literally rear back in surprise: they construe you as aggressive, often responding in kind. Thus you are subjugated. Every woman on the planet experiences this regulation, to the point of fear. Even on King Street, in progressive Sydney. Most of all, by casting blame elsewhere, the anti-veil man abnegates responsibility for the gender inequality in his own backyard, his very own home.

But women are angered by veils too, as much because they are feminists as because they deny feminism. The woman in niqab is rightly often read as avatar of misogynistic oppression; infuriatingly silent, seemingly passive, she is easier to criticise than husband, boss, institution. Whichever way, the woman is to blame. Your veil is too long. Your skirt is too short.

But there’s more. The reason I chose these works is that niqabs make me deeply uncomfortable. As absurd, complex, funny, sophisticated and empowered as Aydemir’s niqabs are, they trigger something in me. There’s a chain reaction leading to the node of grief and rage formed by my strict Catholic upbringing. The assumption of submission applied to my gender, the abhorrence of my body, the vilification of my sexuality. Of course these lessons are imparted to girls everywhere, but with a pious imperative and centuries’ tradition, they are far more harsh and unyielding. The node got fed in adulthood by wider concerns. The legacy of violence over millennia enacted in the name of all organised religions against the usual suspects – women, queers, indigenous people. I use the term religion broadly: Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism, Islam, in equal measure.

I read the burqa as oppressive to women, even while abhorring male voices such as Redegalli’s. I read the hijab differently, as benign. It is the covered face that disconcerts me: it harks back centuries before organised religion to those Assyrian patriarchs who divided their women into the veiled, exalted, sexually owned, and the unveiled, lowly, sexually available. The usual questions come to mind. Why must women cover themselves if they don’t want to? Why can’t we reveal our individual selves in public, as men do? For reasons of modesty, and its half-sister shame? What bodily thing must we be ashamed of? And if a woman chooses something decreed ultimately by a patriarch, how much of a choice is it really? What gives men the right to determine what we wear?

Of course, I can repudiate the religion I was born into more easily because it is dominant here, even within feminist discourse. A 2002 video by Iranian artist Ghazel offers a witty riposte to that, with its woman in niqab mowing a lawn under the title Gotta Be a Good Feminist. Perhaps, on the other hand, Ghazel is being sincere. Is support for the veil by non-Muslims just as effective a form of marginalisation? What British Muslim Yasmin Alibhai-Brown calls ‘indolent acceptance’, even ‘racist disengagement’, that niqabs are the choice of the women who wear them? Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy’s claim that ‘Arab men hate women’ provoked much stormy debate, most interestingly in interview with British journalist Mehdi Hasan on AlJazeera in 2014. [ix]

Aydemir insists on women’s right to choose what they wear. I do too. But how much choice do women in niqabs have? That question torments me. Aydemir doesn’t answer it. She declares herself pro-veil, having worn hijab from the age of ten to twenty, partly a gesture of defiance towards her aetheist father, her mother being a devout Muslim. [x]

Extremist Activity reveals more ambivalence than the artist herself, although Aydemir reflects that her own opinions change. The strength of the series derives from its utter command of subject, material and meaning.


Figure 10. ride_600

Cigdem Aydemir, Extremist Activity (ride), 2011. Live Performance on 11 August, 2011 at The Vanishing Point Gallery, Newtown.


Ride 2011, another work done on King Street, features a burqa’d woman riding a rickshaw. The mysterious space beneath the burqa opens. Into the donna obscura the audience goes, becoming part of the performance, a passenger in the ride. The role of rickshaw driver extends the ambiguity of the veiled woman. On the one hand she is servile, doing a job associated with colonial overlords; on the other she is at the helm, driving. It is a one-on-one performance as well as a public spectacle. Without that intimate inaccessible conference, it would be a mere visual gag.

What happened inside that black box burqa? The eyes draw us in. It is the camera obscura within which the piece is formed.

In Shop 2012, Aydemir wraps her niqab around a shopping trolley and walks down the aisle of a fluoro lit shop, appraising produce. She banalises the niqab and extends the joke on the conflation of criminality and Islam. She’s an everyday consumer, just like us, with mouths to feed. But why is she hiding her purchases? Is it theft? Or a protective gesture? Apparently this performance was not easy to do. The artist and her team were turned away from places. When they tried to enter a shopping centre in Leichhardt, for example, the security guard prevented them in case she had something hidden beneath her burka.

In a local context, the covered Muslim woman threatens because she is so ‘other’. Yet in the complex responses we have to niqabs and burkas, there is also a line to atavistic fears of the mask. Human beings communicate predominantly with their faces. In person, facial expression is intrinsic to verbal, and often precedes it. The most potent identifier is the face. The mask signals transformation or disguise; the abnegation of self. Masks have long been worn in rituals to signal escape from the everyday, and descent into the illicit. Yet in getting to know a mask, and its wearers’ deeds, we can lose our fear of it. Ned Kelly’s square tin box comes to mind, featuring interestingly the same oblong aperture. Sometimes a mask can even become desirable in its mystery, such as that of Zorro.

Even masks of practical purpose can menace (fencing) for the simple reason that we cannot see who is there. The individual has been erased: there is no personality. But am I deducing that because I live in a fear-driven society? Where a balaclava speaks more of banditry than of harsh weather?

The void inside the niqab is an endlessly articulate silence into which we project our desires and fears. A pliant, pious, child-bearing wife. An oil oligarch’s concubine, lavishly made up, dripping with jewels. A religion, an ideology, intent on our destruction.

Incendiary devices used to further that.

Aydemir has stuffed this void with more things than you can poke a stick at.

Originally staged at Alaska Projects, blow 2013 is a video performance of a burqa stuffed with balloons, creating a Michelin-like being whose shape-shifting forms the narrative. It might be co-incidental that this gallery is in a car park, but the generic, austere, slightly sinister setting supports the concept well. When watching this video, I thought of movie shoot-outs and car chases.

blow was staged again in 2015 at the MCA’s Artbar. As a live performance, the focus drew more on the effort of blowing up the balloons, and their squeaking soundtrack. So much work for the brief climax of gunfire-like popping, the woman in niqab dodging and morphing to a slight, benign figure, who exits the gallery as though nothing has happened.

Polemic aside, Extremist Activity is characterised by wit and lightness of touch. It is angry and generous in equal measure. Immanent is a challenge to paradigms of beauty. If the veiled woman points to the male gaze, what does the unveiled woman do? Is the latter just as policed and regulated? For centuries in western culture, the ideal woman has been Aryan. Whilst body shapes and disclosure of flesh have varied, beauty for centuries has been blonde, and white.

Bombshell 2013, a prize-winning video performance, inverted the iconic scene from The Seven Year Itch where Marilyn Monroe stands over the subway vent with her dress flying up. Everything is opposite: the sky is dark and stormy, not blue; the garment is black, not white; the legs revealed when the niqab billows are covered not bare. Yet there is still a frisson in their appearance. There is no peaches and cream complexion raised in ecstasy, no luscious red lips, no blonde hair tossed carefree.

But hey – who said Muslim women couldn’t be blonde??

Another work tackling the beauty myth was created in a hairdresser’s shopfront in Kandos, four hours drive west of Sydney, for the Cementa festival in 2013. Again the everyday was reinvented: a hairdressers’ cape became a burka whose coverage reached up over the old-fashioned beehive hair dryer helmeting the woman’s head. The Muslim woman is bookended by a vampy blonde, doubling the restriction. She looks cranky. It sets up a more interesting juxtaposition than the city pieces, given the absence of a Muslim community in this town. It taps into curiosity about Muslim women and their toilette. Did you know nose jobs are really popular in Iran? Really? Yeah! There was an article in the Good Weekend! God, why would you get a nose job if you can’t show it?!

The question of disclosure is behind all these works. Curiosity tips into voyeurism. There is no clear line. The works speak through silence. Even in the most declarative, swing and Mount, there is a sense of privacy.

Such close examination of the work butts up against that. The question of how these performances would be read in Auburn, or Kuala Lumpur or Paris or Tehran, comes to mind. I get a sense of multiple discourse, some all-inclusive, in the parks and galleries of Sydney, on streets and supermarkets and in a country town. Some in the community of women. And some in the Muslim community alone, which I cannot overhear.





[i] Diamond, J. M., Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (New York: Viking, 2005). What caused some of the great civilizations of the past to collapse into ruin, and what can we learn from their fates? Diamond weaves an all-encompassing global thesis through a series of historical-cultural narratives. Moving from the prehistoric Polynesian culture of Easter Island to the formerly flourishing Native American civilizations of the Anasazi and the Maya, the doomed medieval Viking colony on Greenland, and finally to the modern world, Diamond traces a pattern of catastrophe, spelling out what happens when we squander our resources, when we ignore the signals or environment gives us.

[ii] Solnit, R., Wanderlust: A History of Walking (USA, Viking Penguin, 2000). Solnit quotes historian Gerda Lerner: ‘Domestic women, sexually serving one man and under his protection, are here designated as ‘respectable’ by being veiled; women not under one man’s protection and sexual control are designated as ‘public women’, hence unveiled … This pattern of enforced visible discrimination recurs throughout historical time in the myriad regulations which place ‘disreputable women’ in certain districts or certain houses marked with clearly identifiable signs or which force them to register with the authorities and carry identification cards.’ Gerda Lerna, The Creation of Patriarchy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), 134, 135–9.

[iii] Cross, D. and C. Doherty, One Day Sculpture (Bielefeld, Germany: Kerber Verlag, 2009).

[iv] Rosen, Z., ‘Cigdem Aydemir: Extremist Activity’, Concrete Playground, 2012.

[v] Kantor, T. and M. Kobialka, A Journey through Other Spaces: Essays and Manifestos, 1944–1990 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993).

[vi] Kobialka, M. and Ebrary, Further on, nothing: Tadeusz Kantor’s theatre (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009), p. 81; 154.

[vii] Ibid., p. 292.

[viii] Cross, D. and C. Doherty, One Day Sculpture (Bielefeld, Germany: Kerber Verlag, 2009).

[ix] Mona Eltahawy interviewed by Mehdi Hasan, Al Jazeera,

[x] Interview with artist, April 2015.


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