What do you get when you cross a psychoanalyst, an archaeologist, and a Japanese animator? Something like the work of Kuwaiti artist Monira Al Qadiri, who turns the collective unconscious of Middle Eastern and Gulf culture inside-out by transforming its traditions, from sad ballads to beards, into performance art.
What’s behind your focus on masculinity?
Growing up we were three girls, so for me being a man is something exotic. In my work, all these unconscious images from my childhood come back. But I really don’t see gender as black and white. It’s a practice, a ritual–so for me it’s a question: I love masculine things and I don’t know why. It comes from a place of adoration. I really don’t know why; that’s why I keep making these works.
What about your use of religious images?
Religion is also seen in this very black and white sense, but I think it’s multifaceted and has a lot of beautiful cultural aspects. This is why I say the Muhawwil project is not critical, because the images look naïve but they’re conveying ancient messages. This is a new trend in Islam that uses figurative art for the first time, so with Muhawwil I thought, I have to document this. I was really nervous about showing it because I’d never done anything that religious, but everyone took it in her or his own way and had a different reaction. So I think it’s better not to impose what I think.
Do you see yourself as an archivist of culture?
I am a bit of an introvert, but I’m trying to express things that are beyond just me. A lot of artists here fall into the trap of thinking that to be a contemporary artist you can’t go outside of yourself, but that doesn’t interest me; I include different issues in my work.
For more info – www.moniraalqadiri.com/