Monday, August 27, 2012

Cover story

The visual arts don’t often get the front page of a metropolitan daily. Well scratch that - they never do. So you can expect if the Dominion Post gives over virtually a full front page to anything art-related it's going to be either outrage at public expenditure (their current dog-bites-child issue) or that they're hot on the trail of a chance to stir up controversy.

So what do you think happens when the Dowse Art Museum decides it will accommodate a Qatari artist's request that her film of uncovered women preparing for a wedding be only shown to women one at a time? The Dominion Post devotes its front page to position it as a 'No Men Allowed' scandal. That's 1.380 column cms including an enormous 300 x 180 cm photograph and a street banner. The subject of the uncredited mega-pic? A Muslim woman with her head and face covered in the most traditional form. Given that the film is actually about women who are not covered this could hardly be more inflammatory especially when the artist herself Sophia Al-Maria appears in a small profile pic wearing a headscarf.

The Dominion Post also claims in its 30 center meter high sub header that the ‘women only’ request is a “controversial edict.” In fact the Human Rights Commission has simply said it will respond to any complaint (if there is one) as usual. 

The director of the Dowse Cam McCracken has called the film by Sophia Al-Maria “a really important work”. This sentiment was echoed by a spokeswoman from the Islamic Women’s Council who told the Dominion Post that she hoped the film would “promote some interesting discussion rather than reactive controversy.” Thanks to the shock-horror handling by the Dominion Post the chances of that are all but non existent.

"Lower Hutt resident Paul Young is calling for support for his campaign against the work, which he says is "inflammatory and provocative", and discriminates against half the population.
"As a ratepayer, I find it a shocking situation. I see this sort of thing as being the thin end of the wedge," Young said. 
"Steps have to be taken to make sure that this doesn't go ahead in its current format."

And they're off. 

You can see Sophia Al-Maria talk about one of her other films here. Her film Scifi Wahabi was shown at the Snake Pit Gallery in Auckland earlier this year.