Algerian artist Samta Benyahia employs Mediterranean Islamic architectural motifs in combination with photographs and oral poetry to explore issues of gender, space and power. Influenced by the achievements of Algerian women artists — who have emerged on local and international art scenes in spite of the repressive politics that have characterized Algeria's recent history — Benyahia will have her U.S. museum debut at the Fowler Museum at UCLA with "Architecture of the Veil: An Installation by Samta Benyahia," on display Jan. 28 through Sept. 2, 2007.
"Architecture of the Veil" will be a site-specific installation that takes its theme from the moucharabieh, the geometric openwork screens used in Mediterranean Islamic buildings to cover windows and balconies, allowing those inside — typically women — to view the outside world without being seen. In late 2005, Benyahia visited the Fowler Museum and was delighted to see that the Fowler building was designed in the spirit of Andalusian architecture, much like the spaces of her North Africa childhood that have inspired her deep explorations of the moucharabieh.
For this installation, Benyahia will cover the Fowler's glass entrance doors and arched interior courtyard windows with digitally printed films of a blue moucharabieh pattern. Encircling the courtyard in the museum's Goldenberg Galleria will be 90 "rosettes," consisting of sequin-embroidered motifs on netting, and eight large-scale black-and-white photographs of early 20th-century Algerian women, including the artist's mother and aunt. Recordings of poems recited in Arabic and French will be heard throughout the installation, which will be a dynamic exploration of gender relations and of the tension between interior and exterior, concealment and revelation, and private and public space.
About the Artist
Bienniale (2003); the Museum of Modern
"Architecture of the Veil: An Installation by Samta Benyahia" is made possible by the generous support of Barbara and Joe Goldenberg and Etant donnes: The French-American Fund for Contemporary Art. Additional support is provided by Air
Opening Day: "Architecture of the Veil"
Galleries open noon–5 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 28, 2007
2 p.m. and 4 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 28, 2007
Samta Benyahia discusses her installation and describes how she inverts the traditional power structure by making women, who are normally hidden from view, visible through her work. Light refreshments.
Kids in the Courtyard
1–4 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 4, 2007
Children will have the opportunity to experiment with polygons and geometric patterns to create designs like those in Mediterranean Islamic architecture. Using brilliant blue contact paper, they will make a screen inspired by "Architecture of the Veil: An Installation by Samta Benyahia."