The photographs in my latest work Untitled Women come from a scientific context, a 1930s book titled Woman. An Historical Gynæcological and Anthropological Compendium. Originally published in German in 1885, it was one of the most influential texts in the sexual science of its time. The book describes the female physiology with an anthropological view point. It is illustrated with hundreds of photographs of naked women and children from all over the world. The photographed women are presented as exotic specimens and their body parts are scrutinized in detail (and are often found faulty by the Western male scientists). The images and the whole study are characterized by a mixture of sexual and epistemological desire. The exoticizing gaze with its sexual desire is hidden behind the veneer of legitimate scientific inquiry.
In Untitled Women, I use a translucent paper to hide the original photograph. Now, only the women’s eyes remain accurately visible through a rectangular hole cut in the paper. In the original context, a detailed assessment of the women’s body parts was at the center of focus, but now the viewer can’t see them clearly. The closer s/he gets, the less accurate the image of the body, with the structure of the translucent paper obscuring the view.
I wanted to change the purpose of the original photographs and to show the women from a different perspective. I turn the attention to the women’s eyes and the power of their gaze. Now it is them who are looking at you. How does it feel to be looked at?