Two women are in a room. Each woman is blindfolded and covered head to ankle in black, their faces are covered with hoods, their bodies obscured by shapeless dresses which skim the floor, the only exposed parts of their figures are their bare hands, wrists and soles of their feet – they are inversely objectified. Their feet stand on a ground littered with needles. The women are facing each other, spot lit with a stretched black cloth separating them. Each woman’s dress is covered with threaded needles, their pockets bulging with unseen materials. They are each a glittering black and silver shroud; the needles tinkle as they move around. Together, unseeing and hushed, they embroider the cloth that separates them.
Beyond the Veil is a performance artwork that articulates and manifests a contemporary response to historical, cultural and emotional feminine connectivity. The artists overcome sensory deprivation by communicating with touch to transform a black cloth into a colourful embroidery that becomes a physical artefact of their shared dialogue and artistic process.
Using the historically grounded and often misaligned medium of embroidery, Beyond the Veil manifests the connections built by women which extend beyond generations, language and time. The performance is an ode to the women past, present and future whose roles have been written out of history; as well as those who have not had the liberty to communicate freely and have, in hushed voices, found ways to reach one another for guidance and help. The artists follow in the footsteps of Judy Chicago and Raquel Ormella who among others, have reclaimed embroidery as a powerful medium for radical expression and representation of the self, despite historically being excluded from high art. Simultaneously, this work builds on a technique exemplified by Cindy Sherman and Julie Rrap who subversively objectify the feminine self to create an alternative, diverse representation of femininity that challenges established notions of strength and achievement by women. The performance will be accompanied by a digital statement online requiring active audience engagement - the effort of looking on the part of the audience juxtaposes the concurrent sensory deprivation of the artists. Alongside the statement, a minimal blog called hushed voices, detailing womens’ names, achievements, quotes and facts would be curated as a stark illustration of the unseen work and collective successes of women.
Beyond the Veil sits within the established canon of performance art set by artists such as Yoko Ono and Echo Morgan who rely upon the limited physicality of the human body to inform work. It is a new area of creative practice for Al-Gadrie and Wood, who harness an intimate personal relationship and dialogue between themselves to overcome the physical limitations of their bodies throughout the performance. Individually, they bring and represent a variety of perspectives and experiences, which intensify this performance piece. Through a uniquely feminine act of sharing, that which is established to make them weaker, is in fact the underlying strength that carries this work and with it the success of women and society past, present and future.