Armour. Armor. Amor. More.
On the 26th of February 2015, artist Kubra Khademi performed her work Armour in Kabul, Afghanistan.
It took a month for Kubra Khademi to get the armour made exactly to her design.1
She walked from the central bus station wearing a figurative metal breast and bottom plate over her clothes, accompanied with a headscarf.
First of all I questioned my identity and sexuality and everything I was feeling,” she said. “It was like something was dead. What I remember of that day is only one sentence I said at that moment: “I wish my underwear was made of iron.”2
The performance lasted 8 minutes.
The eight-minute long protest was poorly received by onlookers who threw rocks and jeered and Ms Khademi was forced to cut short her demonstration and flee the scene by taxi.3
As a result of this work Kubra is in exile.
Afghanistan: Artist gets death threats for dressing in metal suit.4
Just as the above presents an erratic and sketchy picture of the event that took place on the 26th February in Kabul, Afghanistan, we have to ask ourselves; how reliant are we on a news feed to inform our understanding of contemporary feminist practice?
Tiqqun’s Raw Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl talks about coupledom: The Young-Girl is always coupled with an image of herself.5 In a digital realm, this coupledom is truly apparent.
(With Kubra’s performance you have only half the raw materials. The imagistic proof of the event has been surrendered.)
The young-girl is she who understands technology… Is culpable of its demands. The young-girl is first and foremost a point of view on the passage of time, but a point of view that is alive.6
Is the New Zealand point of view alive if we are only interacting with wider debates via platforms like Facebook or Jezebel? Can we be alive digitally?
Kubra Khademi’s performance was only evident in New Zealand because of the media and the digital world. Her act was reported by all major news agencies as well as going viral on social media.
Does this online-only awareness mean we are lesser-feminists than others who are better geographically positioned?
It is not about this girl being a female but about her being a mindset.7
The idea that we can access a broad range of opinion and information is both the logic that birthed the internet, and the asserted best way of seeking and communicating ‘truth’. The young-girl’s coupledom is also a relationship of action and thought.
Kubra is not a stereotype or a label, but rather a body of work.
She is a mindset: a mechanism for recognition of a consciousness that allows a ‘feed’ of dialogue.
I didn’t know I was a feminist; people told me.8
It is this collaboration between the Young-Girl and the Social,9 the theory and the reality, that facilitates easy and global discussion. Previously one could argue that the collaboration rested between an individual and seminal texts such as Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex (1949) or Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch (1970).
These texts made being a female understandable; an event.10 One could go ‘from’ the text to understanding.
By performing walking — an everyday occurrence — Kubra interacted with this unspoken dialogue, challenging attitudes and defining it as an event. She became visibly heard.
The work is accessible to its audience, regardless of where they find the information.
…the body has become the bearer of all meaning where every aspect of existence is exchangeable and where nothing is hidden or hide-able. 11
‘Events’ have not entirely replaced the use of the aforementioned texts. However, the presence of the body in Kubra’s work creates a different experience of empathy than words can transmute. One can go from her action, to an understanding.
Thus a digital consideration has the ability to offer a committed long distance relationship. However, it could also be considered as a series of fundamentally lacking flings;
In our current media drenched class based world society, instead of fraternity (literally brother/sisterhood) we have the pale simulation of virtual togetherness, through the shared experience of corporate media creations like Beyoncé.12
After human we become women
…in my society I was born a woman 13
Donna Haraway would clarify this ‘pale simulation’ as heterochronic; the internet as Cyborg reality. 14
The Cyborg is a kind of disassembled and reassembled postmodern collective and personal self. 15
Likewise the idea of being a woman second to human also aligns with Haraway’s thesis on the Cyborg: The connection of cyborg and otherness is key.
Conscious of this notion of birth into gender, Kubra and her performative language apply themselves to the Cyborg world (both in the sense of their otherness and its means of dissemination).
Much the same way as our isolation in New Zealand gives us a language;
Cyborg writing is about the power to survive not on the basis of original innocence but on the basis of seizing the tools to mark the world that marked them as other - the original literate other who teaches survival.16
As form follows function, New Zealand’s geographic removal from these events positions us to receive them second hand. Viewing them through another’s position, multiple perspectives and international opinions, privileges us with an insight that makes for a dexterous cognition. We sit with the texts and let our imagination work. This can mean we perceive them in a way that is very other, rather than if we had experienced them ourselves.
For example, we know that the work that Kubra completed was in part an investigation into a previous personal experience but in practice became a discussion of womanhood in her city.
To an onlooker such conceptual and contextual information is lacking.
In her unpublished manuscript on Lacan, Klein and nuclear culture, Zoe Soufoulis argues that the most terrible and perhaps the most promising monsters in Cyborg worlds are embodied in non-oedipal narratives with a different logic of repression, which we need to understand for our survival.17
This repression is not one of desire. It is not the result of a subtraction or a lack. But it can be associated with a performance’s end.
Now the longevity of projects (their performative capacity) is reduced to how long it takes to consider whether or not to share/message/post.
But for the performer, the performance continues, in new projects or when dealing with the ramifications of an individual piece.
Andy Horwitz said that a performance ends when people stop thinking about it.
So like a degustation, the nature of the internet has adjusted to a process of considering quality through regulated quantity.
Yesterday: Girls tweeting their periods at Donald Trump; MIA’s drummer; Kiran Gandhi running in the London Marathon, letting her period blood run down her leg.
However such ‘thinking’ has been argued as unintensive and precarious for its quantified rather than qualified nature. Soufoulis suggests that this adjustment to a narrowing or clarification of information was to be expected (with more people digesting information), however in its new trajectory, such logic information and forest of conscience knowledge are further displaced from one another resulting in a black space of easy perdition between the two.
Our isolation in New Zealand offers us such a space. Removed the key is to move, move past a logic-move past just-survival, to take a repression of logic but uphold a tradition of thinking borne from the drive to survive.
When the stream of internet sources and real lived experience come together, we see how they have very different ongoing presents. The news keeps coming; it is not about the individual stories or an intensive investigation. It is designed on a broad platform. Real lived experience keeps coming back to you, informing your present — it keeps reinventing itself in relation to you because you have lived with it.
Where empathy may be engendered differently for a performance rather than a text, there is still a lack of ongoing feeling — perhaps this is it; we feel faster and we feel more in a digital sphere, but our apathetic fraternity is present because this deep feeling is short and spread across all stories on a news feed.
This empathy could be considered a kind of repression, a repression and a regression from Cyborg, to human, to Cyborg.
Our isolation gives us the time to be aware of our ‘repression’ and the space to think conceptually about the very nature of this against the backdrop of physicality.
Thus survival. Attempting to stay present (keep up with the news feed) but also with the theory or the seminal black and white texts that pop up every so often alongside the feed.
The beauty of New Zealand’s coupledom is that we could be a Soufoulsian terrible (great) monster;
Our age and our isolation makes us non-cyborg; not
oppositional, utopian and completely without innocence. 18
But growing up in contemporary times we have been made to assert our naivety. So raw in material, with two eyes wide open, the key is to use our monstrousness to our advantage.
But Nike: Just do(n’t stop thinking about) it.
About the Author
A thinker, sometimes writer based nowhere in particular. Crook often spends time with itistwothings working on projects.
“Afghan artist dons armour to counter men’s street harassment,” The Guardian, March 12, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/12/afghan-artist-armour-street-harassment-walk-kubra-khademi-kabul
“Afghan artist in hiding after ‘iron underwear’ stunt,” BBC News, March 12, 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-31851830
“Woman in armour protesting against sexual harassment in Kabul pelted with rocks,” Independent, March 9, 2015,http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/woman-in-armour-protesting-against-sexual-harassment-in-kabul-pelted-with-rocks-10093830.html
“Afghanistan: Artist gets death threats for dressing in metal suit,” BBC News, March 12, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-NCsNbVDig
Tiqqun, Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl, trans. Ariana Reines. (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2012), 61.
Kubra Khademi, Interview with author, April 2015.
The Social as per Ferdinand (1887), Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft, Leipzig: Fues’s Verlag, trans. Charles Price Loomis as Community and Society, (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press.1957)
Event as defined by: Badiou and Deleuze. See; Alain Badious, Being and Event (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 1988 or Gilles Deleuzes, What is the Creative Act?, “Gilles Deleuze on Cinema: What is the Creative Act 1987,” YouTube, accessed April, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_hifamdISs
Herve Juvin, “The Coming of the Body” quoted in Nina Power, “She’s just not that into you”, Radical Philosophy (Jan/Feb 2013), 177.
Hrag Vartanian, “Liberte, Egalite, and … Beyonce”, Hyperallergic, August 12, 2014,http://hyperallergic.com/143041/liberte-egalite-and-beyonce/
Kubra Khademi, Interview with author, April 2015
Donna Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto; Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century,” in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York; Routledge, 1991), 149-181.
Zoe Sofoulis, Lacklein (Unfinished Manuscript) discussed in Donna Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto; Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century,” in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York; Routledge, 1991), 149-181.