A Melon on a Stem

An extract from The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Then we had the irises, rising beautiful and cool on their tall stalks, like blown glass, like pastel water momentarily frozen in a splash, light blue, light mauve, and the darker ones, velvet and purple, black cat’s ears in the sun, indigo shadow, and the bleeding hearts, so female in shape it was a surprise they’d not long since been rooted out. There is something subversive about this garden of Serena’s, a sense of buried things bursting upwards, wordlessly, into the light, as if to point, to say: Whatever is silenced will clamour to be heard, though silently. A Tennyson garden, heavy with scent, languid; the return of the word swoon. Light pours down upon it from the sun, true, but also heat rises, from the flowers themselves, you can feel it: Like holding your hand an inch above an arm, a shoulder. It breathes, in the warmth, breathing itself in. To walk through it in these days, of peonies, of pinks and carnations, makes my head swim.
The willow is in full plumage and is no help, with its insinuating whispers. Rendezvous, it says, terraces; the sibilants run up my spine, a shiver as if in fever. The summer dress rustles against the flesh of my thighs, the grass grows underfoot, at the edges of my eyes there are movements, in the branches; feathers, flittings, grace notes, tree into bird, metamorphosis run wild. Goddesses are possible now and the air suffuses with desire. Even the bricks of the house are softening, becoming tactile; if I leaned against them they’d be warm and yielding. It’s amazing what denial can do. Did the sight of my ankle make him lightheaded, faint, at the checkpoint yesterday, when I dropped my pass and let him pick it up for me? No handkerchief, no fan, I use what’s handy.
Winter is not so dangerous. I need hardness, cold, rigidity; not this heaviness, as if I’m a melon on a stem, this liquid ripeness.

georgia-okeeffe-banana-flower-1934

Banana Flower, Georgia O’Keeffe, 1934

Melon, Gabriel Orozco, 1993

Melon, Gabriel Orozco, 1993

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Listen

Image

Listen. Newsha Tavakolian. 2010.

The “Listen” series focus on Iranian professional female singers who have been unable to perform solo or to produce their own music since the revolution in 1979. Tavakolian brought these singers to a private studio, and filmed/photographed them performing in front of a chintzy ‘70’s-era backdrop to an imaginary audience. The power of the series lies in the absence, the silence of their passionate performances.

In addition to her portraits of girls and singers, Tavakolian also created fictional CD covers (which metaphorically remain empty) that portray her own interpretation of Iranian society.Tavakolian writes, “For me a woman’s voice represents a power that if you silence it, imbalances society and makes everything deformed. The project ‘Listen’ echoes the voice of these silenced women. I let Iranian women singers perform through my camera while the world has never heard them.” For anyone interested in hearing more from Tavakolian, here is a brief video interview.

Text from ArtLog

Newsha Tavakolian listen singing woman


Sueños/Dreams

From 1948-1951 German-born Argentinian photographer Grete Stern was commissioned to create photo-montages for an Argentinian romance magazine called Idilio. On the basis of descriptions sent in by its female readership she visualised 143 dreams for the series “Psychoanalysis Will Help You“, working in close collaboration with the sociologist and psychoanalyst Gani Germani, who directly advised her on how to depict certain dreams in a Freudian way. Stern had less than a week for each collage, drawing on her archive of landscape photography and using relatives and friends as models. Germani would then refer directly to the collage when analysing the dreams in the magazine.

Stern often presents family as a deathly, alienating force completely inverting its traditional role. Men invariably appear menacing, be it as a direct physical threat in form of a monstrous macho with a tortoise head or as a commodifying force, transforming the female into a usable object, as in ‘Dream 61′ where the woman is the base of a lamp which is about to be switched on by a man. And then there are the obvious, and metaphorically heavy-handed, collages where the female protagonist is trapped in a literal cage, in a corked glass vessel, or beneath a net thrown at her by her husband.

Text from The Argentina Independent

Dreams No. 1. Grete Stern. 1948.

Dream No. 61. Grete Stern. 1948.

Grete Stern  Dream No 5 Bottle cast into the sea 1949

Dream No. 5 (Bottle cast into the sea). Grete Stern. 1949.

Grete Stern – photomontage, 1949

Dreams. Grete Stern. 1949.

Grete Stern – Dream Nº 28, 1951

Dream No. 28. Grete Stern. 1951.