Growing up and living in Kuwait, there was a continues struggle between who I am & want to be and society’s expectation; as if you are obligated to fit in a social frame of manners, behaviors, discussions and even way of thinking. I would always ask myself “Is it acceptable?!” to wear sleeveless shirt at the age of 12 or listen to 2Pac and memorise rap songs lyrics more than traditional Kuwaiti anasheed?! The list goes on… It was a struggle because others will immediately question your national loyalty if you don’t flavor any of Kuwaiti-made habits…
The “social frame” is so packed with expectations that later on turn into obligations, and if who you are is not falling under it, you either fight to stand out and right to be different or create a public life meeting society’s expectations & an unseen one where only you know about and similar people allowed in… In both cases, you wake up one day asking yourself “how long this fight will last?!”
As long as you can handle…
It is unfair to say this duplicity is only in Kuwait or other conservative countries because even in the most liberal countries “social frame” exists but it has different “expectations”… Regardless, having a double life is hectic and tiring isn’t it?!
The Unseen… There is more than the eye can see
What makes it worse is the fear of talking about “social frame” and what you really think, believe vs. what society wants you to. taking in consideration it is all associated with people’s acceptance of your truth… Well some people do, one of them is young Lebanese artist Lara Zankoul in her latest surrealist series “The Unseen”: photographs of figures in a room half filled with water and what’s below the water is the “unseen” by society, by the eye. A kind of an iceberg effect.
The irony is, everything is truly obvious, yet depends on what you choose to see.
The most controversial artwork is “Feminine Side” (below) a slicked hair man standing in the room, wearing on top a neat suite and bottom a skirt. When I posted it on Instagram, many friends immediately interpreted it with homosexuality, while I think it is beyond that. It depict a very sensitive topic of one’s connecting with his/her two sides, as Lara explained to me:
A few years ago, a men wearing pink was rather funny or bold, or a man going to an esthetician to fix his nails was not accepted. Even the act of crying was associated to girls and guys wouldn’t even admit to cry.At the same time, it is a critique about society pushing people to act and appear in a certain way, which doesn’t always correspond to their reality.
The artist smartly choose a male to cascade this idea for the fact that men hide more than women do; especially emotions and pains, they are not raised to explain or show how they feel, what truly hurts them, as a result they all fall under “Manhood Frame” expecting them to always be strong and get everything done because “you are a man and suppose to do it!“… The same burden is also thrown on women; but if a woman was modeling, the artwork would be repetitive and another feminism work.
“Feminine Side” touches down every person who is hiding part of his/herself from society because of fear of being abandoned, unaccepted and casted away. Whether this part is a habit, belief, opinion… It also reflects how we neglect the fact that we all have feminine and masculine sides, taught to not see and deal with it yet it grows in us as a separate anonymous inner creature most of us fight with instead of embrace it… Simply because we never learnt to do so.
And if you think the artwork is photoshopped, watch “The Unseen Making Of” above.
About Lara Zankoul
Born in Lebanon in 1987, Lara Zankoul graduated from the American University of Beirut with a Masters in Economics. Zankoul was born photographically in 2008. Driven by passion, she taught herself photography and started an enriching journey in the artistic field. During 2009, she completed her 365 project, a personal mission in which she committed on taking a picture every day in a row for a year. She has participated in several local and international collective exhibitions such as the ‘Women’s Art Exhibition’ in Art Lounge Lebanon in 2011 and the 3rd edition of the Festival Photomed in the South of France in 2013. Part of the Shabab Ayyam incubator programme, she was an award recipient at the 2011 Shabab Ayyam Photography Competition. In her solo show in Ayyam Gallery in January 2013, she presented for the first time, her cinematographic work, which was auctioned in April 2013 at Christie’s Dubai.