In an act of cathartic creative [re]production, my assistant and I will attempt to graphically rewrite Edward Said’s genre defining cultural critique, Orientalism. Our process involves the use of an algorithm that searches a given text for particular phrases based on variables we specify. Using this collection we will graphically “rewrite” the text using a printer, scanner and our AxiDraw pen plotter.
I recently re-read Edward Said’s Orientalism and some related criticism. Re-reading these texts, after having lived in the Arabian Gulf for 4 years, allowed me to interpret them in a different way.
As a designer and professor in the Gulf, I find myself teaching young Muslim women the values of Western Design ideology. We live in a daily dialectic exchange, where we hold the past, the traditional, the conservative, and the negation of the female image, along with the completely contemporary phenomenon of hyper self-awareness, social digital identity, social critique and flexible gender identity. This creates a real proving ground for “Middle-East” meets “West.”
As a response to this daily cultural dialog, I have tried to put my ideology under review, accepting alternative ways of viewing design and its products. At the end of an ideological assumption there is only befuddlement and confusion. It is between the borders of confusion and my ideology where I operate my creative practice in Doha. While the kind of deconstruction and postcolonial critique I was exposed to in my education was necessary, it offered few ways forward for makers in my position.
“Disorientalism” is one visual action driven by these interrelated questions. The result may be the clarity of visual befuddlement and/or conclusion through the lens of confusion.