Thursday, November 17, 2005

Yes, No Virility.

Yes, my brother we have no Virility when we tolerate unjust laws in our constitution which discriminates against our; mothers, sisters, wives and daughters.

Yes my brother we lack Gallantry when women in our society have no child custody rights.

We lack Fortitude when our women can not initiate a divorce petition unless they forego all their potential rights.

We have no Valor if our women can not travel (obtain a passport) on their own.

We lack Audacity when our women can not pursue employment.

We are not Fervent when our daughters receive one-half less inheritance than our sons do.

We lack Strength when our women scholars are not allowed to become judges.

We have no Courage when our women are not allowed to testify as a witness.

We lake Boldness when we require virginity for our daughters but not for our sons.

We have no Guts to stand firm in uprooting all laws not granting full human rights to women in our society.

We lack the Spirit when seeking freedom of press, freedom of political association or freedom of expression yet ignoring the gross human right violation of women in our society.

Yes my brother we do not have the Determination and the resolve to demand democracy and human rights for ALL.


My Inspiration

Opening for Dialogue with Harper College Students in regard with “Hejab Exposition” - May , 2005

I would like to thank the International Studies Organization for inviting me back to participate in this forum.

I have had the privilege of receiving a copy of the comments made in reaction to the “Hejab Exposition” which I presented at Harper College in February 2005.

In response to those comments and in further stating my views, I have a short statement:

As a descendent of a great grandfather, revered as a saint with blood lines linked to the Prophet Mohammad, I find it my obligation to advocate equal rights for my mother and my sisters and spread this ideology to other families across the borders.

I believe most of the anger and rage in my region of the world is a direct result of oppression of women. I believe when women’s rights are trampled, the outrage is passed on through the children and one can see its resonate in my region.

As a concerned member of my society, I want to critically evaluate my society’s predicament and find ways to change it for the better. I believe women are oppressed in Islamic societies. And I have chosen the Hejab as the most visible symbol of gender specific subjugation to reveal all other forms of inequities forced on women.

In many places these inequities reaches the degree of gender apartheid. (Not that there aren’t gender biases and abuse in other societies with different faiths; the Catholic Church and the Jewish Orthodoxy for example have many issues in this area to overcome).

For example, we see honor killing which exclusively victimizes women and genitalia mutilation of female children. Women suffer from unequal inheritance right’s, unequal travel and movement rights, unequal employment rights, unequal divorce rights, unequal child custody rights, unequal rights to damages for
disfigurement or loss of body parts in criminal matters or in accidents, unequal rights to become a judge or present a witness testimony.

I believe the merits of these fundamental issues should be scrutinized without fear of retributions from religious fanatics. - I do not believe that the divine order would be for one gender to dominate another.

If the Hejab is to curb the excitement of men, who cannot control their faculties, then I think there should be a policy reversal: create a restraining procedure for defective men who cannot control themselves and free the women – the real victims, from the quarantine and the confinement of the Hejab.


Exhibitions 2005

Hejab Exposition

No Veil Is Required

The Hejab Exposition took place at D'Last Gallery in Chicago between October, 02 and November, 23, 2004

No Veil Is Required, a multi media presentation including photography exhibits and installation, was presented in five venues in Chicago and Palatine, from the 25 of October to the 27 of November, 2005.

Harper College, Palatine

Chicago Art District - Opening Day of Artist's Month

Gene Siskal Film Center

Columbia College, Chicago

D'Last Gallery

“Hejab Series, a recently opened exhibition at d’Last Studios and Gallery in Pilsen, begins to construct a bridge across this chasm of understanding on more levels than might initially meets the eye.”

“Hejab Series functions less as art in the expected sense, and more as a multi-channel, hence highly engaging lesson on its topic.”(1)

“Very powerful exhibit. It is a side of these women that needs to be expressed in the face of opposition.” Karina Fruin.

“Very scandalous pictures, but they are great. I like the different view of it.” K. Garcia.

“Louder than words – art & life” Viktorien.

“Wonderful & thoughtful show – should not be banned. Thanks –“ Ryan Appeit.

“I am very glad the controversy happened as otherwise I and many friends would not have seen this wonderful work … Thank you –” Helene Smith.

"Society needs more thoughtful, critical dialogue on matters of belief and culture. Thank you for sticking with it. It’s not always easy to challenge people to think about the way they see themselves and their connection to their world. “Live your truth”.” Paula.

“ The point here is not subtlety or intricacy of meaning so much as a clear gesture of resistance.”(1)

“Normandi’s studio photographs are made more powerful by their back story.”(1)

“Another compelling feature of the show is its interactive elements.”(1)

"Muslim Students Shut Down Exhibit at Harper College.

When Muslim students at a community college in Illinois complained about an art exhibit that criticized the repressive symbol of radical Islam known as the hijab, the school promptly removed the offending artwork.

An art exhibit that included photographs of nude Muslim women wearing only a head covering was taken down Thursday afternoon just hours after opening for public viewing at Harper College in Palatine... Read more." Little Green Football - October 28, 2005

College Pulls Controversial Muslim Art Exhibit - NBC
November 9, 2005

“It is interesting to see the conservative Iranian modesty juxtaposed with such an opposite feeling of openness.” Drew J.

“Can a veil really restrain sensuality. To me, the photographs are very liberating. The power of female sensuality is always present whether covered up or not.” K. Kemper.

“Excellent show. Wonderful sensual/religion contrast. See you next year.” Tim Hauyt.

“Extremely powerful, bold but in favor of cultural continuity, traditional garb of all the Mohammedan countries should be respected both in chastity, celibacy, and not the least in their erotic sensation.” Ken Ladien - Former Co-Chairman Law Committee, Illinois Consultation of Ethnicity on Education.

“It occurred to me as I left the gallery how perfectly this show, without intending to, dramatizes the idea behind my column’s title –Escape from Art School” (1)

“Work like Normandi’s, while short on nuance and intellectual hoop-jumping, easily and clearly tell us something worth knowing.” (1)

No Veil is Required

(1) Chicago Journal, Metropolis Section
[Escape from art school] When Subtlety is not Enough By Kathryn Rosenfeld
November 4, 2004


Press Clips, Fall 2005


When Is a Boob Just a Boob?

"Harper College booted Amir Normandi exibit for lack of "intellectual content."

Visitors to a remount in Pilsen can decide if it was a good call."

More Visitor's Comments:

“El Arte es la major fuerza de protestar. ‘Hasta ca voctproa siempre.” Jose Uribe

“The women and their bras was a very powerful and harsh, yet vibrant image. Your color play and the leopard print made the reality of the picture rather inescapable” Paula M

“Very Powerful work. I’m please to see an exhibit in Pilsen that could be controversial and invite some dialogue. Thank you.” Claudia Rivera

“You make a fantastic, bold & provocative statement with your photography that needs to be seen by peoples. Keep up the great work. Society needs more artists like you.” Henry Chen

“Thank you so much for creating statements that illuminate the truth.” Eric Doctors

“The show was excellent: Open and provocative. Just the way art should be. Congratulations.” Lupillo Rivera

“Secure in Saudi Arabia’ Fear/Intimacy – very intriguing juxtaposition of man & woman.” Rick Kaufman / Corrie Hester

“Very unusual, sensual and sad –” Helen

“A Road Less Traveled” Roman

“The eye of an artist in service of a noble cause – moving exhibit. Thank you!” Anonymous

“It was my pleasure to attend this powerful show. Hope to see other exhibition of work.” A. Serest

“Thought provoking. I look forward to seeing more work from you on the topic.” Jonathan Silverstein

“I read The Reader - That is how I found this show. I felt that the photos were beautiful and inspiring – I was not offended by the subject matter and wonder why people get so up thigh!” Lesi Miller


Monday, November 14, 2005

500 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

..."Still, at the center of Hejab Exposition" are its black-and-white photographs, shown in projections and prints on the walls and in albums on a table. Though some of the photographers were certainly trying to blunt poignancy - one shows Iranian women shopping for sunglasses, another a well covered women helping a blind man cross the street - taken as a whole they evoke Wallace Stevens: they're like 500 ways of looking at a black murals (Normand identified them for me), some looking delighted or irritated at being photographed. Because of the dark hejab, it almost appears as if each woman has been blacked out of an otherwise quotidian scene. Knowing whatever one knows (or thinks one knows) of a woman's social position adds a cultural dimension to that void. But does an Iranian woman's clothing alone mean that she is less present as a person than a Western woman would be? The press release quotes Ezzat Goushegir, a Chicago dramatist born in Iran, as saying, "While hejab by force is an act of oppression, hejab by choice is an act of democracy." (Of course that oversimplified statement ignores the ban on Muslim head scarves in French schools.) Goushegir goes on to say that the show "explores both sides of the tradition." But Normandi actually just puts the tradition in a photo album in your lap and leaves you not knowing what kind of face you ought to be making as you turn the pages."