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Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Sex, Cameras, Unlawful Meetings: The Night Lights of Lina Hashim


I really like Lina Hashim's Unlawful Meetings project (one of several interesing works that she has completed or has in the pipelin). Unlawful Meetings shows pictures of young (muslim) people doing what young people do around the world - unless someone stops them. It was made into a lovely little book (see below) and the images were also shown in a grid formation. These are surveillance pictures (using a mix of night vision, long lenses and phone cameras), showing what goes on beneath the surface, beneath the rhetoric. It's voyeurism alright; Merry Alpern meets Kohei Yoshiyuki, but with a point to it.

The idea of the project is quite simple really. It's making visible that is supposed to remain invisible, it's about making a documentary project that, in the most direct manner possible, gets to the point of what it is like to be a human, something Hashim, whose 36-year life history is a phenomenal story of hope, conflict and despair all wrapped in one. I decided to email Hashim a few questions about the project. This is her reply.

'The project started actually because of  my interest in  the phenomena of Unlawful Meetings, The word in Arabic is Zināʾ (زِنَاء) And it is an Islamic law concerning unlawful sexual relations between Muslims who are not married to one another. It includes extramarital sex and premarital sex, such as adultery (consensual sexual relations outside marriage), fornication (consensual sexual intercourse between two unmarried persons), and homosexuality (consensual sexual relations between same-sex partners). Traditionally, a married or unmarried Muslim male could have sex outside marriage with a non-Muslim slave, with or without her consent, and such sex was not considered zina. (I'm keeping this part for another project).

It's obviously very difficult not to fall in love and commit unlawful sex. I remember myself taking part in these Unlawful Meetings in my teenage life.

The couples meet in public spaces to avoid being raped or abused, in places outside of the city, far away from crowded places and mostly near the sea.  But in public spaces they use cars as a wall to make a private space where they can be alone, and when its gets more intimate inside the cars they turn Arabic music very high so no one can hear them. These are my Observations!

Then I began visiting the spaces I found at the beginning, ( the sea, a parking lot and empty places outside town) and as I photographed so I discovered more places. I never asked the people I photographed and they never noticed me photographing them.

I made the box book as you know, and made a big grid with 77 photos taken in different places and times. The grid shows places and meetings, some times my shadow. Some are taken with a night vision camera and others during daylight. I made them in back and white to leave the subjects and places more anonymous.'

Read more about Lina Hashim and Unlawful Meetings here. 

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