Hoda Tawakol at Kunstverein

Silent Voices in a Palm Grove, Hoda Tawakol

Curated by Rebekka Seubert and held at the Kunstverein, Silent Voices in a Palm Grove creates a utopian realm within the Kunstverein, a glowing palm grove that radiates out into the surrounding city, visible from afar. Through her sculptures, Tawakol challenges viewers to consider issues of power, control, and access, and to question the societal structures that perpetuate them.

Hoda Tawakol Silent Voices in a Palm Grove, Dortmunder Kunstverein, 2023 Lure #25 (2021-23), Photo: Mareike Tocha. Courtesy: the artist, Dortmunder Kunstverein, Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde

The exhibition, titled “Silent Voices in a Palm Grove,” is designed to rise up from the undergrowth in the cover of twilight, fighting for freedom by reversing the means of repression. The sculptures are robed as warriors in armor made of hair and stand behind a large curtain that protects the Kunstverein from prying eyes. This exhibition repeatedly plays with scale to spell out the violence of certain cultural practices and patriarchal social structures. Tawakol’s works shift from the head to the whole body, from the braided mesh of the veil to the intricate mashrabiyya, an ornamental wooden lattice used in the architecture of the Arabic-speaking world as permeable walls and windows on balconies or in courtyards.

Tawakol also transfers the formal language of the tiny leather falcon lures to attractors of her own. She creates larger-than-life textile structures whose organic forms recall human body parts rather than the lumps of meat for training birds of prey. For the upper space, Tawakol has created a trellis structure based on the layout of the men’s area (Salamlek) of the famous Bayt Al-Suhaymi, the house of Sheikh Al-Suhaymi in Medieval Cairo. This traditionally male space is open to all visitors in the exhibition, where Tawakol presents ten falcon masks enlarged to human proportions.

Tawakol’s sculptures are designed to be both visually striking and thought-provoking. They explore the concept of control over another person’s body, which can be both a tool of pleasure or a means of violence. The sculptures depict the power of the gaze as a protagonist, representing rapprochement and reassurance between people and objects, but also as control over bodies and stimuli. This power manifests in the interplay of allure, seduction, and the suppression of reflexes or conditions, affecting people and bodies. It also represents power over access and exclusion.

Hoda Tawakol Silent Voices in a Palm Grove, Dortmunder Kunstverein, 2023
Installation view, Photo: Jens Franke. Courtesy: the artist, Dortmunder Kunstverein, Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde

Silent Voices in a Palm Grove, Hoda Tawakol

Location:Dortmunder Kunstverein, Dortmund, Germany

Duration:March 25 – June 11, 2023

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