IMAGINE BEING EXPOSED TO A SORT OF VISUAL CHOCK THERAPHY, being confronted with something that gives an instant overload at the back of your mind. Something having at least one hidden meaning too much for you to be completely able to manage the information without really reflecting. (Of course you can argue that all good visual art actually in a tangible way forces the viewer to think in other tracks than he/she usually does, that the automatic way of reacting has stopped functioning – that THAT fact is the criterion of a well-functioning object - and it applies to the piece of art as well as the viewer).
However, when all has sunk in and fallen into place, in a way, you can try to remember what was the very first thought. It is a good start if you want to orientate yourself out of the problem./issue. But it is not always so easy. Especially not when various points of reference crash during a second or two. I do think, however, that my very first thought when seeing Hanne Lydia’s latest drawings for the first time was “Hijab”, and then afterwards “Kinky” and “Ad`s” before I gave myself a mental note stop there. Because that is enough. That combination should suffice to produce something with a somewhat balanced explosive force. The most interesting fact here is, then, that my first thought was “Hijab”, even for a split second, for this is after all drawings of somebody wearing a pair of panties on her head. It conveys how deeply the images of the Muslim woman’s hidden face have got stuck in my consciousness, and of course not only in mine.
“Kinky” is not so obvious, most people probably think of H&M’s Christmas boards first, but this is simply the way I function. The ads, however, are easier to relate to, so let us take them first: We have a portrait which is not a portrait and the only thing that is actually emphasized here is a garment – the panties are and will remain the principal element, and most often their brand is clearly visible. The bright green Bjørn Borg – underpants obviously look most expensive, and they probably are. The imagery that first springs to mind has its visual element in just this: to sell a product. That is the very basis of further exploration of these drawings, which besides are so god-damn photorealistic that you must go quite near to understand that they are done by hand – which in itself opens for another hidden layer of contradictory meanings: why couldn’t she just have blown up a couple of photos? Easy: because there is a fundamental point in drawing this, we may call it an artist’s academic protest: to stubbornly insist upon artistic virtues. That often convinces more than the chief mourners, the technique is so seductive that also those who would have shaken their heads murmuring something disparaging at a confrontation with a photo – if it had been one – of a face hidden by underpants, stop and stare open-mouthed when realising this. Assuming they go sufficiently near, that is.
Kinky…yes, I come to that in a minute. For there are two layers of kinks here: this is even from the beginning a question of, perhaps not a perversion, but definitely a “pervertation”. Deep down we know that this is not a good laugh at the Muslim woman’s expense, but at the same time we are not able to shake off the discomfort which seems to originate in something similar; the feeling that somebody has said something improper in a badly chosen context – the insecurity that arises when you one way or another venture out on thin ice. And don’t think we have any safety net here, then, because we don’t, Hanne has dragged us out on thin ice. The fact that she herself is standing there must not be seen as an assurance that it holds; all artists take risks.
Kinky…there are more ways than one to see THAT. Taking a pair of underpants from someone’s laundry basket with the part that smells the most strategically placed over your nose while looking out of the two holes intended for the legs is after all classic male masturbation behaviour. Not that I have done IT, then, but in any case I know somebody who has, or I know at least one who knows somebody who has. But there is a just as classic S/M related iconography here, too: “Wear my underpants on your head, you creep” - and what male has not done THAT? Here, however, it has been turned around: it is a woman who is wearing a man’s underpants over her head. For some reason or another that is not so clearly exciting, but it may also be my own preference that haunts me. That is definitely something else. That is really a hijab in the first place. And that effect is, no matter how you relate to it, relatively kinky.
Text Tommy Olsson
Translation by Lydia Opøien