Unveiling through documentary: the making and imagining of space among veiled women In contemporary Turkey
Uygun Azizoğlu, Zeynep Merve
This research studies and visualises how bodies, spaces and practices are construed, reimagined and reconstructed for/by veiled women in contemporary Turkey. The project highlights the construction of new gender-segregated spaces focusing on women-only holiday practices. Thus far, the gender-segregated vacations have been understudied both theoretically or practically. This practice-based research consists of two main parts: a written work and visual material. In the written part I investigate the space-making process from the Ottoman era to contemporary Turkey. By focusing on the shifting attitudes towards sea, summer holidays and swimming, I examine their role in the transformation of spaces, bodies, and practices related to the holiday activities of veiled women. I contextualise my studies within the political history of Turkish modernisation, and the effects of this process on veiled women. I argue that in the triangle of bodies, spaces and practices, veiled women in Turkey are active rather than passive agents. They passionately carve alternative spaces beyond the invisible borders put by the state and/or patriarchal society. Visualising the unveiled female body is problematic in Islam. Drawing from the literature on body politics, I explore how the existence or absence of the body is represented in different film examples. Focusing on numerous narratives and techniques used in documentary films such as re-enactment or animation, I demonstrate how these tools contribute to the depiction of the invisible as an aesthetic choice as well as augmenting the sense of reality in the films. I have made six visual works during my research. The challenge of depicting bodies without the presence of the body in these works triggered a creativity that led to the usage of various narratives in visualising the invisible. Furthermore, my self-reflexive analysis on my visual works, functions as a guidance to my artistic working process and the background of the art works created during this process. The ultimate aim of this trans-disciplinary work is to contribute equally to Documentary Filmmaking, Documentary Studies, and Modern Turkish Studies.