As an artist of multiple mediums, Jannat Hussain is bravely placing her personal identity as a means of exploring socio-political topics ranging from sex, beauty, Islamophobia and more. We caught up with the admirable young artist to learn more about her thought provoking video art. Below, Jannat Hussain kindly talks us through her pieces titled ‘Hairy Aftermath’, ‘How It Feels’ and ‘Is That You Yeah?’ in order to share the crucial need for a wider understanding the individual and collective elements of female British Muslim identity today.
(This video was part of a commission by Burnt Roti magazine for a workshop held at the Tate Britain as part of the Late at Tate Show.)
“The video piece consists of me performing and reflecting the pain, inconvenience and discomfort of hair removal to achieve the hairless standards of beauty. I wanted to the viewers to feel uncomfortable at the sight of not only my actions in the video, but through the visuals and sound as well. The spoken word in the video is written and spoken by Aaliyah Zmaraks. It is used to further explore and express this concept in more depth. My artistic practice has partially involved performance and it’s a medium I’m learning to work with. Personally, the video was a big step for me in terms of performance, as it was a moment where I had to confront one of my own insecurities.”
‘How It Feels’
“The video is exploring emotions surrounding Islamophobia in the media and how it’s feels as a British Muslim to encounter it. I use abstract expressionism to refer to feelings such as fear and discomfort in this context.
‘How It Feels’ was originally a video installation where I collated short videos which presented Islamophobic content, for instance, clips from EDL protests and debates where Muslim women are having to justify themselves. The installation consisted of projecting these clips onto my cousin who’s also a visibly Muslim woman, whilst she watched the collection. I filmed her reaction and then we spoke about what was shown and how it felt.
In turn, ‘How It Feels’ was a response to that installation as well as addressing the wider issue. The video content of ‘How It Feels’ was edited from that installation which can be seen through the figures.
The sound in ‘How It Feels’ was sampled and edited from a dial tone of when you’re still on the phone after someone has hung up on you. The intent behind this was to represent the feeling of not being heard or understood which contributes to the feeling of fear when addressing issues like Islamophobia. Also, the visuals of the video was supposed to make the viewer feel disturbed and slightly alarmed, which is why I chose to incorporate flashing lights and distorted figures.
Moreover, the video ends with the phrase “Why do you not want to assimilate?” which is a question posed by a white non-Muslim women. I decided to end the video with this question because it was this part that got the most evident emotion of disgust from my cousin during the installation.”
‘Is That You Yeah?’
“This is an abstract expressionist video reflecting on sexual tension, desire and intimacy. The video was showcased in an exhibition called ‘Glory In Dis Honour’ curated by Najwa Umra and her organisation, FMC (Female Muslim Creatives).
The purpose of this video was to find an outlet where I can have a conversation with myself about my sexuality and what sex meant to me, without it feeling taboo or shocking. I was also looking at the idea of being sexually frustrated whilst actively refraining from sex. By layering extracts from porn and textures from my paintings that expressed sexual frustration, I addressed sexual exploration being carried out in secrecy. The title of the video is a reference to the kind of response I used to receive when I spoke about topics relating to sex and sexuality.”