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Liminality and Ambiguity in Artwork

How the artwork may signify an ambiguous of liminality, as well as psychological space of neither here nor there.
This paper explores the concept of Liminality and ambiguity by drawing of sources, from Arnold Van Gennep, Victor Turner to Bjørn Thomassen, Homi Bhabha and others. Liminality has been interpreted in the context of rituals by van Gennep (1909), and then turner (1967) developed his influential concept of liminal experience by referring to it as a transitional and marginal state. Also, afterwards, Bhabha (1994), with the original concept of hybridity and “third space”. The experiences within the liminal temporal, geographic or psychological space, being in between of two cultures, marked by a sense of “double consciousness” in the migrant, giving way to liminality of identity. Through an art based practice, I explore the process of liminality and characteristics of transition within the liminal experience through the creative process of making arts and artworks. I will investigate on this critical debate in my effort to understand a social and theoretical aspect of Liminality within visual works of contemporary artists such as Shirin Neshat, Pati Solomon Tyrell/FAFSWAG, Lalla Essaydi.
The term liminality is derived from the Latin word ’limen’, meaning threshold. (Late 19th century: from Latin Limen Limin-‘threshold’ -al.) It describes the experience of an in-between position, limbo or suspension, between two states, Places, or things. The concept of the liminal state has been associated with different anthropological, social and physical conditions. Liminal states can be temporal like twilight or take place as rituals, in situations such as a graduation ceremony. They can occur in places of betweenness – airports, borders, windows, doors, shores or states of between relating to consciousness, as one wakes up or enters a dream state.
Further to this liminality, has also been both self and externally applied, as an identifier of inbetweeness, to people , in situations of gender, nationality status ,
( immigrants), legal status,(people on remand -and therefore charged but not tried) ,ethnicity, and in terms of human status itself – in the case of the fetus and debate around abortion.
Finally, liminality is found in discussions around religion, as a dynamic within folklore, in ethnographic research, and as a trope employed in popular cultures, such as novels and short stories, plays, films and TV shows, music and other media.
Rites of passage
Arnold Van Gennep (1873-1957), French ethnographer and folklorist, best known for his studies of the rites of passage of various cultures. His major work was Les Rites de passage (1909), in which he defines “rites de passage” as “rites that accompany every change of place, state, social position or certain points in age”(Turner, 1967, p.94). He suggested that rites of passage are any life cycle ritual that which marks an individual’s or social group’s transition from one social state to another, over passage of the time. In his book, van Gennep noted: “ I have tried to assemble here all the ceremonial patterns which accompany a passage from one situation to another or from one cosmic or social world to another”(Gennep, 1960, p.10). To weigh the importance of this transition, Van Gennep singled out the rite of passage as a special category which subdivided into three components: “rites of separation”, “transition rites”, and “rites of incorporation ”(Gennep, 1960, p.11).
The first phase, preliminal rites or rites of separation “comprises symbolic behaviour signifying the detachment of individual or group either from an earlier fixed point in the social structure or a set of cultural condition“ (Turner, 1967,p. 94).
It is a period of separation from the old position and standard, a metaphorical “death”(Turner, 1967, p. 94). During the second phase, the intervening liminal period or rites of transition, “ the state of the ritual subject (the ”passenger”) is ambiguous; he passes through the realm that has few or none of the attributes of the past or coming state “(Turner, 1967, p. 94). This stage involves a period of transition in which the participant is no longer in the old, taken for the granted stage, but not yet in the new. Arpad Szakolczai, Professor of Sociology and author, defined that two important characteristics are crucial to these rites. First, “any rite must follow a strictly prescribed sequence, where everybody knows what to do and how. Second, everything is done under the authority of the master of ceremonies, the practical equivalent of an absolute ruler whose word is Law though only during a rite, when there is no law”(2015, p.17). The final stage, the post-liminal rites or right of incorporation, “the passage is consummated. ” During this stage, as Turner explained, the ritual subject, the individual has a reliable condition with the rights and responsibilities. He is expected to follow the standard, moral and structure of that society and binding with the required social position in that system(1974, p.95).
For groups, as well as individuals, life itself means to separate and to be reunited, to change form and condition, to die and to be reborn. It is to act and to cease, to wait and rest, and then acting again, but differently. Moreover, there are always new thresholds to cross: the threshold of summer and winter, of a season or a year, of a month or a night, the threshold of birth, adolescence, maturity and old age; the threshold of death and that of afterlife-for those who believe in it (Gennep, 1960, p.189).
The term liminality was first conceptualised by Arnold Van Gennep and later through the work of Victor Turner (1920-1983), a British cultural anthropologist, whom best known for his work on symbols, rituals, and rites of passage.
Turner published his book The Forest Symbols, which contained a famous chapter entitled Betwixt and Between The Liminal Period in Rites of Passage in 1967. Turner’s attention was on the middle stage of rites of passage, the transnational or liminal threshold stage. He defined “transition as a process, a becoming, and in the case of rites de passage even transformation”(Turner, 1967, p. 94). He noted, “The subject of passage ritual is in the liminal period, structurally, if not physically, ‘invisible’” (Turner, 1967, p. 95). He regarded liminality to be a “period of ambiguity; of marginal and transnational state”(Turner, 1967, p. 94). For the individual, Turner furthermore suggests “Liminality may perhaps be regarded as the Nay to all positive structural assertions, but as in some sense the source of them all, and, more than that, as a realm of pure possibility whence novel configurations of idea and relations may arise ” (Turner, 1967, p. 97). Turner realized that liminality “ serves not only to identify the importance of in-between periods, but is also a useful tool in developing our understanding of how people respond to liminality as an experience they undergo: the ways in which personality is shaped by liminality, the sudden foregrounding of agency, and the sometimes dramatic tying together of thought and experience.” (Thomassen, 2009, p.14).
The concept of liminality is recently taken up by Homi Bhabha, an Indian English scholar and critical theorist, Professor of English and American Literature and Language, and the Director of the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard University. He (1994) uses the term to describes a state of being in-between here and there, in-between cultures and in- between places. Bhabha introduces the term, hybridity, to refer to the state of being at the border of two cultures, marked by a sense of “double consciousness” and “in-betweenness” in the migrant, that gives way to liminality of identity. Hybridity, for Bhaba, is, therefore, a subversion of single, unified, purist notions of identity, supplanted by a sense of identity that occupies multiple cultural positions.(p. )
The term Liminality used by Bjorn Thomassen, an anthropologist and social scientist (2015) refers to something elementary and universal: “ the experience of finding oneself at a boundary or in an in-between position, either spatially or temporally. ” (p.30). As Thomassen pointed out, “ Life is made of routines and repetitions“ Individual experiences all kind of liminality states. Living without that is not likely and “ Social life would be void without it”(2015, p.30). He stated further that liminality is about “how human deal with changes in different social and cultural contexts. It could be personal like falling in love or to a collective event such a natural disaster (2015, p.30). Human beings repetitively go through all kind of liminal experiences. Turner argued that each rite of passage has three stages of “separation”, “transition” and “reincorporation” within itself too. However, some of the rites would be more developed than the others according to the purpose of the rite. For instance, at a funeral, the rite of separation would be more prominent than in other rituals, such as a wedding.
Liminality and ambiguity in Artist’s works
Many artists, including the artists who are highlighted in this paper, have employed the notion of liminality and ambiguity within their works. They have addressed the different rites of passage, especially in-betweenness and transitions, displacement, belonging, memory, identity and hybridity from their perspective through their works. They are Individual artists that I strongly believe, they have developed hybrid characters and created a form of arts that navigate their own liminal experiences. Through this paper, I will analyse their artistic works which are similar to my art topics and their conceptual approach that engages with the concept of liminality and of liminal thresholds as a means to visually express these invisible states.
Turner (1982) suggested, “liminal experiences in modern consumerist societies have largely been replaced by “liminoid” moments when creativity and uncertainty unfold in art and leisure activities”(cited in Thomassen, 2015, p. 34). Turner (1974) offered that “Prophets and artists tend to be liminal and marginal people ”…in their productions we may catch glimpses of that unused evolutionary potential…”(p. 128).
Brenda Elliot PHD in psychologist from Saybrook University, california , in the article, The Arts in Psychotherapy, stated that artists use the metaphor in their Arts “consciously” and “unconsciously “ to communicate of self (2011, p. 97). Furthermore, Jeff Malpas, philosopher and professor at the University of Tasmania in his article At the Threshold: The Edge of Liminality, (2007) highlighted that how artists are always concerned with liminality, in the way that there works has sense of being “ at the edge” and also they also explore their own liminal state. Malpas also added, “The time and space of liminality is the time and space of indeterminate and the opaque, the time and space of possibility and the question”.
Shirin Neshat (born 1957) is a contemporary Iranian visual artist based in New York. She is known for her works in film, video and photography. Many of Neshat’s photographs, videos and feature films have focused on themes of exile and homeland. In her earliest works she explores the sociopolitical and psychological dimensions of women’s experience in contemporary Islamic societies, her subsequent video works departed to the notion of gender, society, individual and group.
Her works generally address identity, cultural and gender, the experience of being caught between two cultures, as well as issue of displacement, belonging and memory.
Neshat’s video installation Soliloquy (1999) encounters notions of gender, self-identity, cultural, displacement and nationality. Soliloquy consists of two projections. One screen shows Neshat, veiled, walking through a traditional cityscape resembling her native country of Iran. On the opposite screen, Neshat navigates the modern streets of New York. Soliloquy is a comment on her experience of standing at the threshold of two cultures and living in the liminal zone between two places as her home. The parallel screens highlight the contrasts between Eastern and Western worlds, contemporary and traditional, individual and communal. To understand Neshat’s intentions its possibly useful to consider cultural critic Edward Said’s explanation of the state of exile. In his essay ‘ Reflections and Exile’, Said (2002) indicated, ”For an exile, habits of life, expression or activity in the new environment inevitably occur against the memory of these things in another environment. Thus both the new and the old environments are vivid, actual, occurring together contrapuntally (p.186). Soliloquy makes visual the state of longing and dislocation, explores the feeling of in-betweenness, and moment of transition. Turner described liminal beings, as being “ neither here nor there; they are betwixt and between the positions assigned and arrayed by law, custom, convention, and ceremonial (Turner, 1974, p. 95). Such thresholds are evident within this artwork. In Soliloquy, Neshat employs ambiguous images within her works an attempt to illustrate a wandering person, the artist herself within a liminal space and time in which it comments on the fragility of human consciousness or her life itself within her work. Neshat sees herself as a hybrid and living between two cultures. “I can never call any place home, I will forever be in a state of in-between, “ she also emphasises that, “ my work reflects who I am, as a person who is bi-cultural…”( cited in Broude and D. Garrard, 2005, p.20).
Globalisation raises challenges to traditional values, while at the same time endorsed accesses to various opportunities for inspiration and creativity. In works by Moroccan-born photographer and painter Lalla Essaydi (1956), the process of representing her global or hybrid identity is done both through symbolism within her imagery as well as using models from European art for the compositions of her paintings. Her hybrid and creative works directly refer to both binaries of west and east and betweenness. Her works are habitually about her memories, questions about the status of the states of the woman in Islamic culture, which are portrayed within a liminal space of neither here nor there. “Liminal spaces are dynamic spaces of possibility where individuals and cultures come in contact with one another creating interstitial conditions for new communities of learning” (Sameshima

Restoring the Spirit: Celebrating Hatitan Art | Analysis

The Place I Called Home
Haiti is a country on the island of Hispaniola near the Caribbean Sea. Haiti have a rich cultural heritage that reflects on its traditional customs, particularly in art, music, food, and literature. Its home to 10. 9 millions natives and continues to produce glorify works of art and beauty. Haiti’s customs and culture is in bedden in my roots and something I claim with my whole heart. Even though haiti consists of various beauty, the media and society portrayal haiti as poor, trashed embottle country. . The artistic piece from “Restoring the Spirit: Celebrating Hatitan Art” curated by Ruma Girnius represents a vivid, realistic outlook of Haiti compared to the image of Haiti that is reflected by the media.
The Haiti Legacy began during late 17 century. The Haitian revolution was the first successful revolution led by self liberated slaves against French colonial empire. The revolution began on August 22 1791 and was led by former slave Toussaint L’Ouverture. The rebellion was more of a massacre than a revolution. They burned the plantation to the ground and slaughter French troops while chanting “Koute vwa a nan libète ki ap viv nan kè yo nan tout moun” which
translates to “Listen to the voice of liberty that lives in the hearts of all.” They marched to the beat of the earth and grew inspired by the declaration of the right man. After a 12 year battle, Haiti was declared the first independent black led country on January 1, 1804 , Haiti’s Independence attracted global attention and symbolize hope for the enslaved blacks around the world. The painting from the “Restoring the Spirit Celebrating Haitian Art” curated by Ruma Girnuis, represents the self established independence and peace the natives not only fought but bleed for . The atmosphere, that flows through the work of art , gives an opposing outlook of Haiti through a native´s eyes. While some may view Haiti as a crippling economy, The natives view Haiti as a symbol of freedom, hope and community. The land is soaked with their blood and the wind still whispers their cries. Even though tragedy always struck, Haitians will always stand for their country
Beyond the dirt speck road and lumps of plastic trash captured by the forgein press, Haiti embodies overwhelming natural beauty and life changing scenery. It may not be written on the welcome sign, but Haiti consists of historical monuments, golden shores, mountains peaking through lush vegetation and blissful waters. Haiti is a gorgeous paradise located on one of the largest islands in the Caribbean and shares its borders with the Dominacan Republic. In 2010, An earthquake with a magnitude of 3.3 hit the island and affected the lives of 3 million people. This earthquake was the most devastating disaster to ever happened to this country. About 250,000 lives were lost and 300,000 were injured. This natural disaster took over the media by storm and warmed the hearts of millions . The rehabilitation of Haiti consists of nationals government and nonprofit organizations from all over the globe. They arranged to send relief and emergency supplies to earthquake’s danger zones. Since 2010, Haiti still undergo a slow and painful recovery. Even though there are areas still impacted by the earthquake, Haiti’s rich scenery still remains intact. ¨Why come to Haiti?̈ Because it is overwhelming. Itś out of your comfort zone, Because it will shake you. That’s why you should come.̈ stated by Jean Cyil Pressor, Travel operator and tour guide. The seductive waterfall of Bassin,Bleu, the white sandys beaches of Labadee, and the angelic brick walls of San-Souci Place are
paintings “Restoring the Spirit Celebrating Haitian Art” The artist painted the calm delicate ocean that slowly drafts into the sand and the spring of color that pops behind the pitch green landscape which captures Haiti ́s often overlooked beauty.
Along with overwhelming and breathtaking scenery, Haiti has a rich vivid culture. Before , there was Haiti. In the 1940s and 50s, Port-au-Prince was the source for intoxicating blend of music, gothic architecture, and vibrant colorful art. This inspired Hollywood’s greatest artists and musicians. The culture of Haiti is a mix of African, European and Spanish elements due to the French colonization. . Combining religion and art has helped Haitians heal from tragedy and find their strength and spirit.
Although the culture and regions hold vast beauty It’s still a developing country. According to the article, “Reason Behind Haitians Poverty ̈ by Karen Fragala Smith, ̈Haiti was the wealthiest colony in the New World and represented more than a quarter of French economy ̈ During the 20th century, Haiti wealth was demolished from decades of American occupation, corruption, HIV epidemics, and natural disasters. Haitians are struggling to obtain proper education and medical attention. The trashed streets and rugged lifestyle are often captured and bashed by the news media. The President of the United States even refers to it as on of the ¨Shit hole Countries”
Even though Haiti is struffering, The natives continues to celebrations its pride and all the amazing accomplishments they achieved throughout the years.
In conclusion, Haiti is a rich, stronger hearted country, that overcame natural disasters and painful tragedy.Through mediums of art, tradition, community, and the land itself, they find aspirations for a better future. The outlook of Haiti through foreign eyes and media press may convey a cripple, dark and twisted county, but it will always be more. It’s a land where the sunset blaze the blood of their ancestors across the sky, where the oceans whisper stories of new and old, where the beat of the drummers cries from its soil, and where its name will always be known as home.
“Reasons Behind Haiti’s Poverty.” Google, Google,
“Haiti: Look beyond the Rubble to Find Rich History and Natural Beauty.” Google, Google,