Creative comment can be a powerful thing. In Saudi artist Manal Al Dowayan’s ‘Suspended Together’, the symbolic peace and freedom of a dove is subverted in a way that all but demands we pause for thought. Initially appearing to be a simple installation of 200 fibreglass doves, the piece in fact features a painstaking reproduction of 200 Saudi women’s permission-to-travel documents on the body of each bird. Without this crucial document (issued by their appointed male guardian), Saudi women are – like these doves – suspended, with no hope of flight or freedom.
Collecting the travel documents from Saudi women including award-winning scientists, educators, journalists, engineers and artists, Al Dowayan amassed records of contributors from 6 months to 60 years old. This vast range of ages and fields of expertise was used to illustrate the fact that, in the words of the artist, “regardless of age and achievement, when it comes to travel, all these women are treated like a flock of suspended doves.” The stark piece was featured in ‘The Future of a Promise’ – an exhibition at the most recent Venice Biennale.