‘Codes of Social Conduct’ is a two year long project whose aim is to collect international treaties and then to project them on to the naked human form.

I chose to concentrate on codes that deal with global concerns such as our environment and human and animal rights. These agreements have the potential to place us on a firmer footing regarding issues vital to the planet. However, for a variety of reasons, they have gone unsigned, unobserved, or unenforced.
Ideally, overlaying this text onto naked human flesh will serve as a reminder that these agreements are vitally important to our very survival. In mythology and classical art, messengers are usually depicted nude or draped only in scant clothing. These models are messengers as well.

Having chosen Codes of Social Conduct that resonate most within themselves, they hope, as do I, to add their voices to the call for a broader awareness of these issues and for global action on behalf of the earth and all of its inhabitants.

-Darren Saravis   



It is the job of art to raise consciousness, bring to light that which is dark, to pose questions, create conversation, poke and prod at why things are done as they are, and really examine our belief systems. We envelope ourselves in art as a part of waking ourselves up, to be impacted, feel, connect with our inner vitality. So often we go through life numb, and reach out for something to remind us of what it is we are missing, or what has really been there all along. Art provides that medium, and that is what this project is about.

As an Arab-American woman I am constantly confronted with the prejudices, misconceptions, and slander of the general populas at large, namely by those who have absolutely no understanding of my culture, and the rich history it holds. Current politics has done nothing to help this matter. Negative and derogatory comments are sadly enough to say more a common place than not. The last thing I would ever want to do is to hurt my fellow community members. If we look historically, since the beginning of Islam, it has been subject to attacks of other religions. This is in part because of the power it held, and in part because it is inherent in human nature to constantly categorize and perceive with caution “the other” , “that which is different” , “that which I cannot or refuse to understand,” or more importantly “that which forces me to question my own sense of being and might force me to go through growing pains.” As Islam has been used as a platform to bring to light these greater questions, it is important to shed some light on some of the greater contributions it has made to society as a whole. Little does the American public know of the great contributions Islamic culture has made to the world, and Western society in specific. From bringing Europe out of the dark ages into enlightenment through the preservation of great Greek texts of Aristotle, Plato, et al, to development of advanced astronomy and physics, algebra (from the Arabic, al-jeber), advanced agricultural techniques - Islam at its height was one of the largest contributing factors of bringing Europe out of the Dark Ages and into the Age of Enlightenment. The list goes on. Even at the time of this great expansion and contribution, Islam was highly feared and misunderstood. It is my hopes to dispel some of this fear and lack of understanding.

Being a Middle Eastern woman in American society is quite the dichotomy. Sexuality and sensuality take on a whole new level of meaning and richness. I am constantly posed with questions of honor, duty and how that also intertwines with my own sense of who I am as a woman. As the old adage goes, “blood is thicker than water,” so while I do live in America, and have lived here my whole life, only visiting my family for short durations of time in the middle east, there is so much that separates me from my other American counterparts, that truly defines me as Arab. Taking on this project has forced me to shed a light on all that is considered “shameful” in my culture. I have had to face many inner demons, and face the fact that I don’t know how this will be perceived and received by community members or more importantly my family. I was born into a highly individualistic society that puts the “me” before “we’ and yet come from a rich tradition, culture, and heritage that always asks me to consider the greater whole and my community while making each and every personal decision. This has always been present in my psyche in each and every decision I’ve made. I did not take this task on lightly when I took on this project. This has been a collaborative effort, and I have been very keenly aware and held the intention to question social and moral codes of conduct, while trying to hold reverence to my heritage. This has been more than just a project about Islam, or femininity, this has also been a deep and personal journey into the exploration of the well of my own psyche and to greater define where I want to draw my own personal lines not only as a woman, but an Arab-American woman. How do I so deeply love my kin and brethren and still allow my own personal voice desires to shine when I know they are different? Furthermore, how do I make these difficult decisions when they not only affect me and peoples perception of me, but my whole lineage? As a woman a great weight and duty has been put on my shoulders to hold up a sense of honor and duty. Some of these responsibility I take with pride, others I could do without.

I took on this project as a historiographical inquiry into the place of women in society, and as a personal endeavor to bring greater cultural awareness to those that view it. It is my hopes to create great conversation around how women are treated, not only in Islam, but also in the greater realms of society, and the true underlying implication of this text that is meant to protect women. This project is named “Koran, Women, and Light. “ It could have just as easily been named “Koran, darkness and demons”. Yet this is an inquiry into all that empowering in femininity, and furthermore a dialogue concerning women and social codes of conduct. And as these questions are brought about and come to light, one must ask why this should be... why would a woman create such a stir, such controversy, illicit such passion? This has been true since the beginning of time. No greater platform to create such a conversation than the Koran. No other could more beautifully bring to light this subject matter than the Koranic text in more way than one- not only semantically, but through the iconography displayed in the photos. It has been a pleasure working with Darren, and it is my hopes to bring to light the beauty, power, and richness to all that is feminine through my contribution to this project.




the photographic explorations of Darren Saravis

Photography is inherently voyeuristic, intimate and immutable. To project one narrow meaning onto the deliciously metamorphic ambiguity present within the body/text project would be too simple. The models already have text projected onto them -- quite literally.  This introduction does not seek to impose answers, but aims to suggest possible lines of inquiry.

Where are we lead by these images that unite the sexual and the textual? What are we to make of these competing layers of reality? A piece of paper (or a computer screen) becomes the canvas for the image -- the image is of a woman who has herself become a canvas for a further image. The images of the body/text project merge word and form. The model wears a self-written projected text tattoo; the multiple layers of meaning emanate from the model's intimate persona; form and thought. The landscape of the photograph, the subject matter, is the woman herself.

Is this naked woman, used as a canvas screen, a commodity -- or is she empowered, given voice, and imbued with language in an otherwise silent medium? Do these words clothe the model with honor and respect? Or has the artist shot these words onto her naked defenseless flesh like a conquered one-night exploit?

There is no single interpretation, just as there is no single artist. A photographer, many models, many writers -- the body/text project is a collaboration. It is also a voyeuristic prying into the complex intimate relationship between words and flesh, captured in a contemporary context.

As one of the models, I feel the experience was immensely empowering. But the diversity of female responses to any stimulus is much like the diversity of female bodies, or of our minds. No two are alike. And for that reason I would not presume to speak for another model, another woman, or females as a whole.

Art slices the world in half. Apollonian organization and technique meets Dionysius creativity and potency.  Not one or the other, but both, all the time. In the body/text project photographic form mingles with female desire. The photographer/artist provides a platform for the model/artist to express physically and linguistically. The models of the body/text project are confronted by themselves and challenged to play in the balance between the forces of Apollo and Dionysius.

Darren Saravis photographs bare bodies projected with text written by the subject. Lit by the single source of the projector, the process of the body/text project demands the model to participate fully. Some of the models are pros and some of us first timers.  Darren melds his artistic vision with a cutting edge technique creating an opportunity for the model to express. A designer by trade, Darren began the body/text project in earnest late summer of 2006.  I crossed his path in the early part of 2007. Incidentally, during the same period, I began writing some poetry in a theatrical setting. When I heard about his project my interest was piqued.  I was curious. My theatre artist exhibitionist self embraced the desire to bare my soul on Apollo's structured stage, in front of Darren's Dionysian lens.

I model for hobby. I desire to see myself more clearly; I seek empowerment. I enthusiastically and proudly wore my personal text tattoo.  Wearing my thoughts and emotions on the outside was a potent experience. This project provided me a glimpse of my awesomeness; my own power harnessed. My personal image of broken beauty is redefined as powerful, provocative, sexy and self-possessed. The experience has changed me.  I am somehow transformed and more fully in possession of my own being. Now, I feel full and ripe.

When given the opportunity to own the space, inhabit my body and therefore the female form, I felt as if I was reclaiming personal property while at the same time conscious of my own objectification.  For me, this paradoxical state is encapsulated in a permanent knowledge. The experience lives inside my flesh and hangs on my wall.

I suppose the experience of this project has left me with a pleasantly confused jumble of discordant pairings and jarring juxtapositions. This most ancient icon of the female form appears in a medium little more than a century old. The diversity of a woman's body is fore grounded by the relentless constraint of the word; nipple, adverb, navel, line break, pussy and prose. The body bends the word to conform to its tantalizing surface. At the same time the cold, dispassionate rationality of the verbiage threatens to unsex the body.

The body/text project is many things. It's what you take away. Ultimately it is a promise of exploration, frozen in time: liberating, provocative, open.