site/situation-specific art

lower your gaze / 2010

Works by year

January 30th 2010. Situation-specific project, collective exhibition The Scapegoat Society, Yinka Shonibare Guest Projects Space, Sunbury House London

In the loving memory of Amanda Shillabeer, without whom this work would have never happened. You are much missed.

dramatization and reading: Amanda Shillabeer / lighting and photographic intervention: Mariann Fercsik

Exploring scapegoating as the specific hostile process through which people attempt to absolve themselves from culpability, by moving blame towards a target person or a group. Performance based on several lines I extracted from orthodox Muslims websites, referring to the major sin of looking twice at someone impure (that is: not muslim).


Audience and Actors in complete darkness

Amanda reading (hiding behind a screen):

-Dear Sheikh, My question involves a complicated issue. Here in Canada, there is a lack of morals, people, women wear almost no clothing. My problem is that I cannot stop looking at these so called clothed women. I know that marriage is obligatory upon me, but I wonder if there is any advice could you give me in dealing with this problem.

-Dear Sheikh, My problem is that I cannot stop looking at women. Please give me some advice because I want to overcome this problem.

-Dear Sheikh! As-Salam Alaykum! would be grateful if you would advise me on the following. With the coming of the summer hot days, a Muslim finds himself in a dilemma, he has to struggle against himself to be far from the rampant nakedness around him. How can I save myself in these summer days? What shall I do so as to lower my gaze?

sudden FLASHING LIGHT against the viewers / photo shooting them once

and Chiara shouting: DON’T LOOK AT ME!!!


Amanda reading:

Dear Brothers,

it goes without saying that every Muslim should spare no pains in lowering his gaze and preserving his modesty. We know the eyes commit zina (adultery). Their zina is gazing. Allah commanded Ali and said: “Ali! Do not look once after another, for the first look is for you (since it happens accidentally) while the second is against you.”

Lowering the gaze does not mean keeping our eyes constantly on the ground and not looking up at all. It is turning our faces away when we see a less-than-decently-dressed woman or man walking on the street, which is so much more common in the summer months.

One common mistake is to think that lowering the gaze is only required upon encountering nakedness and indecency “in the flesh” or in person. Lowering the gaze must also be practiced when watching a film or television program replete with nakedness and intimate scenes of couples. (Actually, one should try to avoid watching such types of programs, period). Lowering the gaze includes changing the channel when Baywatch comes on.

It also means changing the channel when watching the news if one feels attracted to the anchorperson or reporter reading or presenting the news. And anyway, television isn’t that great of a way to spend time.

You must lower your gaze and refrain from looking at forbidden things in all places and at all times. You cannot use excuses such as the environment being corrupt or justify your mistakes by saying that there is a lot of temptation around.

Marriage is one of the most effective remedies. The Prophet said: “Whoever can afford it, let him get married, for it is more effective in lowering the gaze and in guarding one’s chastity..” and whoever is not able to marry, should fast, as fasting diminishes his sexual power.”

Sudden FLASHING LIGHT against the viewers / photo shooting them once

and Chiara shouting: DON’T LOOK AT ME!!!


Amanda reading:

Difficulty in lowering the gaze by both the young and old is readily perceived on the street, weddings, parties and even in the mosques.

7 Ways to Help You Lower Your Gaze

  1. 1)Change the wallpaper of your cell phone. Write a reminder to lower your gaze on a sheet of paper, take a picture of it, and set it as the wallpaper for your phone. Now every time you open your phone you will be reminded.

  2. 2)Focus on your shoes. You can follow your feet with each step you take, count the steps, or even try to remember the different places those particular pair of shoes have taken you before.

  3. 3)Make du’a(prayer). This is one of the best times to pray. Why? Because you are intentionally, and consciously, lowering your gaze and struggling for the sake of Allah. Allah is Aware both when you are looking up and when you are looking down.

  4. 4)Read Qur’an. One way to look down is by simply looking down into the palm of your hands where you can be holding a pocket Qur’an. You’d be surprised how much reading you can get done like this.

  5. 5)Plan your day. Our lives can get pretty messy and chaotic. A lot of us have to cut out time to make our plan and organize our time. So instead of looking around, you can lower your gaze and use this time to plan what you will do once you get to work, home, or school.

  6. 6)Don’t take public showers. (even american Muslim prisoners can fight for the right of curtains).

When confronted with an alluring situation in the street, office or school, Satan is constantly tempting us. During these situations, immediately and consciously realize that when we give a second or following glances, we are obeying him.

Just remember, to possess sensual passions is human, to control them is Muslim.

Sudden FLASHING LIGHT against the viewers / photo shooting them once

and Chiara shouting: DON’T LOOK AT ME!!!


Amanda reading:

When our hearts are not affected by this type of behavior, and we wonder why it’s so hard to lower our gaze,

we should realize that the root of the problem isn’t our gaze, that’s just a scapegoat, but the root  of our problem is….


Amanda Shillabeer,

Valerio Berdini, Mariann Fercsik,,, Societas Raffaello Sanzio