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The Middle Distance

Year: 2006

Authorship: Olivia Arthur / FABRICA

Through the stories of young women living in Eurasian countries on the border between East and West, Olivia Arthur relates the social, cultural and religious pressures resulting from the encounter of different cultures and the ways in which the various societies react to change.

Along the border between Europe and Asia, lies a place where the traditions of the East meet the pull of the West; hovering ambiguously in between, neither fully one side nor the other: the middle-distance.

In the politics of the fight between East and West, the role of women in society is often brought out as a measure of what is right and what is wrong. Accusations are thrown around, but so often without an understanding of the culture to which they are being applied. I wanted to find a place that might offer some understanding to both sides of the equation, I wanted to explore this meeting of cultures and see if I could find some explanation of what it really means to talk about the emancipation of women.

I travelled this borderland, meeting young women, hearing their stories and tying to get a sense of what life is like for them in this place caught between one culture and another.

At times I was shocked by the stories, seeing the restrictions and expectations of society on young women. Struggling under the pressure of having to be a symbol of purity and rightness , they strive to pursue a life for themselves, beyond the walls of their family. But ultimately my greatest impression was one of amazement and awe at the spirit of the women I met. Taking the space they had been given and living in it as much as it would allow, sometimes pushing the boundaries and sometimes keeping well away, but always aware of what could be reached on the other side.


Featured in the I SEE project exhibited in 'Les Yeux Ouverts' at Centre Pompidou (France 2006), Milan Triennale (Italy 2007), Shanghai Art Museum (China 2007), Tokyo ShiodomeItalia Creative Center (Japan 2008)



A physical and visual journey of exploration into the current trends of historical, cultural, artistic, social and economic development. “I see” also means “I observe” and “I understand”. Six photographers from Fabrica each chose a story to represent one of the world’s six main geographic areas: North America, South America, East, Far East, Africa and Europe.


Commissioned by:
Fabrica for the I SEE project



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