Under Siege

Voices Breaking Boundaries' "Living Room Production" focuses on war against women

Voices Breaking Boundaries' "Living Room Production" focuses on war against women

VBB Women Under Seige April 12
Poster for "Women Under Siege" event, detailing a metal detector from Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast and a 5,000-year-old statuette from the Indus Valley civilization. Courtesy of Voices Breaking Boundaries
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Still from Protecting Space, 6 min. video interview, with guards at Abdullah Shah Ghazi Shrine, Karachi; filmed by Sehba Sarwar. Courtesy of Voices Breaking Boundaries
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Still from Still from Conversation with Miriam Kass, with Sehba Sarwar; filmed and produced by Yuneun Perez Vertti. Courtesy of Voices Breaking Boundaries
VBB Women Under Seige April 12
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There's nothing quite like a Living Room Art production, the free house-party-meets-art-installation event staged twice a year by the Houston grassroots arts organization Voices Breaking Boundaries.

Resembling a small-scale version of a 1960s San Francisco Be-In, Living Room Art (LRA) fuses music, dance, film, performance and visual art into a politically-engaged exploration of Houston's connection to cultures across the globe . . . all arranged inside a private home whose doors have been opened to the public for a single evening.

Saturday marks the first installment of a two-part production entitled "Women Under Siege," which juxtaposes freedoms often taken for granted in both Texas and Pakistan. Part two takes place on May 12.

"The way we work is always pretty varied," smiled Voices Breaking Boundaries founder Sehba Sarwar. "Some of its planned and some of it . . . we just see what happens." 

Voices Breaking Boundaries founder Sehba Sarwar explained to CultureMap that the upcoming LRA was inspired by a pair of metal detectors in two unlikely places frequented regularly by women — Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast in Houston and a Sufi shrine to Abdullah Shah Ghazi in Karachi. 

"Essentially the show is sponsored by a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts to explore these waves of religious extremism seen around the world," she said, noting ongoing issues with conservative activists at Planned Parenthood as well as a 2010 suicide bombing at the Karachi shrine that killed eight people. "Unfortunately, the group most often affected by this extremism is women."

In planning this weekend's event, Sarwar felt she received more hesitation from her cadre of artists and supporters, particularly as issues over reproductive rights and women's access to healthcare began to percolate in Austin and Washington, D.C. Nevertheless, the organization remains wholly optimistic about the living room production and hopes to create a healthy, open environment for participants to speak freely.

"The way we work is always pretty varied," she smiled. "Some of its planned and some of it . . . we just see what happens."