Artist addresses lack of diversity at London university

Malaysian-German artist Soraya Jansen uses performance to challenge what she believes is a serious handicap in the British education system

When Malaysian-German artist and model Soraya Jansen found herself frustrated with the lack of attention and feedback her university tutors were giving her while she was studying for her BA, she took a look around – quickly realising the majority of her teaching staff were white and male. With work that mainly centres on women and a combination of east and west influence (due to her own heritage), it’s unsurprising that Jansen felt concerned with the lack of representation.

Her recent performance the world of the white addresses these issues. Shackled at her ankles and flanked in traditional Malaysian attire – her great grandmother's – Jansen paints across two blank canvases behind her before speaking to the camera as she gradually strips away her clothes, ripping the cloth and binding them around her fists. Refusing to be involved in her university’s graduate art show, she has instead posted a video of the world of the white on her website.

By abstaining, Jansen says she hopes to highlight the growing need for institutional equality, especially within creative fields. Fed up with the overly logical – and what she deems 'masculine' – critique of her work, Janson elaborates: “This piece is not about white vs. non-white, it's about all of us combining our creative energy and using it to fight against the White Man. People like Prince, David Bowie and George Michael were powerful men embracing their feminine energy in a sea of hyper-masculine men fuelled by money, power and ego”. 

“This piece is not about white vs. non-white, it’s about all of us combining our creative energy” – Soraya Jansen

Jansen’s claims are also argued by UAL SO WHITE, a collective formed by students at the University of Arts London which aims to help elevate the voices of BAME students, as well as challenge a Eurocentric curriculum. The artist explains: “It perfectly demonstrates how students are coming together, to bring to light that a tutor body of mainly straight, cisgendered, white men, doesn’t equally benefit everyone’s education.”  

Enthusiastic to gain control over her art and the spaces she exhibits in, after graduating, Jansen explains that she will continue protesting – and hopes to focus on including food within her next performance. She details her plans to start a plant-based cooking show and illuminate the ethical implications of the meat industry on us as a society of consumers.

See the full video here. Follow Jansen on Instagram