An Embellishment – Purdah

Jane Rendell, An Embellishment: Purdah (2006) Spatial Imagination, The Domo Baal Gallery, London. Photograph: David Cross of Cornford & Cross (2006). Reproduced by kind permission of David Cross.

Jane Rendell, An Embellishment: Purdah (2006) Spatial Imagination, The Domo Baal Gallery, London. Photograph: David Cross of Cornford & Cross (2006). Reproduced by kind permission of David Cross.

For An Embellishment: Purdah,[i] a two-part text installation for an exhibition, Spatial Imagination (2006), I selected twelve short extracts from ‘To Miss the Desert’ and rewrote them as ‘scenes’ of equal length, laid out in the catalogue as a grid, three squares wide by four high, to match the twelve panes of glass in the west-facing window of the gallery looking onto the street. Here, across the glass, I repeatedly wrote the word ‘purdah’ in black kohl in the script of Afghanistan’s official languages – Dari and Pashto.[ii]

Publication Details: ‘An Embellishment: Purdah’ in Sarah Hirschman (ed.) Sex, Special issue of the MIT Journal Thresholds, n. 37 (2010).

[i] See Jane Rendell, An Embellishment: Purdah (2006), in Spatial Imagination, domoBaal contemporary art, London with an associated catalogue essay Jane Rendell, ‘An Embellishment’, Peg Rawes and Jane Rendell (eds), Spatial Imagination (London: The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, 2005), pp. 34–5. In 2005–06 I directed a research cluster called Spatial Imagination in Design, which involved artists, architects and writers exploring the spatial imagination through the production of artefacts for an exhibition at domoBaal contemporary art, London. See (accessed 8 July 2008). This text was first published in this form in Jane Rendell, Site-Writing: The Architecture of Art Criticism (London: IB Tauris, 2010). See also ‘Site-Writing: Enigma and Embellishment’, Jane Rendell, Jonathan Hill, Murray Fraser and Mark Dorrian (eds) Critical Architecture (London: Routledge, 2007), pp. 150–162.

[ii] Afghanistan’s official languages Dari, a version of Persian, and Pashto are written primarily in the Arabic alphabet. One report states that Dari is spoken by the Tajiks (25–30 per cent of the Afghan population) and Pashto by the Pashtuns (45–50 per cent of the Afghan population). See Physicians for Human Rights, Women’s Health and Human Rights in Afghanistan: A Population-Based Assessment (31 December 2001), p. 17. However, another source holds that ‘according to recent US government estimates, approximately 35 percent of the Afghan population speaks Pashto, and about 50 percent speaks Dari’. (accessed 14 May 2008).

(Download PDF)
Other Chapters
A life of its own
A Way with Words: Feminists Writing Architectural Design Research
Activating Home and Work
An Embellishment – Purdah
Architectural History in Critical Practice
Configuring Critique
Constellation, Insertion, Act? approaching Frontier – The Line of Style through critical spatial practice
Constellations (or the reassertion of time into critical spatial practice)
Critical Spatial Practices – A Feminist Sketch of some Modes and what Matters
Curating, Editing, Writing – Critical Spatial Practice
Cut on the Bias: Relating Art and Architecture through Interdisciplinarity and Transdisciplinarity
During Breakfast
Feminist Architectural Figurations
Figures of Speech: before and after Writing
Foreword: Critical Spatial Practice: Introductions and Adjustments and Postscript: From Critical to Ethical Spatial Practice
From Architectural History
From Austin Texas…
Fuggles Writes (An Autumn Draft)
How to take place (but only for so long)
May Mo(u)rn – A Site-Writing
Seven Studies for ‘A Holding’, 23 March–31 May 2020
Silver: A Courtroom Drama
Space, Place, Site – Critical Spatial Practice
Spatial Imagination
Surface Encounters: On being Centred, Decentred and Recentred by the works of Do-Ho Suh
Tendencies and Trajectories – Feminist Approaches in Architecture
The Architecture of Psychoanalysis – Constructions and Associations
The Place of Prepositions
The Research of Place/The Place of Research
The Setting and the Social Condensor – Transitional Spaces of Architecture and Psychoanalysis
The Siting of Writing and the Writing of Sites
The Transitional Space of Interdisciplinarity
The Transitional Space of the Social Condensor
Thresholds, Passages, Surfaces
To and Fro/Tours and Detours: Writing between Sites and non-Sites
Trafalgar Square – Détournements (A Site-Writing)
Traveling the Distance
Undoing Architecture
When site-writing becomes site-reading or how space matters through time
Where the thinking stops…
Working (Through) the Field
Writing in the place of speaking
X Marks the Spot that Will Have Been
You tell me