The one largely untold narrative of Orientalism is how the Western society associated the
Middle East with the “deviant” behavior of male homosexuality. This occurrence had been going
on for hundreds of years, particularly among Western historians, travelers, artists, and writers.
Based on this conception, the world’s preconception of Orientalism was not desirable.
Regardless of this, a close examination shows that Orientalism was an art form, which showed
how the West and chiefly the British, the Americans, and the French viewed foreign cultures
such as the Middle East, Northern Africa, and Asia. The term is coined from "orient" referred to
the easterners or the eastern culture, the opposite of the West or the occident. Orientalism and
politics are inseparable as westerners painted these eastern cultures as inferior in a regrettably
condescending manner. Orientalism art was typified by themes of denudation, primitive culture,
laziness, and other degrading activities. However, art critics argue that these paintings primarily
exposed the westerner's viewers while subtly separating themselves by painting easterners.
Nonetheless, through Le Corbusier, this narrative changed a lot, particularly Orientalism's
perspective and relationship to the Westerners. The transition could be attributed to Le
Corbusier's fascist-leaning ideologist, whose primary focus was inspired by humanist or
totalitarian ideals. This perception helped him negate the Westerners’ perspective as he focused
on improving people’s living conditions.
Before Le Corbusier change in the perspective and relationship of Orientalism, the
French colony was used to perpetuating massive economic and cultural domination. This
approach was majorly performed over myriad French colonies during the imperial age. France's
actions were characteristically orchestrated to help it undermine and reinvent existing social,
economic, and social frameworks of its colonial subjects. Alongside the French’s radical
alteration of systems in its colonies, the primary objective was to ensure that it managed to break
down existing systems. As a result, this would facilitate the colonizer’s intentions to further
legitimize their interests regardless of whether they were focused on the expansion of economic
networks or interruption of local frameworks (Saffari and Akhbari 59). In this context, Algeria is
notable for being a central locus and symbol in the French colonial empire. Most historians'
attention to this nation is that it was arguably a focal point for the French colonizers, especially
one that revealed the extent of infiltration of local cultures. The French colonizers' disheartening
approach was that the overall process involved a plethora of architects, which was detrimental in
shaping French supremacy over the Algeria community.
According to Edward Said’s introduction of the concept “Orientalism,” he notes that it
was crucial in expounding the Western’s misconception of the East. In his explanation, Said
purported that the misconception only existed among the Westerns and was uncalled for and
irrelevant thought it resulted in sociological effects on Orientalism. Said further explains that the
concept of Orientalism is ingrained in the Western consciousness, which drives them to refer to
the Eastern societies as “Others.” Close examination of this occurrence supposes that the real
effects in orientalist paintings are descriptively about the absence of art. The details assert
credibility to the piece's realness and authenticate the broad visual field as an artless reflection of
the oriental reality. The misconception in Orientalism was further explored in the fact that
orientalist paintings depicted a society where males dominated women. The interpretation of this
approach is that the superiority of nature was typically a reflection of the Westerners over the
people of East, darker races. Therefore, Said opines that the west domination over the Orient
gave it a chance to misrepresent the Middle East, North Africa, and Near East (288). Driven by
the understanding that the overall idea was a misrepresentation by the Westerners, Said viewed
Orientalism as an intervention strategy that would help discredit the Western’s wrongful
perception of the East.
The depiction by Said maintained that the East was not merely an idea or figment of the
imagination of Westerners since there were and still are nations and cultures in this region.
Besides, these nations and cultures are noteworthy for the lives, customs, and histories, which
have more meaning than what is said about them in the West. The conveyed message in this
representation is that the misrepresentation was catastrophic as it only caused extensive
undermining of western and eastern cultures, which was a cause of discord. The differences were
raised from the misrepresentation of the East in the forms of oriental art (Celik 69). For example,
the representation of art in Le Corbusier’s descriptions and drawings, especially of Algiers, were
perceivably echoing the travel literature communicated by most Westerners. Nonetheless, though
this is what was common to the then representation, the artistic expression, in this case, was
categorically different. The difference in this artistic expression was that it focused on revealing
how the project would help enhance and complement the East's beauty, particularly in the
Algiers context. The classification therein was vital in that it showed the “real face” different
from the Westerners’ misconception.
Further illumination of Orientalism was founded in the Islamicate world and how it was
the locus for desires and fantasies. Researchers explore this concept by using a supple mode of
examination, which expounds on the cultural exchanges that existed between the West and the
Middle East. The expression shows that the relationship between the two has always been
reciprocal, amatory, often mutual, and contentious. The difference in the state of the relationship
between the Westerners and Easterners is dependent on the area of focus. For instance,
examining the European account of Egypt and Istanbul, as hotbeds of forbidden fantasies and
desires, pastes an image that juxtaposes Ottoman homoerotic genre (Boone 1840). Most studies'
contribution affirms this supposition by creating a visual culture, which explains the social and
literary history pertinent to the East region. Particularly, the article The Homoerotics of
Orientalism is notable for its overall drawing of facts based on primary data, ranging from
European belles-lettres and untranslated Middle Eastern manuscripts to photographic erotica
miniature paintings, which represent the true state of the East region.
As of the above analysis, the bigger picture of Orientalism was that before the
exclamation, art history criticized this concept by focusing only on the aesthetic value, hence,
avoiding the significant engagement elements. These elements are identified as political ideology
and domination, which are vital in having informed production. The supposition is embraced by
several individuals, such as Nochlin, who clarifies that Said’s contribution to Orientalism is
unparalleled, especially knowledge production that illustrates political roles that define culture
and art. The representation of this concept in historical times is of great significance to modern-
day society since it also serves as political functions that depict contemporary society's actual
situation. In this explanation, there is a close examination of ‘picturesque’ as presented in pieces,
such as Gerome’s Snake Charmer. The analysis process implies that the Snake Charmer concept
establishes a history absence situation, which creates a sense of place being unchanging.
According to Miller, Le Corbusier's contribution helped changed the perspective and
relationship, specifically between the years 1930 and 1942 (53). This period's imperativeness
denotes the historical moments when this artist helped bring out the overall representation of
Algiers by the French colonizers. This representation's basic element is that the former were
characterized by having volatile cultural and political milieu. From this approach, the main
problem that the colonialists dealt with was the identification of avant-garde and canonized
plans, especially their specific forms that applied to colonialists’ point of perception. Concerning
their relation to colonialism, the identification process required that nationalism, gender, and race
were distinguished to avoid confusion with the more readily associated concepts. The entire
process had its drawbacks, which were believably entrenched in the fact that all tasks needed to
be calculated, which involved the conditions and constraints that would define the meanings of
the plan and even give them the power to result in specific effects and consequences.
Le Corbusier’s approach to the Westerners' approaches helped define the plans,
particularly amplifying journalism, exhibitions, sketches, film, and literature. This perspective
was vital since it helped analyze the representation amidst various discourses that resulted in the
circulation of colonialism and modernism. The intersection between the two discourses was
important, specifically the association to Orientalism, gender, folklore, and nationalism as they
helped plot the specific position of the colonizers’ plans in Algiers. Concerning this approach,
post-colonial historical accounts tried to offset the archival gaps, which entailed the architect's
national institutions and personal archives. The classification process therein proves that Le
Corbusier canonical avant-garde plans were involved in colonialism. Nonetheless, Le
Corbusier’s participation is distinguishable from others in terms of aesthetic consideration of
spatial arrangements, formal vocabulary, and representation. The representation was
considerably more crucial since it represented the interrelationship between political vision and
aesthetic visions being important in society. Le Corbusier’s approach was echoed in his
continued reference to Algiers’ women in different mediums, such as in postcard sketches and
collections. The feminization of Algiers’ landscape, such as fascination with the terraces of
Muslim family dwellings and increased interest to provide them with better and modernized
houses, helps change the narrative of this region. Researchers interpret Le Corbusier’s approach
as a representation of the problematic position of Muslim women.
In Le Corbusier’s approach of the East or “Others,” he notes that the idea that the
Westerners associate with Algiers was supine, mysterious, and feminine. As a result, he
provoked the correlation between his works to the representation of Algerian women. In doing
so, he manages to describe the fascination that Westerners failed to appreciate, which was the
beauty of the women of Casbah. The explanation likened the city of Algiers to that of a female
body. From this perspective, Le Corbusier supposed that Algiers was similar to a woman’s body
that drops out of sight, full-breasted, and supple-hipped. However, this body's magnificence
could be revealed better through the judicious influence of forms, specifically the bold use of
mathematics to harmonize human geometry and natural topography. Marino notes that the
imagery presented therein validates Corbusier’s assertion of the women's body to Algeria (189).
On the cover, the image represented the figural and distorted female body, which is equated to
the skyline of new Algiers. The soft caressing by the hand is seen as the gentle touch by the hand
of the architect. The deliberate placing of figures by Le Corbusier affirms his megalomaniacal
vision concerning this colony. The interpretation of Le Corbusier’s perception is that Algiers had
its inherent beauty, which could only be realized under specific directions.
A further illustration of how Le Corbusier changed Orientalism's relationship and
perspective is evident in the nineteenth-century visual depiction of Muslim communities. The
representation of these societies painted a picture of them being rich sites of orientalism
production. Additionally, their thematic drawings were also known for borrowed ideas from
earlier medieval representations though in newer contexts of power differential, Western
imperialism. The responsibility of artists of this time was to depict the “Orient” by creating
images whose iconography would reverberate with people for a few more centuries, especially
entering into the 21st century. The main task was to depict wealth in ways that it met the
subsequent fascination with scene creation and harem. Doing so brought out the symbolic
representations that depicted the true nature of the Muslim world during that era. The same was
to be replicated in the subsequent imaginaries of Orient by the Westerners. For clarity, there was
the need to capture even the specific iterations of the visual changes and their reflection of the
shifts in time. The outcome of this occurrence was that several painters were attracted to the
East's overall depiction, also known as “Others.”
The number of artists attracted to Orientalism as a subject was quite significant as it
introduced new genres of paintings, which were produced at that particular epoch. Various
phases related to the changes are identified, specifically starting in the eighteenth century, when
painters, such as Gavin Hamilton and William Hogarth, did not directly interact with the
concepts they conveyed. Another important phase therein was the one that involved two trends
of paintings, the archeological and topographical realism. The progression in artistic
representation gave way to realism later in the the1800s and early 1900s. The influence of this
progression was noteworthy since, by this time, Eastern aesthetics and Orientalism was already
having a significant influence on several painters, such as Henri Matisse and Paul Cezanne.
The influence of Le Corbusier helped cement Orient as a thought of the Middle East. This
site's popularity was evident in the fact that the representation in Western art and entertainment
changed the perception, mostly viewing the culture as being characterized by converging
political events (Wan 20). For example, the change in relationship and perception of Orientalism
influenced artists, such as Pablo Picasso, to rework the harem scene following Algeria's struggle
for independence. Several other paintings were reproduced through the abstract style of painting,
specifically fifteen and two lithographs based on the existing theme. The rework of the harem
scene by Picasso was a clear illustration of the reimagining of the iconic scene, which has been
painted as a misrepresentation that had occurred during the start of French Imperialism (Ali 38).
Therefore, the painting of this scene by Picasso illustrated the end of French Imperialism and a
misguided perception of the East. Besides, this played significant roles in depicting how this
marked the paintings of this time continued to influence the modern-day cultural imaginations.
The representation is also notable for its indication of the relative stasis of the symbolic nature
and vocabularies available to Western artists and authors, precisely depicting the Muslim world.
The contextualization of works by Le Corbusier is undeniably important since it is
commonly associated with unparalleled authenticity. These modern architects, such as Le
Corbusier, worked on Algeria by representing it in its purest form of machine-age aesthetic,
rationalized forms, and having planar surfaces. The influence in this approach was the
misconception pasted from the imaginary projects created by the French colonialist (Celik 35).
The distinctive approach to Algeria helped change the narrative that had been pasted by the
French colonizers. Le Corbusier affirms this by contrasting this location with the Western
nations. In his opinion, he suggested that Algeria was perhaps one of the most beautiful locations
in the world due to the majestic nature of its landscapes, seas, and mountains. Most modern
scholars construe this to mean that Le Corbusier’s approach corroborated a partiality towards the
French colonialists' overall romanticized perception in Algeria. Le Corbusier's sporadic notes,
though not a product of analytical observations or deep thinking, are notable because of their
representation of this artist’s expression of the West’s superiority over other cultures, in this
context, the Middle East.
Overall, Le Corbusier changed the perception and relationship of Orientalism by negating
Westerners' image about the Middle East. A critical analysis of the literature shows that the
pictorial representation by this individual helped break the orientalism method of representing
the East as an exotic compared to the West, which is why it was known as the “Others’. On this
note, the expressionism depicted by Le Corbusier is believably a reflection of the wholly stylistic
preference that changed the view of most Orient. This supposition is based on the belief that Le
Corbusier represented the East in a way that he showed his sincere respect for the cultures of
“Others.” Though hid did not intentionally intend to reverse the positions as depicted by
dominions, he managed to paint Algeria's image that was different from what the Westerners had
depicted about him. To most modern scholars, Le Corbusier was perceivably modernist
rationalism and machine aesthetic, which is why he was curious to understand Algeria's true
nature. Particularly, this was the driving force that fascinated him about Casbah. The reason for
this fascination is descriptively an issue entrenched in the element of being focused on urban
fabrics, which was demonstrated in Algeria’s Casbah. To show his appreciation of this region,
Le Corbusier described the area as one characterized by the elements of intelligent urbanism of
Muslims. In doing so, he gets to compare Algeria with the Western cities, specifically those in
Europe. In his expression, Le Corbusier describes the European cities as stupid and center of the
urban disaster. Simultaneously, Algeria was an adorable location due to its terraces, grand bays,
and suspended gardens. In conclusion, by negating the misconceived perception of the East by
the West, Le Corbusier managed to change the perception and relationship to Orientalism, a
concept linked to the East.
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Boone, Joseph. "The Homoerotics of Orientalism." 2014.
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Celik, Zeynep. "Urban forms and colonial confrontations: Algiers under French rule." Choice
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