Starting Again From Scratch

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Starting Again From Scratch installation view. Image © Jiashu Zou

Exhibition Studio Workshop, November 2019
Curated by: Bilal Akkouche, Carolina Pelletier Fontes, Lei Gu, Weiru Liu, Ola Talib, Weronicka Tokaj, Han Yan, Shu Zhang, Jiashu Zhou – MA Curating & Collections 2019/20

“When we feel like we don’t belong in the spaces we encounter every day, webecome performing versions of ourselves, feeling constantly othered and alien”

– Sara Gulamali, 2019

 

The exhibition Starting Again From Scratch displays works related to migration, sense of loss, belonging, displacement, exile and departure by people who are forced to leave their countries due to political and social instability. Also, it tends to engage the audience with conflicting emotions of fear and revulsion.

The expression Starting Again From Scratch is mentioned by Mona Hatoum in the work Measures of Distance from 1988, where the artist reads letters aloud from her mother in Lebanon while she was living in England. Hatoum was forced to leave her country when the war broke in the 1980s, and through this intimate interaction between mother and daughter, who were separated by distance, feelings of displacement and sense of loss on trying to adapt to a new life away from home are present.

As well as focusing on these broad themes, this exhibition also illustrates the deeply political, social and cultural aspects of migration. We believe that the analysis on these topics is vital in a context whereby there are around 65.6 million refugees currently attempting to escape persecution, conflict, violence and human rights violations. This exhibition seeks to present the emotive aspect of migration, in order to illustrate that there is more that unites us than divides us.

The stills from Sara Gulamali video The Green Walk[1] (2019) were carefully selected to be displayed through a chronological discourse, but also to imply the symbolic use of green. Back in May 2019, the artist exhibited this integral video on a television, where she added the use of green film on the window behind. With this, Gulamali shares with the spectator the same position as she was when she was putting up the work. The green symbolizes a teleporting space, alienation and the opportunity to become anyone, anywhere – in the same way as the green screen is a tool used to transport people to other places digitally.

Additionally, the use of green on the windows is twofold. Firstly, and as mentioned, it acts as an extension of the stills from The Green Walk, whereby the green screen acts as arepresentation of the ‘alien’ (this intervention was agreed with the artist). Secondly, we hope that applying the green on the windows will let people feel their absorbed by this exhibition as a full spatial experience.

While in Stay At Home/Go Home the testimonies are not written by the artist itself, Seth Price gathers several travelling diaries from other writers and journalists, although this exhibition only focuses in four of them. These testimonies are an example how man-made lines can shape our lives, our communities, and our world. As this work from Price is very extensive, the selection of the testimonies tends to achieve purposes and direct relations to the other works here approached, through the countries mentioned such as Lebanon by Mona Hatoum, or Pakistan, from where Budhaditya Chattopadhyay is from and so on. Following the playfulness with thecolour green in Gulamili’s works, the selected countries are highlighted in a way the spectatorcan be transported to a certain space in time.

Most of the exhibited pieces are presented in fragments from their original works. This links to the phenomenon of migration itself, where individuals are extracted from their original roots. This thought is reflected in Fereshteh testimony work from the Unpacked: Refugee baggage exhibition by Mohamad Hafez and Ahmed Badr, which presents several suitcases where each of them show different narrations of immigrants. The suitcases also symbolise that the fragmented objects they carry become a whole, integrated self.

In his audio piece, which is part of the installation Exile and Other Syndromes (2018), Chattopadhyay highlights the idea of transportation to a loud, confusing and not yet familiar environment. This can translate the notion that migration doesn’t only change lives of individuals, but it also adds new narrations to the constant moving of urban societies. This work responds to this indisposition of migration, placelessness and nomadism: “(…) impulses of a contemporary condition that eventually blurs the boundaries between the digital and the corporeal, between local and the global, between private and public domains, or between intimate and the dehumanizing spaces, helping the nomadic subject to emerge as an elevated, emancipated self”[2].

Curated by MACC Students working in the Exhibition Studio Workshop (ESW), this exhibition has sought to work within the context of the space. Our choice to show interactive works complements ESW as a learning space, since each work requires the visitor to read, listen or view the artist’s representation of these complex notions of displacement.

[1] The video The Green Walk by Sara Gulamali can be fully watched in her website: https://www.saragulamali.com/the-walk
[2] Budhaditya Chattopadhyay, about Exile and Other Syndromes (2018)

 

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

 

Mona Hatoum is a Palestinian – British video and installation artist. In her works Hatoum challenges the movements of surrealism and minimalism, exploring subjects such as conflicts and contradictions of our world. Her works focus on ideas around gender and race, as well as explore the relationship between politics and the individual through performance. She is known for the use of found, household objects in her work that are carriers of personal history and significance. Hatoum was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1995 and she has since held solo exhibitions in many reputable museums and galleries including the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York and the Tate Modern in London. Her work is collected in the Tate Gallery in London, the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and the Kunsthaus in Zürich, among others.

Sara Gulamali is a contemporary artist who recently graduated from Central Saint Martins inBA Fine Art. Gulamali’s practice explores her identity as a Muslim woman of colour through her work. She co-runs Muslim Sisterhood, a photography collective exploring the multiplicity of Muslim women in London, and in 2018 she co-curated The Age of New Babylon the first student-curated exhibition at the Lethaby Gallery, Central Saint Martins. Gulamali won theHollyport Prize in 2018. Exhibitions that have included Gulamali’s work include 2017 Beauty ofBeing British Asian, 2017 Tate Exchange, 2017 Resistance is Female NYC, 2018 ‘Archiving Bodies’ Chelsea School of Art, 2018 Tate Exchange, 2018 Normal to Dissent, 2019 Tate Exchange, 2019 The Age of New Babylon, 2019 Muslim Sisterhood X Between Borders.

Budhaditya Chattopadhyay is a contemporary artist, researcher, writer and theorist. Incorporating diverse media, such as sound and moving image, Chattopadhyay produces works for large-scale installation and live performance addressing urgent issues such as the climate crisis, human intervention in the environment and ecology, migration, race, and decolonization. Chattopadhyay has had work shown in many respected art fairs and galleries such as in Transmediale; ZKM Karlsruhe; TodaysArt Festival, The Hague; Donau Festival,Krems; Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín; IEM, Kunstuniversität Graz; Sonorities Festival, Belfast; RE-NEW Digital Arts Festival, Copenhagen; RRS Museo Reina Sofía Radio, Madrid;Q-O2.

Mohamad Hafez is a Syrian artist and architect, Mohamad was born in Damascus, raised in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and educated in the Midwestern United States. Expressing thejuxtaposition of East and West within him, Hafez’s art reflects the political turmoil in the Middle East through the compilation of found objects, paint and scrap metal. With four highly acclaimed exhibits under his belt, Hafez creates surrealistic Middle Eastern streetscapes that are architectural in their appearance yet politically charged in their content

Ahmed Badr is a writer, social entrepreneur, poet, and former refugee from Iraq. With work featured by Instagram, NPR, The Huffington Post, Adobe, United Nations, and others, Ahmed explores the intersection between creativity, the refugee experience, and youth empowerment. Ahmed is attending Wesleyan University, where he is a Fellow at the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life. Ahmed is the host of TOGETHER, a UN Migration Agency podcast that is centered around the stories of refugee and migrant youth across the world.

Seth Price is a New York-based multi-disciplinary post-conceptual artist. His practice comprises video, film, sculpture, installation, collage, performance, and text that investigate how art and media are produced and disseminated. Signature works include the “Vintage Bombers” series (2005-), sheets of vacuum-formed polystyrene bearing a trace of a bomber jacket, and the ongoing video projection Redistribution (2008-), a historical, cultural, and personal narrative of his work and processes. In addition to the traditional gallery, Price has used open-source Internet downloads and small-scale publishing to circulate his work. He staged his first solo art exhibition in 2004. His work has been exhibited at the Whitney Biennial (2008), the Biennale di Venezia (2010,) and dOCUMENTA 13 (2012). He has staged solo presentations at Kunsthalle Zurich (2008), the Kunstverein in Cologne (2008), and the MAMBo in Bologna (2009), among others.

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