I found the articles this week difficult to connect with. I’m not sure if this was due to the writing style or more abstract nature of the content or something else, but I struggled with them this week. So, I decided that I will try to respond to two ideas that I found interesting from these texts using the work of several diaspora artists who I feel engage with the themes in poetic ways.
“The disorientation that arises when familiar categories are left behind becomes the very ground on which critical readers reorient themselves anew.” -Leslie Adelson, ‘Against Between: A Manifesto’
“To the extent to which discourse is a form of defensive warfare, mimicry marks those moments of civil disobedience within the discipline of civility: signs of spectacular resistance. Then the words of the master become the site of hybridity- the warlike, subaltern sign of the native- then we may not only read between the lines but even seek to change the often coercive reality that they so lucidly contain.” -Homi Bhabha, ‘Signs Taken for Wonders’
Jukhee Kwon (Korea/UK)
Altered book artist Jukhee Kwon’s work has an interesting resonance with Signs Taken for Wonders- the “words of the master” literally becoming a “site of hybridity” through her physical alteration of the text.
“Kwon creates captivating works, quite literally, from the printed page. Using abandoned and disused books, she shreds the pages by hand to create magnificent ‘book sculptures’. These effervescent sculptures, brimming with energy, flow from their spines in the form of cascading waterfalls. Each book, thus deconstructed, attains to a new existence through this transformational creative process. Much of her work plays with ideas of destruction and re-creation…..The act of the book’s expansion alludes to a feeling of freedom and movement, mimicking in a sense, her migratory experience. As she cuts each strand, the process becomes a means to travel the tracks of half-held memories and to retrace those first conscious steps towards the creation of a new life.” via October Gallery
Mona Hatoum (Palestine/Lebanon/UK)
Mona Hatoum is one of my favourite installation artists. Born into a Palestinian family in Lebanon, she has lived in the UK since 1975. Her works are so densely layered and flawlessly executed.
“In Suspended (2011), Hatoum hangs 35 fibreboard swings from steel chains attached to the ceiling. Each is covered in red laminate, into which is etched the street plan of a city from across the globe. Hatoum aims to make a point about urban migration with these hanging islands, which are dislocated and impersonal, coldly hostile.” via YaLibnan
“Paravent and Dormiente (both 2008) are enlarged kitchen graters whose enormity transforms them into a room partition and a bed, respectively, but their sharp edges threaten to harm those who would dare to touch them. Made of steel they become a barrier that isolates visitors and impedes their passage in a threatening manner.”
“Impenetrable (2008) hangs from the ceiling, forming a dense, impenetrable cube that seems to float in the air. Though delicate in its execution, the work is highly evocative of feelings of danger and captivity as closer inspection reveals its composition to be barbed-wire. Notions of magic, wonder, and fragility are juxtaposed with danger and fear. The barbed wire is a deadly encumbrance but at the same time an ethereal and astonishing structure of minimal form.”
“Natura morta: Designed to disperse shrapnel upon exploding, the first Byzantine hand grenades had a body made of stone, ceramic, and later of glass. The small explosive shell took its name from the French grenade for “pomegranate,” because it looked and behaved like the many-seeded fruit that explodes once it is overripe, disseminating its seeds over a wide perimeter. The pomegranate is native to the region of Persia and the western Himalayan range. Knowing no borders it has been cultivated for several millennia in Iran, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Northern India, Russia, and also in South China, Southeast Asia, and the Mediterranean region. In Hatoum’s still life Natura Morta, the grenade appears as both vital fruit and deadly fire.” all via 5centsapound
Nida Sinnokrot (Palestine/Algeria/USA)
Sinnokrot is better known as a video and documentary artist, but I love these two pieces of his and think they respond eloquently to Bhabha’s discussion of mimicry, resistance and hybridity. More on these works via Nadour and Sharjah Art Foundation.
Lida Abdul (Afghanistan/Germany/USA)
Lida Abdul discusses her migratory experience and her piece White House:
“AM: As a child, you were forced to leave Afghanistan after the Soviet Invasion and sought refuge in India, Germany and USA…You have talked about being in a state of ‘post-identity’, ‘post-nation’… How does your personal history inform your work?
LA: I feel that I can easily cross cultural borders. I think that is what is wonderful about not having a fixed notion of identity or nationhood. There is really nothing I have a duty to do. It bothers people, this refusal to choose between us and them because I guess when you announce your identity publicly people know what to expect. If I were to identify with anything, it would be Afghanistan because it’s a country that needs so much attention.
AM: In White House (2005), in a landscape strewn with ruins, you painstakingly paint the rubble of a destroyed building white. It is at once an absurdist gesture and a cathartic, determined act of political resistance. You have said that the most difficult thing is to move beyond the memory of an event, and your works are the forms of failed attempts to ‘transcend’. Could you say more about this?
LA: I wanted to turn the ruins into sculptures because they carry for me the memory of something lost, yet at the same time they are reminders of what is no longer there. A fragment. Yet complete in its own way because any attempt to fix it, will erase its uniqueness. It teaches nothing, except that what was once is gone and the only way to approach it is through art without direct reference to an event.” via ArtVehicle