Lost & Found

L&F Flyer front A6

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My art practice is based around my obsession with care and the occupation of politically visible space. My focus over the past two years has shifted towards the gendering of both of those subjects and how my practice can interrogate these dual interests without becoming overly documentarian, prescriptive or propagandised. For me, making art is a way of making sense of the world, of critically unpicking the elements that cause tensions.

The nebulous nature of ‘Lost and Found’ has left me with a deep sense of sadness. In order to find something you must first know it is lost, you have to be aware of its absence. The losses I am considering are political and gendered in nature. In specific the loss of identity of women and the loss of access to space. These losses are sharply felt by their absence and I do not know if they can be found again and if they could, I don’t know where or how to find them. Built in to these polar states is a sense of completion, if you could just but find the lost thing, you could be whole again. Some losses can never be found and in that instance you are left incomplete.

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I’m exploring the losses that may not be re-found. Considering in specific how gentrification effectively redacts women’s (and from an intersectional point of view the race, sexuality and class of these women redacts them further) access to public spaces/services in my local area.

Redaction is another key area of interest in this exploration, it is the sanitisation of imagery in specific that I am considering, so it becomes a way of losing part of the image. Is the loss of the visibility (for women in specific) indicative of a loss of identity? Without great effort on behalf of many, how will this be found?

Recent Work

This work is an exploration of several themes. Central to my work is how to make sense of women’s visibility and political agency through art, either as maker or viewer. 

As an artist the taking of space comes through exhibiting, working and being part of a creative community. 

But some of the issues that women artists face are bound up with the role of care giver/provider, a gendered role that we are often socialised into. And the equally problematic task of self-care. 

More traditional definitions of care have too frequently removed women from political visibility. Caring takes them out of the sphere of political visibility, of taking their space and places them into a role of responsibility for another’s well being, or their own wellbeing.

As a woman artist, if I don’t take my space, if I am too preoccupied with caring for other individuals wellbeing and as a consequence of this my own wellbeing, my visibility and political agency is greatly diminished. And because so many women, especially at the intersections of race, class, sexuality, disability and identification come under continual scrutiny in making their lived experiences visible and heard, they invariably have to remove themselves from public view in order to take care of themselves, emotionally, mentally and physically.

Protecting visible space for women is essential and is frequently a task undertaken by other women and is undervalued by those whose political agency and inhabitation of public space is far less problematic.

My interests lie in shifting the definitions of care toward protecting and developing women’s political agency and public visibility. Art is the activity and the product of a mind at play. And viewing an art work, if you’re willing, can offer you a way of caring for yourself that doesn’t reduce your visibility or political agency. It should enhance it.

This work is a way of considering women and their visibility in public space. Our visibility in the public domain is commodified in ways that negatively effect our perceptions of ourselves and others perceptions of women.

This piece uses commodified body parts to represent a woman – hands, mouth, breasts, and vagina – and begins to unpick the layers of perceptions around those sexualised body parts by juxtaposing them geographically and microbially to consider women’s realities, their political agency and visibility in a specific location and how they are consumed, redacted and often eradicated.

Experiments with ink and varying opacity over drawing

What’s Your Location?

 

Gentrification: Artist’s Impact

 

My original intention with this work was to consider the artist as an agent of gentrification. I used and cultivated my own bacteria and applied it to maps of Brick Lane in London and Porto Alegre in Brazil in an effort to represent the impact I have as an artist on a specific area.

The influence of an artist working in an economically run down location results in making the space culturally and commercially appealing, leaving room for a more homogenising and affluent middle class to come in to usurp and repopulate the area. This led me to regard artist influence and impact on a geographical area as akin to bacteria multiplying and homogenising a specific resource.

In Brick Lane and Porto Alegre I was considering the socio-economic impact artists have on locations. For What’s Your Location? in Kuwait, socio-economic gentrification caused by artists is far less of an issue than in London or Porto Alegre. Instead, I was forced to consider my impact to be one of cultural homogenisation.

Coming from and working within a European/Western cultural art heritage has implications when exhibiting internationally. The tendency of the Western world to consider and recognise art only as art if it conforms to the characteristics we value and determine, has led to a homogeneous globalisation of western art values.

The questions that have consumed me the most in the development of this work and in what I have presented for this exhibition are: what are the implications of cultural gentrification carried out by internationally exhibiting artists and can the positive values an artwork represents outweigh the negative consequences that come with globalisation?

What’s Your Location?

 

Originally shown in Porto Alegre, Brazil, the acclaimed exhibition What’s your Location? Is coming to CAP, Kuwait. 16 contemporary Kuwaiti and international artists are showing their latest works in a development of the themes that made this thought provoking exhibition so successful in Brazil.

What’s your Location? Explores what is more real, that which we see for the first time or what we know from experience? Is our memory of a subject more real than its description? What of the many representations of the world; can we take them as substitutes for a deferred reality or the condition of the world itself?

The works in the exhibition derive from artists living in different environments using various means to address their circumstances, and yet they continue to ask these same questions of us. How do we apprehend the world now that we can experience it more easily as representation than at first hand? Where does this leave us?

Steven Scott is an internationally exhibiting artist from the UK. For What’s Your Location? Scott is presenting dual photographs from a series called ‘Situation’ in which photographic space is divided by selection and presentation to suggest a mirroring of the subjects architectural planes whilst inverting its interiority.

Contemporary artist, Ruth Jones, is also from the UK. For this exhibition she has further explored her “Gentrification” series of works, considering how an artist impacts the environment they exhibit in. Drawing parallels between bacterial cultures and the gentrification of geographical locations, Jones examines whether she can reconcile the possible negative impact on the area she may contribute as an artist, against the positive impact that her artwork could have.

Frederick Bell lives and works in Brussels, Belgium. For the exhibition he is presenting ‘Mass Observation’ which began in 2006, and is still ongoing. The photograph shows a painting that he made which documents his previous exhibition in the same gallery in Antwerp. The painting shows the same place in the same gallery in which it was hung. It is a kind of documentary painting, a role usually fulfilled by a photograph, and now the painting is shown within the photograph that you may have expected in the first place.

Brazillian artist, Antonio Da Silva, creates works that interrogate how we participate as active or passive observers in our environment and the social conflict that exists within society, but is denied. His project “Icarus” was made in collaboration with Khaled Nazar.

Khaled Nazar is an amateur director and cinematographer with a comprehensive background in film and animation. Khaled brings an interesting point of view in which he combines his long affiliation with technology with a stark understanding of modern arts. His latest collaboration with DaSilva, Icarus, is the first “art” project that Khaled has worked on. This script-less, raw footage is visualized on the spot. Icarus takes the story of a man’s journey of building a way out. The project is set on Failaka Island. An island inhabited since 3000 B.C by Sumerian traders and eventually the home of the city named Icarus. As time has aged these ruins, a new 20th century civilization had planted its roots but only to be abandoned again. The Icarus project is essentially the never-ending life cycle of Failaka, meaning outpost.

In her “XOX Series”, invited artist, Amira Ali Behbehani, considers the dualities we all battle with, irrespective of culture, the different roles we choose to take on, the words we borrow, the ideas we champion, that simultaneously shroud and strip us. The game of tic-tac-toe highlights how daily, we inhabit so many worlds, real or created, tangible or intangible – part of all but so often committed to none. Here, there is no prevarication, no obfuscation. We lose or we win – there is no other way.

Farah Salem’s work “The Dove” interrogates social conventions as she examines the sense of freedom craved by all cultures and societies. She believes the sense of power and control that comes from freedom is the ultimate goal of humanity. Many different perspectives of freedom and the breaking free of authority or power in many ways is a positive path that should lead to togetherness. Freedom and unity begin a cycle where freedom leads to authority and change.

For Katia Salvany, the image of a female body in a state of tension, is the thread for making videos, live performance, drawings, prints and sculptures that explore the estrangement in a repetitive mode of actions by stressing the fictions built in images. She aims to create atmospheres which condense the feelings of nostalgia, oblivion, desire, servitude and imprisonment, experienced by a female body. There is a concern in placing women beyond an approach that realises the pitfalls of building their image as a social product.

Kuwaiti architect, Jassim Alnashmi’s developed photographs are usually blurred images of identifiable objects, this blurring is not from the lack of focus but from a double exposure or a leakage of light from the back of the camera, both which obscure the final photographs. Blurring an identifiable object dismantles the viewer’s understanding of it, allowing them to see it in a new light and redefine it for themselves.

Half Kuwaiti-half Ukrainian artist Amani AlThuwaini has been interested in the transformation of customs and traditions in Kuwait and how they affect women nowadays. She explores the limits and social restriction of customs and tradition on women, as well as their positions in their marriages, families and society in general. The series of prints she is showing in this exhibition represent how women often locate themselves between two contrasting positions – what they have and what they dream of.

Designer, writer and performance artist Dana Aljouder explores the low-rise residences in Tiong Bahru, a forty-floor public housing development that is one of many mass-housing estates built for Singaporeans in the past 50 years. The HDB is haunted by its legacy- its practical methodology and functional monotony, often neglectful of the vibrant cultures that inhabit it. The austerity of the ground floor contains several corridors and intersections, creating poetic enfilades, as if purposely designed to be haunted.

Gayle Chong Kwan was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and lives and works in London. Her work is exhibited and published widely nationally and internationally, and is held in numerous public and private collections. For this exhibition, the video “Plot” examines a small parcel of wasteland in Mauritius, owned by her family. Chong Kwan travels in real, constructed and animated landscapes, in search for the sole remaining member of a species of palm at risk of the same fate as that of the island’s Dodo. The work moves between documentary, day and night-time imaginings, simulacrum, the sublime, construction and waste, and ends with a haunting childhood song by the artist’s 99 year old Great Aunt, herself the last of a generation.

Rommulo Vieira Conceição works with installation, objects, sculpture, drawing and photography, exploring the contemporaneous space perception and the relation of contemporary mankind in space. The works he has contributed explore a persons familiarity and use of a space practically, how they insert themselves into a space, the dilution of that person within a landscape and the transformation of the place in relation to the person.

Mohamad Hafez was born in Damascus, raised in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and educated in the Midwestern United States. Expressing the juxtaposition 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. Responding to the atrocities of the Syrian War, Hafez uses his architectural skills to create surreal Middle Eastern streetscapes that are architectural in their appearance yet politically charged in their content.

Judy-Ann Moule’s artwork reproduces scenarios to trigger glimpses of another time and place. Drawing on memories of childhood, she uses a phenomenological approach (first-hand, inner or bodily experience) to flip the viewer into the position of a child at risk of being trodden on.

Her Installation “Girth 139” is a little person’s perspective of a centralised and dominating force. As such it can be read as an analysis of power and powerlessness as well as a narrative.

Muneera Al Sharhan presents a series of exquisite jewellery that explores identity through memory; specifically the memories of childhood. These contrast with memories influenced by literature and spoken stories which describe the past. The memories interact with the realities of actual physical changes in the environment of Kuwait. Al Sharhan’s memories and the history of Kuwait are separated by a generational shift. Endeavouring to understand this history created nostalgic emotions of a time which she feels connected to, yet did not actually live through. She wanted to make connections and preserve the Kuwait she perceives through her memories.

What’s Your Location?

An exhibition held at CAP 2nd Floor, Life Center, Block 2, St 28, Industrial Shuwaikh, +965 24925636

capkuwait.com. Free entry. Open Saturday – Thursday 10am-8pm

Participating artists: Dana Aljouder, Jassim Alnashmi, Amira Ali Behbehani, Frederick Bell, Rommulo Vieira Conceição, Antonio Da Silva, Mohamad Hafez, Ruth Jones, Gayle Chong Kwan, Judy-Ann Moule, Khaled Nazar, Farah Salem, Katia Salvany, Steven Scott, Muneera Al Sharhan, Amani Al Thuwaini.

Opening night Wednesday 4 May 2016, from 7pm. Talks by artists Antonio DaSilva, Jassim Alnashmi Thursday 5 May at 7pm, Mohamad Hafez Saturday 7 May at 7pm and Amira Behbehani (date to be confirmed). Exhibition closes Saturday 4 June 2016.

 

Discovery: Re-imagining Darwin’s World

In looking at Darwin’s notes from the Voyage of the Beagle, I was drawn to an incident that occurred at St Paul’s Rocks, off the coast of Brazil, when the expedition discovered a species of bird “…so tame you could walk up to them and hit them with a stick.”

The manner of this discovery and the history of our acquisition of knowledge led me to contemplate the ramifications of our actions. It is still common practice to collect specimens of new, rare or endangered species to verify and prove their existence. the most accepted method of collection involves killing that animal.

At what point does the animal exist? When it is dead it is proven to exist. Paradoxically this means that specific animal ceases to exist. Yet unidentified and alive, it doesn’t technically exist.

These implications of discovery and the impact our actions have over a prolonged period led to the question that drove this work: at what cost do we achieve knowledge?

 

The exhibition Discovery: Re-imagining Darwin’s World can be seen using the link below.

 

Women’s Work

In collaboration with the Essex Feminist Collective and to raise awareness and funds for two Southend women’s charities, this all female exhibition explores the ever contentious subject of Women’s Work.

From arguments about equal pay to unpaid emotional labour and cuts to women’s services to the continued undervaluing of traditional female roles, these artists consider what it is to work as a woman, particularly in the male dominated art world where the legitimacy of their work is often contested as an art form.

Curated by Southend artist Ruth Jones and featuring a group of 9 local and international female artists, the exhibition Women’s Work opens at The Beecroft Gallery on Saturday 6 February and finishes on International Women’s Day, Tuesday 8 March 2016. A private viewing of the exhibition will be held on Wednesday 10 February from 18.30 – 20.30. Entry is by donation (suggested donation of £3 or pay what you can) with proceeds going to SOS Rape Crisis and SOS Domestic Abuse Projects (Dove). Performative acts of care by artist Ruth Jones will take place on 6, 13, 27 of February and 8 March 2016. Details below.

Cinzia Cremona’s work Undercurrent provokes questions about normativity and intimacy. Social conventions dictate what is acceptable and individuals are trapped by these expectations. Gender, skin colour, age and class restrict the gamut of behaviours and desires each of us can embody, but which emerge within us nevertheless. This work wants to contribute in a small way to a growing awareness of these mechanisms and to the legitimacy of any desire.

As an artist, art teacher, researcher and also a mother of a young man to be, Katia Salvany realised that her role as a woman could and can make a difference, specially for the ones around her. She has attempted to bring into play the inner ambiguity, uncertainty and wonder posited in trying to understand and balance urgent myriad possibilities that comes along with motherhood, creative artistic processes and everyday domestic routine.

In her investigative, ongoing series “Care Work”, Ruth Jones explores people’s notions of care: what it is, what it does for people and the perceived social responsibilities to perform it. The work is presented in an unfinished state as she performs her own acts of artistic care throughout the exhibition, alongside documentary evidence of the care she has taken over the people she has worked with.

Amira Behbehani is a Kuwaiti self taught artist who is involved in an international peace organisation called PEACE ONE DAY. Behbehani moved on to become a member of Abolish 153 against women’s honour killing in 2015. In her “XOX Series”, she considers the dualities we all battle with, irrespective of culture, the different roles we choose to take on, the words we borrow, the ideas we champion, that simultaneously shroud and strip us. The game of tic-tac-toe highlights how daily, we inhabit so many worlds, real or created, tangible or intangible – part of all but so often committed to none. Here, there is no prevarication, no obfuscation. We lose or we win – there is no other way.

Serap Isik approaches painting without plan or objective. The lines and shapes of the brushstrokes forming the narrative of the painting unveil how instinct can create the painting alone, to unveil the unknown vision within.

Kim Ralston is an Essex based artist educator who works with mixed media. She uses stereotypically female craft skills to create multi-layered, textured installations that examine the role of motherhood and loss of identity within that role.

Performance artist Eliza Soroga is from Athens, Greece. She holds an MA in Performance Making (Goldsmiths University of London) and in Cultural Theory (National University of Athens). Her performance piece “Women in Agony” aims to create a strong visual imagery of an anonymous female crowd on a busy Saturday afternoon in Oxford circus to comment on how fashion industries make women feel the need to be unique and special but they end up looking exactly the same. But it is also about screaming out the anger that evolves out of the hectic rhythms of living in central London.

Amani Al Thuwaini is interested in topics related to women’s rights, oppression issues, male domination and traditional confinement in Kuwait society. Doing fieldwork and interviewing married women in her culture have lead her to the realisation that even though a lot of traditions remain from the past, they do not stop ‘most’ women from having the agency for change. Instead she has found that most women refuse to see the truth in things, they choose to be content with what they have because they’re afraid of change. Al Thuwaini’s work, Volition, represents women who live their own fantasy and choose not to change things even when they can.

Stefania Woznarowycz is a creative technologist , graphic designer and artist originally from São Paulo, Brazil with a degree in Graphic Design from Central Saint Martins.

As a designer living in a world increasingly obsessed with perfection and constantly trying to sell us a fantasy of seamlessness and slickness, Woznarowycz investigates friction, imperfection and tension. She believes these elements can be powerful in revealing creative principles. This is not to say that design must be impractical, far from it, design must be honest, it must question realities instead of relying on paternalistic solutions. To design by friction is to be observant and to allow space for complexities. Untitled (2016) was created as a response to her experiences as a female creative working in the tech industry, her aim is to explore the intricacies of female representation, emotional labour and self image on digital platforms and social media.

Women’s Work

An exhibition held at The Beecroft Gallery, Victoria Avenue, Southend on Sea, Essex, SS2 6EX, open Tuesday – Saturday 10am – 5pm. Free Entry. Website: http://www.southendmuseums.co.uk

Participating artists: Amira Ali Behbehani, Cinzia Cremona, Serap Isik, Ruth Jones, Kim Ralston, Katia Salvany, Eliza Soroga, Amani Al Thuwaini, Stefania Woznarowycz

Open from 6 February – 8 March 2016, Tuesday – Saturday 10am-5pm. Private View on Wednesday 10 February from 18.30 – 20.30pm suggested donation of £3 or pay what you can. Performative acts of care by artist Ruth Jones on Saturday 6 February from 1pm – 5pm, Saturday 13 February from 11am-1pm, Saturday 27 February from 11am – 1pm and Tuesday 8 March from 11am – 1pm.