Lida Abdul
Ruins: Sto­ries of Awakenings

4th February – 10th April 2010
Anna Schwartz Gallery

The issue of oth­er­ness”, in all its rep­re­sen­ta­tions, seems to be a major con­cern of cur­rent art prac­tice, a phe­nom­e­non fur­ther moti­vat­ed by the ascen­dance of glob­al art fes­ti­vals (Doc­u­men­ta, bi/​triennials, etc.) that engage just as much with the his­to­ries of art as with con­tem­po­rary polit­i­cal and social his­to­ries. Today tech­nol­o­gy has made pos­si­ble a plu­ral­i­ty of artis­tic prac­tices that con­tin­ue to chal­lenge the notion of the work of art itself. Con­tem­po­rary artists from places as diverse as Mex­i­co, Chi­na, Cuba, Iran, Israel and Pales­tine are not only cre­at­ing com­plex spaces and tem­po­ral­i­ties that seek a new­er audi­ence; they are also work­ing as anthro­pol­o­gists, cul­tur­al crit­ics, eth­i­cal philoso­phers and pho­to­jour­nal­ists, cre­at­ing a tex­tured world that is rarely found in the pop­u­lar media. These artists are the wan­der­ing souls of the world who move from one place to anoth­er mak­ing art that wit­ness­es, that chal­lenges and that asks oth­er ques­tions. They are cel­e­brat­ed, ignored, per­se­cut­ed and some­times even killed for refus­ing to take sides in the game of us’ against them;’ they are the inno­cents abroad, often exiles in their own coun­tries of birth.

The works of such artists cre­ate new spaces that call for a new view­er, one who is acute­ly aware of the oscil­la­tion between the glob­al and the par­tic­u­lar (between an inher­it­ed iden­ti­ty and an acquired one) that artists have to nego­ti­ate in order to cre­ate het­ero­ge­neous works. This past sum­mer, in Kab­ul, Afghanistan, I real­ized that I am one of these artists. As an Afghan artist, who left her coun­try of birth a few years after the for­mer Sovi­et inva­sion, I have tried to com­pre­hend the dis­as­ter that has rav­aged my coun­try for more than two decades. Blan­chot says: A dis­as­ter touch­es noth­ing, but changes every­thing”. Afghanistan is phys­i­cal­ly destroyed, but the resilience to sur­vive per­sists unabat­ed. Lan­guage, notions of domes­tic­i­ty and per­cep­tions of the oth­er are all trans­formed rad­i­cal­ly, to the extent that survivors/​refugees often refuse to talk about what they went through. Many of us have known the his­to­ry of this silence. These nomadic artists give voice to the silence amongst us through their works.

In my work, I try to jux­ta­pose the space of pol­i­tics with the space of rever­ie; the space of shel­ter with that of the desert: I try to per­form the blank spaces’ that are formed when every­thing is tak­en away from peo­ple. How do we come face to face with noth­ing’ with empti­ness’ where there was pre­vi­ous­ly some­thing. I was a refugee myself for sev­er­al years, mov­ing from one coun­try to anoth­er, aware that at every junc­ture I was a guest, who at any moment might be asked to leave. The refugee’s world is a portable one, allow­ing for easy move­ment between bor­ders. It is one that can be tak­en away as eas­i­ly as it was giv­en: pro­vi­sion­al­ly and with lit­tle anx­i­ety on the part of the host.

Some­times it is said that I am post-iden­ti­ty, post-nation, how­ev­er for me the chal­lenge is to super­sede the mem­o­ry of an event; my works are the forms of my failed attempts to tran­scend. Art is a peti­tion for anoth­er world, a momen­tary shat­ter­ing of what is com­fort­able so that we may become more sophis­ti­cat­ed in reclaim­ing the present. The new wan­der­ing souls of the globe, stub­born, weak, per­se­cut­ed, strong, will con­tin­ue to make this art as long as peo­ple believe in easy solu­tions and banal closures.

Lida Abdul, 2010


Lida Abdul

Dome, 2005
Dig­i­tal video, 4:3, colour, sound
4 min­utes 50 seconds

Lida Abdul

Once Upon Awakening, 2006
archival pig­ment print on paper
105.5163.5 cm
Edi­tion of 3

Lida Abdul

Clap­ping with Stones, 2005
16mm film trans­ferred to dig­i­tal video, 16:9, colour, sound
4 min­utes 53 seconds