I came across Ghada Amer’s powerful work a while ago and was honoured to meet her in person a few weeks ago at Goodman Gallery in London where her solo ‘QR Code Revisited’ is on show until 22 December, 2023.
In her very unique way Amer abstracts language and unpacks definitions. She lingers on words, translations and mistranslations and their wider impact on how we view others. The maze-like quality of ‘QR Code Revisited’ invites us to adventure into places unseen, explore other narratives. Ultimately the artist finds in words the force to capture shared identities, commonalities across cultures, humanity without borders.
An exhibition opening this October at Flowers Gallery in London looks at the profound challenges facing girls and women affected by war. Organised by War Child UK and curated by intersectional feminist art collective InFems to coincide with the UN International Day of the Girl Child, the ‘Lost Girls’ message is about empowering women in war by focusing on survival rather than victimhood. It marks 30 years since War Child and Flowers Gallery showed their celebrated charity exhibition ‘Little Pieces from Big Stars’.
All the artists represented in the show have put women and girls at the centre of their practice. They include artists and activists Ai Weiwei, Owanto, Tewodros Hagos and Tracey Moffatt, radical British-born American feminist Penelope Slinger, the art-punk pioneer Linder, and Caroline Coon, a counterculture hero since the 1960s.
At the entrance to “Tomás Saraceno in Collaboration: Web[s] of Life,” we are politely asked to surrender our phones. There is no apparent judgment; instead, the act is more performative as our gadgets are safely slotted in what appears like an old wooden shelving unit and exchanged with an oracle card, “Arachnomancy Card,” with a personalized message (mine read: “planetary drift”). We are free, of course, to choose not to give away our phones. Yet it seems a missed opportunity: to truly immerse in the lively and layered world created by Tomás Saraceno for London’s Serpentine Galleries requires this small sacrifice.
Later, I reflect on what a relief it was not to reach out for my iPhone at every photo opportunity (and there are plenty), to be in the moment and absorb the chapters that unfold in each room and onto the surrounding Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. As Saraceno’s first major exhibition in the UK, “Web[s] of Life” takes on a lot. Ultimately it aims to observe how different life forms, technologies and energy systems are connected in the climate emergency. Art, for Saraceno, has active agency.
‘Isaac Julien: What freedom is to me’ at Tate Britain is a powerful and poetic, and beautifully designed exhibition that reveals a career as compelling today as it was forty years ago, when the British artist began showing his politically charged films and video art installations.
Tate curators Isabella Maidment and Nathan Ladd worked closely with the artist and his long-term friend the architect David Adjaye to imagine and design this first UK retrospective of Julien.
We enter the exhibition wrapped around in large screens showing Julien’s latest film, ‘Once Again… [Statues Never Die]’ (2022), and from a clearing of sorts are then tasked to choose our own path, directed by sound, colour and scent, as a narrative unfolds based on that decision.
The curators have successfully designed an exhibition experience for the visitor that reflects Julien’s fascination with image, sound, space, movement. Maidment calls them sonic tapestries that draw you through the exhibition as it unfolds.
She notes a passage from ‘Once Again… [Statues Never Die]’ that illustrates the show so poignantly. The line is narrated the character playing Alain Locke — the writer and cultural critic, and philosophical architect of the Harlem Renaissance:
‘As we mature as artists in the mythical diasporic dream space, the culture of infinite possibility is ready to receive us. This is artistic freedom as pure and as unsullied as the falling snow.’
Elsa James ‘Ode to David Lammy MP’ (2022) at ‘Rites of Passage’, Gagosian Gallery, Photo Lucy Dawkins
In ‘Rites of Passage’ published in 1909, the anthropologist Arnold van Gennep spoke of the concept of liminality, and how we mark critical transitional events through ceremonies with a ritual function that transcend cultural boundaries.
The idea forms the premise for an interesting exhibition currently at Gagosian Britannia St. London. Borrowing the book’s title, it explores the idea of liminal space through the lens of nineteen contemporary artists, primarily based in the UK, who share the story of migration.
The work on display come in various mediums, for a lively discourse challenging linear narratives and fixed concepts of identity.
It’s good to see such complex and varied conversations around movement, migration – really relevant themes that have to be explored further and further, and through multiple voices and lenses.