Using video as a medium, three artists from the Islamic world offer bodies without a stable location and landscapes that are unpopulated by humans. Keeping in mind the 2014 International Symposium of Electronic Art’s overarching theme, this paper understands location in two ways. One is in the more conventional definition as a place out in the world. Another posits the body as a site of contestation — the human physique as the location of societal considerations and politics. The three artists examined provide these differing but related ways of looking at position. Janane Al‑Ani (Iraq/Germany), Basir Mahmood (Pakistan), and Larissa Sansour (Palestine) interrogate contemporary geopolitics in works of video art ranging from hi‑tech, science fiction fantasies to more simplistic techniques and narratives. Larissa Sansour denies the ongoing tension between Israel and Palestine, and instead provides a skyscraper as the homeland. No longer are Palestinians vying for a piece of land. Rather, the solution is for them to populate an extremely tall tower—all of them living together at last. Sansour’s futuristic story is a hi‑tech response to current politics in which an entire population is denied a piece of earth. Meanwhile, Janane Al‑Ani explores a landscape that has no trace of people. The extensive area seen from above, as in sophisticated military satellite imagery, talks about the missing, referencing the result of war. She has been researching this concept through a series enTitle:d ‘The Aesthetics of Disappearance: A Land Without People.’ And, in another take, Basir Mahmood investigates the notion of bodies in search of a land without showing either. Inspired by a recent event in which young Pakistani men died while illegally crossing borders in a container, his video captures a seemingly modest undertaking — moving something from here to there. The immense size of the object (the same dimensions as the container) shifts this simple task into the realm of the impossible.
- Atteqa Ali, Zayed University, AE, is an art historian, writer and curator based in Abu Dhabi. She has written articles and essays for several publications, including the anthology Contemporary Art: 1989 to the present (Wiley‑Blackwell). She has curated exhibitions internationally, including Playing with a Loaded Gun: Contemporary Art in Pakistan at Apexart Curatorial Programs in New York and Kunsthalle Friedricianum in Kassel, Germany. Attiqa Ali is currently an Assistant Professor of Art History at Zayed University.
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