Lida Abdul: Body of Ruins
Anna Schwartz Gallery - Melbourne, Australia
By Victoria Lynn
Lida Abdul’s exhibition Ruins: “Stories of Awakening” at Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne, features three videos made in 2005-06, and a sequence of photographs, each seen for the first time in Australia. The works are based on the artist’s continued engagement with her homeland Afghanistan, a place of ambush, anguish and loss. The daily news reports barely touch the harrowing complexity in this country. While Abdul’s videos show the contemporary ruins of recent warfare, they are imbued with a sense of beckoning. In Clapping with Stones, 2005, we see the large gaping hole where the large Buddhas of Bamiyan once stood in the heart of the Hindu Kush mountains. Destroyed by the Taliban, what remains are giant black spaces that in Abdul’s image hover like upright tombs. A group of young men clap white stones and pray. In this contested territory, though, it is not clear to whom - perhaps they are beckoning us into their circle of remembrance. In Once Upon and Awakening, 2006, a group of men use ropes in an attempt to pull down a large stone structure. Dressed in black, their gestures, faces and entangled choreography are a counterpoint to the majesty of this architectural ruin. There is a call and response, between ruin and repair, between futility and hope, between abandonment and restoration, echoed also in a starkly elegiac triptych of photographs. Dome, 2005, is perhaps the most compelling video here. It was by chance that Abdul came across a boy in a white shirt, turning inside a ruined religious structure gazing at the sky. It is as if this boy also calls for an “awakening” from within the devastation of contemporary existence. Abdul’s work reveals the impossibility of straightforward responses to war, presenting us with images of both hope and resilience. Like the artists Yael Bartana (Israel), Raeda Saadeh (Palestine), and Regina José Galindo (Guatemala), Abdul disconnects and reassembles the figure within the landscape, transgressing common assumptions about the body and its place in disputed territories.
(February 4 - April 10, 2010)
Victoria Lynn is an independent curator and critic based in Melbourne, Australia. She is currently the Visual Arts Curator for the Adelaide Festival.
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