press release

This screening event presents two recent works by Afghan artist Lida Abdul with a programme of video works by international artists, all never before seen in Afghanistan. Abdul’s works were filmed in Kabul last year and shown when she represented Afghanistan at the 51st Venice Biennale, the first time the country has had a pavilion at Venice. We hope this event will spark cultural dialogue and debate between Afghan artists and art audiences, and those in other countries. Afghanistan has long been starved of such vital cultural exchange and Afghan artists have been persecuted, repressed and isolated or forced to immigrate. There exists an urgent desire and need for outside engagement and interaction in those keen to revitalise the Afghan art scene.

In White House (2005), in a landscape strewn with ruins, Abdul painstakingly paints the rubble of a destroyed building white. Abdul’s oblique response to events unfolding in her country is a determined act of resistance and reclamation, a quiet, cathartic act that invites us to re-examine a situation we might think we understand. This futile yet compelling task puns on the practice of whitewashing history. In her practice Abdul seeks to juxtapose the space of politics with the space of reverie and absurdity. For her, the most difficult thing is to move beyond the memory of an event, her works are the forms of her failed attempts to ‘transcend’. For her, art is always a petition for another world. She writes: ‘As an Afghan artist, who left her country of birth a few years after the former Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, I have tried to comprehend the disaster that has ravaged my country for more than two decades. Afghanistan is physically destroyed, yes, but the resilie nce to survive persists unabated.’

Several of the works in this programme have arisen from the artists’ attempts to come to terms with the internal conflicts and psychological wounds of their homelands. They present personal attempts to remember, heal or atone for traumatic historical events and acts of violence, which lends their works keen resonance in the context of Afghanistan. The artists in this exhibition have overlapping sensibilities. They explore our systems of belief, communication and exploitation, as they are manifested in consumerism, science, the media, politics, popular culture, language. Some lay bare the manipulation of the film industry and the media in representing events and how we collude by participating in public ritual for the benefit of TV news cameras. Or how language develops to control our perception of situations and other peoples. Others deal with fantasy and longing, temporary communities, escapism, moments of unexpected beauty. Or with how we locate ourselves in the world, thro ugh our subliminal relationship to space, our compassion for a dog playing in traffic, our small, daily ideological struggles. Personal acts are recorded or restaged; clapping stones together, painting ruins, singing. These artists are acutely aware of the oscillation between the global and particular. They are creating complex temporalities that seek to open up spaces for a new viewer and a visual language that borrows from anthropology, cultural criticism, photojournalism, ethical philosophy and documentary. They are creating a textured world that is rarely found in the popular media and making art that resists easy solutions and banal closure.

The event will take place at the Afghan Foundation for Culture and Civil Society, established in 2003 as an independent social organisation by a group of Afghans concerned with the fate of Afghan culture and the strengthening of Afghan civil society. It is at once a catalyst for a national socio-cultural development, within the framework of the peace process and national reconstruction efforts, and a bridge to the rest of the world for the artistic and intellectual communities of Afghanistan.

The programme is curated by Ali MacGilp. The event is organised by Lida Abdul and Ali MacGilp. This event is sponsored by British Council Afghanistan as part of its efforts to support Afghan art and culture by increasing the exposure of Afghan artists to the work of their international colleagues.

Lida Abdul (Afghanistan) Fikret Atay (Turkey) Tobias Collier (UK) Phil Collins (UK) Juan Manuel Echavarría (Colombia) Cao Fei (China) Alexander Heim (Germany) Adrian Lee (UK) Elizabeth McAlpine (UK) Deimantas Narkevicius (Lithuania) Anri Sala (Albania) Boris Sincek (Croatia)


Painting Ruins
Video Works Screening Event 2 May 2006, 5 pm
Kurator: Ali MacGilp
Organisation: Lida Abdul, Ali MacGilp

mit Lida Abdul, Fikret Atay, Tobias Collier, Phil Collins, Juan Manuel Echavarria, Cao Fei, Alexander Heim, Adrian Lee, Elizabeth McAlpine, Deimantas Narkevicius, Anri Sala, Boris Sincek