Said Adrus – Without An Empire – Ghosts Within

Said Adrus – Without An Empire – Ghosts Within is a new exhibition curated by CCW PhD student, Maria M. Kheirkhah. Said Adrus marks the centenary of World War I at 198 Contemporary Arts and Learning by revisiting his long standing project Lost Pavilion. Said’s video installation and photographic series comes amidst a backdrop of activities commemorating the first world war and highlights the contributions and presence of Indian Muslim, Sikh and Hindu soldiers and officers, reflecting on ideas relating to Diaspora, especially South Asian Diaspora in its broader context. Said says, ‘I intend to introduce a personal element in the project as “homage” to my late father Amumiya H Adrus, who alongside countless other South Asians, were part of the British Army during the World Wars.’ The exhibtion will be open 20 November 2014 – 20 January 2015.

Through his artistic and archival research on the Muslim Burial Ground, Said continues to highlight issues around sites, memorials, war, empire and British Asian History. It is with such intention that Said captures the reflective spirit of a subject that is complex and close to the heart of many in the UK. In her poignant essay on Said Adrus’s Lost Pavilion, Dr Amna Malik wrote, ‘In the light of current events and the many lives that have been lost in distant lands, both Muslim and Christian, it seems preposterous to suggest that there is any such thing as a clash of civilisations between Islam and the West, as some intellectuals might have us believe. If we examine the microcosms of life lived by people from day to day in Britain, we see considerable evidence of connections between people of different religious and ethnic constituencies. One of the enduring legacies of the Black British Arts of the 1980s is the diverse and cosmopolitan nature of those who were part of it. This cosmopolitanism embraced “black” and white alike in recognition that race and racism was a product of imperial ideology and of power that encouraged conflict and difference by propagating dubious ideas of biological difference. This conflict is now present in a different way, as we are encouraged to adopt a neo-Orientalist view of Islam and the Middle East as imbued in a violent tradition antithetical to the West and yet, as Adrus’ project indicates Muslims and Islam have long been a part of European consciousness and vice-versa. In Lost Pavilion the collective impulse of the Black Arts movement of the 1980s continues in his attention to the collective contribution of Indian soldiers of diverse ethnic and religious constituencies, marked by the presence of these graves of Muslim soldiers that implies the absence of others who fought alongside them.’ [Excerpt from Sites- Sights of Memory and Mourning by Amna Malik]

Describing her practice, Kierkhah said, ‘The focus of my practice-led research is to investigate the “Islamo-Orientalised Female Other” as perceived historically within Western social discourses, and the extent to which this perception projects/impacts upon her voice and representation within Western contemporary visual culture today.

My thesis aims to define and articulate a subjectivity, a voice of the “Islamo-Orientalised Female Other” that is different from traditional and popular representations. I do this through my own practice  (performance, installation, video) and through various curatorial projects which aims to explore and contextualize it’s precise position in the present, through exploring in parallel the work of other artists; who come from different geographical, social, political and personal spaces. The common factor between all the various projects, whether artistically or curatorially, is to counter stereotypes and prejudice. This is to encourage questioning and knowledge to encourage a deeper understanding and awareness of the various practices which develop within different social contexts at any given time, the practice and the context being key in exploring these issues. In addressing and further researching this “gap” I propose to develop a body of visual work and an archive which seeks to counter dominant stereotypes and to suggest alternative ways of reading and engaging with the subjective space of the “oriental female other”.’

Exhibition Events:

  • 20th November 2014: Private view [email protected] 198 Contemporary Arts and Learning
  • 3rd December 2014: 1-5pm. An afternoon of talks and presentations exploring ideas and issues raised in this exhibition. We are joined by Dr. Amna Malik, art historian and senior lecturer,Slade School of Fine Art, UCL; Ashwani Sharma, UEL and co-editor of Darkmatter Journal; Keith Piper, artist and reader in Fine Art and Digital Media, MDX University London, Said Adrus (artist) and Maria Kheirkhah (curator). This event is chaired by Professor Paul Goodwin, UAL. Location:  Lecture Theatre, Chelsea College of Art and Design 16 John Islip St, London SW1P 4JU. This event is free but please RSVP to [email protected].
  • 17th January 2015: Artist and curator’s talk and tour of the [email protected] Contemporary Arts and Learning

The Gallery is open Monday – Friday 11-5pm, as well as Saturday 20th of Janurary 2015, 11am-5pm.

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