Jala Wahid

INFO PURA @ The Residence Gallery reviewed

22 June 2016

There’s a lot happening in the rather small space of London’s The Residence Gallery. With video work and wearable sculptures, colourful engraved acrylic and an Oculus Rift that holds almost pride of place in the centre of the floorspace, the INFO PURA group exhibition, running June 3 to 26, presents an overlaying of media that sit comfortably with the show’s theme. Curated by Ed Leezon, it’s one prompted by an engagement with psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, who is quoted in the press release suggesting that “nothing that has once come into existence will have passed away and all the earlier phases of development continue to exist alongside the last one”.

Ideas of temporality and its relationship to space permeate the exhibition. A screen shows a hyper-realistic yet fantastical video game-like character, designed by Daniel Swan, seemingly trapped within its frame, wearing chains and perpetually on the point of action that never comes in a space where time is both suspended and ever-present. Jala Wahid’s sculptures appear as time congealed into amorphous forms. From the highly rendered bodily realism of Swan’s figure to the physicality of Wahid’s sculptures, the labour of the artist is inescapable in both sets of works.

Daniel Swan, 'He Will Think I am There & Then I Am Not There (II + III)' (2016). Installation view. Courtesy the artist + The Residence Gallery, London.
Daniel Swan, ‘He Will Think I am There & Then I Am Not There (II + III)’ (2016). Installation view. Courtesy the artist + The Residence Gallery, London.

Yet for all the suggestion of simultaneity, floods of information/data and technological salvation, it is the materiality of the works that is perhaps the shows most striking feature, or indeed the relationship between the two. Wandering around the desert wasteland of Kitty Clark’s ‘Everyone is Gone’ virtual reality environment, the heat and clunkiness of the Oculus Rift technology inevitably draws you back into the physical space of the gallery. The computer, sitting in an acrylic box, powering the VR sits like a reliquary, reminding us that these imaginings still have a physical beginning and perhaps ongoing physical traces.  

Similarly, Ruth Angel Edwards’s video ‘HIGH LIFE/PETRIFICATION’, a 17-and-a-half-minute video moving through the streets of Los Angeles acts as an alternative catalogue, detailing the commodification of California’s counter-cultures into material objects. Her accompanying wearable sculptures (‘Untitled I’ and ‘Untitled II’) appear as hybrid clothing and accessories —a purse/chain as well as two t-shirts combined as a form of dress. This set of works undoubtedly plays on the commodification inherent in fashion design and tourism.

It may not be that we are at the end of linearity but rather in a moment of overlapping and multiple circulations, each with their own timeframes: the labour of the artist, the exhibition moment, video, fashion, the market, etc.. These multiple and overlapping circulations are not without points, beginnings and endings, as many of these works in fact attest and bring to light in interesting ways. It is in this intersection of the material and the virtual that perhaps yields the most interesting insights.**

Exhibition photos, top right.

The INFO PURA group exhibition is running at London’s The Residence Gallery, running June 3 to 26, 2016.

Header image: Kitty Clark, ‘Everything You Want is Here’ (2016). Detail. Courtesy the artist + The Residence Gallery London.

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Jala Wahid @ All Welcome, May 12 – 15

10 May 2016

London-based artist Jala Wahid will present solo exhibition Your Mouth is an Open Grave at Vilnius’ All Welcome, opening May 12 and running May 15.

Curated by Jasmine Picot-Chapman who co-founded project space, Emalin, the show will take place at Šaltinių gatvė 7, which earlier this year saw a late-night picnic by artist Motoko Ishibashi take place in its garden.

The press release for Wahid’s exhibition is an excerpt taken from chapter, ‘Mouth to Mouth’ in critic Jan Verwoert‘s 2014 book, Cookie! It discusses the curse of having a mouth: “Filled with the bitter taste of memories one chokes on; a melancholy mouth that neither swallows nor spits things out but continues chewing, dismembering the remembered, in a ceaseless grinding motion of the teeth.”

Wahid, who co-runs SALT magazine, has shown sculptural and image-based work recently at Seventeen Gallery and The Sunday Painter for whom she presented a pair of long gold-tipped plaster finger nails during London city-wide exhibition CONDO . Wahid will also be included in this year’s Park Nights programme hosted by the Serpentine Gallery.

See the FB event page for more details.**

Jala Wahid, 'Soft Weaponry III' (2016). Courtesy the artist and The Sunday Painter.
Jala Wahid, ‘Soft Weaponry III’ (2016). Courtesy the artist and The Sunday Painter.
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Basic Instinct @ Seventeen Gallery reviewed

22 September 2015

The press release for Basic Instinct, running at London’s Seventeen Gallery from September 4 to October 2, doesn’t give much away. It’s a juxtaposition of two quotes, extracted from two quite different contexts. The first is from Eros The Bittersweet by Anne Carson, a passage which interrogates the concept of eros, its basis in the psyche of an infant, and the identification of desire as implicitly involved in lack. The second is the short section of dialogue from arguably the most famous scene in the film Basic Instinct (1992) in which Sharon Stone’s character Catherine Tramell uncrosses her legs and seductively quips, “I have a degree in psychology”.

The choice of these two quotes introduces us to the historically difficult to categorise concept of eros. On one hand, it points towards a set of concerns in philosophy and psychiatry which, as seems to be customary in academia, use the Greek god Eros as exemplar from which to build a theoretical position on love and desire. On the other hand eros is often used as shorthand for a sort-of classy sexual instinct. Indeed these two divergent approaches to eros can be found in Basic Instinct the exhibition, mainly intersecting with the tactility of materials as a form of eroticism. Curator Attilia Fattori Franchini has brought together ten artists, each of whose works contain some inclination towards the sensual.


Basic Instinct (2015). Exhibition view. Courtesy Seventeen, London.
Basic Instinct (2015). Exhibition view. Courtesy Seventeen, London.

Beatrice Marchi‘s framed pencil drawings point perhaps most directly to the concept of eros as the contemporary erotic a purely sexual force while attempting to undermine its seriousness. In ‘Oh, Summer!’ (2015) a spread-eagle woman lies on the floor, an electric fan blowing aside her pubic hair. In diptych ‘Signorina Culinski cresce’ (2015), one panel depicts a woman bending over in front of a mirror looking at her own ass. In the other she is drawing eyes onto her buttocks to reflect a crude face back.

The time-based works included seem to double the imagery of contemporary advertising techniques. Jala Wahid‘s single-channel video ‘I am a charm’ (2015) feels somewhat like an extended perfume advert, matching seductive high-resolution shots of peeled citrus fruit segments with similarly poetic text. Reija Meriläinen‘s ‘Stabbing’ (2014), depicts the penetration and probing of what seems to be a block of gelatin with instruments including a metal pipe and a knife, conducted on a pastel-coloured set and shot in slow motion. These two works approach the hyper-sensual –too clean to feel perverse. On the spectrum of the erotic, they are sex with a Real Doll.

Megan Rooney‘s ‘Doggy breath, finger deaf, mute, winking. A wink she could only do with the right eye’ (2015) is a pale, fleshy, and almost ten-meter long mural. It’s frantic while retaining its balance –gauged abstract marks, smoothly applied layers of paint, and pseudo-childlike scrawls play both off and with each other. At the opposite end of the painting spectrum, Zoe Barcza‘s deeply considered grids look ripped away from the cotton by even more considered trompe l’oeil techniques.

Zoe Barcza, 'Clyff II' (2015). Install view. Courtesy Seventeen, London.
Zoe Barcza, ‘Clyff II’ (2015). Install view. Courtesy Seventeen, London.

“Sex Sells”, as advertising executives know well. And while on one hand empowerment is meant to arise from claiming autonomy over our own deeply-held erotic inclinations, this power is simultaneously withdrawn from us as these desires are sublimated into advertising campaigns, designed to turn the production of eros into a marketing technique. In Basic Instinct, Franchini approaches this reality with varying degrees of critical distance. She places emphasis on the tactility of making or observing artwork as a sensual act, and one which is necessary to highlight the importance of art in turning away from the often banal mainstream idea of what can be considered erotic. Although some works in Basic Instinct feel like they are straining to prove their sincerity, those works which shine do so effortlessly and with confidence. Our basic instincts are obfuscated by the pallid eroticism of advertising culture. Perhaps in recognising this, and trying to articulate our own grammar, we can begin to engage in honest, maybe even radical, sensual encounters with the world. **

The Basic Instinct group exhibition is on at London’s Seventeen gallery, running September 4 to October 2, 2015.

Header: Jala Wahid, ‘I am a charm’ (2015). Video. Install view. Courtesy Seventeen, London.

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SALT. in conversation @ Tenderbooks, Jun 30

30 June 2015

The editors of London-based feminist magazine SALT. are coming to Tenderbooks for an in-depth conversation from 4 to 6pm on June 30.

Three of SALT.’s editors—Jala Wahid, Thea Smith, and Hannah Regel—will introduce their intentions and process with SALT., discussing past issues (including their Manifesto issue which we recently reviewed) and how the magazine links to their wider artistic practice. While SALT. is a magazine, it is also an ongoing research project, and the editorial acts as a mini manifesto expressing their selected themes, just as the project’s events act as platforms for new debates around the paradigms of contemporary art and feminism.

The event is a Three Letter Words and Tenderbooks one done in collaboration with the ‘Publishing/ Writing’ module, MRes Art: Theory and Philosophy, at Central Saint Martins, and discussion will be followed by an informal Q&A with the audience and with MRes Art’s students.

See event page for details. **

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Sorbus Video Week @ Sorbus-galleria, May 20 – 24

18 May 2015

Sorbus Gallery will be hosting a five-day video and film screening series called Sorbus Video Week at their Helsinki space from May 20 to May 24.

The program is compiled by curator Attilia Fattori Franchini, artist Jaakko Pallasvuo and the Sorbus working group, and is divided into five evenings of screenings, many of which will have their Finnish premiere.

The line-up brings  video and film work by around 20 different artists and artist groups, including Pallasvuo, who has programmed the opening night on May 20, with ‘Self-Accusation’ (2015) and Keren Cytter with ‘The Victim’ (2006), both screening on May 20, as well as Ben Russell with ‘Atlantis’ (2014) on May 22, and Dominic Watson with ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ (2014), Jala Wahid with ‘I’ve got a burning desire (come on, tell me boy)’ (2014) and Johann Arens with ‘Marte e Venere – A Hand Held Monument’ (2013) on May 23.

See the Sorbus Video Week page for details. **

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Introducing Artyčok.tv

22 April 2015

Curated by Hana Janečková,  I turn the images of my voice in my head is a monthly critical programme of recent feminist moving image practices (selected exhibition photos, top right), hosted by Czech-run online contemporary art platform Artyčok.tv and established by the Academy of Visual Arts, Prague. The series follows a resurgence in interest in Feminism and offers a space to showcase work by artists with diverse perspectives on the subject. Allowing for what Janečková herself describes as a “sharing of feminist strategies across cultural contexts”, the artists and their output already exhibited on the site follow ideas around “technology, language, labour and identity”. They include the likes of Julia Tcharfas and  Chooc Ly Tan‘s Wild Nature, along with the latter’s application to the possibilities within the chaos of ‘Oubilism’ in her ‘New Materials in the Reading of the World‘ (2011) work, as well as Jennifer Chan and Cadence Kinsey‘s Next Time Baby, I’ll be #Bulletproof (2015).

Running since November last year, the I turn the images of my voice in my head programme presents its  fifth online exhibition, called Gentle Triggers and featuring work by London-based artist and S.A.L.T. editor Jala Wahid and artist Nicole Morris. Their practices examine the body through moving image and its materiality behind a screen that’s described as “an unconscious fetishist object”, and “a space for imaginary tactile encounters”. Hence, Wahid’s ‘Let Me Touch You, Make You Feel Really Nice’ (2013) presents long-nailed fingers brushing a horse-saddles mane and prods the viscous brown goo of makeup and facial sponges, as an ASMR-sounding voiceover whispers, “…always fingering your hair as if it’s delicate”.  Morris’ ‘Soft Power’, meanwhile, presents its protagonist’s view through the red and blue lenses of disposable 3D glasses to an IRL London as well as its Google Maps equivalent.”Women are constantly confronted with their ability to produce affect and are well versed in using it pragmatically”, writes Rebecca Carson in an accompanying text to a presentation that questions “the role of affective labour within capitalism”.

Other works shown in the I turn the images of my voice in my head series include Jenna Bliss‘s Letters to ‘Dad the Analyst’, ‘Grandma’ and ‘Osama Bin Laden’, and  Rehana Zaman‘s multi-channel video – a fictional soap opera examining the worker within globalisation – ‘Some Women, Other Women and all the Bittermen’ (2014). These are exhibitions showcased for a month, along with texts commissioned as online ‘artefacts’, that are freely accessible via the Artyčok online archive, alongside video extracts and images, which Janečková describes as follows:

“While the body has been central to feminist critique, in these works narrative, voice and language are seen as its extension. In the presented works Jenna Bliss, Chooc Ly Tan, Rehana Zaman and Jennifer Chan employ strategies of technological mediation, language play and re-narrativisation , actively seeking to unfold and re-imagine the dynamics of patriarchy, allowing for new perspectives and positions of critique.” **

Exhibition photos, top right.

Jala Wahid and Nicole Morris’ Gentle Triggers is on at Artyčok.tv, running April 22 to May 22, 2015.

Header image: By Jennifer Chan. Courtesy Artyčok.tv.

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Jala Wahid @ tank.tv, Feb 26 – Apr 3

26 February 2014

SALT. editor Jala Wahid is presenting online exhibition Soft Ache at tank.tv, opening February 26 and running to April 3.

As part of Arcadia Missa‘s purlove curatorial residency at the site, Wahid’s exhibition asks “Can we convalesce, abolish, or make anew, anything –from the residue of our relations, within total landscapes of collapse?”

Those “total landscapes of collapse” are probably the ‘networks’ referred to in the exhibition blurb, while Wahid films such as ‘Object Whore’ and the recent ‘Wearing Natalie Portman’ -as featured in A_M’s ‘How to Sleep Faster ep. 3‘ -draw some complex and unsettling connections between youth, beauty and commodity, by blurring distinctions between body and object in their focus on form and texture.

That becomes all the more complicated when it’s somehow represented and re-mediated online, drawing some interesting connections to Wahid’s concerns with “affect and its manifestation”. And that’s without mentioning the fact that the video “I’ve got a burning desire (come on, tell me boy)” is named after a Lana Del Rey lyric from ‘Burning Desire’ that adds, “I have to touch myself, don’t pretend you’re there”.

See the tank.tv Facebook event page for details. **

Header image ‘”I’ve got a burning desire (come on, tell me boy)”‘. Video Still. Courtesy Jala Wahid, 2014.

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An overview of ‘How to Sleep Faster’ ep. 3

14 December 2013

Generously offering various routes into its discourse, How to Sleep Faster is the digital sister series to Arcadia Missa’s print publication of the same name. Providing just as much depth of content as the previous editions, episode 3 operates on its own custom platform –an element of the ejournal which is reimaged for each individual online publication, transforming the same domain. For this project, a structure of responsive, pastel degrade grids extend outwards and downwards, revealing a collection of thoughtfully curated works which all connect to themes laid out in a rather magnificent editorial essay. Such an assemblage of content gives the online project the feel of a space rather than a browser page: an exhibition rather than a publication. It encourages exploration.

This is all carefully considered, of course –and the particular presentation of How to Sleep Faster only initiates the allusion of what this impressive (and ambitious) collection of work investigates: digital systems and context. As an exhibition, involved pieces relate to each other, and particular themes accumulate throughout the duration of the viewer’s involvement. A moment in Daniel Rourke’s interview with Dora Budor picks up on this interpretational process: Budor’s work ‘New Lavoro’, which culminated in the hosting of a competition for artists in the style of a reality TV show (at Venice Biennale), illustrates artistic labour as a system, in which different parts of a project make themselves and contribute to each other. Challenging systems in this way echoes the video work of Andrew Norman Wilson who questions responses to capitalist imagery and expectation in ‘Confused Foreigner at McDonalds Hoog Catharijne’. The journalistic approach to his practice, aiming to promote an awareness of contemporary subjective systems, also confronts Marxist (and Capitalist) ideologies –as an invitation to figure out some solutions. It’s recognised by Ben Clarke in his essay ‘DC Cinema’ as a particularly appropriate medium: the economy of moving or digital images recognises the system of cinema image distribution, as well as the transaction of profit.

But this Capitalist exchange is not the only recognised routine. The monetary gain made by distributors and cinemas is partnered by a physical transaction, “of bodies to the multiplex each week and their relationship with the screen”. The material realities resulting from interaction with technology is crucial throughout How to Sleep Faster, itself a critically digital ejournal. Maja Cule also challenges various necessary interfaces between body and representation, arguing in opposition to a particularly well-referenced figure of modern art history. Walter Benjamin’s now classic notion of “aura” collapses in the context of contemporary visual or social media: Cule suggests that each time a moving image is watched, it’s aura in fact expands –and with single videos on YouTube racking up millions and millions of views, this inversion of an established idea certainly seems justified.

Like choosing to watch a clip online, making a decision within a system features in Leslie Kulesh’s concise piece, presumably arbitrarily named ‘Pop Up Penguin Palooza’. Choosing to be active or passive when faced with her instruction inevitably results in some kind of physical movement (of the mouse or trackpad) – further implying the suggestion of confusion and tension between virtual consequences and human actions. The “truth to materials” as the evidence of self-production in Daniella Russo’s film ‘Tear, Break’ highlights this tension, as does the visual focus on texture and surface in Jala Wahid’s ‘Wearing Natalie Portman’. It’s a point of contention when the fluidity and ease of online action or movement simultaneously enacts the opposite on the body.

How to Sleep Faster
But the risks of engaging with a system (as lifestyle) that relies so heavily on software and hardware is made unassumingly desperate in Tom Duggan’s absorbing and haunting story of ‘The Troglodyte Network’. Our dependence on the internet and digital information networks –even as a way to facilitate the most personal, intimate and menial tasks –leaves its subject feeling isolated, despite the re-imagining and initiating of new data systems and communities. Duggan’s use of technical language, combined with the surrealism of the story, the real situations the subject finds himself in, and the dry wit with which they’re retold leaves behind a residue of a sad narrative –it seems to reflect some of the actual culture structures of contemporary society’s processes.

Despite the variety of references, histories and mediums of the pieces selected for How to Sleep Faster episode 3, all of these works aim to bind together their separate and often complex parts, rather than to investigate them individually and untangle them further: the featured artists explore that infinite process of interpretation, presenting their distribution and narrative (crucially, in the context of the digital) as the artwork itself. The exhibition’s editorial, which was a joy to read, begins by recognising the “two absolutes we can never attain. One is freedom and the other is authenticity”. By giving the featured pieces a firm position in an informed, art-historical discourse, Arcadia Missa not only offers a legitimate platform for such work to be viewed from (in an appropriate format), but recognises the contextual position of many artists who are making their way through the complicated systems of our contemporary, information society. These artists are not working towards answers as absolutes. Instead, the collapsing of symbolic reference in a digital context is refused by the body –those material realities engaging with the webcams and keyboards that they control. **

‘How to Sleep Faster’ episode three is showing online at howtosleepfaster.net.

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