Ghanian artist Ibrahim Mahama is known for using discarded common-place items from his home country as materials for his sculptures and outdoor installations. These items have embedded within them, a certain history of both the passage of time from their previous owner’s usage and of the historical relevance, the marking of a certain epoch in the history of a place, which has cultural significance.
In what’s known as the ‘Occupation’ series of works, he has taken thousands of used jute sacks, bartered from migrant workers in Ghana, sewn them together and draped them over the facades of institutional buildings and museums in Ghana and Europe. These sacks have a certain history embedded within them; made from labourers in South Asia, they have been imported to Ghana initially to carry cocoa, but often find subsequent uses in carrying other commodities such as coal and ultimately might end up being a domestic door mat or a fire extinguisher, due to their strength and water retentive abilities.
What might be seen as a cross between a dance, a mime and a photo shoot, Cypriot artist Maria Hassabi’s live performances incorporate choreographic movements through time and space, common human gestures and the expected behaviour of the audience, to create a startling performance that viewers might mistake for someone taking a break from work.
In fact the whole performance Plastic (2016) at MOMA seems to be created around the expected reaction of the visitors to the museum, which can be characterized as one of ‘indifference’ or ‘obliviousness’. Perhaps it is a New York phenomenon, or an American one, where the avoidance of eye contact is preached to children against anyone who might be spending time doing something on the floor, otherwise trouble would befall them. And so people have become good at pretending that nothing’s wrong, even if all around people are falling down.
Berlin based, Iranian artist Nairy Baghramian’s sculptures challenge established notions in the socio-political-artistic climate, using elements of the title, the human body, gender and the exhibition space itself in the process. In Retainer (2013) organically shaped sheets of cast silicon, reminiscent of teeth, are held up by chrome steel struts, reminiscent of braces, and are arranged in a semi-circular fashion, somewhat like a person’s lower jaw.
While one wonders if he or she has been eaten or become an orthodontist, the piece examines the social notions surrounding ‘space’. By scaling it up, turning one of the most private spaces inside our bodies into a public exhibition, it forces a re-examination of the words ‘examination’, ‘viewing’ or ‘appreciation’.
London based, New Zealand artist Francis Upritchard makes figurine sculptures that embody elements from different epochs, creating characters in various guises and gestures that espouse uncertain intentions and ambiguous meanings.
Disconcerting and slightly deviant, these characters traverse across the ages and cultures, blending the ancient and the (post) modern, eastern and western cultures and sometimes even across gender lines. They generally embody an inherent familiarity; their ambiguously familiar gestures are reminiscent of someone that one might have seen somewhere before, but can’t quite remember where exactly.
The paintings of Israeli artist Tsibi Geva can be seen as a form of neo-abstract expressionism, with references to Robert Rauschenberg and Gerhard Richter, with strong, stark brush strokes and high contrast. His sculptural installations on the other hand are a lot more realistic. Both however draw on the symbols and iconography of everyday life in Tel Aviv.
The keffiyeh, which is a Lebanese scarf with a fish net pattern worn around the head, came to symbolize the Palestinian struggle for a national identity and the armed Intifada uprisings. However the fish net pattern can also in some ways be seen as a chain link fence, as seen in Geva’s Keffiyeh (1994), as well as the fact it was worn by an earlier generation of Jewish fighters during Israel’s struggle for independence.