Rehana Zaman @ Tenderpixel
ZM - 4th Dec 2016
It sounds strange but I find it difficult to write about things I really like in a straightforward way.
I don’t know how to not gush, or how to disentangle my own investment from the real or tangible way it has affected me. So I won’t try, but hopefully you’ll be able to see where these two things start, end, or meet each other.
The three video works flip between three scenes or settings.
Farah, a woman who could be any of my aunts. Farah is cooking, speaking about identity / sexuality / her radical self-actualisation / self-emancipation is something she brushes past casually like it was a phase in her life / NBD / she is my youngest aunt who wears stan smiths and listens to Nas but makes a killer biriyani and Believes / she is where east meets west / somewhere between these two things where women are free but still unashamedly b r o w n / she is radical in a casual way / her politics are personal and her life is an example of what radical softness and self-care means in practice / the stakes are high for her but she doesn’t bother caring / she is insistent on living life on her own terms / when I was young, my grandmother told me not to bow to any one but Allah. No Kings, no crowds, no man, not ever. It was only recently that I thought perhaps she didn’t mean bow literally, but maybe figuratively.
A 3D rendered woman. She is lumpy brown and the texture of her skin matches the landscape of her background (the landscape is barren). She is uncanny, I guess, and maybe abject but I’m not sure. She moves like a bird, you know, the way their heads move kinda funny bc their eyes are on the sides? Her body slides and ripples. She makes me feel uncomfortable because I’m not sure if she’s meant to look like she knows I’m looking, but I feel conspicuous. I feel bad for looking at her, making her the object of my gaze. She runs at the viewer/the camera. Her mouth opens. She swallows us whole. The inside of her mouth / back of her throat is textured too.
A screen-capture of the government’s Prevent website. It was funny, and it fit, but I don’t know why. I’m not sure what connection it made in my mind, but I liked that it was there, and it definitely made sense to me. The tinny musak in the background was soooooo deadpan. Be careful bc radicalisation is e v e r y w h e r e. It felt like an insert you’d see somewhere on brown twitter. All that was missing was the funny tweet caption, but I guess that’s the joke.
I am invested. In the political arena brown women find themselves in when they put their bodies/their minds/their body of work into public space. And it is SO easy for this line of questioning to become didactic, to slip into polemic, to expect complicity where 2016 has firmly let us know that we are on our own. The works in this show expected no complicity. They knew some of you aren’t here for us, that you reject the frightening assertion that we should be equal and guarded. They gently probed where brown muslim women are positioned and where they position themselves. What does radically look like when we wear it? The works stretched against the thin membrane around us, that binds us. Complicity is naive, maybe that’s what I mean when I say didacticism isn’t necessarily the best way to deal with this as a topic. The didactic, as a force of essentialism, can be easily rejected in its singularity. The instability of these works, their form, makes them stickier and harder to flush out. They have more autonomy to argue. Assert themselves. Occupy the space they are in.
I loved this show, I loved the works. It is important it’s there and that importance is urgent. As I left, I felt a tear form in my left eye (but it was windy so probably just a wind-tear). I texted my friend Seema telling her to go see this show; it made me think of her and I know she would love it. I recommend this to You.
The show 'Tell me the story Of all these things' is on till 28th Jan @ Tenderpixel