At Dubai’s Carbon 12, two very different takes on communication dovetail

Monika Grabuschnigg’s attention is often on Afghanistan, and her ongoing Warporn project is worth seeking out. But from September 18 until November 7, the Berlin-based artist will be showing her equally fascinating Relics Collection at Alserkal Avenue’s Carbon 12 gallery, along with Beirut-based artist Christine Kettaneh, in a joint exhibition entitled Visceral Silence.

Grabuschnigg’s Relics Collection is inspired by the Afghani War Rugs of the 1980s, when “traditional abstract patterns on rugs gave way to variations of grenades, tanks, and the airplanes of foreign and home forces,” she explains. In her Relics Collection, Grabuschnigg has re-abstracted them into sculptures, layered totem poles where the spoils of war are sandwiched together in pastel shades. They’re presented as exotic flowers, temples, towers of tat. The brassy glazes bleed into one another.

Kettaneh’s collection, Mute Melodies, comprises three pieces. One, irregular black markings on plywood, looks like a vintage piano roll, and is indeed made of keys. But these are the keys we all own — to doors, not songs. They’re the inverse bits and pieces, the discarded negative spaces brought back to life as unbreakable code. But if we can’t read it, who can?

Another piece, a bag of filings, is the by-product of turning metal into key. “Every time a key and the right lock do their affair, that space is reactivated. The pins align in one unique mute melody. And then there is an opening, a closing, a sharing, a stealing and an on and off,” says Kettaneh.

Joining these two artists together, then, raises the question: If these are souvenirs, what are the memories?

A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, The Collectors Issue #38, page 31.