An adventure into art in a digital time going online has been a trend for some time now, but it has never been as relevant and important as it has become during the covid-19 pandemic. Simply put, it has developed into a tool to connect the world virtually in order to continue business, with the aim of replacing the physical presence. In the art world, however, it has left many people perplexed as to how to continue having a ‘normal’ relationship with others through a screen. The challenge becomes even greater when it comes to experiencing artworks, particularly those that were not originally conceived to be experienced digitally. Can the representation of an image ever recreate or reflect the experience that would usually take place in a physical encounter? SELECTIONS set off on a quest to find out. We invited 10 guests to describe one artwork of their choice, first in an objective way, but then more subjectively and contextually. The results are as unique as our participants and form this issue’s experimental catalogue.
Nada Raza describes
The Blue Drawings, 2018
accompanied by an excerpt of
sound-based work entitled These
Fissures in the Deep.
The Blue Drawings, 2018
20.32 x 15.24 cm each, set of 14
Edition of 4
Courtesy of the artist and Grey
This artwork is accompanied by an
These Fissures in the Deep, 2019
25-minute-long audio work
For the virtual edition of Abu Dhabi Art in 2020, I curated the section A Picture Held us Captive, which considered the implications of exhibitions moving online at a time when our relationship to communication and to time was being transformed by the quick pivot into working and presenting projects purely online. I was struck by the primacy of the visual in the work we were collectively doing in the digital space, and wanted to push against that by making a show that allowed for other media – sound, text, digitally native work – to be given precedence over the art object. I also wanted to play with the durational aspect of making a virtual show, exhibiting only one work a day over the eight days of the fair, both resisting the instant gratification of social media, and also toying with its form.
These two works by Fazal Rizvi were both rendered digitally, so to speak. The suite of minimalist works, The Blue Drawings (2018) are a discrete set of works made by manipulating a single form, the parenthesis or humble bracket. The artist had explored the oceanic both in terms of form and experience over a period of years, working and thinking along Karachi’s coast and working ports, and the operation of the sea as a lung for a crowded metropolis. The parenthesis is used to contain a single exhalation, repeated to produce wave-like patterns, scattered to suggest a flotilla… I find the series allows my imagination to wander with his, and there is something thoughtful and suggestive in these works, but done with a lightness of touch that I enjoy. For the virtual booth, these are ‘shown’ alongside an excerpt from a later work, a sound piece first executed for the Colomboscope Arts Festival curated by Natasha Ginwala in 2019. These Fissures in the Deep excavates our imagination of the undersea in a long form audio essay which moves from the descriptive to the poetic, moving from a seascape, the sound of crashing waves, into a man’s voice which beckons us to follow him into unknown depths
“What do you know about the surface, about
this surface? How does it feel? Is it tender? Is it
Does it crack open? Do you not know what lies
beneath it? The surface is only shallow, it is
superficial they say; it glistens and reflects. But
today is not about the surface, today we are not
here to stay afloat, but we are instead venturing
deep down into the abyss.
Are you with me?
Oh wait, did you see that? There is something
floating by, wait let me grab it.
(The sound of paper)
Is this a map? What language is this? Oh, do
you see that? Those names and details have
been scratched and written over by another, in
another language. Right? Is this an occupied
map? Is it a coast that has been taken over?
Showing a land that doesn’t belong? Ah well,
let’s move on. Now take a deep breath, inhale
and you should be ready for immersion, but you
have to remember that the immersion has to
happen both physically and mentally. So be
receptive as we descend into this world, deep
Now, are you ready?
(Takes a deep breath and goes under water)”
A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE APPEARED IN PRINT IN SELECTIONS #54
Nada Raza is curatorial advisor for Alserkal Arts Foundation. She was the founding artistic director of the Ishara Art Foundation in Dubai, where she curated Altered Inheritance: Home is a Foreign Place with Shilpa Gupta and Zarina Hashmi, and Body Building, a thematic exhibition of lens-based work, both in 2019. Prior to this, Raza was research curator at Tate Research Centre: Asia, with a particular focus on South Asia. Raza co-curated Bhupen Khakhar: You Can’t Please All (2016), and organised displays of work by international artists including Meshac Gaba, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Zarina Hashmi, Sheela Gowda, Amar Kanwar and Mrinalini Mukherjee. Raza was guest curator of the Abraaj Capital Art Prize (2014) and curated a thematic exhibition, The Missing One, for the Dhaka Art Summit in Bangladesh and the Office for Contemporary Art in Norway (2016). She has also worked on international art at the Institute for International Visual Art (Iniva) and at Green Cardamom in London. She holds an MA from the Chelsea College of Art and Design and is a doctoral candidate at the Courtauld Institute of Art.