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Sea Change – Chapter 1: Character 1, In the Rough

Hajra Waheed


Tuesday to Saturday, 11am – 6pm, FREE

The first showcase of the opening chapter of Hajra Waheed’s long term project Sea Change, commenced in 2011. This visual novel is dedicated to reclaiming a sense of the intimate, the personal and the poetic from the consequences of regional development, political upheaval, and civil conflict. Through the unfolding narratives of nine individual characters who have disappeared over nine chapters, this ambitious multimedia work aims to engage the viewer in an active sense of looking for the individual story amidst the mass, in turn reflecting on the reductive value of the media’s portrayal of contemporary crisis, particularly in terms of migration.

The exhibition, Sea Change – Chapter 1: Character 1, In the Rough features a series of works that reveal the journey of an individual on a quest to find quartz crystals buried amongst rock. The viewer wanders through the works in the exhibition, looking at the details of this character’s field notes, cut photographs, co-ordinates of unknown places, painted and drawn geographies of sea and geology. The viewer is left questioning whether the story and these materials are autobiography or fiction, or lie somewhere in between. In turn Waheed is drawing us to a wider questioning of the acceptance of presented information as truth, in the context of media, politics and historical representations.

Chapter 1 is composed of interspersed archival and newly-created visual material. The archival imagery was directly sourced from a large deck of 1930-40s photographic postcards, which depict an Orientalised view of people and places in the Global South. These collected materials and imagined representations allow new stories to be constructed. The meaning of the project’s title becomes not only about these characters’ personal voyages of transformation, but material alteration as well.

Character 1’s search remains a reflection on the possibilities of discovery. The immersive visual diary and installation reflects on loss and being lost, of attempting to discover a way towards a destination. As the viewer travels alongside the character it is clear this sought destination is not merely physical or material, but an imagined space that embodies notions of hope, promise and belonging. Underlying all the works in the exhibition is this lingering sense of love and longing.

Hajra Waheed’s oeuvre seeks to address personal, national and cultural identity formation in relation to political history, popular imagination and the broad impact of colonial power globally.  Her mixed-media practice consists of ongoing bodies of work that constitute a growing personal archive – one developed in response to all those seemingly lost amongst rapid regional development and/or political strife.  Although works on paper remain the foundation of her practice, they often act as starting points for larger mixed media installations.  Over the last decade, Waheed has participated in exhibitions worldwide, most recently including: Still Against the Sky, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2015); La Biennale de Montréal, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (2014); Sea Change, Experimenter, Kolkata (2013); (In) the First Circle, Antoni Tàpies Foundation, Barcelona and Lines of Control, Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, NY (2012).  Recipient of the prestigious 2014 Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award for outstanding achievement as a Canadian mid-career visual artist, her works can be found in a number of collections including the Museum of Modern Art, NY, the British Museum, London, the Burger Collection, Hong Kong and Devi Art Foundation, New Delhi. She lives and works in Montréal. www.hajrawaheed.com

The Mosaic Rooms exhibition coincides with Waheed’s first institutional UK solo exhibition at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead (until 30 May 2016)

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