BY DENA AL-ADEEB AND SAMA ALSHAIBI
The collaborative project titled Baghdadi Mem/Wars is a video and photography three suite series: Still/Chaos, Efface/Remain and Absence/Presence.
Still/Chaos: Video 2 minutes: 12 photos
Efface Passing/Remain: Video 2 minutes: 9 photos
Absence/Presence: Video 2 minutes: 18 photos
All work produced at an artist residency at Light Work in Syracuse, New York.
Its conceptual premise is rooted in the corporal, intellectual and emotional embodiment of war and displacement. Emanating from our lived experiences and personal bodily memory of a lifetime in the trenches of an undying war, Baghdadi Mem/Wars paints the landscape of our brush with annihilation. The psychosomatic narrative manifests and replays on the topography of body, memory and spirit.
Still/Chaos: Trapped in a collapsing white padded room, two female protagonists (performed by the artists themselves) negotiate the triptych of human deprivation. The white padded room resembles an insane asylum and a state of mind. The space acts as a mirror into oneself, each other and the outside. The stoic figures stand still in the cube room in contrast to the chaotic cacophony inside and outside of them. In an increasingly enclosing space, the figures are propelled into one another with an intensifying interaction that crafts the dual faces of survival, rebellion and resignation.
Efface/Remain: The writer meditatively and repeatedly writes the same sentence on the wall. The sentence on the wall is of a verse of a poem titled The Strangers by Nazek Al Malaika. She is a prominent Iraqi poet who is known for her pioneering work in the free verse movement in Arabic poetry. The text translates to: With the passing of time silence is like the mood of winter. The need to write, document, archive and express cultural memories into material expressions is continuously erased by socio-political forces driving a project of historical amnesia. The fear of eraser and loss propels toward an insistence on documenting, preserving of cultural memories, language and history. Hence the act of writing in itself becomes a political intervention and preoccupation with historicizing and of maintaining culture and preserving a community. After the violent act of eraser is complete, one can still see the residue of the past on the walls. The writer begins again to write once more with a new voice.
Absence/Presence: The concept of absence and presence is explored through the two figures and their relationship to each other as well as the landscape around them. Even though the walls have been removed and the figures stand in an open and vast plain, the sense of isolation, entrapment and suffocation is still present. The illusion of infinity and possibility is a mirage that is not real. The representation is of home, belonging, not belonging, displacement, diaspora and of return. The figures are lost in this wilderness stricken by solitude. The figures are ghost like reminding us of loss, war and dislocation.