PICA: Khaled Sabsabi and Amalia Pica

PICA Amalia Pica, Yerkish, 2018 - photo by Louis LimFrom August to October, Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA) will be transformed with two new solo exhibitions featuring the work of Khaled Sabsabi and Amalia Pica.

A Self Portrait – Khaled Sabsabi
A Self Portrait
is the most significant exhibition to date for Lebanese born and Australian-based Khaled Sabsabi. Curated by PICA Senior Curator Eugenio Viola, the exhibition features a selection of his works over an eleven year period, including those not previously exhibited and an entirely new piece, after which the exhibition is titled.

Sabsabi, who first exhibited at PICA in the 2005 Hatched National Graduate Show exhibition, has come full circle with this mid-career select survey that follows his recent acclaim at the 21st Biennale of Sydney and the 2018 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art.

Following the outbreak of civil war in Lebanon (1975-1990), Sabsabi migrated with his family to Australia in 1978. Since the late 1980s, he has been working with communities on projects promoting cultural awareness and acceptance through the exploration of place, identity, displacement and marginalisation.

Sabsabi’s work uses a variety of media, including video, photography, painting, textiles and multifaceted installations. It is heavily informed by Sufi spirituality, his own experience of moving between communities and geopolitical factors.

A focal point for the exhibition at PICA is Sabsabi’s latest work, A self- portrait, comprising 114 individual pieces, each consisting of seven different layers, signifying the seven different segments of the ‘Nafs’ (Arabic, Persian and Urdu for ‘the self’).

Also on display will be a 4 metre wide hand embroidered ‘sanjaq’ – a sacred cloth used for important Sufi rituals and ceremonies. Each Sufi order has many unique sanjaq cloths and the map embroidered on this sanjaq references the lineage of the various but interconnected Sufi orders of Sabsabi’s ancestors.

The sanjaq also relates to two cities: Tripoli in Lebanon, where Sabsabi was born, and Danke in North Lebanon, which are both regarded as important centres for mystic Sufi orders and their histories. This work, Corner, brings into focus an understanding of how diverse geographies and philosophies can be linked through the movement and spiritual practice of people and place.

“We are living in an upsurge of intolerance at every level, and too often people wrongfully connect terrorism with Islam,” says Senior Curator Eugenio Viola. “Khaled, like other Muslims around the world, is spreading awareness that Islam is a religion of peace. I hope this exhibition will help our understanding of the Islamic world.”

please open hurry – Amalia Pica
Internationally acclaimed, Argentinian-born and London based Amalia Pica presents her first solo exhibition in Australia with new and recent works exploring the techniques, potential and shortcomings of communication between different species. please open hurry reveals the artist’s longstanding interest in language, comprehension, misunderstanding, translation and listening through sculpture, photography, installation, performance and video.

In 2014, these interests led Pica to undertake a Gashaka Primate Project artistic residency in Nigeria, where she observed the lives and single tool use of chimpanzees. Since that initial research, Pica deepened her understanding of communication with and between the Great Apes through a residency at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, Colorado, where she connected with leading specialists.

Pica’s research has resulted in a number of works: three video works created with filmmaker Rafael Ortega in 2017 and 2018, a choreographed dance work with Brisbane-based dancer Michael Smith, three groups of cast objects and a large-scale sculpture featuring 254 handmade collages.

The work that lends its title to the exhibition, please, open, hurry (in memory of Washoe) is a reference to ground-breaking communication research with apes raised in human households in which American Sign Language was used by primatologists. A famous subject was the Chimpanzee Washoe, who used this simple sentence structure to request to go outside her enclosure.

please open hurry is curated at PICA by Senior Curator Eugenio Viola and has been developed in partnership with The Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane and The Power Plant, Toronto, with the support of the Keir Foundation.

“These two exhibitions, in combination, provide a moving, playful and at times profound examination of how we encounter –  and seek to overcome –  cultural, religious, language and communication differences,” says PICA Director Amy Barrett-Lennard. “PICA is proud to be bringing the work of these two very compelling artists to Perth.”

Khaled Sabsabi (born in 1965, Tripoli, Lebanon) lives and works in Sydney. He has held solo exhibitions at the Islamic Museum of Australia, Melbourne (2014), Artspace, Sydney (2012), 4A, Sydney (2009), Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts, Auckland (2007), Casula Powerhouse and Campbelltown Arts Centre, Sydney (2005).

He has participated in the 3rd Kochi Biennale, 1st Yinchuan Biennale, 5th Marrakech Biennale, 18th Biennale of Sydney, 9th Shanghai Biennale, Sharjah Biennial 11, 1st Yinchuan Biennale, 3rd Kochi Muziris Biennale, 2018 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art and the 21st Biennale of Sydney. His work is present in private, national and international collections.

Amalia Pica (born in 1978, Neuquén, Argentina) lives and works in London. She has held solo exhibitions at the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane; NC Arte, Bogotá (both in 2017); Kunstverein Freiburg (2016); Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (2014); Museo Tamayo, Mexico City (2013); Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, (2013); MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge (2013); Chisenhale Gallery (2011), among others.

She has also participated in group exhibitions around the world, including Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.), The Netherlands (2016); Mass MoCA, Massachusetts, USA (2016); Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna (2016); Centre Pompidou, Paris (2015); Whitechapel Gallery, London (2015); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2014). Her work was featured in the Gwangju Biennale (2016) and the 54th Venice Biennale (2011).

A Self Portrait – Khaled Sabsabi / please open hurry – Amalia Pica
Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA), 51 James Street, Northbridge
Exhibition: 4 August – 7 October 2018
Free admission

For more information, visit: www.pica.org.au for details.

Image: Amalia Pica, Yerkish, 2018 – photo by Louis Lim