By: B. Boyd
Jalil Barati: "His documentary photographs offer images of Afghan people and places that encourage substance over mere recognition," according to VisArts exhibit release.
Across nine and a half time zones, artists from MICA have collaborated with student artists from the Center for Contemporary Arts Afghanistan (CCAA, Kabul, Afghanistan) to create an exciting and ambitious exhibit that responds to the virtual, long-distance communicative process at hand. That makes it sound almost straightforward or easy; the process hasn’t been simple. In fact, some assigned creative partnerships have even disintegrated.
Largest obstacles, according to project curator Susan Main, a professor at MICA: “Time zones, bandwidth, personal lives, security, suicide bombs, sickness, holidays, patience, the unknown, art cultural context, cultural context, language.”
The word daunting comes to mind.
“For example: Kata Frederick rarely heard from [her partner] Ali [Akhlaqi] after an initial flurry of activity,” Main explains. “Then, as the exhibition was being installed, he sent me jpegs of really terrific photographs and an extremely articulate art statement, email, etc. Turns out that he has lots of trouble with English. He relied on having his brother Tariq by his side when he was trying to write an email or Skype with Kata or me. We never knew — until the very end — that that was the reason for his reluctance to communicate. Now that he has revealed that, the conversation has started on a new level.”
Above, “Kata Frederick (MICA grad) and Ali Akhlaqi, screenshot 2013-01-31 at 10:51:09 a.m., ‘Baltimore Hears Kabul/Kabul Hears Baltimore’; Frederick and Akhlaqi created videos of their daily environments. The videos mesh together visually and aurally in unexpected ways using a computer program. Akhlaqi’s video triggers a response from Frederick’s and vice versa; one action in one part of the world creates an action in another part of the world.”
Professor Rahraw Omarzad of CCAA worked with Main to match students and provide them with grant money. The show is currently on display in the Kaplan Gallery at VisArts through Sunday, March 31.
“I am really happy with the results,” says Main. “This was a very hard way to make art. The gesture toward another art maker in a faraway place was really most important. The work took many forms collaboratively but still retained enough of the individual maker’s presence that I feel almost as if the work stands in for the missing artists. That really surprised me and touched me. Suddenly I could feel the individual presence of each of the artists whose work is in the exhibition. We went through so many stages of connection and disconnection. The exhibit — the artwork – is evidence that conversations did occur and that the experience affected all of the artists.”
Participating artists include: Alex D’Agostino, Ali Akhlaqi, Luis Arboleda, Jalil Barati, DeAndre Britton, Renato Flores, Kata Frederick, Angela Hong, Nabi Hussaini, Mariam Nabil Kamal, Mumtaz Khan Chopan, May Kim, Sara Nabil, Setareh Salehi Arashloo, Bailey Sheehan, Arzoo Waseeq, and Mohammad Mahdi Hassanzada.
Main anticipates perhaps the most daunting (but potentially exhilarating) aspect of the artistic program.
“Now to complete the exchange the exhibition will travel to Kabul,” Main says. “This will not be easy. Secure spaces for exhibition are almost non-existent. They come with huge rental fees. The fact that this project was funded in part by the CEC ArtsLink and MICA helped us begin, but we hope for support to make this a true exchange. For this sort of exhibition to occur in Afghanistan would be a first between young American and Afghan artists.”
VisArts is located in Rockville Town Square, three blocks from the Rockville Metro at 155 Gibbs Street, Rockville, MD. Beginning in 2013, the three gallery spaces at VisArts will be open on Wednesday from 12–4 p.m., Thursday and Friday from 12–8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 12–4 p.m. For additional information, please visit online or call (301) 315-8200. Read full story here