Location One is proud to announce the first New York exhibition by Afghan artist Lida Abdul. Curated by Pieranna Cavalchini, Curator of Contemporary Art at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, it features a 2006 film entitled “What We Saw Upon Awakening” [6 minutes 50 seconds, 16mm film transferred to DVD].
Lida Abdul’s work is rooted in the devastation of war and in a sublimation of healing. In her videos, Afghani ruins appear as images from a dreamscape – both real and surreal – steeped in forgotten histories and mystery. To acknowledge a ruin in a war torn country, even to pick up a single stone, is to breathe life back into a culture that has been put on hold. The men and women in her films acknowledge their fate, striving to re-awaken by acts of sheer resilience and by compulsive repetitive gestures. Abdul’s films evoke survival and a path to recovery.
In “What We Saw Upon Awakening” the artist has created a surreal vision of the de-construction of a ruin. Remarkable for its compositional beauty and restraint, this film is a meditation on the aftermath of war, exposing the tangled after shocks of destruction, acceptance and renewal. In six minutes of classically framed and beautifully conceived cinematic shots, we watch as a group of men pull in a united effort on long white ropes, straining under this Herculean task. Slowly we grow aware that the ropes are tied to the stone walls of an actual house destroyed by a recent bombing in Kabul, which the men are striving to pull down. At first their efforts seem puny and ineffectual against impossible odds; their actions become a metaphor of all survivors’ attempt to deal with the devastation of war. Later the video ends with a burial ritual, symbolizing closure and a moment of communal healing when the ruins are finally put to rest so that life can begin anew.