Paper, cardboard, sellotape and brown tape, water and water bottles
Shaheen Merali is a visual artist and educator of South Asian descent,
living and working in London. His work interrogates race and cultural
difference in relation to Western society. His work includes sculpture,
installation and performance. The works over the last fifteen years
have addressed manifold issues, bringing together a multiplicity of
languages from different discourses, namely that of the historical,
the political, the kitsch, and play on the absence of knowledge about
the effect of the everyday object and unacknowledged 'unexplored'
territories. Whether as acquisition or escape, art has always fallen
within a wider appropriation of colonised cultures and territories.
The multi-media works reflect on the construction of images, their
context and the historical place of post-colonial discourses around
identity and their contemporary manifestations.
Meralis work for Hygiene is titled After the Deluge.
It consists of a small makeshift stall, a cardboard plinth covered
and sellotaped with a series of torn illustrations from a catalogue
of 'Far away and long ago,'* a collection of drawings and illustrations
from the sixteenth century onwards of natives, bearers, scouts, slaves,
savages, warriors, dancers and chiefs. On the stall stand a number
of reclaimed but discarded bottles, filled with water; once refreshing
and lithe, now scarred and weathered, the bottles are a monument to
their companies, still bearing the design of the makers- embossed
waves, alpine slopes and geometric modernism.
The sculpture, constructed out of recycled images/ objects, attempts
to interrogate our need for the new, the virginal, and untouched territory.
The sealed bottles contents once quenched and sufficed our bodily
functions, as does all consumption, the subject can no longer bear
to see its purchase in the lack. The loss of the pristine, makes the
commodity threatening and unsafe, unhygienic and tarnished by a mantle
of third-worldliness. Audiences are invited to drink from the bottles,
as each bottle will contain water blessed by the recitation of sacred
texts to help cure most conditions
He is currently a lecturer at Central Saint Martins School of Art
and a researcher at the University of Westminster. He is also the
co-founder of Panchayat Arts Education Resource Unit, an issue based
archive currently held at the University of Westminster. Recent solo
exhibitions include the Kunsthalle Exnergasse, Vienna and Art Exchange,
Group exhibitions include Host, Hastings Museum; Site+Sight, Earl
Lau Gallery, Singapore; The Crown Jewels, Kampnagel, Hamburg; Musee
Imaginaire, Museum of Installation (and tour); Ubudoda, Metropolitan
Gallery, Cape Town ; and two survey shows in New York, 'Out of India',
Queens Museum and 'Transforming The Crown', Bronx Museum. His collaborative
performance/ video work, Colored Folks has extensively toured venues
including the ICA and Centre of Attention, London and the National
Review of Live Arts, Glasgow.
*'Far away and long ago' an exhibition of prints and illustrations
at Michael Graham-Stewart, New Bond Street, London, March 2000.
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