the world through a prism
Shwan Dler Qaradaki & Behjat Omar Abdolla - Human Condition
February 27th - March 15th, 2015
Staring at the world, we never really see the same thing. Every experience and every memory is shaping and coloring what is in front of us. We are always carrying with us our past, and whether you were born in small city in Norway, a rural village in Mozambique or in a conflict zone in Kurdistan; it will in some way or another affect your perception on the world. Similarly, who we are, what we have experienced and where we come from will also shape how others perceive us. There is no neutral ground.
In Human Condition, Shwan Dler Qaradaki and Behjat Omer Abdulla seem to on one side investigate how identities are constructed, maintained and altered in a multicultural world, but simultaneously how these mechanism can be manipulated, causing people to turn on each other in the name of religion, ethnicity or physical resources.
Both Behjat drawings and Shwan watercolor portraits have an intense presence. Based on both private and press photos, Behjat recreates them as drawings that changes from near photo-realism to subtle but eerie distortions. This gives them a more subjective character, like they have been reconstructed from memories; some seem to be only vaguely remembered while others appear to be etched in his conscience. Where some of Behjat’s drawings recall the more objective press photo, we sense that the men portrayed by Shwan’s portraits are people he knew personally. They are lovingly depicted, and their strong gaze almost brings them to life in front of the spectator. Knowing that not all of these men are longer alive creates a sense of melancholy and loss, accentuated by the absence of color in the paintings.
Depending on whom you ask, a person can be both a freedom fighter and a terrorist, and the words we use are loaded with both literal and subliminal meanings. Shwan’s film Heaven before a battle depicts his brother, Kawa, a famed Kurdish news reporter who preaches nationalist attitudes and crying for Kurdish liberation through armed conflict. In this artistic context the focus shifts from the content of Kawa’s propaganda to the rhetorical act. In Norway we know little about the suffering the Kurds have had to endure or the crimes they have committed, and one should be hesitant to immediately pass judgment on a man who wishes to end oppression, even if his means is an armed revolution. Yet juxtaposed to Behjat’s drawings from Kobani and Keferghan, it becomes difficult to see how aggression can be a viable solution. The exhibition does not offer any easy answers, but understanding the nuances, Behjat and Shwan merely outlines to the complexities of our human condition.
The purpose of sharing these memories is not an attempt to make us see the same things (that would be impossible), but rather to have us acknowledge the difference. Interpretation is endless, but we need stories like these in order to come to the very realization that we do not understand. This revelation can in turn act as a catalyst for critical reflection and constructive dialogs. When there is no neutral ground, gathering and sharing different perspectives becomes an important, life-long project in the quest for a deeper understanding of our self and “the other.”