Home Thoughts from Abroad is an exhibition curated by Joanna Kitto, her first since taking on the role of curator at praxis ARTSPACE. The exhibition brings together artists from various ethnic backgrounds who are living and working in Adelaide, and focuses on issues around identity and displacement through personal experiences.
“They all deal with political and social issues from their homelands but they are living and working in Adelaide,” Kitto says. “What I was really interested in is how their art practice changes in a place like Australia where there is freedom of speech.”
Take Chinese artist Badiucao for instance. He moved to Australia seven years ago because he wanted to make art that was politically challenging which wasn’t possible in China. Badiucao uses Twitter to challenge the censorship and dictatorship in China under the regime of President Xi Jinping. His cartoons have been used by Amnesty International, the BBC and the UN.
Badiucao, Little Red App, 2016
In this exhibition, Kitto presents a number of Badiucao’s political posters as well as a sculpture of 4000 pencils which have been shipped over from China, hand-sharpened and fixed to the base of the bed he slept on for seven years after arriving in Australia.
“By taking out the mattress and putting in a bed of nails using sharp pencils, Badiucao is commenting on the troubled sleep of an activist artist and the hours and hours spent in turmoil thinking about these things,” Kitto says.
Also featured in the exhibition are a number of video works by Elyas Alavi that explore notions around displacement and identity. Alavi fled Afghanistan when he was six years old to nearby Iran, eventually moving to Australia in 2007.
“I could never go back to the village but I always wanted to go and visit my brother and sister and to find the room I was born in,” Alavi says. “When I was living in Iran it was always pointed out that I wasn’t from there, so I was thinking, ‘Is there a place I really belong to?’”
Elyas Alavi, Detention Camp (ordugah), 2014, Mashad Iran, still from video.
The video work Mother of Time is the result of Alavi’s trip back to Afghanistan to the house he grew up in. The film features his nanny as well as the child of his best childhood friend. The video is projected onto the floor with rocks encircling the image. These rocks have been collected from near his home in Afghanistan as well as his new home in Adelaide.
There are two other video works featured in the exhibition that are both filmed in Iran – Blood Sample and Ordugah (Detention Camp). These works look at the difficulties and restrictions experienced by Afghanis living in Iran where they are considered foreigners – Alavi’s parents still live there and face many of these issues.
The exhibition also features a large mural by Aida Azin which she has painted directly onto a wall. Like many artists from a mixed background – Azin’s father is Iranian and her mother Filipino – much of her work explores issues around identity. Azin uses text and humour in her work to comment on her own struggles with identity as well as the political situation in the Phillipines.
Aida Azin, “Feeding Fishes” (work in progress, detail), 2017 (photo: Jessica Clark)
The artists in Home Thoughts from Abroad are linked through similar experiences of dislocation and displacement and while the works are very political they also have a personal thread running through them. The personal nature of these works has resulted in an exhibition that is thought-provoking and makes the audience reflect on their own identity.
Home Thoughts from Abroad
Elyas Alavi, Aida Azin and Badiucao
Until Thursday, April 6
Header image: Aida Azin, “Feeding Fishes” (work in progress, detail), 2017 (photo: Jessica Clark)