carlier | gebauer

Iman Issa, Proxies, with a Life of Their Own, exhibition at TAXISpalais Kunsthalle Tirol, 11 December, 2020 – 7 March, 2021

Caroline Mesquita, IN VIVO, exhibition at Pivô, Saõ Paulo, until 19 December,2020

Guillaume Leblon, special presentation, carlier | gebauer, Berlin, SUNDAY OPEN, 6 December 2020

Asta Gröting, Blinded and the best Light, 2020, special screening for SUNDAY OPEN, 1 November, 2020, 12-6 pm

Showroom, Gallery Weekend Berlin, 2020

Emily Wardill, Night for Day, Secession, Vienna, until 8 November, 2020

Cecilia Edefalk & Pakui Hardware, "– a breath? a name? – the ways of worldmaking", Biennale Gherdëina 7, until 20 October 2020

Iman Issa, Surrogates, Kunstmuseum, Sankt Gallen, until 9 August, 2020

Cecilia Edefalk, Homecoming, Norrköppings Konstmuseum, until 17 January, 2021

Iman Issa, Proxies, with a Life of Their Own, exhibition view at TAXISpalais Kunsthalle Tirol, 2020-2021.
Photo: Günter Kresser.

Iman Issa___Proxies, with a Life of Their Own
December 11, 2020 – March 07, 2021


Iman Issa raises questions about the relevance of forms and iterates the past into virulent
present. With her installations, films, publications, and soand works, Issa creates playful
studies that allow viewers to experience the blind spots that run through present visions of
the past. Historical artifacts, the genre of the artistic self-portrait, film sequences, the history
of ideas, and cultural practices – such as museal conventions of showing and preserving –
are drawn upon, variegated, and reinterpreted. 

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The works challenge the status commonly designated to the images, objects, descriptions, and subjects in the exhibition space by proposing different relationships between them. Each sculptural object, for example, is assigned a text precisely describing in straightforward language an existing object, painting, film scene, et cetera, however these written descriptions are incongruent with the sculptures presented. Although characterized by a high degree of precision and clarity, the individual elements of each work interact with each other and the viewer in a manner resembling a complicated conversation where basic terminology still needs to be negotiated . . . a process of perception that opens up essential questions instead of closing them.

Iman Issa, Proxies, with a Life of Their Own, exhibition view at TAXISpalais Kunsthalle Tirol, 2020-2021.
Photo: Günter Kresser.

For her first comprehensive solo exhibition in Austria, Issa has created numerous new works presented at the TAXISPALAIS within the context of her ongoing work series.

Curated by Nina Tabassomi.

Iman Issa, Proxies, with a Life of Their Own, exhibition view at TAXISpalais Kunsthalle Tirol, 2020-2021.
Photo: Günter Kresser.

Iman Issa, Proxies, with a Life of Their Own, exhibition view at TAXISpalais Kunsthalle Tirol, 2020-2021.
Photo: Günter Kresser.

Iman Issa, Proxies, with a Life of Their Own, exhibition view at TAXISpalais Kunsthalle Tirol, 2020-2021.
Photo: Günter Kresser.

Iman Issa uses a variety of forms and strategies to investigate the political and personal associations of history, language and the object. She creates ambiguous, poetic displays through the juxtaposition of text and object. Heritage Studies, the artist’s most recent series, draws its name from a field of academic and applied inquiry that relates to the understanding and use of history. Rather than proposing a stable reading of history, Heritage Studies examine dynamic sets of relationships — between cultures, sites, and artifacts — to articulate their relevance today. They are neither formal abstractions, nor “pared-down citations of reality,“ but attempts to communicate the act of perceiving the original objects and the relevance that they might hold for the present. “What do these new elements share with their sources if it is not the material, color, appearance, or shape?“ Issa asks “...they share a speech act. They are addressing or saying something similar to each other, and it is perhaps through doing that that they become the same.“

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Heritage Studies is an ongoing series of paired sculptures and texts that explores the void between object and history, unsettling the stability of form and meaning as cultural objects navigating through time and space. Unlike her previous series, Heritage Studies focuses on artifacts from ethnographic and anthropological museums whose meanings are constructed by their designations which she feels have a "particular resonance and communicative ability in the present." Issa engages these objects with history as an existent to designate relationships between sites and artifacts that are contemporarily relevant. Each artwork is presented as a museological display with predetermined didactic labels by the artist.

Iman Issa, Heritage Studies #26, 2017
Brass, wood, vinyl text

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Issa's series Lexicon pairs objects and texts to reevaluate and reinterpret visual art from the 20th century. Issa aims to unpack the possibilities of the original works' titles in order to offer new physical expression of their meanings. Issa remakes historical artworks— including drawings, oil paintings, and lithographs—by presenting framed texts that detail the original work with a new reinterpreted artwork, never disclosing the original art. The display's title is only a hint. The viewer's role is to then reconsider the relationship between object and language; he or she reads the accompanying text that describes the initial artwork and must reconcile Issa's new object. Lexicon was first shown in 2014 at the 8th Berlin Biennial.

Iman Issa, Dialogue (Study for 2019), 2019,
from the larger project Lexicon, Steel, two white shelves, text panel under glass

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Iman Issa uses a variety of forms and strategies to investigate the political and personal associations of history, language and the object. She creates ambiguous, poetic displays through the juxtaposition of text and object. Heritage Studies, the artist’s most recent series, draws its name from a field of academic and applied inquiry that relates to the understanding and use of history. Rather than proposing a stable reading of history, Heritage Studies examine dynamic sets of relationships — between cultures, sites, and artifacts — to articulate their relevance today. They are neither formal abstractions, nor “pared-down citations of reality,“ but attempts to communicate the act of perceiving the original objects and the relevance that they might hold for the present. “What do these new elements share with their sources if it is not the material, color, appearance, or shape?“ Issa asks “...they share a speech act. They are addressing or saying something similar to each other, and it is perhaps through doing that that they become the same.“

Iman Issa, Carnival (Study for 2019), 2019
from the larger project Lexicon, Metal, text panel under glass

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Iman Issa, Fortune Teller (Study for 2013), 2013
from the larger project Lexicon

Iman Issa (b. 1979, Cairo) lives and works in Berlin. She is a recipient of the 2017 Vilcek Prize, the 2015 Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award, the 2013 Abraaj Group Art Prize and HNF-MACBA Award in 2012 and was nominated for the Preis der Nationalgalerie 2017 among others. Recent group and solo exhibitions include DAAD, Berlin; Kunstmuseum, St. Gallen; Whitney Biennial, New York; Bielefelder Kunstverein, Bielefeld; Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, Kunsthalle Lissabon, Spike Island, Bristol; Lisbon; MACBA, Barcelona; Perez Museum, Miami; the 12th Sharjah Biennial; the 8th Berlin Biennial; MuHKA, Antwerp; New Museum, New York; and KW Institute of Contemporary Art, Berlin. Her work is held in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; MACBA, Barcelona; Guggenheim Museum, New York; and Magasin III, Stockholm among others.

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Iman Issa, Proposal for an Iraq War Memorial, 2007
Single-channel video, 5:25 min.
Iman Issa, Proxies, with a Life of Their Own, exhibition view at TAXISpalais Kunsthalle Tirol, 2020-2021.
Photo: Günter Kresser.

Proposal for an Iraq War Memorial challenges the expectation that a memorial should elicit feeling. Further, Iman Issa’s video questions that a memorial should make you feel something by representing or withholding something. Issa shows us a series of images and short video clips sourced from the Internet. Scenes of the Iraq War: gutted cars, dusty streets, US soldiers carrying guns. Interspersed are shots of clouds and open skies—these could have been shot anywhere, they don’t have to be in Iraq, they don’t even have to be real.

The cool voice of a female performer narrates, discussing the banality of the images, the flood of them. Her connections between images are alternately obvious and idiosyncratic, and the position expressed by the narration is one of distance, remove. Rather than seeming dismissive, this is an irony that takes the position of distance as one characterizing an experience of the Iraq War from an American or Western European perspective. Proposal for an Iraq War Memorial addresses those of us who knew the war by looking at it, who lived the war only by looking at it. There is a general familiarity with visual affect, rather than with these specific scenes—accordingly, the narration is concerned with depiction, rather than with the human consequences of the events depicted.

Iman Issa, Proposal for an Iraq War Memorial, 2007
Single-channel video, 5:25 min.

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"The tension between the banal and the sublime is perhaps most evocative in Car Wash, 2006, a twelve-minute static-shot video of a car wash's exit viewed through the occasional interference of passing traffic. In this case, however, the sublime “delivers” alongside the artist’s ironic humor: The effect is surprising and rich—something like discovering the sound of the ocean in a Styrofoam coffee cup."

— Clare Davies, for Artforum, 2008.

Iman Issa, Car Wash, 2006
Single-channel video, 13:21 min.

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Iman Issa, Skyline, 2006
Single-channel video, 6:18 min.

One of Iman’s earlier works, Skyline, stands out to her in the distillation of these questions. She had just arrived to New York to start her Master in Fine Arts degree at Columbia University, and she was acquainting herself with the city by taking walks and photographing what she saw. “Something strange was happening, in that I was coming across a lot of spaces which I’d never been to before, but I felt were strangely familiar,” she said.

Iman started documenting these places, and she edited the footage into a five-minute video, thinking it would become a testament to some unidentified quality that made the city recognizable. However, once viewed altogether, Iman realized that the footage seemed extremely generic. “It looked like images you would find of, in the broadest sense, what a city might be, what an urban space might be,” she said. “And I came up with this idea that perhaps what I was recognizing in these spaces was not the presence of a familiar element, but rather the absence of a distinguishing detail.” 

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