MISREADING
curated by Clare Davies (EG)



Iman Issa and Nadine Khan.

The inclusion of these video works by Iman Issa and Nadine Khan may appear incongruous in the context of “Conscious in Coma”, a video screening programme directly referencing “the current unbalanced and partially devastated state of the globe accompanied by…collective silence and blindness.” Neither piece echoes the appeal to the globally or regionally oriented conscience suggested in the title of the programme. While both are relevant to a particular approach to this ethically inflected framework of consciousness, their specific relevance manifests differently in each.

CARWASH and One in A Million are offered as misreadings of the posited comatose consciousness that has absented itself (or has been absented) from social and political engagement. If in fact, these works address consciousness, this is affected through the viewer's changing sensitivity to their involvement in the experience - as in the viewer’s implication within the field of vision in Issa's work, or the ambiguous substitution of narrative framework with time as a productive system in Khan's. The works defy readability as representations of people, places and situations; terms of consciousness aren’t defined for the viewer. However, both videos reward the viewer’s sustained involvement with the terms of their respective visual and structural elements as the precondition for perceiving the (broadly defined) political consciousness at work in each piece.

The intention or attribution of the political within works of art has a contentious history and appears equally problematic today, especially in the common demand on artists linked to the Middle East to speak to the dramatic political and social “realities” of the region. The pieces included here point to shifts in perceptual and conceptual engagement as the basis for a consciousness that implicates the viewer within the world.
Artist(s): Iman Issa
Title: Carwash
Country of production: USA
Year of Production: 2006

The everyday functionality of the carwash gives way to the monumentality suggested by the newly cleaned cars as they emerge into the "real world" of the street, and of people, their labour, and their activity. What often appears to be a seamless shot is in fact a discontinuous series of edits of the same locale. A seemingly sustained focus on the same scene allows the viewer an increasingly nuanced and complex field of vision through an implication of their own position and gaze. The simultaneous dramatic visuality and quiet understatement of Issa's piece suggests a deep investment in the structures and poetics of the everyday through the detached absorption of the viewer.

Artist(s): Nadine Khan
Title: One in A Million
Country of production: Egypt
Year of Production: 2006

One in A Million alternates between a series of scenes unfolding at different points throughout the city. The marking of time frames the activities of the characters: a group of young adolescent boys left to their own devices, the fragmented conversations of a wedding party as it crosses a bridge, the idle card-games and conversation of two guards and the tinny radio dramas attended by another. The piece itself is predicated on a specific period of time, determining an endpoint according to a seemingly arbitrary duration. The work's claim to non-narrativity through the delineation of a series of (ambiguously) non-narrative "moments", suggests a resistance to readability while evoking the density of lived experience, of conventions, of language within a process of ongoing negotiation.