Soundtrack to Puzzled Identities
By Hiba Ali
Art and culture have always been at the crossroads of identity. It has given both artists and their audience the opportunity to explore identity through different mediums. Often giving way to multiple identities, languages, cultural references and connections to more places than where one simply resides. The Arab diaspora is one that has a strong cultural presence in the West and while its image has been shaped in a post colonial framework, the people it represents have fused it as part of their own identity in the West. The P21 Gallery in London is promoting contemporary Arab art and culture through reACT, an innovative program supporting young artists whose work facilitates Arab and Middle Eastern heritage. This is an important step in discerning the connections between multiple identities and possibly finding out more about one’s own.
The exhibition Soundtrack to Puzzled Identities is an audiovisual project that aims to dive deeper into the nuanced and often fragmented identity of the Arab diaspora. A series of music themed pop art derived digital illustrations paired with musical mashups. Juxtaposing legendary artists both modern and classical, such as Umm Kulthum and Mashrou’ Leila, the exhibition conveys a sense of nostalgia, shaping the old into something new. It shows what has been lost, slipping between cultures, and contextualizes how a new wave of cross cultural interaction can transcend boundaries and revive the past. The exhibition features vibrant album covers with striking illustrations, one play's Adele’s familiar voice and slowly changes to a melodious Arabic one. The sudden transition perfectly imitates growing up with a backdrop of a different culture, of always switching back and forth and often without even realizing it.
The exhibition is curated by Mishelle Brito, a curator and artistic programmer based in London who likes to explore identity by creating societal dialogue to solve concerns within societies. Much of her work and research examines the phenomena of third cultures and cross cultural exchange. In collaboration with artist Zineb Belrhiti-Alaoui, a self taught Moroccan Artist based in Dubai and a recent graduate of University College London, Zineb's work delves into different subjects through an array of mediums like photography, graphic design and her main focus, digital illustrations. She explores her own unique identity and revisits her heritage through her work.
The exhibition ran from Jul 1st to July 31st; however can still be viewed online here.