Spanning three continents, Pathan negotiates the notion of provenance and intra-cultural identity constructed through pop culture.
The exhibition opens with an audio archive from the White Tiger Project – a research project Pathan undertook in 2017, looking at the experiences of second and third generation descendants of East African Indian indentured laborers, that came from India to East Africa – echoing Pathan’s own heritage. At the moment, this archive focuses on descendants living in Britain, who may be a century removed from their ethnic heritage. In an interview with Katherine Fry, Pathan describes the disjuncture of this experience:
“One of the participants says when people ask her where she is from she can’t answer truthfully about her provenance. There seems to be an insistence on provenance especially within contemporary art and in political discussions today…. And if you’re a diaspora… it feels untrue to call one place your home. That’s why this archive opens the show, and instead of a press release – their stories create my context when there isn’t already a context written for me.”
Pathan’s interdisciplinary practice weaves together memory, technology and subjectivity – and explores the contradictions inherent within our understanding of identity and belonging. The works they have created for Fire Rooster question the dominant narrative and center a set of stories and images that are often invisible. Describing the evolving sculpture-animation work, brown gal time machine, Pathan says:
“The brown gal time machine is a way of documenting my own history or ancestry made up through pop culture references that also documents who I am. In pop-culture, news media – especially in contemporary art I find it incredibly difficult to place myself anywhere because I don’t see much work from female/queer/gay POC who are also Muslim – I don’t see so much of that around so it difficult for my work to find a conversation to sit within. So the time machine for me is a way to start that conversation – to locate myself within a history when much of my own history has been hidden away or destroyed.”
Playing deftly between history and imagination, pop and opera, past and future, India, East Africa and Britain, Fire Rooster invites us to join the conversation.