Each is a participant in Ikon’s Arrivals programme, concerned with the international movement of people and ideas and organised to coincide with the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
On Ikon’s first floor, Australian Aboriginal artist Yhonnie Scarce presents a major new suspended glass installation, The Near Breeder (2022). Born in Woomera, South Australia, Scarce belongs to the Kokatha and Nukunu peoples. Working with glass, she explores the political nature and aesthetic qualities of the material – in particular corresponding to the crystallisation of desert sand as a result of British nuclear tests during 1956-63 in Maralinga, formerly part of the Woomera Prohibited Area.
The Near Breeder comprises approximately 800 individually hand-blown glass shapes that resemble yams, a primordial vegetable in Aboriginal food and a symbol of the connection to “Country”. Hanging from the ceiling, they evoke both an explosion and a cloud of inverted water drops, marking the many deaths resulting from nuclear testing. The work, produced at the University of Wolverhampton, is the culmination of Scarce’s Ikon residency (2020-22), developed in partnership with TarraWarra Museum of Art and consultant curator Hetti Perkins. Scarce’s concern for the environment is reflected in a simultaneous presentation at Palais de Tokyo - in collaboration with Ikon - as part of a group exhibition Reclaim the Earth (15 April – 4 September 2022).
Also on Ikon’s first floor is the work of Fijian-Australian artist Salote Tawale and British-Afghan artist Osman Yousefzada as part of the UK/Australia Season 2021-22, the largest ever cultural exchange between the two nations. Made in Birmingham/Made in Sydney is a ground-breaking collaboration between Ikon in Birmingham and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) in Sydney, through which Tawale and Yousefzada explore questions of identity and belonging via two new video artworks.
Salote Tawale's work YOU, ME, ME, YOU (2022) features footage made by the artist, family and friends; it is a montage of imagery that combines role-play, television reenactments, social media posts and an imaginary pop music video. Exploring themes of proximity, distance and friendship, this new work includes a cast of collaborators, from Tawale's relatives, to her artist friends, the queer community in Australia and a chosen family of individuals who have been brought together by diasporic contexts, living and working away from homelands. Re-performing aspects of their shared experiences, the participants depict the loneliness, comfort, inspiration and support found within these familial and friendship networks during a period of isolation and restriction due to COVID-19. Tawale’s video is a dedication to these important relationships in all their forms and a celebration of how our differences can unite us during difficult times.
Following the success of his first moving image work, Her Dreams Are Bigger (2018), Osman Yousefzada returned to the subcontinent for the production of his new digital commission. Filmed in sites of ritual in Pakistan, Spaces of Transcendence (2022) is a story of environments, characters and gestures. Here a secret language and its repetition is deployed in accessing a space of transcendence where the needs of marginalised voices are fulfilled. Occupying centre ground, and recognised as vehicles of access to another realm or to the divine, are the Fakir/Yogi (Brides of God), the Khawaja Sara (a Transgender person) and the Feminine Male (distinct from a Khawaja Sara). Shrines/cemeteries, alams (pennon/flags), bathing rituals, hand and body movements and the dying of cloth and its fibres are the backdrop for this transformative magic.
The new works by Salote Tawale and Osman Yousefzada will launch online via Ikon and MCA websites.
Ikon’s second floor is dedicated to a solo exhibition, OUT OF FRAME, by Nigerian artist Abdulrazaq Awofeso, who has recently arrived in Birmingham from Lagos. It comprises work made entirely from discarded wooden pallets. Widely used to transport goods around the world, this material forms a metaphor of human migration, as well as the artist’s own frequent journeys between Nigeria, South Africa and Europe.
Lastly in Ikon’s Tower Room we present the work of Haffendi Anuar, an artist from Malaysia, whose work spans sculpture, painting, installation and drawing. Based in both Kuala Lumpur and London, Anuar’s experience of life between continents has led to an interest in using his creative practice to explore postcolonialism, architecture, ways of living and identity construction. This exhibition, titled Rumah Berkaki (Legged House), brings together Unit (2021) - sculpture which explores the iconography of the kain pelikat, a colourful sarong worn by men across South and South-East Asia for centuries - and Cobweb (2021) - paintings which revise existing photographs from the artist’s family albums and the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford.