AboutCurated by Noor Kadhim and Piero Tomassoni, this exhibition brings together the work of Rä di Martino, an Italian artist whose travels have taken her across North Africa, and Nedim Kufi, an exiled Iraqi artist who now lives and works in the Netherlands. The show presents a dialogue between the two artists' works, exploring the relationship between fiction and reality, past and future, and the ethereal concept of home and habitat. In particular, what does home represent for displaced peoples, and to what extent is there an interrelationship between the real and the imagined, when one thinks of home?
The work of Rä di Martino often deals with the duality between reality and fiction. The artist's background in theatre and her passion for film emerge in her video work, which is often cinematographic in theme and experimental in nature. However, for some of her most recent works, she has begun working with photography, exploring a different kind of imagery. Enticed by abandoned Hollywood sets in North Africa, di Martino's travels in Morocco and Tunisia resulted in a profound engagement with these contemporary ruins. Ranging from basic dwellings to elaborate temples, these sets formed part of the fictional habitat of film characters. Today however their ruins appear to substantiate the history of inhabitants that never existed.
Gazing at the remains of the familiar Star Wars set in her series âEvery World is a Stage' triggers a sense of mild discomfort, as the delusionary power of the human imagination is realised. A film that has been capable of projecting us into the distant future has ironically left behind ruins that look as ancient as any imperial palace or historical edifice. Only by coming closer, and knocking on the structures' walls, does the onlooker realise that these walls are made of plywood and plaster. Born in Rome and having lived in Turin, New York and London, di Martino's interest in Luke Skywalker's house, portrayed in the series 'No More Stars (Star Wars)' is born in part from the artist's longing for a home of her own.
Adding context to her photographs is the video work âCopies Recéntes de Paysages Anciens' that explores the various abandoned film sets she encountered in Morocco. From historic temples to a fake Mecca, Di Martino contrasts this artifice with the stunning natural environment, the reality of which also appears questionable in this context. Accompanied by their teacher playing the flute, two local children recite lines from past films including Laurence of Arabia, which was shot in this location only for its sets to crumble to dust.
While di Martino's work is rooted in notions of fantasy, Nedim Kufi contemplates the direct realities of home and displacement. Identifying personally with the plight of his subjects, Kufi presents a series of photographs from the 1930s of the Palestinian residents of Jaffa, now part of Israel. The photographs originally appeared in a book by Frank Scholten, a Dutch photographer who travelled in Palestine in an attempt to discover more about these âexotic' lands and people.
Kufi discovered the publication by chance in a second-hand shop in Holland. He was fascinated to find these images of people, soon displaced after the photos were taken, merged with native Dutch flowers which had been pressed dry between the pages. The word âJaffa' means dry in Arabic, and struck by this chance cultural juxtaposition he was moved to transpose the real flowers over the original images from the Scholten book.
The flower is a strong historical symbol of a Dutch culture united by trade and prosperity - the integration of this image with that of a displaced people unites the subject of each photograph within a newly shared visual identity, that simultaneously affirms and subverts notions of Orientalism and the 'other'.