some berlin history

1) the humboldt forum was just completed last year. it’s a replica of the berliner schloss, the royal palace, built by the hohenzollern dynasty in 1443. the schloss was badly damaged by allied bombing in WWII and demolished in 1950 by the government of communist east germany. it was replaced by the palast der republik, the former east german parliament. but after german reunification (and to the outrage of many east germans), the parliament building was torn down to build the present forum. some see this decision as an attempt to erase germany’s turbulent 20th c history. the forum cost $800 million. it was burdened by construction problems and also by accusations from academics and activists that it hasn’t done enough to determine the provenance of its art objects (housed in museums) that were acquired during the colonial era and should be returned.

2) the altes museum, part of berlin’s museum island, designed by karl friedrich schinkel, a prussian architect whose work is ubiquitous in the city. he also designed schlossbrücke, the bridge to museum island. apparently, hitler liked to give impassioned speeches at the entrance of altes museum.

3) humbolt university, berlin’s oldest university, founded in 1810. marx and engels studied here. 29 nobel prize winners. it was also here that 20,000 books were burned by the nazis in 1933. a plaque with a quote from an 1820 text by heinrich heine: “that was only a prelude; where they burn books, they eventually burn people.”

4) the oldest opera house in berlin, the staatsoper unter den linden.

connecting with artists & curators in berlin

spent the day with the lovely veronika hykova, a curator at temporary space berlin and a lover of contemporary art <3

first stop somos where we met/had discussions with three brilliant artists/curators doing their art residencies:

Suu Myint Thein, is a sculptor, performance artist, educator, and curator from Myanmar. As the deteriorating political situation is affecting artists greatly, Suu currently participates in a special artist at-risk residency, supported by SomoS and the Goethe Institute Myanmar, developing new performance work and paintings.

Nicole Beck is a Hong Kong-raised, Sydney-based curator. She is developing Take Two, an exhibition connecting local artists to explore the potential of reenactment as a way to reflect the past.

Isabella Chydenius (b.1988), is an interdisciplinary Helsinki-based Finnish artist investigating societal structures, with a focus on femininity as applied to all genders, and its relation to safety and violence.

so inspiring to dive into their art practice and work.

what stood out at the berlin biennale

what stood out at the berlin biennale: exile is a hard job by nil yalter, maithu bùi’s mathuat – MMRBX, a video installation based on a virtual reality game, and asim abdulaziz’s 1941.

‘Asim Abdulaziz is a visual artist, photographer, and filmmaker. His emerging practice explores the psychoaffective implications of living in a country ravaged by ongoing war. The photographic series Homesick (2020), for example, depicts Yemeni women in destroyed interiors, the title suggesting both a yearning to return to a time before the war as well as the morbid estrangement of living among the ceaseless ruins that are product of the conflict.

The short experimental film 1941 (2021) explores the sense of disorientation and alienation experienced by Yemenis. After learning that knitting was a significant way for women in the United States to participate in the war effort during World War II, Abdulaziz was struck by how, in contemporary Yemen, knitting as an act of solidarity in a time of war would seem entirely absurd. The repetitive nature of the hand movement guiding the needles and stitching the wool thread distracts one from pondering the past and future, locking the knitter into a timeless present. By staging the practice in Yemen, Abdulaziz draws an embodied metaphor around the quotidian experience of war—captive to the logic of survival—that inhibits projecting oneself into a future of self-realization. Moreover, in a gender role reversal that further accentuates the strangeness of implementing this action in Yemen, the artist cast ten men of different generations and filmed them knitting with red wool inside one of Aden’s historical landmarks: a Hindu temple long abandoned to decay. He disrobed them—the men are shirtless, a provocative gesture in a prudish culture, which underlines the act’s absurdity. 1941 is an eloquent and compelling poetic meditation on war’s prohibition of claiming agency over time and self.’

berlin biennale

the venice biennale at the KW institute of contemporary art – photography and a long term relationship with a romani family, footage of the algerian liberation army from 1959-1962, music inspired by moroccan rug patterns, a performance by zuzanna hertzberg about the resistance of women during the shoah, african women, slavery, seeds and the need to plant/regenerate life, ‘vomit girl’ about the trauma of the vietnam war

Columbia whistleblower on exposing college rankings: ‘They are worthless’

“I’ve long believed that all university rankings are essentially worthless. They’re based on data that have very little to do with the academic merit of an institution and that the data might not be accurate in the first place,” Thaddeus said.

…The former head of Columbia’s mathematics department described an expanding and self-replicating bureaucracy that is growing ever more expensive to maintain. He said that Columbia’s endowment is not large enough to cover the cost of the growing administration and so it is paid for by increasing tuition costs.
“It means that our educational programmes have to be run to some degree as money-making ventures. That is the secret that can’t be openly acknowledged,” he said.

…“It’s clear that the growth of university bureaucracies and administration has been a major driver of the cost of higher education growing much, much faster than inflation. We now have about 4,500 administrators on the main campus, about three times the number of faculty, and that’s a new development over the past 20 years,” he said.

“What is less clear is what all these administrators are actually doing.” More here.

when’s the right time to talk about colonial atrocities?

this whole thing about ‘now is not the right time.’ because someone got attacked or killed or died at 96. i don’t get it. it’s never crass or insensitive to hold people with power (whether symbolic of literary) accountable for their actions and words – especially if they use their status to support violence against thousands (sometimes millions). why is mass violence less shocking than dancing on the graves of monarchs? it doesn’t compute. here is a video from the aotearoa liberation league (“an empowered and well-informed population of kaitiaki committed to the protection of our most vulnerable individuals and their sources of life”). they have more patience than i do.

Devastating floods in Pakistan

Pakistan has 7,253 glaciers, the highest number outside the world’s polar regions. Global warming is melting them at an alarming rate, causing flash floods across the country. A state of emergency has been declared in Pakistan. The situation is desperate.

The death toll has risen to 937 (as of yesterday), 30 million people are without shelter, 23 districts in the province of Sindh have been declared ‘calamity-hit’ as floods submerge southern Pakistan, hundreds of schools and more than 20,000 homes have been destroyed in Baluchistan, millions of cattle and entire crops are lost, help and donations are needed immediately. This has been going on since May but no one’s talking about it. Pls donate to organizations working on the ground. Here is a list.

We donated to the Edhi Foundation.

Emancipated Breath: A Prelude

Dear friends, I am thrilled to share this brilliant dance shot by Jesus Duprey at High Falls (Rochester, NY), choreographed and performed by Andrew Evans, title by Erica Jae, with original music composed by Tom Davis. This is a prelude to The Injured Body: A Film about Racism in America. I am back at work editing this documentary and listening to some pretty badass women of color. I created the trailer for the film back in 2020 but then life happened (we moved thrice in two years during the pandemic). I am excited to come back to this beautiful project. I will be sharing as I edit and hope for your support throughout this delicate process. My goal is to complete the film in 2022. But first, here is Emancipated Breath.

#prelude #theinjuredbody #documentary #emancipatedbreath #highfallsny #rochesterny #dance #tomdavis #andrewdavid #maraahmed #thebreathisthebridge #thebodyspeaks

delusions of the twitterati

all social media platforms are terrible (including FB, IG, whatsapp, etc) but i find twitter particularly unsettling. it’s not just the vicious back-stabbing and habitual fightiness, it’s also the unbearable snobbery. this idea that twitter is better than other social media for its 280-character repartees from the woke literati. some are better than others, but puleeezzz…

The Way Forward by Teresa Werth | The Warp & Weft

Friends, I’m happy to share a new Warp & Weft story today. It’s a unique retelling of the pandemic from the perspective of a funeral celebrant. Written and read beautifully by Terry Werth, pls listen to ‘The Way Forward’:

“I worked to control my outrage, fear, and ignorance by focusing on the skills I had to help people navigate their loss, grief and trauma in healthy and effective ways. I validated their despair (and my own) by stepping back to try and see the big picture: what can we learn from this experience? How can we heal ourselves and help others heal?”

Listen and read here.

#thewarpweft #thewarpandweft #archive #audioarchive #multilingualarchive #storytelling #oralhistories #yearofthepandemic #terrywerth #teresawerth #wayforward #maraahmedstudio #maraahmed #rochesterny #newyork #unitedstates #2020andbeyond #covid19 #funeralcelebrant #pandemic #healing #helpingothers #loss #lovedones #sayinggoodbye #grief #trauma

the attack on salman rushdie

needless to say we all condemn the attack on salman rushdie. i would condemn the knifing of any human being, including clarence thomas and donald trump. i liked rushdie’s work back in the day when he wrote ‘midnight’s children’ and was friends with edward said. but his transformation over the years into an imperial mascot is problematic to say the least. he supported the invasion of iraq, denies the existence of islamophobia (it’s hard to miss in the west but also in his home country of india where violence against muslims is reaching genocidal levels), and wrote unoriginal, bigoted, ignorant opinions like this in the NYT: “yes, this is about islam. if terrorism is to be defeated, the world of islam must take on board the secularist-humanist principles on which the modern is based.” the modern? like school shootings and patriarchal control over women’s bodies in the US? or the ongoing killing of children in gaza by the modern, democratic state of israel? or the humanist invasions and occupations of a series of muslim majority countries? this is basic colonial nonsense, not intellectual or moral courage. at the same time that rushdie was being attacked, this was happening: layan musleh hamdi al-shaer, aged 10, died from injuries she sustained in an israeli strike on gaza on august 5th. she died alone in a hospital because israel wouldn’t allow anyone from her family to be with her. she was a 10-year old child with so much life ahead of her. why are we not all decrying the attacks on her body and publicly mourning her death? many will say it’s different. she wasn’t a writer. she wasn’t famous. she wasn’t a western mascot. but there’s the rub.

Serena Williams retires

Things I missed while on vacation: Serena Williams retires at 41

From Dave Zirin: Serena Williams already had been a pro for five years in 2000 when ESPN put out its top 100 athletes of the 20th century list. Four women in the top 50. Two Black women in the top 50, none higher than 22. This was the world she stepped into and audaciously chose to rule.

Today, my list of best athletes ever would have Ali number one, maybe Thorpe at 2. But if you were asking who had the best CAREER in sports history, taking into account length and consistency from start to finish, it’s Serena & then LeBron. She’s that mighty. All hail the Queen.

Artwork by Sheraz A

My essay for Ready to Wear – an online exhibition

The Ready to Wear online exhibition is now open! You can check out a virtual exhibition space, download the catalog, and read my essay under Explore Exhibiting Artists here.

“In the 1960s, when my parents (Nilofar Rashid and Saleem Murtza) met in college, fell in love, and got married, Pakistan was still a relatively new country. My parents’ generation was the first to be solidly grounded in Pakistan. Having been recently introduced to the world at large, those who hailed from the bourgeoisie saw themselves as “progressive” and were influenced by western culture. Fashion became a way to express their newly minted national identity.

Young men adopted the Teddy Boy style of the Beatles, with boxy jackets and fitted trousers. Young women wore the traditional shalwar kameez but switched it up by making the kameez shorter and tighter, aligning it with the shift dresses they saw in fashion magazines. The bottom edge of the shalwar became narrower in keeping with men’s tapered pants. They wore head scarves and oversized shades like Audrey Hepburn and Bollywood’s Saira Banu and Mumtaz.

This hybrid sense of fashion seemed to cross borders and crack open binaries such as east and west. My mother wore a gauze dupatta over her short, dress-like kameez. She refused to give up the dainty sandals that went with her outfits but would wear socks when it got cold in Lahore. For his wedding, my father paired a gaudy sehra (headdress commonly worn by the groom) with a tailored suit. He sits proudly with his elder brother, Eitizaz Hussein.

Borders and partitions are recent aberrations. A broad span of history, that goes beyond the creation of nation states, can give us a better sense of our complex, intertwined realities, and allow us to imagine better futures.”

Eitizaz Hussein and Saleem Murtza
Nilofar Rashid – 3
Nilofar Rashid and Saleem Murtza – 1

Ready to Wear online exhibition

More to post about Providence, but wanted to share that my artwork has been selected for an international juried exhibition. Hosted by Arts To Hearts Project and guest curated by artist Celine Gabrielle, this online exhibition will open on August 12th.

The topic, Ready to Wear, was a bit different for me. But it struck me that many of the collages from “This Heirloom” speak to fashion in Pakistan in the 1960s. What an interesting time that was – soon after the heartbreak of the 1947 partition but also in the afterglow of what a break from British colonialism could mean. So I wrote about fashion, national identities, and borders, and submitted three artworks. They were selected and will be part of an online group show.

The opening is on Friday Aug 12, and the show will be online until September 12th. Can’t wait to share my write-up and artwork with you all <3