Here is a common practice in South Asian countries to tie segments of cloth in the shrines of various Sufis in the hope that the devotee’s prayers, needs and requests will be answered. We also encounter similar pieces in domestic and international airports: torn canvas, ribbons, colored cords attached to bags and suitcases as signs of identification: amulets of a modern traveler, who tries to secure his luggage so that it is not moved or collected from mistake by a fellow passenger.
What if, after all these efforts, you lose your baggage and lose a piece of your life in the form of physical objects and the feelings, emotions and memories associated with it? You might feel like a part of your identity is gone. Mohamed Khalid, an artist from Dubai, lost a bag in Italy. He turned experience into art. At his solo exhibition, Let Me Tell You Something (held from October 9 to December 25 at Warehouse 421, Abu Dhabi). The first thing a visitor to the show encounters is a hand booth. It is filled with his belongings: a laptop, underwear, notebooks and other personal items, placed on a large wall covered by a photo of a street in Genoa, Italy. With buildings, shops, palm trees, pedestrians and mountains in the background. (If for a moment the people move away, or the shop signs fade, one begins to speculate about the location of the painting. Are they from the artist’s region? The suggestion is supported by the pronounced presence of date palms and a speaker fixed on a street. pillar .
At the loss of his private possessions, an ordinary person mourns the loss. A creative individual can weave stories from experience. It is like the Israeli author Amos Oz, who traces the origin of his writings to his childhood, when his parents, because of their small apartment, had to meet their friends at a cafe and took their only child. Oz used to sit at a separate table, drink his ice cream and imagine the lives of customers at other tables. The fun helped him become a fiction writer.
It seems that Khalid has a habit of conjuring up possibilities and interactions with invisible people who enter his life for various reasons and purposes. He installed a bus stand (made as if from a European city) in the gallery space, with the snapshot of the Italian landscape on one side and the other filled with the artist’s message (in English and Italian) about the trip to Venice.
In Genoa, the bus left without him, but with the luggage on board. He asked passers-by for help in finding the driver, hence the lost luggage.
We can guess that he was not able to retrieve his luggage. However, we wonder if the loss of the luggage could be the original, original and intentional plan. As Melissa Gronlund begins in her exhibition catalog essay: “A letter always reaches its destination, wrote the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. The reason is simpler than you might imagine: it reaches its destination, because the destination is whoever opens it.” Perhaps the lost luggage “belonged” to the finder.
Such a breach between the chain of owners/holders seems to be the real subject and concern of Mohamed Khalid, an artist who lives and works in a society which, due to its multiplicity of populations, cultures, languages, beliefs, histories, thrives on an inclusive approach. . Walk down any street in the UAE and you don’t have to worry about who the original inhabitants were, who came from the region, who migrated from other countries and who abandoned their distant land to be part of the art and emirate life. . Andy Warhol famously proclaimed “everyone will be famous for 15 minutes”. Similarly, it can be argued that everyone could be a citizen of the UAE for a short period of time.
Through languages, professions, common past, you interact with unknown human beings, whether you meet them or have indirect contact. In both cases, you engage with a shadow and sometimes you end up being a shadow as well. In his work The shadow replied (2022), Khaled created a series of black and white prints of his own silhouettes. After seeing the image of a shadowy stranger on Instagram, the artist realized that one’s shadow can be as authentic as one’s portrait.
In fact, translating into a shadow or correspondence with an unknown parking attendant (Thanks, 2022) are extensions of self-as-Other discourse. Khalid hung (like a washing line) a total of 94 cyanotype prints (During working hours, 2022) on strings, including texts about imagining other options. From his 9-to-5 job, Khaled dreamed of “I wish I was someone else’s shadow during work hours,” or “I wrote eight words during work hours,” or “Searching for texts in time what do I text during working hours’ or ‘Sometimes I’m no longer restless during working hours’ and so on. In a way, working hours sound like waking hours or awake hours. However, walking through this installation, which also looks like a worksheet in an office, invokes existential crises.
People are not only displaced when they migrate from one region to another; they are also alienated if they are forced to act/work like someone else. An artist who plays as an employee of a corporation must live someone else’s life. This dialogue between one and the other continues to repeat itself in Mohamed Khalid’s art. It is found in his handwritten letters to his teacher, Mrs. Sima, who confined himself to acquiring a particular style of writing, mainly using his right hand and inscribing beautiful and legible words. This is an exercise that those of a pre-tablet generation had to go through to achieve a high position – in their classrooms and in their society. Khalid questions this order of training by composing letters to his school teacher, at various levels of perfection/imperfection.
The high school teacher insisted on decent writing from her student. Mohamed Khalid responds to this requirement by producing letter after letter, but this endeavor reaches its epitome when he reproduces official receipts and state documents by hand, quite convincingly. Demonstrating the ability of a visual artist to create an image of any kind – a portrait of a person or the layout of a government newspaper.
One feels that in his premise of confronting the Other, Khalid is joined by a league of post-colonial writers, artists, filmmakers, musicians and dancers. He includes stray cats, which he draws and shows in various combinations. The homeless, familyless, disoriented species survives in hostile conditions and can be a metaphor for migrants who come and work in the UAE under unpleasant physical conditions.
The sensitively drawn images of felines in various positions and circumstances suggest the existential question of our times. Those of us who migrated and left our homelands and past for an imagined future might be highly skilled but had to work as someone else in a new location: a street sweeper, a parking attendant , a school teacher, giving up their old. itself to manufacture a new pattern of life. Like a tourist or an artist, who might lose his history/origin/aversions – by mistake, consent or force, but still survives. Like stray cats played so warmly by Mohamed Khalid.
The writer is an art critic based in Lahore.