documenta fifteen

I am thrilled to be contributing work to documenta fifteen, to take place in Kassel Germany in June 2022.

Border Farce-Sovereign Murders-Alien Citizen is a 3 part work, comprised of a video installation, the debut vinyl record of my band Hazeen, and an accompanying zine, which will critically interrogate questions of belonging, the politics of representation and weaponisation of the border.

Border Farce is a two part video installation made in collaboration with my good friend the Kurdish-Iranian heavy metal guitarist Kazem Kazemi (who was detained as a refugee on Australia’s offshore prison camp on Manus Island for 6 years) and the talented filmmaker Alia Ardon. The video alternates between a type of documentary storytelling, conveying Kazem’s experiences of detention, and footage of us collaborating, playing music together, in convulsions of sound, performance and feeling. The first channel gives context for the work and conveys a powerful critique of Australia’s racist border policies. The second channel playfully explores the notion of affect: a relational experience of intensity communicated or felt in the body, which precedes language and reason, and which is too often discarded in accounts of trauma and human rights abuses.

From left: Myself, Hazeen bandmate Can Yalcinkaya and Kazem Kazemi.

Hazeen with Majid Rabet on the left (art director to one of our video sessions) and Alia Ardon.

The album ‘Sovereign Murders’ is the debut record of my band Hazeen, featuring Can Yalcinkaya on drums, Kian Dayani on bass, and guest musicians Kazem Kazemi and Susie Hurley. Kazem and I began to collaborate in 2018 when he was imprisoned on Manus Island, which is reflected in these pages from my graphic novel Still Alive.

Alien Citizen will addresses Australia’s (and by extension much of the Euro-American Anglosphere’s) burgeoning white-nationalism and the construction of racialised minorities, with a particular focus on where the narrative frame breaks down in the teeth of government abuses. Australia’s race-driven border politics brings into question how the ‘other’ (in this case the outsider, refugee and/or minority Muslim) is historically and aesthetically represented. Alien Citizen will be distributed with the Hazeen album ‘Sovereign Murders’, as an accompanying booklet, and will be given to visitors who attend the documenta fifteen exhibition in Kassel. It will be distributed to small press/zine distros, so that it may contribute to the underground press culture and circulate in processes of exchange and gifting.

The title comes from the work of Mae M. Ngai, who uses it to describe the modern state’s way of marking people who it deems unfit for liberal citizenship, including racial or sexual minorities.

Accompanying this will be a suite of 4 short films made by women associated with the community art organisation Refugee Art Project to be screened in Kassel, in partnership with the Japanese collective, Cinema Caravan

The really exciting part of this documenta is the emphasis on cooperation and knowledge sharing amongst different creative communities. The Artistic Directors are the Indonesian collective Raungrupa, who have built this event around the core values and ideas of lumbung (an Indonesian term for a communal rice barn), which is an artistic and economic model rooted in such principles as collectivity, communal resource sharing, and equal allocation. I have so far participated in some of the large online majelis-gatherings organised by Ruangrupa and have had the pleasure of harvesting-documenting some of the artist talks. Below are my drawn reflections on a very inspiring talk about the subject of socially engaged art, given by the artist Tania Bruguera.