You know the feeling of stepping into a room the morning after a dinner party. Used cups are still on the table, and the tablecloth is now curled and slid halfway down to the floor and now used as a base to write down the thoughts and ideas that arose during the evening. It’s as if the conversation is still hanging in the room with cigarette smoke and laughter, but now fragmentary and crumbling, like a trace of something that has happened.
This is the scene that meets us in Eliyah Mesayer and Julie Stavad’s first duo exhibition. The King and the Jinn: The focus is on the encounter between two fictional characters – a king and a jinn, a spirit or a ghost in Arabic – but also on the encounter between two cultural spheres and two different practices that are interconnected in sculpture and poetry.
The table with the oversized tablecloth, now filled with loose quotes from the king and the jinn’s conversation, points to dinner as a ritual that can be both a friendly meeting between colleagues, and a negotiation of power and representation. Perhaps the king has sat at the end of the table and presented his great thoughts, noble and conscious of his own status. Perhaps it has been a raving king who, in his exalted solitude, has spoken to his ghost.
At the opposite end of the room hangs twelve black shirts to dry. On the floor is another shirt, this one is white, and is partially dipped in a bucket of black paint, ready to take its place on the clothesline. The work becomes a rite of passage, a transition, possibly to the state of Illiyeen, whose uniforms are also black. In Bedouin culture, the color black stands for life, courage, and action – it is a form of life revival. Perhaps this is also the negotiation the king and the jinn have had; about the power to decide who is to be admitted as full members of the nation and who is to remain an unknown spirit?
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