Sa'dia Rehman: Desire Lines
Location: (map) KODA House, Building #404B, Colonels Row, Governors Island, New York
Curated by Klaudia Ofwona Draber
On view: May 5-August 6, 2023
Opening Hours: Fridays-Sundays at 11am-5pm
Sa’dia Rehman, There isn’t a stone I don’t remember, 2022. Video still.
KODA presents a solo exhibition and three-month residency with Queens-born multimedia artist Sa’dia Rehman. Rehman’s solo show titled Desire Lines will feature a video, works on paper, and an evolving installation. For the past three years, Rehman has been working on a new body of work tracing their family’s displacement from their village in Pakistan. Between 1968 and 1976, the family, along with 184 villages were forced to migrate due to the construction of the Tarbela Dam, the second largest earth-filled dam in the world. Like many dam projects in the Global South, the project was funded by the World Bank. This hydroelectric infrastructure was built by the US, British, Italian, French, German and Japanese engineers, architects and designers.
Oftentimes desire lines are imaginary lines marking pathways tracking the movement of people, commerce, and transportation. Rehman’s exhibition Desire Lines reckons with a global history of displacement in the name of modernity that in turn mutates into climate devastation. In the 10-minute looped experimental video There isn't a stone I don't remember, 2022, Rehman reflects on a 2022 journey to the Indus River. Using personalized symbologies, documentation, architecture and landscape, ritual and sound, they memorialize an unwritten history. In several works on paper, including monoprints and ink drawings, Rehman traces the roots of the trauma of the loss of home—physical and emotional—with broken images of mosques, cemeteries, shrines, and the striation on rock formations tracking water levels. During the three-month residency Rehman will create a structure temporary and changing with their time at the residency. The large-scale tent-like structure invokes the possibilities in a time of peril. It is an afterlife of the colonial project of the dam itself.
In my art practice, I try to understand my family history in the context of larger historical processes. In my work I explore structures of the family, the nation, the border. I question how we live within these systems and how they impact who we are, the desire to rearrange, and take them apart. I center familial history to expand on harm and survival, memory, histories, grief, migration, and geographies. I pull apart and put together images from family photographs, historical records and mass media. This is my way of engaging the relationship between public and private structures and memories. I explore how contemporary and historical images communicate, consolidate and contest ideas about gender, empire, migration and labor.
By dismantling, layering and resampling images into various configurations—assemblage, collage, wall drawing, installation—I bring attention to and raise questions about the fragmented and hybrid realities in which we live, fight, participate. In my studio, I trace the roots of the trauma of the loss of home—physical and emotional—with images, family interviews and text.
I focus on one image, undo and unlearn it, then build worlds and stories from the broken image. I cut stencils from Tyvek, newsprint, vellum and other paper materials invoking positive and negative space, absence and presence. I transfix the cutouts directly on the wall or paper and continue to layer with hand drawing. I brush, rub and smudge ink, graphite, and charcoal through these cut outs multiple times. Sometimes until they are shredded. The cutouts are both tools and artworks. This repetitive act constitutes a conceptual practice evoking the circular and iterative relationships between history, memory, storytelling, and the self.
Sa’dia Rehman (they/them) is a multidisciplinary artist and educator. Their work explores structures of the family, the nation, the border. They center familial history to expand on harm and survival. Rehman has shared their work at the Columbus Museum of Art, Queens Museum, The Kitchen, Kentler International Drawing Space, Center for Book Arts, Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU and Pakistan National Council of the Arts. Rehman was awarded residencies at the Film/Video Studio at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Art Omi, Abrons Art Center, Asian American Arts Alliance, Edward Albee Foundation and AIM Bronx Museum. Their work was featured in the Brooklyn Rail, The Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts, Asian Diasporic Visual Cultures and the Americas, Colonize This! Young Women of Color On Today’s Feminism, Breakthru Radio and HyperAllergic. Rehman's solo show is on view at the Wexner Center for the Arts until July 9, 2023.