Wednesday, October 30, 2019

When I started reading about Ayesha Singh’s work, I was also reflecting on utopia in relation to localized aesthetics and ‘global’ migrations. I had just visited Jonas Meskas’ posthumous exhibition, Let me dream utopias, at Rupert in Vilnius and circled in the exhibition essay: “‘Real utopias,’ Mekas claimed, ‘may only be found within one’s small closed village evoked with the specific mouth muscles of one’s mother’s tongue.’” In our interview, Singh and I never got around to asking each other the name of our ancestral village, but I think (and I hope) we felt the pulse of the ghost muscle linking her art practice with my own critical/ curatorial inquiry. Ghost muscle, to say something of our tongues’ twisted, even if no longer taut, entwinement with the colonizer’s language. We spoke about art in English (and extensively) but we delivered our jokes and glances in Punjabi/Hindi. Like our parents, we lived in the tight corset of British Colonialism and post-colonialism, but the digitali...

Friday, July 20, 2018

I am not one to take part in social media debates, but even I couldn’t resist when almost two years ago, in June 2016, the founding editor of the online journal Reorient, Joobin Bekhrad, shared a public post, defending the casting of Leonardo Dicaprio as Rumi. In a later article he penned for the Metro, he clarified that because the Persian poet was born in the “cradle of the Aryan Race,” and that his own family “had skin so white [that their] faces never fail[ed] to turn bright in the sun,” the #Rumiwaswhite movement was groundless and there was no trouble, whatsoever, in Dicaprio assuming the role of the Middle Eastern, Muslim mystic.

What is lost on apologists like Bekhrad is taken up by and, indeed, excavated by Rah Eleh, a Toronto-based artist who employs performance to combat histories and mythologies of whiteness that have proven to be detrimental to racialized peoples at home and in diaspora. In the interview that follows, Eleh generously leads us through keys moments and ideas...

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