PARTICIPANT INC is pleased to present Baseera Khan, iamuslima, the artist’s first solo exhibition in New York. Works produced for iamuslima deal with historical identity – traditional representations and their mis- representations, which have led to volatile social environments globally and most notably within capitalist-driven societies such as the U.S. Volatility creates needs for self-censorship and secrecies among people who are marginalized and othered, even within groups who are also othered. As a subject of immigration, refugee status, and being a femme Muslim in the U.S. right now, Khan’s work strategically considers how to manage imposed stress and trauma. The work externalizes a lesson learned by Khan at a young age: self-censorship and secrecies can be aestheticized. Deploying linguistic shifts and fashion as political mediums, iamuslima bounces around textiles, archives, performance, and sculpture. PARTICIPANT has a history of creating sanctuary for people whose lives are rendered unsafe because of governmental policies or public views regarding gender, health, and sexuality. The works in iamuslima function not only as an extension of that history, but also manifest an intersectional American experience, in terms of the works themselves as well as the collective spirit of their making.
True revolution can often be trapped by its treatment through traditional photography and its historical archive. Creating lexicons on her own terms, Khan challenges the evidentiary capabilities of all forms of documentation. An important reference is Jean Genet’s 1986 novel Prisoner of Love, with works evolving from Khan’s use of family heirlooms specifically mined for aspects of displacement and migration. Genet’s lived experience is also a key referent for understanding a timeline of geopolitical revolutionary activities, as he spent time in membership of the Palestinian Liberation Front in Western Asia and within the Black Panther Party in the U.S. Investigating fields of interpersonal reconciliation, Khan’s semiotic readings of objects, photography, and text recount a complex sense of estrangement, kinship, and exile.
Central to the exhibition is Braidrage, a 12×15 foot rock climbing wall, whose ‘rocks’ are formed from corners of the artist’s body cast in resin, with hair and chains embedded in various shades of black and brown. Climbing regiments levels of anxiety through a training process, in which learning functions as a practice of decolonizing the mind. On opening night, Khan will climb this wall, wearing a pair of Nike Air Force mid-tops upon which iamuslima is inscribed through Nike’s ID tag project. Early on, Khan found out that the company was being sued for not allowing a customer to embroider the word ‘Muslim’ on the shoe; however, many other religious words were approved. Through a calculated technique of misspelling, Khan legitimized her design.
The exhibition runs from February 26 to April 2, 2017.
PARTICIPANT INC’s exhibitions are made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.
Archiving and documentation projects are supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Our programs are supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.
PARTICIPANT INC receives generous support from the Ames Family Foundation; The Blessing Way Foundation; The Greenwich Collection Ltd.; Harpo Foundation; Marta Heflin Foundation; The Ruth Ivor Foundation; Lambent Foundation; The Page & Otto Marx Foundation; Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation; The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; FRIENDS of PARTICIPANT INC; numerous individuals; and Materials for the Arts, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs/NYC Department of Sanitation/NYC Dept. of Education. PARTICIPANT INC is W.A.G.E. Certified and a member of Common Practice New York (CPNY).
PARTICIPANT INC is located at 253 East Houston Street, between Norfolk and Suffolk Streets on the LES, ground floor, wheelchair accessible. Subway: F to Second Avenue, Allen Street exit; or JMZ to Essex/Delancey. participantinc.org