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Tufts University

Shahzia Sikander: Parallax

September 10 – December 6, 2015
Tisch Family Gallery

Internationally-recognized artist Shahzia Sikander (b. 1969, Pakistan) presents her first immersive animation Parallax, with music and sound by composer Du Yun, conceived in the United Arab Emirates and first appearing at the Sharjah Biennale in 2013. Related paintings, drawings, and photographs are also included in the Tufts exhibition.

Inspired by the U.A.E.'s unique geography and culture at the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, Sikander's 15-minute animation is constructed from hundreds of drawings and paintings, in which abstract, representational, and textual forms coexist and jostle for domination. Themes of dissonance and disruption echo the power tensions that have characterized the region's modern history as a British protectorate and the U.A.E.’s establishment as a nation state in 1971.

Mesmerizing flows of imagery build in operatic intensity. Sikander's visual vocabulary includes recurring motifs such as Gopi hair, "Christmas trees" (oil pumping mechanisms), "singing spheres," and forearms with clenched fists. These motifs are combined to cultivate new associations within the animation’s digital space. Undulating color fields create pitch and fervor, as human voices recite poetry in Arabic, creating tension and rhythm that oscillates with environmental sounds.

A book published by the Tufts University Art Gallery, with an artist's interview by Amy Schlegel, a conversation between Sikander and composer Du Yun, and essays by Ayesha Jalal and Sara Raza, is forthcoming in the spring of 2016.

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Shahzia Sikander, The Cypress Despite its Freedom, 2013; color photograph; image courtesy of the artist.