Heavy Water | of Coordinates, Containers and Containment

Hameed, Ayesha. 2024. Heavy Water | of Coordinates, Containers and Containment. In: "Heavy Water | of Coordinates, Containers and Containment", Alexander Levy, Berlin, Germany, 27 January - 30 March 2024. [Show/Exhibition]

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Creators: Hameed, Ayesha
Abstract or Description:

Heavy Water | of Coordinates, Containers and Containment is anticipated as a mutational encounter between the participating artists’ exhibited works, asking us to think anew, following the late Édouard Glissant’s ‘aquatic’ theories (1997) and Denise Ferreira da Silva’s conception of a ‘deep or abyssal implicancy’ (2019), of how we might understand these works when reframed, recast, in a poethics of relation, in dialogue with each other. Taking as its indexical register the wet mechanics of both the historical and contemporary global movement of peoples – volitional or enforced – and commodities, of peoples transformed into commodities, Heavy Water | of Containers, Coordinates and Containment considers the entanglements and afterlives of maritime colonial history, racial capitalism, and contemporary hypermodernity: embarkations and disembarkations, promethean fantasies of an imposition of order, containment and mastery of uncharted ‘new worlds’, paralleled with unimaginable dystopian lived nightmares of abduction, dispossession, and displacement; of contestation over borders, exclusion zones and proprietorship of space; dislocation wrought through war, scarcity, persecution, and the acceleration of extreme climate events. Commencing with the conceit of ‘Heavy Water’, its ambivalence and excess of meaning informs the span and framing of the exhibition, interrogating both Real and speculative visual (and sonic) histories and futurities: ‘Heavy Water’, the channel, the sea, the ocean as freighted, weighted with precarious crossings, unsafe passage and untold trauma, and of practices concealing the most egregious extractive processes of capital becomes hauntological, “pregnant with as many dead as living” (Glissant, 1997:6), and where the value of a life is differentially calculated. From the slave ship to the transmodal container and its super cargo container carrier ship, from the colonial plantation to the refugee camp, and from the spectral threat of nuclear ruination to the escape fantasies of the colonisation of outer space, today James Baldwin’s profound and prophetic reflection, “Tomorrow you will all be negroes!” resonates more starkly.

Ayesha Hameed | I sing of the sea, I am mermaid of the trees (2021)

I sing of the sea, I am mermaid of the trees, is a multichannel audio and textile installation commissioned by the 2021 Liverpool Biennale. Hameed’s installation follows the laying down of the first undersea telegraphic cable between India and Britain in the second half of the nineteenth century, that was precipitated by the six week delay for Britain to get news of the outbreak of the Revolt of 1857.

Hameed’s installation moves this history underwater, taking us to battles against the forces of the seafloor, through the fragile nervousness of cable signals, and to the forests in Sarawak from where gutta percha was extracted by indigenous peoples to insulate the thousands of miles of undersea cables. I sing of the
 sea considers how communication can act as a kind of violence, transmitted across the seafloor, consolidating Britain’s imperial control over India. If Imperial Britain was the mother country and its colonies its offspring, then the undersea cable was a kind of pathological, strangulating umbilical cord. This is a subaquatic story of those offspring. (2)

I sing of the sea, I am mermaid of the trees points to the human/non-human relation between the indigenous population’s extracting, or “milking” (as Hameed and her co-performers phrase it) of the forest of Palaquium percha trees, an act of equal parts recognition of shared state, intimacy and mourning, “milk white tears into bamboo bowls,” simultaneously exposing the doubly extractive process underpinning the hierarchical colonial power relation between the British, and the worker and the land: it is the British that claim the triumph and power of this oceanic feat, not the hands that caressed and collected the thermoplastic substance used for insulating the sub-marine cables; “if the metropolis is the body’s head, the telegraph lines are its tentacle nerves”/ “telegraph is another word for distant writing”/ “turning six weeks into nine minutes,” as the British achieve dominion in reducing, transcending, spatial and temporal coordinates: The killing of space and strangling of time. Hameed, and her co-performers voice, hymn, this subjugated history, voice the voiceless, voice the land, to counter-actualise prevailing narrations of history.

Contributors: Edwards, Jessica (Curator of an exhibition)
Official URL: https://alexanderlevy.de/exhibitions/current
Departments, Centres and Research Units: Visual Cultures
Date range: 27 January - 30 March 2024
Event Location: Alexander Levy, Berlin, Germany
Item ID: 35514
Date Deposited: 21 Mar 2024 12:50
Last Modified: 21 Mar 2024 12:50



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