Waqt al-tagheer: Time of change


As a part of Adelaide Festival, ACE Open will exhibit Waqt al-tagheer, a show which ponders temporality while amplifying the voices of Eleven, a new collective of Muslim Australian artists. Eleven began in 2016 as a way to build community through collaboration and mentorship.

The theme of time unfolds at two speeds; contemporary turbulence and eons of history. These paths cross with At the speed of light by Khaled Sabsabi, where a ring of screens shows the night sky – an arena for angelic light and scientific observation. Curator Abdul-Rahman Abdullah hopes viewers will sense terrestrial and celestial “worlds converging, as a whole night appears in zero-point-something of a second.”

Shireen Taweel, Musallah (prayer room), 2017, installation view, Verge Gallery, pierced copper, 180 x 180 x 30 cm. Courtesy of the artist. Photograph by Document Photography.

Convergence is a preoccupation for Abdullah and co-curator Nur Shkembi: works that exist in dual states lead the exhibition. Shireen Taweel’s Musallah is a circlet of patterned copper, a commemoration of Australia’s earliest (now-demolished) mosque in Whyalla, South Australia. Monumental yet quiet, the work contemplates the mosque’s fleeting material lifespan, compressing “150 years of history into one, still moment.”

Abdullah’s masterfully carved sculpture, 500 Books, depicts a stack of Sufi texts his father once saved from pulping. “Books are infinitely scalable, yet these were nearly lost,” he says. “Five hundred is a lot, but it’s also tiny. Massive best-sellers reach only the tiniest blip of humanity.”

Three photographs by Abdul Abdullah depict a lavishly ornamented Malaysian wedding. The couple wear balaclavas. They’re subject to projections of criminality and otherness: flimsy stereotypes contrived by blinkered aggressors. “I reflect on how Muslims are perceived,” says the artist. “I ask my audience to afford others the complexity they afford themselves.”

Abdullah and Shkembi’s curation accentuates “the diversity of opinions and approaches” emerging from Muslim artists in Australia.

Such work is often cast in terms of politics and media vitriol: as response, not expression. Wat al-tagheer consciously provides “a platform for self-definition,” explains Abdullah. “The artists worked as they saw fit, with or without taking into account any broader political context.”

Preview Words by Sheridan Hart