Sabrina Amrani, from March 20 to 25, 2020, displayed its first-ever virtual art fair booth in one of Art Basel’s Viewing Rooms recently launched to battle the pandemic gripping the world.
Responding to the COVID 19 crisis and keeping the authenticity of a visit to an art fair alive, Art Basel shifted its entire gallery base online, and we decided to visit the viewing room Complex Universes by Sabrina Amrani that united myriad cultures and concerns within a single show. The exhibition included works by Joël Andrianomearisoa, who represented Madagascar at the first-ever pavilion of the country at La Biennale di Venezia in 2019; African artist Alexandra Karakashian, whose work reflects on current issues of exile and migration; the works of Dagoberto Rodríguez, who combines architecture, design and sculpture; Korean artist Jong Oh’s minimal sculptures; Pakistani artist Waqas Khan, who employs small dashes and minuscule dots to create large entanglements; and Manal AlDowayan’s work that encompasses black and white photography, sculpture, video, sound, neon and large-scale participatory installations.
Waqas Khan, You, me, everyone, Archival ink on wasli paper
As we moved from one exhibit to another, the experience was almost surreal, sitting in the comforts of our homes but being transported, nonetheless, to another world. For instance, in Waqas Khan’s ‘You, me, everyone’, a sheer expanse of black on paper with miniscule dots of white, we are immediately drawn into the illusive expanse of the visual. ‘Where when two particle-sque units are spread out and entangled, they are essentially ‘in sync’ with each other, and they’ll stay in sync no matter how far apart they are. This idea of togetherness and being seen one as a magnanimous totality is what he partly absorbs from his inclination towards literature and interest in the lives of Sufi poets,’ said the curatorial note.
Joël Andrianomearisoa, Les Vestiges de L'extase, Mixed Media, Textiles,
From that wide expanse of the universe, when you move to the works of Alexandra Karakashian, it quickly brings you back to ground reality and the crisis faced by refugees. The work ‘Parting IV-VII’ is made of engine oil and salt and engages with a larger discussion of the politics surrounding the materials that are used to create the work. ‘She engages in ecological discussion, the threatening instability and subtle collapse; and the unethical seizing of rapidly dwindling natural resources, particularly on the resource-rich African continent,’ said the curator. Addressing the fact that Africa still has an unstable economy and fights for control over its own natural resources, it is a gritty and difficult vision.
Alexandra Karakashian, Parting IV-VII, Oil and used engine oil on sized paper
The beauty, however, of the entire show came not through the pieces alone but being able to view all their individual stories as a strange tapestry of narratives from across the world. As we are placed under isolation, far away from all that usually informs and inspires, and most importantly, people, who are complex universes in and of themselves, this ‘Viewing Room’ experience gave us that much needed glimmer of hope.