Flea-ing me, a life in progress | ANNUAL BANNER COMMISSION
This year’s commissioned artist for the annual banner project is lara baladi. Curated by juan a. Gaitan, the 40-meter banner wraps around the corner of the building’s facade and will be visible from the street and neighboring buildings, promoting public art in its various forms.
‘Flea-ing me, a life in progress,’ has been conceived as a visual exploration of the artist’s aesthetic realities, and as a consideration of the different stages that have defined baladi’s practice over the past 15 years. The work stems from baladi’s continuous search, collection and grouping of unrelated objects and images that she has come across throughout this period, from different countries around the world. She creates visual combinations, which give rise to narratives often reflecting on themes such as paradise, personal universes and popular mythologies.
Progress Report No. 1
Almost three years have elapsed since we first met at Lara Baladi’s studio in Cairo, and now this studio has become the subject of our first collaboration: an image-based project for the façade of The Pavilion Downtown Dubai. This is the first in a series of upcoming reports that will outline the conditions of this collaboration, the thoughts that we have been sharing, and the progress of an idea.
We have assumed this project and collaboration as an opportunity to re-think the relationship between the artist’s studio and the reality that surrounds it, to explore and re-think the artist’s studio as a space in which production is both intimate and purposeful. But also as a repository of ideas, and as a collection, and as an image of the artist’s professional life, and as a space that exists in a relative and perhaps necessary disparity with the everyday life of the artist as a citizen.
Progress Report No. 2
The unfinished sentence:
A book collection, Walter Benjamin said, is a thing that is intimately tied to its collector, to the collector’s imagination. When the collector passes on, the collection, which is a work of life, and a life’s work, loses its sense, which is to be revisited with each acquisition. A similar point could be made about the collection of objects, fetishes, images that Lara Baladi has been gathering over the years, providing her and resonating with an iconography in her practice: the collection makes sense in the artist’s imagination, provides an access to her work, a chronology of the progress of her practice. Each object in the collection is a statement about her works. Maybe, too, each work of art has become a statement about this collection, and about specific objects within it?
Certain moments in one’s life provoke a series of reconfigurations: of the collector with regards to the collection; the collection with regards to the artworks; the artworks with regards to the larger political and social contexts in which they circulate. Each object that is collected is a statement to these reconfigurations. One significant aspect of this project by Baladi is precisely that the events that, since January 2011, have been taking place in Egypt and elsewhere, have opened up important and yet unanswered questions with regards to her own practice, her trajectory as an artist so far, and the paths that must be taken.
Flea-Ing me, a life in progress, can be seen, in part, as an anthology of these open questions, as an assessment of her own practice, but also as an assessment of the role of politics in art, especially at a moment when art seems to provide an important place from which to articulate ourselves within the current rise and spread of grass-roots political movements, as participants of these movements.