This autumn, the ICA
presents the first major survey of British artist Rosalind Nashashibi. Winner of the prestigious Becks Futures prize at the ICA in 2003, Nashashibi, who is based in London, has built up a strong and deserved international reputation for her work. This exhibition, organised by the ICA in collaboration with Bergen Kunsthall, Norway, comprises five of her 16mm films - including an ambitious new commission alongside lesser-known photographic and print work, which shown together, represents the most comprehensive presentation of her work to date.
Best known for her film-works, Nahsashibis interests encompass myth, portraiture and voyeurism and the works selected for this exhibition demonstrate a highly intuitive approach to a practice as well as a fascination with the dynamics of ritual, personae and transformation. Nashashibi employs what she describes as a family tree of symbols and signs: a set of recurring motifs which appear and develop throughout her work. Previous films are revisited and re-contextualised so that scenes from Eyeballing (2005) for instance are adapted for Bachelor Machines Part 2 (2007). The viewer becomes caught up in recognising the interplay of signs and symbols; in the ritualistic pacing of themes and icons that run through her practice. Anthropomorphic faces, for example, or glimpses of human figures within architectural compositions are made explicit through their repetition and rhythm placing both in the film works but also within the artists collages and photography.
The exhibition presents a new photographic installation, In Rehearsal (2009) where a vast range of photographs are set within the context of an operatic sound track. Another photographic series presented here is Abbeys (2006) which comprises four monumental black and white prints in which each of the images has been inverted by the artist so as to reveal the rudimentary aspects of a face hidden therein. Once glimpsed, these faces, found in the recesses, arches and alcoves of these church buildings, refuse to merge quietly back into the basic architecture and remain alive in the viewers perception, forcing a reconsideration of apparently inanimate architecture.
This subjectivity of vision is further explored in key films featured here, notably Eyeballing (2005) and Bachelor Machines Part 2 (2007). Yet while Eyeballing focuses on the properties of the camera eye which creates figurative elements wherever it looks, Bachelor Machines Part 2 explores the simultaneity and collision of images, colours and sounds.
Eyeballing is a pivotal film in Nashashibis oeuvre and serves as a significant chronological starting point for this exhibition. It signals a move away from the more detached character of her previous pieces, which often focused on the observational and everyday aspects of human life, towards a more subjective, intuitive form of working. Shot outside Manhattans First Precinct in TriBeCa, Eyeballing (2005) juxtaposes scenes of off-duty New York cops with the unlikely faces that Nashashibi finds in the citys architecture and inanimate objects. Fire hydrants, shop windows, and electric sockets reveal a basic schematic face: two eyes and a mouth, and the title of this work plays therefore not only on the anthropomorphic imagery discovered by the camera, but also the intrusive and sometimes aggressive act of scrutinising subjects for which the police are renown.
Also presented is The Prisoner (2008), a double-projection work that further extends Nashashibis exploration of vision and control. The film camera follows the silhouetted figure of a woman through an anonymous interior and out onto the streets of London. Threading a single filmstrip loop through two film projectors coupled together, Nashashibi has created a time lag between the play of the left and right screens. The swelling soundtrack of Rachmaninoffs The Isle of the Dead vies with the clattering noise of the projectors and the sound of the womans clicking heels. As a consequence of the double delay, both the image and the sound of the film appear constantly out of synch, and the viewer is caught in an endless, disorientating pursuit.
The exhibition culminates with a new commission, Nashashibis most recent work, Jack Straws Castle (2009), which marks a considerable departure for the artist. Working with a large cast and crew for the first time, this film, shot against a woodland backdrop from dusk until dawn, explores the boundaries of the performative body, and creates an associative chain of images that take on a symbolic or ritualistic significance. Using footage shot in and around a London public parks, Nashashibi interlaces scenes taken both from real life liaisons and from those comprising of a large cast of actors. The key protagonist in this work, however, is the artists own mother, who takes on the role of a guide for both the characters in the film and the gallery viewer.
Nashashibi was born in Croydon, UK, in 1973, and graduated from Glasgow School of Art in 2000. Her solo exhibitions include: Presentation House, Vancouver (2008); and Chisenhale Gallery, London (2007). Her group exhibitions include: Manifesta 7, Trento (2008); Scotland & Venice, 52nd Venice Biennale (2007); and Becks Futures, ICA, London (2003, winner). Nashashibi also has a collaborative practice with the artist Lucy Skaer. Nashashibi/Skaer solo exhibitions include: Tate Britain, London (2008); and CAC Brétigny (2008). Their group exhibitions include: 5th Berlin Biennale (2008).