Parasol Unit plays host to the solo show of London based artist, Shezad Dawood. Spanning the gallery’s ground floor and first floor levels, it comprises several sculptures, including some neon light works, five large scale paintings on textile and two videos. A Mystery Play (2010) is the title of the 15 minute black and white video showing upstairs, whereas Towards the Possible Film (2014) is the cornerstone 20 minute colour film that lends its title to the entire exhibition.
Towards the Possible Film (2014), which has already been presented at both the 5th Biennale of Marrakech and Art Dubai earlier this year, was shot at the site of Legzira in southwest Morocco’s Sidi Ifni province. The narrative’s epicentre features two blue-faced aliens nevertheless humanlike figures emerging from the sea and walking towards the shore, where they are brutally confronted by a primitive native tribe, attacked and eliminated.
Utilising a heterogeneous setting for his A Mystery Play (2010), Dawood used an early 20th century neoclassical Masonic building in Winnipeg, Canada. Subdivided in numerous scenes, viewers witness mystifying rituals comingled with inquisitive burlesque performances, inspired by the city’s historical and cultural past. Skilfully edited and complimented by peculiar music, both films attempt to investigate intercultural identities across socio-political realms.
Dawood builds a cogent parallel for the narrative of his 2014 film. Choosing the province of Sidi Ifni, with its own troubled past, evokes the unstable political situation following the Spanish-Moroccan War leading up to the regaining of the area by Morocco in 1969. His own Asian family roots also seem to have vigorously influenced and inspired his subject matter.
Indigenous tribes expel impending threats, personified by a female member of the tribe attacking the female invader. In a bizarrely surreal domain, both parties are protagonists, while the narrative can function in two diverse antithetical ways, a role reversal; the predator may become the prey. The underlying hypostatic duality of each group is also of inquisitive nature. Are the two irenic seeming astronauts the real threat? In an almost didactic mode, Dawood embraces in the unconscious of those ‘not in the know’ the role of the newcomer/prophet as an external threat and exposes the instinctual necessity for extermination.
In an analogous surreal atmosphere the upstairs 2010 video interrogates similar notions interweaved with a bewildering and humorous manner but not so effectively executed as his later 2014 film. Dawood’s five -suspended from the ceiling- acrylics on vintage textile, produced by women in Pakistan in the 1970s, encompass a similar dialogue among different periods of time as well as cultural disciplines, all dispersed and dissolved across the past and present.
Apart from the minimalist and decorative idiosyncrasy of the circular neon light sculptures placed on both floors, the given conceptualised context emphasising on the ‘mystical transformation of the self’, appears somewhat thin and incoherent. Dawood’s most recent efforts have evidently generated a thought provoking 20 minute film with fairly well-structured and compact connotations and allegories. And demonstrating a stronger command in film production, this solo exhibition may be the herald of further explorations and stimulating projects about to come.
Shezad Dawood: Towards the Possible Film, Parasol Unit, 14 Wharf Road, London, N1 7RW, until 25 May 2014. For more information www.parasol-unit.org.
1. Shezad Dawood: Towards the Possible Film. Parasol unit installation view, 2014. Courtesy of Parasol unit and the artist. Photo Stephen White © Shezad Dawood