Artists: Khadija Baker, Livia Daza-Paris, Michael Greyeyes, John Halaka, Siamak Haseli, Gita Hashemi
Grieving Empire features six artists whose works reveal the violence of the settler colonial state, its imperialist adventures, and its proxy wars. The artists anchor their work in their bodies, on the land, and in unfolding transit and return. The works in this show reject aesthetics of postcolonial catharsis, in which we are asked to pity, and then purge our knowledge of, imperialism’s victims. Rather, these works animate aesthetics of revolutionary grieving, which demand that we “apprehend the policies creating unlivable, ungrievable conditions” (Byrd, 2011, 38). The works include animation for a child injured in the Syrian war created from the artist’s cut hair (Baker); dance and ritual on the land where the artist’s father was executed in 1960s Venezuela by state agents trained at the US School of the Americas (Daza-Paris); site-specific dance moving through the past and present terror of Canadian residential schools (Greyeyes); testimony of a Palestinian woman recounting the 1982 disappearance of her sons during the time of the Sabra and Shatila massacre (Halaka); a child’s nightmare of the Iraq war (Haseli); and postcards inscribing past and present exile sent from the artist’s journey along the Balkan refugee trail (Hashemi).
John Halaka’s artwork and documentary projects address the forced displacement of the indigenous Palestinians, their persistent struggle to return to their native land, and the role of personal narratives as a tool for the survival of their history in the face of an ongoing cultural genocide. Halaka is Visual Artist and Professor of Visual Arts at the University of San Diego. He received his MFA in Painting and Drawing from the University of Houston in 1983, and his B.A. in Fine Arts from Brooklyn College in 1979. His artwork and documentary film projects can be seen at the following websites: www.johnhalaka.com, www.sittingcrowproductions.com. His most recent Gallery Al-Quds solo show was Portraits of Denial and Desire.