28 March 2013

Shezad Dawood is the next contributor to the Random Acts series with Trailer, a short that combines extra-terrestrial and galactic themes with concepts of mass culture and the media. A product of a larger body of enquiry Dawood has been exploring, and coming after an exhibition on a similar theme titled Piercing Brightness at MOA, this short is an expression of some of Dawood’s chief interests and artistic practice. 

Working in a very wide variety of platforms, including installation, film and performance art, Dawood’s work is motivated by research and investigation. Frequently returning to the realm of magic and Sufi mysticism, Dawood is interested in the contradictory narratives and attitudes that accompany the magical and mystical. This is somewhat of a taboo in America, yet in Morrocco (where Dawood has exhibited work), it’s an important and expected area of exploration for the curator, writer, or artist. Hear more from Dawood in an interview with Sara Raza.

Contrasting apparently contradictory or contrapuntal histories and narratives, Dawood exacerbates the perplexing problem of representation in the art world today. In a landscape where art works frequently juxtapose cultural narratives, both to show their differences and equally to deny them, Dawood presents a style of work that eschews doing either. Amelia Crouch writes of her realisation of this phenomenon in Dawood’s work in viewing Feature, a 55 minute film shown in Image, Dawood’s exhibition for Castlefield Gallery. Explaining her process of trying to understand the history and meaning of Feature before simply stopping to enjoy it, she describes the film as “a kind of vaudeville with dreamlike (non)logic and mixed up imagery that reflects our intercultural world where we all forget the meaning of things, but still retain a sense of their significance anyway.” This film combines imagery and themes from the American Wild West mythology with zombie horror, and makes reference to Hindu deity Krishna and Wagner’s Valkyrie. A buoyant and dynamic piece, Feature is perhaps the purposefully inconclusive recognition of an oft over-analytic art world. Read the rest of this Crouch’s review at a-n

Dawood’s award-winning piece, New Dream Machine Project, is a fantastical work based on the invention of the Dream Machine by artist and icon of beat culture, Brion Gysin. The Dream Machine is a device invented in order to be viewed with the eyes closed, producing a hallucinogenic effect. Dawood’s piece was an outdoor installation in a public space that mimicked the original Dream Machine, creating a very large metallic version with psychedelic coloured lights instead of the traditional white light. Placing this concept in an outdoor setting gives it a very different aspect to that of the image of the insular and isolated indoor environment one might imagine for the Dream Machine. With its enhanced scale and colour, it takes on a space ship-like appearance, its science fiction association suggestive of the collective mythologies and hallucinations of society. Dawood seems to suggest that there is no reason for society to deny the mythologies that are so prevalent across many cultures. This public sculpture is perhaps an attempt to challenge the tensions between reality and mythology, to recognise the widespread appeal for alternate modes of experience, whether magical, spiritual or transcendental. Take a look at this piece in action in this YouTube clip

Find out more about Shezad Dawood’s fascinating practice at his website and in an article for Harper’s Bazaar.

Trailer screens as part of Channel 4’s Random Act strand tonight at 12:10 and then it will be available on www.randomacts.channel4.com