I don’t want to be there when it happens

Saturday, 11 November, 2017 to Sunday, 24 December, 2017

Artists: Raqs Media Collective, Reena Saini Kallat, Raj Kumar, David Chesworth and Sonia Leber, Mithu Sen, Adeela Suleman, Abdullah M. I. Syed

Curated by Mikala Tai, Kate Warren, and Eugenio Viola

Starting from the complex socio-political relationship between India and Pakistan, I don’t want to be there when it happens investigates, in a broader sense, the psychology of trauma in an era of perpetual conflict.

A number of problems and contradictions are challenging the world in recent years: a diffused sense of inequality, systemic poverty connected with violence and crime, military imperialism, and the phenomenon of migration, which has now reached the dimension of a mass, multi-origin diaspora.

2017 marks the 70th anniversary of the Partition of India (14 August 1947) that saw the departing British colonial powers divide the country: West of the Partition became Muslim-majority Pakistan, while the rest of the country was demarcated as Hindu-majority India. The partition led to one of the greatest forced mass migrations in human history – resulting in more than one million deaths.

In response to the anniversary of the Partition, this exhibition features artists from both Pakistan and India whose evocative practices convey the profound existential unease of our age, either directly or indirectly. They unravel the present time, dealing with the legacy of history, as well as foretelling the future.

Artworks include Adeela Suleman’s elegant hand-beaten chandelier, whose ubiquitous dead bird motifs subtly recall suicide bombings in Pakistan, and Abdullah Syed’s disquieting installation of suspended drones made of razor blades.

Sonia Leber and David Chesworth’s birds-eye view video recalls an unidentified Australian non-place. The limitations of language and routine violence against women are the subjects of Mithu Sen’s poignant video installation, while Reena Kallat’s poetic series of photographs document a poem by Rabindranath Tagore, written on a beach in salt and inevitably washed away by the ocean.

Raj Kumar’s over-scaled prayer mats are made of thousands of large dice, displayed to recall the architectural magnificence of mosques or cathedrals, while Raqs Media Collective’s transparent flyer bears three pieces of text by American poet Agha Shahid Ali, Pakistani intellectual Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Bengali polymath Rabindranath Tagore. Carved into the paper in their respective languages, these poetic fragments form a pacifist cohabitation beyond borders and languages.

I don’t want to be there when it happens does not attempt to present any simplistic set of solutions, but rather reaffirms the rejection of violence as well as the need for more effective and profound structures for dialogue through conscious acts of engagement.

Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts Senior Curator Eugenio Viola said, “For my curatorial debut here in Australia, I wanted to address some of the most complex circumstances present in the world today. Particularly the re-emergence of religious extremism, prejudice and discrimination against national minorities, as I firmly believe that art must create bridges instead of borders and re-affirm the co-existence of all possible differences.”

This exhibition is organised in partnership with 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art Sydney and has been expanded for its presentation at PICA.

I don’t want to be there when it happens will be opened by Dr Zarrin Siddiqui, President of Pakistanis in Australia and Associate Professor in Medical Education at UWA, on Friday 10 November 2017 at 6.30pm alongside another group exhibition, Remedial Works.

A specially curated public program, including artist and curator talks, a performance by Clare Milledge, a choreographical work by Jay Emmanuel, open studios, and a lively multicultural celebration co-presented with illUMEnate WA, will accompany these exhibitions. PICA will also play host to Open House Perth 2017, a citywide program of events and openings on Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 November.