Hiwa K: Pre-Image (Blind as the Mother Tongue)

Still from: Hiwa K, Pre-Image (Blind as the Mother Tongue), 2017. Single channel HD video, color, sound, 17:00 mins. English and Kurdish, with English subtitles. Courtesy the artist, Prometeo Gallery Ida Pisani, and KOW.

Hiwa K: Pre-Image (Blind as the Mother Tongue)

April 12–30, 2022
DARC Project Space

This exhibition is presented as part of Tending Land, a program marking the 40th anniversary of the Digital Arts Resource Centre (DARC), and bringing together several artists from around the world, whose works relate narratives about the ways in which land may be perceived, connected with, and cared for. The program honours the fact that questions concerning land and sovereignty are of particular significance in Canada, where traditional territories have been expropriated by the settler-colonial state, and historic treaties around Indigenous Peoples’ land rights were often reneged upon. The exhibition also draws links to the centrality of land in the struggles of many communities around the world, especially the global majority who have experienced colonialism in various guises, and who continue to endure its troubling aftermath today.

Pre-Image (Blind as the Mother Tongue) revisits parts of the artist’s long and arduous journey, crossing Europe on foot from Iraqi Kurdistan to Germany. In this work, Hiwa K raises questions about how the specificity of place recedes, and a new relationship with the land emerges for those who need to flee their ancestral homelands and seek refuge elsewhere. While in a transitory state, the traveller develops a strong connection to the immediate unknown territory, as a way of adapting to the terrains traversed. After leaving the place of their birth, the crossing of land becomes the new norm for immigrants, the very condition they must inhabit—their feet, the artist suggests, become their new home. The voyage transforms migrants, who need to stretch themselves in order to survive, developing coping mechanisms which mirror their surroundings. The camera follows the artist as he walks across various landscapes, urban and natural, while carefully balancing a reflective contraption, almost a navigation prosthesis that extends his body, in a commentary on the vagaries of mass movement, often hazardous if not fatal—demonstrating that attentiveness to one’s precarious situation becomes as critical as the landscapes being negotiated.

Tending Land is curated by Amin Alsaden.


Hiwa K was born in Kurdistan-Northern Iraq in 1975. His informal studies in his home town Sulaymaniyah were focused on European literature and philosophy, learnt from available books translated into Arabic. After moving to Europe in 2002, Hiwa K studied music as a pupil of the Flamenco master Paco Peña in Rotterdam, and subsequently settled in Germany. His works escape normative aesthetics but give a possibility of another vibration to vernacular forms, oral histories (Chicago Boys, 2010), modes of encounter (Cooking with Mama, 2006) and political situations (This lemon tastes of apple, 2011). The repository of his references consists of stories told by family members and friends, found situations as well as everyday forms that are the products of pragmatics and necessity. He continuously critiques the art education system and the professionalisation of art practice, as well as the myth of the individual artist. Many of his works have a strong collective and participatory dimension, and express the concept of obtaining knowledge from everyday experience rather than doctrine. Hiwa K participated in various group shows such as Manifesta 7, Trient (2008), La Triennale, Intense Proximity, Paris (2012), the “Edgware Road Project” at the Serpentine Gallery, London (2012), the Venice Biennale (2015) and documenta14, Kassel/Athens (2017). A selection of recent solo shows include the New Museum, NYC (2018), S.M.A.K., Ghent (2018), Kunstverein Hannover (2018), Jameel Arts Center Dubai (2020) and Museum Abteiberg (2021). In 2016 he received the Arnold Bode Prize and the Schering Stiftung Art Award and had a solo exhibition at KW, Berlin (2017). His “Chicago Boys” project is continuously hosted by international institutions.


Hiwa K, photo by Sarhang Hars; Amin Alsaden, photo by Gary Franks.

Hiwa K: In Conversation
April 22, 2022, 12:00 PM EDT

Please join exhibiting artist Hiwa K for an online conversation with curator Amin Alsaden, around the work presented at DARC, and related themes in the artist’s practice more broadly.

For more information, and to receive the link to the conversation, please register here.


About DARC:
Digital Arts Resource Centre (DARC), formerly SAW Video, is a not-for-profit, artist-run media art centre that supports artists through programming, education, and access to equipment and mentorship. Our mission is to foster the development of a diverse community of media artists, actively promoting equity regardless of race, age, class, gender, sexual orientation, language, or ability. Our core principles are independence of expression, affordable access to all, and paying artists fair compensation for their work. Initially founded in 1981 as a project of the Sussex Annex Works (S.A.W.), SAW Video and SAW Gallery later moved to Arts Court and formed the multidisciplinary centre Galerie-SAW-Video. In 2001, SAW Video became independent from SAW Gallery, forming SAW Video Association. In 2020, the Digital Arts Resource Centre (DARC) became the organization’s new identity, expanding our digital presence online and asserting our role as a point of support for artists.

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