Shezad Dawood is a London-born artist of mixed ethnic origin. He is renowned for his unique multi-media artistic practice that celebrates, explores and invites discussion around issues related to cultural origin and communication. He examines where these topics intersect in line with past, present and future technologies. Currently his intriguing film installation, entitled ‘Towards the Possible Film’, can be seen at Leeds Art Gallery. This film is a culmination of many of the themes central to Dawood’s practice.
Since graduating from the Royal College of Art just over a decade ago, Shezad has seen success exhibiting work and collaborating with other artists nationally and internationally. As a mixed-heritage child from an Indian father, Pakistani mother and Irish step-mother, Shezad’s work demonstrates an intimate fascination with intersecting cultures and aesthetics. His work often blends visual imagery, iconography, language and narratives from various cultures and times. In its multidisciplinary approach it combines media associated with a variety of historical and cultural periods, from the enduring medium of painting to newer cinematic and digital processes, such as those in this film.
Shezad’s work, though a complex puzzle of interweaving historical, cultural and aesthetic elements, instantly feels familiar. It hints at a type of contemporary eclecticism increasingly seen in creative media such as popular music videos. ‘Towards the Possible’ is thought-provoking and inquisitive without much of the aggression or demanding persistence sometimes associated with art exploring such heavily debated and intimate themes. It carefully seeks to explore the tensions and curiosities that arise with the meeting of such varied cultural elements.
The film sees two androgynous blue alien travellers in very human spacesuits arrive and navigate the coast of Sidi Ifni in Morocco, where the piece was filmed. The travellers soon encounter classical natives along the rocky, barren coastal landscape. They are framed within a moment of first contact that alludes to the various moments in human history where civilisations, for better or worse, first encounter cultures that are beyond their comprehension. Inspired by the real cultural tensions and wars between Spanish, Saharan and Moroccan groups during the 1950s and ’60s, Shezad’s choice of location could literally mirror an alien Martian field.
While watching the film a type of magical realism takes hold. The contemporary revolves with the mystical, together with the use of factual documentary filming techniques. The work, although brimming with tension and conflict, has the gentle illusionary quality of a dream. Although it rides a futuristic science-fiction narrative, it continually feels like a reflection and comment on the past, like pieces of something being recollected. This is further enforced by pieces of monologue that are sporadically spoken in Tamazight, an ancient language that is rising in popularity in Morocco.
Melding linguistic, visual and narrative elements from various time periods and cultures, ‘Towards the Possible Film’ is a celebration of the eclectic and progressive amalgamation of cultures, while at the same time acknowledging the difficulties found in this process. Ultimately, Dawood’s work becomes a comment on the very social experience of the human journey and the cultures that contain, divide and unite us.
Shezad Dawood’s installation remains on display at Leeds Art Gallery until 18th January 2015. For further information please see the gallery’s website.