Current: Sun 9 August – Fri 4 September 2015
Miream Salameh was wrenched from her Syrian home. After her family gathered piece by piece in Lebanon they moved on to Australia in 2013. Although much of her art, and her ‘homeland’s deep-rooted civilization’, was left behind and has been destroyed or looted, Miream carries her sensitivities and capabilities with her, ‘between the folds of her soul’. Her art addresses ‘women’s freedom and the suffering of people being crucified for loving life and liberty’ (quotes from artist’s website).
Woman in stone (2011)
Salameh’s work in clay, wood, stone, and now 2D, materially speaks to the depths of her culture and the cry of her forced transitions. Her new 2D work references the physicality of her sculpture but with the migrant’s edge, indeed the migrant’s ‘double vision’. As Homi K Bhabha puts it: ‘the borderline work of culture demands an encounter with the newness that is not part of a continuum of past and present. It creates a sense of the new with an insurgent act of cultural translation’ (Location of Culture, 1994, 5). Art speaks too of urgent transition, and the pain often associated with unwanted mobility.
Untitled, Video still (2015)
Salameh’s new work in Australia has resonance with that of Mona Hatoum. Hatoum was born in Lebanon to Palestinian parents and stranded in London in 1975 when war broke out in her home country. Salameh, from Homs, is similarly unable to return to her home country, Syria.
What do sedentary locals know of it … that distance, measured not by cold kilometers, but by the breath of warm familiar forms become shadowy, forms and sounds and calligraphy become chimeric, over time … thus Mona Hatoum’s composite video, Measures of Distance, (1988, video/stills/conversation over), in which the daughter gropes for the familiar heat of the mother, the very steam of home. Where Hatoum measures loss of ‘mother’, here Miream Salameh ‘measures’ loss of the motherland, and self, pressed against a wall that will not give, in a vale of tears. Each woman yearns for the motherland – perhaps in a way only women will admit, or examine.
Untitled, Video still (2015)
In 1986 Nikos Papastergiadis observed:
‘Migration makes you more conscious of the pattern of change and the requirements that change makes of you. You continually have to negotiate the positioning of your body and its surrounding space.’ (‘Culture, Self and Plurality’, Arena, 76, 1986, 51)
Displaced misplaced replaced – over time the migrant becomes another, and might conjure another life, or might forever live in the darkness of the past, among the discombobulating flicker of memories. The pressing loss of a telling patina is particularly acute for the artist – robbed, stolen from seminal sensitivities, and familiar means and vocabulary of creation, tossed into a vortex of the unfamiliar, the artist is particularly aware of the painfully strange, the necessary insurgency.
The visual cries of Miream Salameh and Hatoum, and many others, are a looking for ‘words’, a screaming for shapes – that will fit loss and re-configuration. The two dimensional images here are Salameh’s beginning, chaperoned as it were, by one of her few sculptures from the past, necessarily small because it has had to journey from Syria to Australia, with its breathless maker.
See more of Salameh’s work at http://mireamssl.wix.com/mireamsalameh