No Collars: A Sicilian Mediation

This essay was posted on the blog of the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London, to coincide with Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2015/2016 (an annual exhibition of newly-graduated students from UK art schools, which ended 24 January 2016).  The essay accompanies a video Almadraba 38.17° N 13.24° E , and uses the colours, buildings, light and poetry of Sicily to project a multi-layered narrative.

(Im-)Migration, a topic of contemporary urgency for Sicily and Europe, as for the U.S., is given a contrasting, complementary, treatment here.  The artist, U. Kanad Chakrabarti, mines his own biography to subtly explore skilled, middle-class immigration that has contributed to American technology, medical, and academic success between the 1970s to September 11, 2001.  Moreover, Sicily itself, between 1900 and the 1960s, exported thousands of economic migrants, who contributed to the building of New York and the re-building of Northern Italy.  The artist’s treatment, perhaps, can be seen to present some light at the end of Europe’s present dark tunnel of migration.

The video’s perspective on Sicily is also informed by the island’s 12th century fusion of Arab, Byzantine and Norman culture.  As in Spanish al-Andalus, the Arab culture inflected language, food, architecture, and social norms in Sicily.  A symbol of this was the great map and atlas produced by an Islamic cartographer Ibrahim al-Idrisi.  Chakrabarti, as in previous works such as Clifford Torus (2014) or the video i j k w (2014), relates this historical world map to more abstract mathematical approaches to projection and mapping.

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