Text by Róisín Tapponi
Precious Pipeline is dedicated to global systems of meaning: a response to sacredness, ‘the interconnectedness of things’, radical margins, rhizomatic communities, Instagram mutuals, and the preciousness of womanhood. Ribboned tightly like a corset, these preordained codes of conduct are worn with a painful sensitivity: the exhibition is dedicated to those who wear their heart on their sleeve.
In her first UK solo exhibition, Shamiran Istifan addresses the complexity of relations across politics, culture, philosophy, gender and geography. She boldly visualises a series of responses to the intricacies of world-building, drawing on relational aesthetics intimate to her own lived experiences. The exhibition combs through the tangled knots that thread us together, even if we are far apart. The possibilities of meaning are found in the relationships between a diverse range of media: new works which include video, installation and textiles. Patched together, the exhibition proposes a new world order, where 9/11, a nose job and a loss of innocence are all moments to be reborn.
The exhibition straddles co-dependency and cultural assimilation. In this environment, Istifan explores what it means to ‘stay with the trouble’ (Donna Haraway), to co-exist between cultures, geographies and traditions where all feel foreign. This involves an alienation on all sides, an uncomfortableness which has begun to feel like home. There are speculative fictions at play, as decolonial realities are at odds with hegemonic ways of being, already doomed where co-existence isn’t possible. The stakes are high: these relations are as much about grief as they are survival. To move against the grain is to be responsible for change and disruption of concrete systems, to accept the necessity of code-switching when foreignness starts to become too familiar.
The ceremony of this performance – or, this performance of ceremony. The exhibition traces the visual language of traditions, rituals, liturgies that are really just the elaboration of mundane routines. It is a room of smoke-and-mirrors: Istifan uses translucent materials and silver surfaces to reflect/refract the fictions we tell ourselves, playing with the boundaries between landscapes and dreamscapes. The softness of cushions and the sharpness of acrylic sculptures share the same space, as do moving and still images. Subtle impressions and cultural references mark each material, which toys with our ability to fully see any truth or form. The mirrors are blurred, denying the possibility for reflection.
Caught between images of weddings and funerals, the exhibition asks: what if we could pause destiny? What do these rituals of life mean, when there is no meaning at all? The exhibition is a rite of passage, a moment of transition with the request that we hold each other softly in this unrelenting, propelling world order.