+ Lava Rising, The Red Chador : Genesis I Anida Yoeu Ali, 2019. Mauna Kea Lava Fields, Hawaii, United States. Performance & Concept: Anida Yoeu Ali.
SOUL Fury | Nur Shkembi

SOUL fury was a exhibition of work by contemporary female artists from across the globe, presented by Bendigo Art Gallery in collaboration with Nur Shkembi, independent curator and scholar of contemporary Islamic art. The exhibition brings together the work of sixteen leading Australian and international contemporary artists working across sculpture, photography, painting, installation, video and textiles. Gleaned from artists’ studios and major national collections, the work of sixteen artists with diverse artistic practices, social perspectives and cultural traditions is delicately threaded to reflect on the essential nature of female agency in the current social and political climate. 

SOUL fury curator Nur Shkembi, reflects on her powerful yet largely unseen exhibition held at Bendigo Art Gallery in 2021. 

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SOUL fury foregrounded the feminist narratives presented in the work of the contributing artists, with artistic content sharing important social and political currents. However, as experienced by much of the arts industry over the past two years, the pandemic looped itself into the life of the exhibition, manifesting as a series of disruptions including the opening, audience attendance, public programs and the installation.

 + Westoxicated #7 (from the Under Western Eyes series) Hoda Afshar, 2013-14.  archival pigment print.

Regional Victoria became a no-go-zone for much of the installation period, instead the team relied on pre-install preparations, maps and a series of phone calls, images and messages. Then there was that glorious momentary reprieve when the travel ban was lifted, and I was able to visit the gallery for the final install and recording of the curators walk through. Literally minutes after completing the video, a fourth hard lockdown was announced. Despite the multiple lockdowns endured throughout this period, there was a resounding sense of gratefulness to be able to see such an important exhibition to fruition. However, it was admittingly gratefulness coupled with a type of melancholy regarding the reliance on technology to deliver the exhibition experience to the audience. The power and joy found in the materiality of the work shown in SOUL fury, and in the immersion and proximity of the artworks and installations in the gallery space (and one of the great pleasures of curating I might add) was made absent.

 + Armour Suit for Rani of Jhansi II Naiza Khan, 2017. Photography by Charlie Bettinson. galvanised steel, feathers, leather.

How exactly could the ‘soul’ and indeed the ‘fury’ of these incredible female artists be fully realised if only seen through the eyes, and not experienced through the entire body?

SOUL fury, like so many exhibitions and projects of the time, oscillated between an extraordinary experience and a pivot, a compromise and a fragmented experience disrupted by the periodic absence of a live audience.

Excerpt: ABC Radio National - The Art Show with Daniel Browning, Interview: We perpetuate this myth about not having a history - taking art beyond black and white terms. Listen to the full segment here.


Notes

SOUL fury, Bendigo Art Gallery, 7 August 2021-30 January 2022. Curated by Nur Shkembi. Artists: Adeela Suleman, Anida Yoeu Ali, Ayesha Sultana, Cigdem Aydemir, Eugenia Flynn, Hoda Afshar, Hadieh Shafie, Idil Abdullahi, Mehwish Iqbal, Naiza Khan, Nusra Latif Qureshi, Shadi Ghadirian, Shahzia Sikander, Shireen Taweel, Zahra Imani, Zeina Iaali

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