Exhibition Review: “I am looking for you like a drone, my love” by Aziz Hazara + Unknown Carpet Makers
May 22, 2022
Amjad Majid presents a review of “I am looking for you like a drone, my love”, an exhibition showcasing work by Aziz Hazara and unknown carpet makers. Curated by Dr. David Sequeira, the exhibition is on display at the Fiona & Sidney Myer Gallery, Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne from April 14 to May 21, 2022. Inverse Journal has included an independently curated visual bibliography to familiarize readers and viewers with the Afghan artist’s extensive art practice.

Blending the craft of Afghan carpet makers with Aziz Hazara’s photographic and video works, I am looking for you like a drone, my love reflects the unlikely convergence of two symbolic objects that—within the space of the exhibition—become as likely as the devastation left behind by the military invasion of Afghanistan. At a first glance, these two objects could be considered diametrically opposite to one another, and yet in the Afghanistan of the last two decades, they have shared a common space within the popular imagination—between trauma and remembrance. One of these objects is the kilim (gilim), an Afghan carpet woven by Hazara artisans whose tradition traverses centuries and reminds of a greater history far beyond the wreckage of modern war forced upon the country. The other is an object of technological and tactical precision used to generate aerial photography and video footage that is militaristic in nature and purpose. From Kashmir to Kabul, the carpet is a symbol of domestic comfort and an item of cultural heritage, indigenous craft and native artistry. From Kabul to any place that has seen war over the last few decades, the drone is precisely the opposite—an instrument devoid of any larger history or purpose, and manufactured to geolocate, identify and scrutinize public and private spaces, reducing the subject to mere object of inspection and suspicion.

 Image courtesy of David Sequeira.

The carpet is loyal to the floor it stretches upon, rooted in the soil and organic to the culture and the peoples it belongs to. The drone solely operates and takes on the function of a drone once it is in the air, as a metallic technological device that is alien to the land it surveils upon. The separation between the two is not merely that of a terrestrial object and one that is aerial. Between the two resides a displacement that has occupied multiple forms to give way to the tragic poetry at the center of Aziz Hazara’s exhibition. Such a poetry becomes palpable as one enters the exhibition space, takes one’s shoes of as is customary (and recommended), while standing or sitting before a variety of photographs and videos produced by the artist in the aftermath of the immediate withdrawal of international troops from his native Afghanistan. The specific photographs and videos put on display show chaotic piles of waste, from plastic, wooden to electronic, in visuals taken from what not too long ago was the largest US airbase near the “ancient city of Bagram”, located approximately 60 kilometers from the nation’s capital.

 Image courtesy of David Sequeira.

 Image courtesy of David Sequeira.

Curated by Dr. David Sequeira, Hazara’s exhibition is held together by contrasts forced to coexist within a common space that is not only shattered by war and fractured by conflict, but also invented and created by the resulting catastrophic conditions. Beyond such immediate evocations, the exhibition successfully conveys a vulnerability that is human and inspires the courage that it takes to not look away as the world has done far too many times when it comes to Afghanistan and its people. The exhibition also evokes clear traces of human persistence in the face of great loss and dispossession to the extent that Hazara’s work is not simply invested in presenting abrupt juxtapositions and harsh contrasts. There is a greater artistic effort in place that situates viewers and visitors in the liminal space that is a direct outcome of blurred boundaries. According to the exhibition’s curator, David Sequeira:

The divisions between traditional and contemporary, craft and art, collective and individual, unknown and known, artisan and artist are blurred, less fixed and possibly irrelevant in the ideas about history and the nature of lived experience generated by this combination. In this sense, I’m looking for you like a drone, my love can be understood as being about the consideration of oneself, in relation to another’s surroundings and culture, which is woven into a reflection about the intersecting aspects of change and continuity. This understanding was significantly heightened with the incidental learning that weaving rugs with his family was an integral part of Hazara’s growing up in Afghanistan.

Confronted with the vast visuals of detritus and debris, while drawing familiarity—perhaps unconsciously—from the smooth and worn-out textures of the Hazara rug, a viewer or gallery visitor may at once find momentary refuge in the homely and domestic caress of its weaved patterns in contact with their bare feet. Such comfort is displaced as one engages with the visuals of vast dumps that can represent nothing more than what the foreign troops left behind without much afterthought. It is here that Hazara’s work excels in invoking the type of empathy and relatability that has gone missing in a wider international audience. Suspended between the familiarity of a Hazara carpet at the touch of one’s bare feet and the panoramic visuals of a landscape composed by waste, one cannot but inquire as to where the Afghani subject is situated in the resulting chaos—spatially, temporally, culturally and historically. Here, the exhibition ascends to become a marker of time and history, both personal, individual, public and collective. Through the space that Hazara’s work opens up, the question of time and history becomes essential in interrogating event, occurrence, moment, past and future in a manner that being present appears simultaneous with being co-present. In this mode, the exhibition might perhaps be one of the most immediate and legitimate means by which one can relate to the Afghani experience of the last two decades of foreign occupation.

I am looking for you like a drone, my love, 2022. Install view of I am looking for you like a drone, my love, 2022. Aziz Hazara + unknown carpet makers. Documentation by Christo Crocker.
I am looking for you like a drone, my love, 2022. Documentation by Christo Crocker.
I am looking for you like a drone, my love, 2022. Documentation by Christo Crocker.
Aziz Hazara, ‘Untitled 1’, 2021; unknown carpet makers, Kilim, handwoven by the Hazara tribe in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan.
I am looking for you like a drone, my love, 2022. Documentation by Christo Crocker.
I am looking for you like a drone, my love, 2022. Documentation by Christo Crocker.
I am looking for you like a drone, my love, 2022. Documentation by Christo Crocker.
I am looking for you like a drone, my love, 2022. Documentation by Christo Crocker.
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Aziz’s work retrieves and recovers a being and a sense of personhood that has either been ignored or that has remained under the shadows of war. The primacy of the domestic space is retained and restored only to put into question the aftermath of what could easily have been the result of the most devastating earthquake, but instead happens to be the most immediate residue of a foreign occupation. In the midst of such visuals from an overpowering wreckage, the Hazara carpet and its familiar domestic touch becomes a reminder of an indigenous subject displaced internally and seeking to make sense—to put it lightly—of the last twenty years of foreign human activity. In this manner, the exhibition sheds light on the unlikely space shared by an indigenous symbol of Afghan culture and history and a foreign instrument of war, both of which became likely in the Afghan quotidian of the last twenty years.

At the outset, this transition of an unlikely space into the realm of the likely and the commonplace exposes the grotesque nature of war. The title of the exhibition “I am looking for you like a drone, my love” does not shy away from relating the everyday experience of an Afghani subject tainted by such a war. The astounding tragedy gains greater force in considering that such a contemporary subject is left with nothing more in the face of great loss and displacement than to adopt the gaze of a drone in trying to re-locate and re-situate the self, the other, and the perplexing surroundings that are grounded in wreckage and devastation. Such a wreckage and devastation are material as they are symbolic, perhaps another facet of Hazara’s work that leaves a greater impression with viewers and gallery visitors. Both material and cultural history and legacy remain blurred, as one—that of the drone, its warfare and the waste left behind—is transposed onto the other—that of the Hazara carpet, and its greater history and legitimacy within Afghan culture.

I am looking for you like a drone, my love, 2022. Documentation by Christo Crocker.
Aziz Hazara, ‘Untitled 2’, 2021; unknown carpet makers, Half kilim, half rug Handmade in Helmand, Afghanistan.

I am looking for you like a drone, my love, 2022. Documentation by Christo Crocker.
Install view of I am looking for you like a drone, my love, 2022. Aziz Hazara + unknown carpet makers.

I am looking for you like a drone, my love, 2022. Documentation by Christo Crocker.
Aziz Hazara, ‘Untitled 1’, 2021; unknown carpet makers, Kilim, handwoven by the Hazara tribe in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan.

Winner of the 6th Edition of the Future Generation Art Prize, Aziz Hazara has gained international acclaim as one of the prominent artists emerging from Afghanistan over the last decade. In his own words, Aziz qualifies his art practice through his “interest in the issues of memory, archive, surveillance, the panopticon and the politics of representation” that “is deeply entrenched in the geopolitics and the never-ending conflict that afflicts [his] native Afghanistan.” Such issues, according to Hazara, transcend “geographical specificities and appeal to a contemporary condition that is globally shared.” In I am looking for you like a drone, my love, one can observe the interplay between proximity and distance as these are embodied by the grounded and affixed nature of the carpet and the aerial range and sweeping mobility of the drone. With the rubble and waste composing the visuals produced by the artist, a greater elaboration of a spatial aesthetics that is planted, imposed and enforced is counterposed with the fabric of memory and presence best represented by the five kilims (carpets) that operate as a stage or a platform to offer a grim vantage point.

I am looking for you like a drone, my love, 2022. Documentation by Christo Crocker.
Aziz Hazara, ‘Untitled 1’, 2021; unknown carpet makers, Kilim, handwoven by the Hazara tribe in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan.
I am looking for you like a drone, my love, 2022. Documentation by Christo Crocker.
I am looking for you like a drone, my love, 2022. Install view of I am looking for you like a drone, my love, 2022. Aziz Hazara + unknown carpet makers. Documentation by Christo Crocker.
I am looking for you like a drone, my love, 2022. Documentation by Christo Crocker.
I am looking for you like a drone, my love, 2022. Documentation by Christo Crocker.
I am looking for you like a drone, my love, 2022. Documentation by Christo Crocker.
I am looking for you like a drone, my love, 2022. Documentation by Christo Crocker.
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In what concerns gaze and spatiality, Aziz’s exhibition produces an inversion that cannot be swept under the carpet. The tension felt from the aerial and panoptic gaze of the drone that leaves everything exposed and vulnerable is countered by the firmness, familiarity and “homeliness” of the Hazara rug. As such, while the aerial and overbearing power of the drone displaces or reduces people and things to mere subjects and objects of scrutiny, targeting and possible attack, the Hazara carpet restores and retains the basic qualities of personhood, identity and memory that are native and homegrown. While the drone and the debris left behind by the foreign forces attain a destructive connotation, the artisan craft of the Afghan rug retains its creative and constructive power. In this way, Hazara’s work also inserts the craft of traditional artisans into the traditional museum/gallery space meant for contemporary art. Additionally, I am looking for you like a drone, my love lends itself to a greater commentary and academic investigation into topics concerning spatial and architectural discourses, and how the spatial and architectural configure the experience of the social and political when mediated by power and its exercise.

Given that the exhibition is on display at the University of Melbourne’s Fiona and Sidney Myer Gallery, one could enter the gallery space with a book by Kim Dovey (who teaches at the same university) entitled Framing Places: Mediating Power in Built Form (Routledge)—a seminal text that explores how “the built forms of architecture and urban design act as mediators of social practices of power.” Other academic works by Nasser Abourhame (Spatial Collisions and Discordant Temporalities: Everyday Life between Camp and Checkpoint), and by Gary A. Boyd and Denis Linehan (Ordnance: War + Architecture & Space) among more traditional works by Foucault, Lefebvre and others could equally contextualize the artist’s work in broader, global and cross-cultural terms. Similarly, the academic works of Eyal Weizman over the last two decades can offer more ideas that find resonance with Aziz’s work and demonstrate the greater importance of an art practice that transcends “geographical specificities and [appeals] to a contemporary condition that is globally shared.”

I am looking for you like a drone, my love, 2022. Documentation by Christo Crocker.
Install view of I am looking for you like a drone, my love, 2022. Aziz Hazara + unknown carpet makers.

I’m looking for you like a drone, my love is marked by the fragility felt for decades by an occupied people left to sift through the chaotic debris left behind by alien powers. As such, the exhibition is characterized by vast uncertainties about an unresolved future. In this mode, the symbolic importance of the Afghan carpets in the show acquires greater relevance when these are understood as mediums that inspire hope and provide momentary solace in connecting us to a larger history that is as personal and collective as it is marked by vulnerability and persistence. In making such a larger history and its fragility felt deeply, Aziz Hazara’s latest exhibition with unknown carpet makers succeeds entirely in connecting viewers from all across the world with the place of his birth and the experiences of his people.

Aziz Hazara is represented by Experimenter, Kolkata, India

Afghanistan rugs courtesy Najaf Rugs & Textiles, Melbourne, Australia

Exhibition documentation by Christo Crocker

Relevant Links

Curatorial Essay by Dr. David Sequeira

I am looking for you like a drone, my love
Aziz Hazara + Unknown carpet makers
Curator: Dr David Sequeira
Fiona & Sidney Myer Gallery
Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne

Artist Page on Experimenter Gallery Website

Aziz Hazara (b. 1992 Wardak, Afghanistan) works across various media such as video installation, photography, sound, and sculpture. His work addresses the relationship between various dichotomies such as proximity and distance, reality and fiction, war and peace amongst many others. He intends to address the sensibility of what it is to live in a war zone where the body and the landscape are besieged and yet inherently at an outbreak. Hazara lives and works between Kabul and Berlin.

Color, Light, Taliban; Aziz Hazara went to the Venice Art Festival — Sabira Mehtar (PixStory)

Aziz Hazara’s new film, a concept artist who recently won the Next Generation Award, is a combination of light, darkness and sound. The film begins with a picture of Kabul’s nights being struck by the red trail of a dark rocket. The continuation of the Taliban anthem disrupts the order in the colors and lights of the city.

In conversation with Aziz Hazara at the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (NIRIN)

Curator Fiona Trigg spoke to the Afghan artist about his work, ‘Bow Echo’ (2019), and making art in a troubled region of the world.

ACMI is proudly supporting two artists who are participating in the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (NIRIN), Tarek Lakhrissi and Aziz Hazara. ACMI curator Fiona Trigg met with Aziz to ask him about his work, Bow Echo (2019).

Transgressing the drawn lines — Rita Datta — Telegraph India

Experimenter gallery in its recent show of three artists interrogates assumptions of order and beauty through the intriguing and provocative conceit of the garden

Aziz Hazara Takes $100,000 Future Generation Art Prize for Video About Afghan Resilience — Alex Greenberger (ArtNews)

Aziz Hazara, a young artist based in Berlin and Kabul, Afghanistan, is this year’s winner of the Future Generation Art Prize, one of the biggest awards for emerging artists with a take-home prize of $100,000.

The jury also awarded three additional prizes, each with a $20,000 purse, to Agata Ingarden, Mire Lee, and Pedro Neves Marques. Works by these artists and Hazara are currently on view in a show of the shortlisted nominees at the PinchukArtCentre, a private museum in Kyiv founded by collector Victor Pinchuk.

The Future Generation Art Prize is closely watched because it tends to be predictive of young talent on the verge of a breakthrough. It is awarded to artists who are younger than 35, and since the prize was first given out in 2010 has been given to figures like Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Cinthia Marcelle, Dineo Seshee Bopape, and Carlos Motta—all of whom have since achieved greater success in the international circuit.

To Know Which Way the Wind Blows: Aziz Hazara by Rahel Aima — Mousee Magazine

Aziz Hazara’s practice is concerned with the enduring vestiges of the US and Soviet occupations, and everything the Americans and the Russians left behind. He was born in 1992 in the rural, mountainous central Afghan province of Wardak, and now lives and works between Kabul and Berlin. His work reflects a childhood spent in a conflict zone. His practice spans multiple mediums, and includes performance and installations like the lacily fragile Wall of Condemnation (2019), which features oversize nastaliq1 words taken from post-explosion statements given by officials, hung in a kind of latticed mobile that sways gently in a draft. He is best known, however, for his work with photographs and video.

Aziz Hazara. The Restless Echo of Tomorrow — The Han Nefkens Foundation, in collaboration with the Fundació Antoni Tàpies

The Han Nefkens Foundation, in collaboration with the Fundació Antoni Tàpies, is glad to present the first solo exhibition of Afghan artist Aziz Hazara.

The exhibition, titled The Restless Echo of Tomorrow, is the result of the Mentorship Grant awarded to Hazara by the Han Nefkens Foundation in 2019 that aims to support artists in all aspects of production. The grant has enabled Hazara to be one of the residents at the Higher Institute for Fine Arts (HISK) in Ghent, Belgium.

Curated by Sona Stepanyan and Hilde Teerlinck, The Restless Echo of Tomorrow at the Fundació Antoni Tàpies will show three recent works produced by the Han Nefkens Foundation. They include the critically acclaimed Bow Echo 2019 – a five-channel video installation that was featured for the first time at the Biennale of Sydney 2020 – in addition to the premiere of recently produced Rehearsal (2020) as well as Eyes in the Sky (2020), both single-channel video work.

Artist sends 20 tonnes of rubbish from Afghanistan to US as 'gift to the American people' — Alexandra Chaves (The National News)

Aziz Hazara is tracking an unusual shipment – 20 tonnes of rubbish collected from Bagram air base, formerly the largest US military base in Afghanistan. It is making its way west, back to its source. It’ll pass through Karachi and the Gulf, sailing the Indian Ocean and crossing the Atlantic to return to the US.

Aziz Hazara | VCA Art Forum
Faculty of Fine Arts and Music, University of Melbourne

Born in the province of Wardak, close to Kabul in Afghanistan in 1992 and living and working in Berlin, Germany Hazara works across mediums such as photography, video, sound, text and multimedia installations. Hazara’s work emerges from a deep interest in issues around memory, the archive, surveillance, the panopticon and the politics of representation. Although much of his work is deeply entrenched in the never-ending conflicts in Afghanistan, it is not bound by geographical specificities and appeals to a contemporary condition that is globally shared. In 2021 Hazara was the winner of the Future Generation Art Prize, one of the world’s most prestigious prizes for artists under 35 years. Aziz’z solo exhibition, I am looking for you like a drone, my love is currently on show at the Fiona and Sidney Myer Gallery.

Aziz Hazara (Азіз Хазара) / Future Generation Art Prize 2021

Aziz Hazara is the winner of the Future Generation Art Prize 2021! In his artistic practice he focuses on issues of memory, identity, archive, loss, and trauma. Appealing to the history of his native country of Afghanistan, he explores the effect that war and military conflict have on the life of individuals. In the multichannel video installation ‘Bow Echo’, the title of which refers to a dangerous and destructive storm, five boys resist the wind by attempting to blow a bright plastic bugle. Through pure picture and sound, Hazara creates a monument to the dramatic and violent struggle that generations of people in Afghanistan have experienced in the never-ending war.

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About the Contributor

<a href="https://www.inversejournal.com/author/amjadmajid/" target="_self">Amjad Majid</a>

Amjad Majid

Amjad Majid is the editor and founder of Inverse Journal. He previously worked as a teacher, IT consultant, and research scholar in China, Spain and the US. In his free time, Amjad is a part-time art writer and critic, with writings featured in art catalogues, books, international exhibitions, biennales, art journals and magazines, with some of such writing translated into Chinese. Beyond his work at Inverse Journal, Amjad develops independent projects as a web developer and IT consultant in the creative industry while also teaching IB English literature part-time. His interests include literary theory, Spanish and Spanish-American literature, contemporary art, cultural studies, hardware assembly, information technology and digital studies.