A temporal note posted by Shama Khanna on 11.08.2020
The week we’d planned to launch Ulijona Odisarija’s work was the week after the murder of George Floyd by police in the US. We both felt enraged, implicated and immersed in amplifying the reckoning and consciousness raising in that exceptionally powerful and generative moment. So the release was postponed, and for some weeks after I relayed I was still anxious about diverting energies away from the mobilisation, which she accepted without question.
Two and a bit months later I’m glad to feel less wrung out to be able to focus on Ulijona’s work for Flatness again and explore its layers dealing with desire, beauty and the commodification of bodies. From a cursory look the work appears to centre thin white women and a patriarchal gaze at their long hair, backs, bums and legs. During the video, with assumed consent, a disembodied hand reaches out to grasp one of the women’s untied hair as if it was material hanging from a clothes hanger. This twist, and the feeling of terror the performers later described to the artist, shifts the tone of the work. The camera footage suddenly turns from loosely filmed documentation into evidence. Suddenly the intentions behind the piece are confronted by ethical questions which make it into something more complex, something which answers back, revealed in the process of making the work.
This speaks so much to my experience of curating Flatness where I am adapting all the time, gradually exchanging best intentions for best practice, wearing my fallibility on my sleeve. I’m grateful to Ulijona for turning this very alive work around so quickly during lockdown and waiting with me for the right time to share it.