If No One Asks
January 18 – March 24, 2019
Alvin Balkind Gallery
If No One Asks marks the first solo presentation of Aslan Gaisumov’s work in North America. His artistic practice speculates on the entanglement of fictions and veracity, the inaccessible with the present and the acknowledged with the lost. As expressive forms, his artworks—whether moving or still images, found objects or installations—consider the pressures withstood by bodies and matter as witnesses to events. They are “experiments in both seeing and not seeing,” as renowned scholar Aleida Assmann has observed: at once crystalline in their visual and material clarity yet enigmatic. This exhibition brings together two works never previously shown together and, in so doing, offers a new means through which to consider many of the concerns that have shaped the artist’s practice over the past eight years.
Memories of War (2016) presents a single page torn from a found book. The artist’s intervention is a simple act of redaction: line after line of black ink has rendered the events conveyed by the author almost entirely obscured. Only one word remains conspicuously untouched, left to bear the burden of communication in its entirety.
The single-channel video People of No Consequence (2016) considers the carriage of memory and loss in a different way. During the Second World War, Soviet authorities organized and carried out the forced resettlement of entire populations within the USSR, including several nations from the Caucasus and Crimea. At the video’s outset, we regard the interior of a municipal hall filled with empty chairs. The video lasts eight minutes, the length of time it takes for 119 elderly Chechen survivors of the deportation, ranging from 77 to 105 years of age, to enter the room and take their seats. The group faces the camera, but they do not speak to us.
As with Memories of War, People of No Consequence carries a story but simultaneously withholds it from view. Gaisumov’s work makes present both the stories and the silences that surround them, where the audience is given the responsibility of listener to images and witness to the witnesses.