Sea Change

Sea Change (2011-) is a visual novel that stitches together a story about the missing and the missed. It chronicles the journey and disappearance of those who do in the name of salvation, a better life or new one. Over a period of many years and hundreds of works, the artist will reveal the stories of nine missing characters and in doing so, hopes to enable a glimpse into the fragments of ourselves we leave behind and the offerings we make to all those along the way.

The first instalment and introduction to this epic tale –shown in a solo exhibition at Experimenter (2013) involved a series of 68 works, which made up a floor installation, collaged portraits, Polaroids, files, objects, coded notes and one-page declarations on paper. Much of Waheed’s past work (The Anouchian Passport Portrait Series and Swimming Pool Series among others) has centred on memory and its relationship to photography – as well as photography’s use in the mis- identification or further identification of individuals and groups of people undergoing some process of migration. Sea Change speaks to similar themes and like much of her work – the visual material here is also directly sourced from existing photographs – in this case a deck of 100 gifted photographic postcards from the 1930-40’s. Many postcards from this period orientalized both people and places in the global south, however here, the images become the catalyst, reclaiming new narratives with Waheed’s interventions.

The power of a photograph to unleash both ambiguity and certainty is one of the most compelling qualities for the continued use of the medium in Waheed’s work. She remains interested in the space between translation and disorientation that takes place when stitching back histories/narratives, the relationship between the text and the photograph, and between drawing and photography. She is also interested in the invisible space created between text, image and object, where multiple truths and fantasies coexist, are constructed or superimposed by others and where definitions are continually transforming and mutating as a result.

In sifting through the fragments of what has been left behind from Sea Change, it is difficult not to begin questioning whether this is indeed a story about the disappearance or perhaps even mass migration of a particular group of people -or about something else. After all, all the notes left behind suggest a secondary story – a story of love – though what remains unclear thus far is if it is indeed between two people or between person and nation or their notions of ‘home.’

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