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Sadia Pineda Hameed: The Song of My Life

published by The Bluecoat

Cardiff based artist, writer and independent curator Sadia Pineda Hameed was invited to show alongside Undo Things Done by Sean Edwards as part of Bluecoat’s ...


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Grace Ndiritu: In Conversation

Grace Ndiritu is an international visual artist, who studied Textile Art at Winchester School of Art, UK and De Ateliers, Amsterdam 1998-2000. She first exhibited at Bluecoat in 2010 and will return to Bluecoat this October for our latest exhibition In the Peaceful Dome. Bluecoat's Head of Programme, Marie-Anne McQuay, met with Grace to discuss the work she exhibited in 2010, her current projects, and how the current socio-economic climate impacts her work.

Grace's work Still Life: White Textiles (2005/2007) will be on display at Bluecoat as part of In the Peaceful Dome, from Fri 13 Oct.

Grace, welcome back to Bluecoat. You first showed here in 2010 as part of a project curated by Sonia Boyce. What did you exhibit then and how have your concerns developed and changed? 

In 2010 I was commissioned by Bluecoat to create a new video entitled A Week in the News: 7 places we think we know, 7 news stories we think we understand. My aim for my video A Week In the News (2010) was to create a video that could be screened in site specific public spaces like airports, transport hubs, metro and subways, office lobbies, food communal areas and social education spaces i.e. the hub at Bluecoat. This is because A Week in the News examines how the global media has manipulated particular news stories to create specific stereotypes about certain places, such as South Africa, Tibet, Haiti, Australia, Darfur, New Orleans and Afghanistan. It contrasts two styles of presenting news that have at their root two opposing value systems e.g. scrolling subtitles text reminiscent of mainstream news outlets like CNN, and a guerrilla news filmmaking style adopted by grassroots media organisations, like Indymedia, who provide up to the minute alternative news to the mainstream. Each video location presents true and false images and facts about that specific country. Showing it online, or in public spaces, makes the viewer consider the deluge of information from the media they are confronted with and influenced by on a daily basis.

Could you describe how that's extended most recently into residential based work with The Ark

My latest project The Ark: Center for Interdisciplinary Experimentation (2017) that took place at Les Laboratories Aubervillers, Paris. I decided to create a post-internet living research/live art project - part scientific experiment, part spiritual experience - that reflects on some of the issues brought up by A Week In the News (2010). It was inspired by my own experiences during the last decade, living on and off in New Age communities. The Ark is a living art work in the lineage of Jerzy Grotowski's 1968 mythical retreat, in the isolated Mexican desert with his merry band of performance artists, and Chris Kraus's aptly named Chance Event in 1996, hosted by Jean Baudrillard himself in a casino in Las Vegas – Chance was to be the Burning Man of French theory. Fast forward to today and The Ark: Center for Interdisciplinary Experimentation is an artistic model for creating an off-grid community within an urban setting; one for the post-internet age.

For the first 6 days, The Ark had no audience so the participants could go deep into this process. Instead it was closed to encourage creativity and vulnerability, in order to come up with radical, new ways of thinking about life and the problems of today's world; through a multiplicity of themes including Plants, Biology, Shamanism, Meditation, Food, Philosophy, Communities, Education, Architecture, Future of Cities, Democracy and Activism. During the public weekend these themes were further explored through a series of academic round-tables and a cheeky, interactive performance, entitled Party for the Animals, which used the visual language of political protest, such as placard signs and costumes, to highlight its Reverse Darwinism campaign to bring extinct animals back to life. 

The Ark acknowledged dystopian ideas from my own practice namely A Week In the News (2010) to Ayn Rand's deeply misunderstood Fountainhead with its monolithic corporate landscape; Adam Curtis's The Century of the Self and Bitter Lake, Alex Winter's Deep Web, and TV shows like Black Mirror.

This time as part of the exhibition In the Peaceful Dome you're showing a key video work Still Life: White Textiles (2005/2007). Would you describe it as a video portrait? 

No I would not say it is a video portrait as it’s not about me personally, even if I am using my own body. I think of the body as a signifier and the video as much more of a human portrait than a self one.

How does this work reflect your interest the in Eurocentric gaze in art history and in the plundering of aesthetics and artefacts from non-Western cultures last century? 

I am interested in the media gaze and the act of 'looking' in the history of painting and exhibition making, especially in my early videos. In fact when I was making Still Life White Textiles for a show at The Chisenhale in London in 2007, I was very interested in Matisse, and Matisse’s use of textiles. I had just travelled to Mali in West Africa and bought textiles which were handmade there, and then I returned to London and the RA had a show about Matisse and his textiles (coincidentally the RA now have a similar show through the run of In the Peaceful Dome) and I started thinking, “look at Matisse, this is a hundred years ago, he’s looking at similar textiles, isn’t that funny, coming from completely different worlds, times, gender, racial and class groups. I think that’s really interesting” so I purposefully called it Still Life after his works.

You're working internationally and have been working in LA the last few years. How has the climate there changed and what has your response been to this particular socio-political moment? 

The ghosts of the civil war through, through the spectre of the KKK, and new interests in Confederatism have been rearing their ugly heads, especially in the wake of Trump's 2016 Presidential election. I have been using my writing practice to deal with ideas of racial profiling, stereotyping and white privilege. These are still key issues that affects humanity today and keep people from living together, in a peaceful and constructive manner. These issues reflect my interest in being a global artist and person, where I see Earth as my home, rather than being confined by ideas of nationalism and borders. Viewers can read more of my writing on

What are you currently working on?

I am working on an ambitious shamanic performance project entitled A Meal for My Ancestors: Healing the Museum, which comes out of a body of performative works called Healing The Museums, something that I have been creating since 2012. It came out of a deep need to re-introduce non-rational methodologies, such as shamanism and meditation, to re-activate the 'sacredness' of art spaces. I believed that most modern art institutions were out of sync with their audiences’ everyday experiences and the widespread socio-economic and political changes that have taken place globally in the recent decades. Museums are dying. And I see shamanism as a way to re-activate the dying art space as a space for sharing, participation and ethics. From prehistoric to modern times the shaman was not only the group healer and facilitator of peace but also the creative; the artist.

On this occasion for the opening of the new building for ThalieLab Art Foundation in Brussels in January 2018, I will be inviting two sets of people who normally don't ever get to meet, to have a 'spiritual' meal and an actual meal together. Thus, I will invite refugees and asylum seekers and staff from  the UN, NATO and the institutions of the European Union to participate in this new living, political and social artwork. Using shamanic practice, one of the oldest forms of spirituality of humanity and meditation techniques, I will lead them through an initiatory journey. This time though, shamanism will be used as a Peace Building tool to deal with issues of global conflict, which are currently taking place throughout the world.

To find out more about Grace's past projects, visit her website.


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