Jasem Tareq Alsanea
→MA GAC 2024
Jasem Tareq Alsanea
→ BFA SC 2024
November 2, 2023, 2:00 PM:
Jasem welcomes me into a clean apartment that smells like a mixture of jasmine and coconut oil.
Favorite tool: research.
All images taken on site by Kobe Jackson
KJ Tell me a bit about your practice.
JA My computer tends to crash because it’s not made for video game rendering. For my thesis, I'm thinking of making a video game, but what I’m going to show isn’t going to be the video game. I’m going to make a music video in the video game realm and then exhibit that music video. I’m trying to learn how to make music because I don’t actually make music.
I make work that is closely related to Kuwait, where I’m from. There’s histories of familial postwar trauma and a lot of things that are deemed taboo or secret. I’m interested in what got them to be that way, and I’m trying to find the things that are unspoken or censored and trying to uncensor them.
There’s an aspect/element of performance in how people are presented. And as much as people are performing for a certain appearance, they also like to feel seen. They don’t want to be seen when it’s attached to themselves, because it’s too close to home. It puts people at ease to see themselves represented, particularly under the umbrella of something taboo. No one wants to claim what society thinks is bad.
KJ But they want to see other people do it?
JA Yeah, because they want to understand. . .there’s certain societal norms and they understand that there are other people with different norms and they accept that when it’s applied to people outside of their family. I try to bring out that every family has their secrets. I want to showcase that within the work.
With postwar trauma, every family in Kuwait was affected, and I see my own families and how they deal with trauma, and no one has gotten the therapy that was needed to heal or go through that. All my siblings and my parents witnessed the Iraqi invasion in 1990. I’m the only one in my immediate family who didn’t. What I witnessed growing up was the aftermath. I try to conceptualize why they are acting in this way and I realized that it’s not only applicable to my family but almost all these other families, but no one is talking about it. There’s a show that everything’s fine but then everyone goes inside their homes and are able to break down, and I have an interest in showing that, to be like, look, I know this is your experience, but it’s also other peoples’ experience, and this is an opportunity for you to grieve.
I have this series of sculptural pieces of lost oral stories. My siblings are way older than I am and they were the last generation of kids that heard those stories. I have nieces and nephews who didn’t grow up with these oral traditions. I heard them from my parents and they heard them from theirs, etc. It started with a need to memorialize these stories before they got lost. I want to fill a room with these hyper-realistic manifestations of mythical beings.
In Kuwait and Qatar there was a prevalent pearl diving industry; the main source of income was pearl diving. The men would do several months during the summer at sea, and then come back and trade the pearls. I was thinking about history and that myth and how the economy is now heavily reliant on oil. I think about the relationship of pearls, oil, history, and myth.
During the invasion, there was one of the largest oil spills to ever happen. Millions of barrels of oil were dumped into the Persian Gulf Sea in 1991. I was thinking about that very real environmental disaster along with mythology, and if, had this myth existed, how it would have been affected with the oil spill. I think about this intersection of old economy and new economy, postwar, real history vs. myth or what you can call “fake history,” and then this sculpture manifested itself. Then, without me noticing, it started taking on other concepts. Before I realized it, slowly, it started becoming a self-portrait.
KJ Is there a significance to your boat pendant?
JA I found it at Nostalgia on Wickenden, and it reminded me of the Kuwaiti coin. I spent a summer collecting seashells from the beaches back home and making necklaces. There’s this history called Kat-Al-fal. It’s usually an older woman who specializes in strong intuition or being able to see the future. She takes these shells, shakes them, sometimes listens to them and then throws them and is able to see an image and tell a person’s future. I was so mesmerized by that because I have had this deep obsession with witches ever since I was a kid. There’s this fascination with the unknown or the magical. I relate it to my practice and this relationship to the sea and fantasy. I try to dissect these aspects of my brain, Kuwait, identity, witch, gender, and abstraction.
I was in architecture before I switched to sculpture and I had to get out. Now I’ve returned to rendering spaces because I’m trying, within the video game, to emulate these charged, abstract spaces from back home that not many people would understand. I’m going to be shooting a little snippet of a music video tonight in this realm.
KJ Does he have a name?
JA The myth’s name is Bu-Darya, which is Persian for “father of the sea,” which is interesting because there is no evidence of this myth ever existing in Persia or Iran. So, I was thinking, Why? But I didn’t get an answer yet. So the name of the piece is Pudaria . . . 1990.
Kobe Jackson: artist’s artist, painter’s painter.
Jasem Tareq Alsanea is currently finding most inspiration in the haunting of his lived existence in a political body.