Asad Raza, Ge is for Gaia, 2020–ongoing
Asad Raza: Ge is for Gaia
Jan 26 – Mar 2, 2024
3A Gallery
New York, USA

3A Gallery presents the first New York exhibition of Asad Raza’s Ge, an endless and evolving video narrative that blends fiction and documentary as it moves around the planet. First commissioned in 2020 by the Serpentine Galleries’ General Ecology program, the video serves as a dynamic container for Raza’s wide-ranging thinking, research, and writing around ecology. Named after the original name of the goddess of Earth, Gaia, Ge juxtaposes multiple thematic sections, which change with each release of the video. Audio description and subtitles form an integral part as the work plays with the distinction between “description” and “content”, underscored by the repetition of specific sections with different narration and captioning.

In its most recent release, the piece consists of four “stanzas.” The first explores the bioscape around the Dorset home of James Lovelock, originator of the Gaia hypothesis, which provoked a major increase in ecological consciousness in the last thirty years. This visual portrait immerses the viewer in the originary context for the idea of the planet as a living feedback loop. The second stanza features the artist and his infant daughter demonstrating how to make fertile soil out of common materials. The third captures an arduous, three-day sailing trip with seven musicians across Lake Erie, set to an electronic composition with verses in the Seneca language. The fourth stanza was shot at the ruined convent where Hildegard von Bingen had visions, and features a reading of a famous passage by Hildegard, translated into Arabic and read by writer Lama El Khatib.

Asad Raza’s polymathic practice represents an expanded approach to artmaking – encompassing installations, writing, curating, dramaturgy, filmmaking, pedagogy, and organizing. It often takes local ecosystems and planetary ecologies as a focus. Across his work, there is a strong emphasis on the participatory and the performative aspects of art, as well as an engagement with all of the human senses. His recent exhibitions and ambitious public art projects, such as Diversion (2022, Kunsthalle Portikus, Frankfurt), Absorption (2019–, Kaldor Public Art Projects, Sydney; Gropius Bau, Berlin; Ruhrtrienniale, Essen; CCA Glasgow; Museion, Bolzano), and Root sequence. Mother tongue (2017 Whitney Biennial, New York; Rockbund Museum, Shanghai; Sifang Museum, Nanjing; TU Gallery, Dresden), all involve both scripted and improvised interactions with natural materials. This entanglement between humans and their environments is at the core of his approach.

Raza’s work is also intrinsically collaborative, emerging out of multipart interdisciplinary dialogues. For example, each iteration of Absorption involves work with experts including soil scientists, horticulturalists, compost specialists, and organic farmers. Orientation, developed for FRONT International 2022, emerged out of dialogues with astronomers, physicists, architects, and musicians. In Raza’s practice, the artist is a director, a convener, a gatherer of beings who frames unexpected conversations between humans and more-than-humans alike. This porosity – suggesting new roles for the artist in society – is an important rejoinder to the limited, object and market-driven conception of contemporary art.

– Prem Krishnamurthy

New York, USA

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