Living Canvas at Wilton Park presents the biggest outdoor screen for contemporary art in Europe on the banks of the Grand Canal. We profile some of the artists appearing, as part of its constantly evolving programme, in a special supplement in our current edition.
Wandering wandering with a sun on my back
Originally created for the Tulca visual arts festival, Bassam Al-Sabah’s work marked a learning curve for the recent graduate back in 2018. “I was beginning to work in CGI, experimenting with creating bodies in this three dimensional spaces…I wanted there to be this sense of violence – like when the flowers start convulsing – but this violence isn’t so cartoonish that it feels like something internal, so these bodies whether human or floral feel unsettled and in this space that doesn’t feel situated anywhere, that everything feels really intense.”
Broaching this sense of displacement with his own upbringing in Iraq, Al-Sabah is quick to ensure the inevitable layering of assumptions is avoided. “All of my memories of being in Iraq are really great. I was nine when i left so if there’s any trauma it developed after we left, retrospectively. I am always trying to complicate that idea. Everybody wants to know how did these things happen, why did they happen, how terrible was it? It’s about not making that part so easy. I always try to not make work that’s simplistic in what it conveying, so that it tries to push a little bit beyond just a displacement thing and is trying to think about the whole experience of a human rather than this singular pillar.”
To this extent, what thrills him about his work being displayed at Wilton Park is the sense of “randomness”. “I think it’s really great that there’s infrastructure now for that screen to change over time, like whoever is walking by it there will be something else randomly there which will lead to this strange interaction…It’s also great to get this passive feedback from people who don’t know how you are or have an investment in your work. I got this DM on instagram from someone who took a picture of one of the flowers on the screen and said it’s ‘pretty’. Hopefully the work is doing something if it makes someone do that even without the context of scanning or sound. Just this image alone is doing something.”