From the KADIST collection: Be here, or even better, be nowhere

Zarouhie Abdalian, Rocky Cajigan, Jesse Chun, Nikita Gale, Shilpa Gupta, Baseera Khan, Tarik Kiswanson, Alexis Smith, and Cecilia Vicuña

Be here, or even better, be nowhere brings together artists who employ sculpture, drawing, video, and sound to probe social and historical structures and infrastructures, such as migration, colonialism, carceral systems, and space militarization. The works commune through memory, language, social and religious alliances, and ancestral knowledge, to summon an “elsewhere” as an act of re/construction.

Weaving, both as an ancestral process of constructing and as a way to reconstruct new pathways and deviate from existing social power dynamics, is evident in the works of Rocky Cajigan and Baseera Khan. Khan’s work illustrates the reverence of prayer and fuses the artist’s identity as a POCQ femme Muslim in the United States, while Cajigan’s assemblage painting, depicts a Bontoc ancestral tomb, drawing from the artist’s personal memory and Indigenous and social identity, obstructed by a fence-like net. 

Dislodging forms of systemic violence, Nikita GaleShilpa Gupta, and Alexis Smith inventively build various forms of metal sculptures, reclaiming and harnessing the power real-life objects confer. Gale’s sculpture resembles crowd control barriers, detonating the object’s authority by wrangling it with concrete-soaked terry cloth, Gupta’s 9-foot long steel blade with its tip broken off and dangling off a string diffuses the ongoing legacy of colonialism, while Smith’s Iron Sorrows (1990) shows the poetic title emblazoned on a stop sign.

Jesse Chun and Cecilia Vicuña mobilize the construction of language, whether called into action as it reverberates as political slogans or called into question as it embeds in government records. Chun works in a process she calls “unlanguaging” by interweaving redactions of U.S. government documents of lunar colonization and militarization and Vicuña’s drawing depicts workers welding the words, “word” and “weapon,” and speaks to the collective power of ongoing transformation through information exchange and organizing. 

The title of the exhibition draws from Tarik Kiswanson’s sound installation Vadim (2018), in which the artist and the titular adolescent read a poem. Their voices meld together, as a call and response, on life, language, and migration, to contemplate the perpetual state of identity, of being from everywhere and nowhere. History is both past and ever-present, with all their multitudes and separability, simultaneously here and elsewhere.

Be here, or even better, be nowhere provides a space to activate artworks collected by KADIST San Francisco over the years amidst the city’s increased precarity and changing social landscape of the past decade. It is KADIST San Francisco’s inaugural exhibition that aims to make the breadth and diversity of the KADIST collection of over 2,000 artworks accessible through collection presentations at KADIST’s hubs in Paris and San Francisco.

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