Curated by Sylvia Sachini
30 NOV 02 FEB
ALEXANDRA ROSE HOWLAND
“In my homeland, dreams have been suspended.
We live by tiny details.
We take to the streets like prisoners who are finally set free.
We sing. We play. We dance until our bodies shudder at the hope that our country might finally be ours.
Then, we weep.
No, we must wish that we will sleep through the night and wake up the next morning.”
"I Dream of My Homeland" - Aya Mansour
A chain of actions, subjects dictating and reading, a narrator and a speaker, storytellers and listeners. An attempt to collect rather than to portray. What is new is not the closed view of a conflict zone, or fragments of horror, it is the way we see and we listen to what is being said.
One could assume the ‘Mosul Road 88km’ body of work is made in the simplest of ways, documenting inch by inch its full distance of 88 kilometers.
“Seated atop a Landcruiser, every three seconds I took a picture of the landscape passing by my lens. I digitally stitched the resulting images together into an infinite panorama: from a local market in Erbil where life seems like business as usual, ending at the ruins of the Al Nuri Mosque in West Mosul which was destroyed in 2017 – and where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed the Caliphate in July 2014”. - Howland explains.
What is challenging is the twist, from a viewer on becoming the director. There it is, a real time registration of the reality of a country in conflict - we are the ones to extract the newsworthy fragments. Howland attempts to make the experience as direct and immediate as possible. The 88km street view of Mosul Road unfolds on facing walls, revealing people in motion, something of the collective condition, its rituals, conflicts, and emotions.
An additional archive, collected between 2017-2020, consisting of 350.000 images and videos from the cell phones of people Howland met across Iraq presents us with a candid look into the life of Iraqi people as seen through their eyes. By sharing the videos and pictures of their cellphones and actively participating in the final selection of the material the participants “take control” of the narrative and define the way themselves, their lives, and their country are portrayed. Iraq is a topic that has drawn a lot of attention from the international media in recent years. For the last two decades, Iraqi has had no control over the narrative of the country. Howland has created a space of open-ended relations between photographers, photographed persons and spectators, without regulation and mediation by a sovereign or the market.
Leave and Let Us Go is composed of various acts that involve photography, archives, video, conversations, and interviews she conducted while there, and pictures and videos from people's cellphones. Each approach always involves being face to face. The video installation consists of three video films which are screened beside each other simultaneously. Abstract oppositions based around gender and society, the individual and the group.
Howland’s photographic and videographic work has garnered considerable critical success, sometimes even sparking controversy. To understand the individual we must see them in the context of the culture which molds them. While the work indicates the complicated nature of women's condition in contemporary East, they deliberately open onto multiple readings, reaching universal conditions. She also explores the meaning of memory, photography and the visual culture of men and women in times of war.
The project is connected by the poem, “I Dream of My Homeland,” written by Aya Mansour in response to the work. It is the story of a childhood gripped by war from a woman who grew up with American bombs landing on her home and who went to school while Al Qaeda and then ISIS raged. A daunting work, which is composed of the concept of life, death, happiness, grief, survival and reality, still associated with the most powerful notion, the mystical beauty of hope.
Alexandra Rose Howland (1990, US/UK) has spent much of the last decade living in the Middle East creating work that challenges traditional coverage of the region and its geopolitics. As her projects on climate, migration, conflict, and post-conflict evolve, her work has expanded into North Africa and Europe.
Howland’s background as an abstract painter continues to impact her practice, leading to a multidimensional approach using imagery, found objects, collage, sound, and video. Her projects span years and often result in vast archives that seek to examine people and places from multiple perspectives, all of which challenge the accepted narrative. Howland's work challenges us to reimagine the stories we have already seen.
Howland has shown internationally with both solo and group exhibitions including ‘Leave and Let Us Go’ (solo), FOAM Amsterdam; ‘Road to Mosul’ (solo), London; ‘Textured to Only Us’ (solo), Los Angeles; Photo Lux Festival (group), Tuscany; ‘Where I Lay My Head’ (group), Sydney, among others. Howland published her first book ‘Leave and Let Us Go’ with GOST Books in 2021 and regularly works with National Geographic, Le Monde, de'Volkskrant and Wall Street Journal, among others.
Sylvia Sachini (b. 1988, AL/GR), is a curator, publisher and educator based in Athens. Her practice approaches art history through its intersections with printmaking history, material studies, the theory and practice of graphic arts and typography. She has curated art exhibitions in Greece and abroad and has also published the work of various artists worldwide.
She teaches the process of developing a photographic narrative in a book form. Exploring the limits of the medium of photography as a means of representation, with main focus on understanding the development of the book’s concept and deepening its relationship with materiality.
In 2022, she was invited to participate in the Makryammos Ephemeral Art Residency as artistic director. The program supports practices that merge with an emphasis on experimentation and the process through which the ephemeral is created as a work of art.
In 2021 founded MISC, a non-profit contemporary art gallery in Athens, with the primary goal of building horizontal practices of collaboration & creation. MISC provides a framework where artists from different fields and audiences have the opportunity to interact and converse through exhibitions, talks and educational programs. From 2016 to 2021 she was a publisher & founding member of the Void publishing house. Her work has been featured in international media, and has collaborated with major institutions such as EMST, Paris Photo, Les Rencontres d'Arles, French Institute, Athens Photo Festival etc.