Between 26 January and 26 March 2022 The Showroom presented All of your Stars are but Dust on my Shoes, the first solo exhibition in the UK of artist Haig Aivazian.
The exhibition brought together new iterations of Aivazian’s long-term research surrounding surveillance strategies in public space, and included a new presentation of the eponymous video essay, All of your Stars are but Dust on my Shoes, in which Aivazian opened up reflections upon the use of light to spot, invigilate and make visible; as well as its use as a tool to divert attention.
Tracing the public administration of light and darkness as a policing strategy, the work focuses as much on where light is shed as on what is purposely left in the dark. The video is comprised of found footage and material from the artist’s own phone, creating an associative genealogy from whale oil lamps to gas lanterns to LED bulbs; from blackouts to curfews. Layering, splicing, and confronting these disparate sources of sound and image, Aivazian generates a sensorial meditation on how the fundamentals of human vision - light hitting the retina - have been mechanised into tools that capture our movements, be it in everyday life or on screen.
Alongside All of your Stars are but Dust on my Shoes was Aivazian’s recent visual essay Prometheus, 2019. Mobilising a mode of non-linear narrative address, Prometheus draws geopoetic parallels between two events, both occurring in the early 1990s: taking the first Gulf War as one point of departure, and the presence of the United States basketball team - nicknamed the Dream Team - at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona as another. The work presents paradigm shifts in hard and soft power, exploring how fire has been mobilised since its theft from the heights of Mount Olympus to its unleashing on the oil fields of Kuwait as Iraq withdrew in the face of the United States. Fire travels through the work as a protagonist; tracing the long history of technicity and its weaponisation.
The work focuses at hyperlocal levels whilst mapping these techniques’ common threads as they cross fluidly between national borders on a global scale. Between public lighting and fire, sport is a fertile terrain for Aivazian to think through broader social conditions; across cities such as Paris, Beirut or Baghdad, where public sports stadia often become testing grounds for technological forms of control enabled by a juridical state of exception. Working across geographies and media, Prometheus therefore traces an alternate path through Aivazian’s wider body of recent research, in which he tracks state apparatuses of control and the effects of these power structures as they are manifested through technology and filters of subjectivity.
With thanks to Angela Anderson, Sam Austen, Vanya Cantone, Oana Damir, Mahsa Dehghani, Corie Denby McGowan, Elliott Denny, Alessia Franchi, Lily Hall, Andy Healy, Seema Manchanda, Campbell McConnell, Paulina Michnowska, Adam Shield, DB Studios: Ziad Moukarzel, Lama Sawaya; Gasworks: Laura Hessner and Eleni Zachariou; London Tint Studio: Dela Kwame and Leonardo Orelli Muniz.
Image credit: Haig Aivazian, All of your Stars are but Dust on my Shoes, film still, 2021. Commissioned as part of The Consortium Commissions, a project initiated by Mophradat. Courtesy of the artist.
All of your Stars are but Dust on my Shoes
All of your Stars are but Dust on my Shoes is part of The Consortium Commissions, an initiative of Mophradat. Every two years, Mophradat creates a network of international collaborating partner institutions that collectively select, produce and present ambitious new artworks by artists from the Arab world. All of the Lights, the first presentation of Haig Aivazian’s new project, was presented by The Renaissance Society, at the University of Chicago in 2021.
Haig Aivazian is an artist living in Beirut.
Working across a range of media and modes of address, he delves into the ways in which power embeds, affects and moves people, objects, animals, landscape and architecture. Aivazian explores apparatuses of control and sovereignty at work in sports, museums, the office and music.
Aivazian is currently Artistic Director of the Beirut Art Center, where he edits The Derivative (المشتق), an online publication launched in October 2020.