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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Lida Abdul


Lida Abdul (b. 1973) was born in Kabul, Afghanistan. She lived in Germany and India as a refugee before coming to the U.S.A. She earned a B.A. in political science in 1997 and a B.A. in philosophy in 1998 from California State University, Fullerton, as well as an M.F.A. from the University of California, Irvine, in 2000. She has had solo shows at Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna; Banff Centre for the Arts, Alberta, Canada; Giorgio Persano Gallery, Turin; Museum voor Moderne Kunst Arnhem, Netherlands; and the 51st Venice Biennale. Her work has been included in group exhibitions at such venues as (CAC Bretigny) Centre d’Art Contemporain de Bretigny, France; Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, Wis.; ifa Galleries, Berlin and Stuttgart; Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas, Lawrence; Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne; Le capcMusee d’Art Contemporain de Bordeaux, France; and Le Parvis, Centre d’Art Contemporain, Tarbes, France. Abdul was the winner of the Taiwan Award at the Venice Biennale in 2005. In 2006 she also participated in the Sao Paulo Bienal, Brazil; the Kwangju Biennale, South Korea; and the Singapore Biennale. She lives and works in both Kabul and Los Angeles.

Feminist Artist Statement

As an Afghan artist, who left her country of birth a few years after the former Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, I have tried to comprehend the disaster that has ravaged my country for more than two decades. Blanchot says, “A disaster touches nothing, but changes everything.” Afghanistan is physically destroyed, yes, but the resilience to survive persists unabated. Language, notions of domesticity and perceptions of the other are all transformed radically, to the extent that survivors/refugees often refuse to talk about what they went through. We have all known the history of this silence. These nomadic artists give voice to the silence amongst us through their works.

There is always the fear that the work of dissident artist, or one too close to an unfolding ‘politics’ compromises its aesthetic intentions; the fear that form might become subordinate to content. As well-intentioned as this critique might appear to be, one has to ask: Whose politics? In my work, I try to juxtapose the space of politics with the space of reverie, almost absurdity, the space of shelter with that of the desert; in all of this I try to perform the ‘blank spaces’ that are formed when everything is taken away from people. How do we come face to face with ‘nothing’ with ‘emptiness’ where there was something earlier. I was a refugee myself for a few years, moving from one country to another, knowing full well that at every juncture I was a guest, who at any moment might to asked to leave. The refugee’s world is a portable one, allowing for easy movement between borders. It is one that can be taken away as easily as it was given: provisionally and with a little anxiety on the part of the host.

Sometimes people say, I am post-identity, post-nation, etc. I don’t know what this means. For me the most difficult thing is precisely to go past the memory of an event; my works are the forms of my failed attempts to, what others call, transcend. But what? For me art is always a petition for another world , a momentary shattering of what is comfortable so that we become more sophisticated in reclaiming the present. The new wandering souls of the globe, the new global refuseniks —stubborn, weak, persecuted, strong—will continue to make art as long as people believe in easy solution and closures of the most banal kinds.

White House

Video documentation of a performance in Kabul, Afghanistan.Courtesy of the artist and Giorgio Persano Gallery

White House

Video documentation of a performance in Kabul, Afghanistan.Courtesy of the artist and Giorgio Persano Gallery

Artist Talk

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