Ali and Kjell.

Performance with paiting. A collaboration with artist Ali Alkurdi Murad.

 

Exhibited in 2015 during the 13Festivalen performance festival, at Konstepidemin, Gothenburg, Sweden.

For ‘Ali och Kjell’, or ‘Ali and Kjell’, the Brazilian-Swedish artist Kjell Caminha invites Iraqi artist Ali Alkurdi Murad to collaborate in developing a new performance piece for the art festival 13Festivalen at Konstepidemin Gallery. The artwork examines the situation in which Ali and Kjell encountered each other. They voluntarily decided to participate in the program ‘Flyktingguide Göteborg’ (Refugee guide Gothenburg) where, via a matchmaking process, a migrant is paired up with a Swede, both willing to start a social friendship with each other at their leisure time.

Recently, I’ve been examining practices of hospitality involving migration and inquiring different politics carried out by governments both locally and nationally. One of them is called ‘Refugee guide’. Basically, the idea is that one (a Swede or someone considering him/herself Swedish) would voluntarily meet a migrant (newly arrived refugees or immigrants), both willing to start a friendship with each other at their own leisure time. You register yourself or your family, stating your hobbies and interests and a handler will find a match for you. They matched me up with an artist, a painter who has been living in Sweden for 6 years called Ali Alkurdi Murad.

After a few encounters with Ali, talking about our different views in art and dwelling with this situation of being a refugee guide or being in the program, I decided to invite him to collaborate, producing a new artwork with me for the performance festival regarding our new context. To present his practice to the slightly homogeneous audience of the festival and to the artists with studio practices in the area was one of the main concepts within the work. Parallel to this thought, we’ve been discussing on what could be a compromise between (and for) us, curiously dwelling on the ethical eggshells established in the program: to break up this social friendship one would have to call the handler (social worker) then long out of the picture after our first meeting; once we’d endure six months of partnership, we’d be both granted a notorious certificate praising the participation in the program, to name a few.

As a consequence to the fore-mentioned, I asked Ali to paint a landscape that could strongly imply Swedishness for him. He decided to paint one of Gothenburg’s main postcards, the ship called Götheborg, travelling lonely into the sea. The depicted ship is a sailing replica of an 18th-century Swedish East Indiaman, considered the world’s largest wooden sailing vessel. We would later use his 190 x 150 cm oil painting as a backdrop for the performance in the gallery.

The performance entailed Ali and I sitting on chairs and looking at each other in front of his painting. Once one gives up looking, the other would speak, asking then to continue, to try it again; at times in Arabic, at times in Swedish. After a long endured period with the looking and the short dialogue for new attempts, Ali looks once more and with a handshake he affirms ‘we continue’ (spoken in Swedish), followed by us gazing at his painting, concluding the performance.

detail view of Götheborg, by Ali Alkurdi Murad. Oil on canvas, 150 x 190 cm.

The artwork does not seek to invalidate the social program and its initiatives. On the contrary, it acknowledges such need for re-thinking similar hospitality practices, and promotes while inquiring, a wider participation, yet considering it to be a perpetual challenging task.