Through the feminine and soft medium of embroidery, Cristiana de Marchi has tackled some pertinent political issues in her latest show.
From Sheikh Zayed to Middle East politics, Cristiana de Marchi portrays a point of view in Weaving Gaps
The multichannel looped film, which has been synchronised to run concurrently on five TV screens over four minutes and 38 seconds, seems succinct and seamless in its message — quite a feat seen as it was edited down from over 50 hours of raw footage and took over two years to complete.
The work Al Watan shows Cristiana de Marchi stitching the five Arabic letters that make up the words, which translate to The Nation, in white thread on fuchsia background and then, painstakingly picking out all the stitches one by one.
“It deals with the continuous renegotiation of political concepts and positions,” explains de Marchi. “I really wanted the difficulty of undoing to be perceived because it is an essential component of the work.”
The video, which comes from de Marchi’s Doing & Undoing series, was produced with the support of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority for the Sikka Art Fair and its simplicity makes its message all the more powerful.
Al Watan is one of the central pieces of de Marchi’s solo exhibition Weaving Gaps currently up in 1x1 Gallery. In it, she uses symbols such as flags, passports and national anthems and the medium of embroidery to discuss the elements of disunity in a region that is united in so many ways, yet, as the title suggests, is full of gaps.
“Gaps can be very positive,” says de Marchi. “I really believe that things start with a gap so I wanted to have a gap as a starting point for developing something else. And of course the embroidery is the connection between them so the idea for the exhibition title came from that.”
Raise the flags
In the several embroidered untitled works that line the back wall of Al Quoz Gallery, de Marchi has depicted all the regional flags with their shape and patterns intact but drained of colour. She has differentiated the lines only by the direction of her white-thread stitches.
“These works focus on the commonalities rather than the differences,” she says, then explains that they succeed in removing a sense of nationalism or at least put a distance between the viewer and their sense of national pride because of the lack of colour reference points.
Is that a national anthem?
In another work, an audio contribution, de Marchi has taken several national anthems from the Arab world and played them over each other.
Although the result is a cacophony, there is a rhythm in there somewhere and the nuances of that are what de Marchi was attempting to depict.
“It reflects the fact of me being based in the Middle East for more that 15 years and in a way, I deeply absorbed this. And the contradictions I experienced and the difficulties of an efficient dialogue are expressed here.
“I am interested in creating, maybe not dialogue, but a forced overlapping of elements,” says de Marchi.
Sheikh Zayed the Great
One of the more powerful works is a repeated image of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, used on the front cover of The National on National Day in 2012, under which de Marchi has stitched the line: “I dream of our land keeping pace with the growth of the modern world”.
Titled I Had Many Dreams, the piece is about the repetition of images and logos that are given to us and sentences that we constantly hear and how they shape our perception.
Beirut: Soap Opera
As well as the several works that point to the significance that the UAE particularly has for de Marchi, it also includes a number of pieces around the city of Beirut. In Mapping Gaps, she has embroidered maps of the central part of the city and in Soap Opera, she has carved the maps onto bars of soap that later, she plans to immerse in water and create a video work.
“It relates to memory and a projected sense of loss that I have with regards to Beirut,” explains de Marchi. “The soap work depicts the process of writing and rewriting history. Beirut has been built and rebuilt so many times and I really want to refer to that process although it is not exclusive to Beirut.”
Finally, the show ends with a video and sculpture work of dominoes painted with the national flags knocking each other over. It is playful, but of course, deals with sensitive issues.
This work is also clearly dependent on the gaps, but de Marchi says she is not attempting an intervention. “Gaps are important and it is important to use them as a starting point but I don’t claim the right to close them.”
* Weaving Gaps runs until December 31 at 1x1 Gallery in Al Quoz. For more information, call 04 341 1287
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