Thursday, November 3, 2011

Khaled Sabsabi's Australians

I've been working on a residency with the Museum of the Riverina.  I'm producing an identikit of features from visitors to the museum between March and June 2012 and I remembered an interesting work that I saw at Gallery 4A in 2009 by Khaled Sabsabi titled Australian's (2006-9).

Khaled Sabsabi
Australian's 2006-2009
Mixed Media 
Gallery 4A, Sydney, Australia

Australians is a portrait of Australia, made with the facial features of individuals from different ethnic groups and ages transitioning at different intervals producing a "phenotypic panoply".(Faird, 1)  Michael Desmond has written of Australian's:

Australians can be read as three faces, portraits of Australians in 2009.  Sabsabi suggests that national identity is a collaboration of individual features and individual identities but with an emphasis on the variety in each component feature. - (42)

Sabsabi is a political artist (McNeill, 185) exploring issues of identity, ethnicity and social divide.(Havilah, 188)  The "polycultural" subjects of Australians emphasise the political nature of the body and face merging different racial physiognomies highlighting the differences between the facial features, of different ethnic groups and individuals.(Farid, 1)  By collapsing the identities of individual Australian people Sabsabi dissolves issues of ethnicity, identity and the ideas of self and other.  Australians transcends any cultural readings introducing a grammar of portraiture, which is cross-culturally relevant and transforms the particular into the universal.(Havilah, 189)

To produce Australians Sabsabi has obviously sourced and filmed extreme close-ups of many Australian people - a process similar to what I have proposed at the Museum of the Riverina.  However,  instead of exploring issues of identity, ethnicity and culture, I will be exploring issues of how the person is considered from a physiognomic and forensic standpoint point which intersects with the portrait.


Desmond, Michael.  Khaled Sabsabi in 'Present tense: an imagined grammar of portraiture in the digital age'.  Canberra, Australia.  National Portrait Gallery, 2009.

Farid, Farid.  Scarred Spaces.  Catalogue Essay for 'Integration, Assimilation and a Fair Go for All' Exhibition by Khaled Sabsabi.  Sydney, Australia:  Gallery 4A.

Havilah, Lisa.  The True Life of Khaled Sabsabi.  Contemporary Visual Art + Culture Broadsheet 38.3 (2009): 188-189.

McNeill, David.  Khaled Sabsabi, or How to Tell When You're Listening to a Fool Contemporary Visual Art + Culture Broadsheet 38.3 (2009): 184-187.

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