Institute of Social Psychology seminar
Date: Tuesday 22 January 2013
Venue: STC.314, St Clement's Building
Speaker: Alinah Azadeh
Burning the Books (BTB) is a public performance project making connections between debt, sin, absolution and payback at a time of extreme financial crisis. The artist invites participants to consider and debate the impact of the contemporary culture of debt on our human relationship to self and others. She is carrying out a series of small public and online interventions, which engage the public in a dialogue around the intrinsic issues of debt such as personal and collective accountability, failure, compassion and forgiveness. BTB has grown out of a one-off work performed for Present in Public, a development programme for new gift-based interventions as part of Giving into Gift last November throughout Liverpool. Azadeh acted as public confessor-cum-scribe, 'collecting' personal debts anonymously gifted to her on the streets - financial, emotional or metaphysical - into a large sackcloth book. Filled with an extraordinary range of personal stories, the Book of Debts was recited at an open ceremony at the Bluecoat, where the audience was invited to collaborate in a process of playful absolution, witnessing the physical torching of the book and the imaginary annihilation of everything owed. BTB is currently in a research and development phase - supported by Arts Council England - ahead of a proposed touring period.
Alinah Azadeh is an interdisciplinary artist based in the UK. Since her MA in Art and Media Practice at the University of Westminster in 2001 she has focused on large-scale installation and intervention works sited predominantly in the public realm. Commissions over the last decade have included The Loom: from Text to Textile (2005), through Networked Bodies/ACE, Crafting Space (2008) for The Crafts Council, The Bibliomancer's Dream (2009-10) for RFH,South Bank Centre, The Gifts (2010), for Bristol Museum and Art Gallery/the shape of things and Chasing Mirrors: Portraits of the Unseen (2010-11) for The National Portrait Gallery, London. These works encompass sculpture, data, textile and written language - which act as a container for narrative exchanges and self-reflection in response to the central themes of human experience. They have all been rooted in live processes of mass participation of and with audiences: forms of communal ritual, gift -giving and exchange. Alongside her public work, she makes smaller works; wrapped, textile sculptures, which suggest narrative traces within the human cycle of attachment, loss and renewal.
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