10 April – 5 June 2021
Institute of Modern Art, Fortitude Valley
Hazara artist Khadim Ali explores the normalisation of war and the experience of refugees through a series of poetic installations and textile works in his largest Australian solo exhibition to date. Featuring existing work alongside new commissions developed for the IMA, the exhibition also features Otherness, a major body of work developed in partnership with the IMA and Lahore Biennale Foundation.
Invisible Border brings together sound installation, miniature painting, and tapestry to explore the impact of war, trauma and displacement. “I became other. I became one of the wearied, dusty faces from across the border,” Ali said of his exhibition’s title. “And although there was no boundary between us, and we were all citizens of one country, suddenly an invisible border of horror was drawn around me that made it impossible to get out.”
Exhibition highlight Invisible Border 1 is a nine-metre-long tapestry, hand-woven by a community of Hazara men and women, some of whom lost family members to war. Also on display is Ali’s most recent work, Sermon on the Mount, an exquisite handwoven tapestry depicting a cast of animals and mythical creatures seeking refuge atop a mountain engulfed in flames. A response to the 2020 Black Summer bushfires which devasted much of Australia’s bushland, the tapestry references the teachings of Jesus Christ and portrays a koala delivering a prophecy that foretells the destruction of mother nature at the hands of humankind. Commissioned for Invisible Border and recently acquired by the National Gallery of Australia, Sermon on the Mount is an evocative and poignant reflection of our collective fears around climate change. Ali’s interest in tapestries developed soon after his parents’ home in Quetta, Pakistan was destroyed by suicide bombers. Among the rubble and debris, a collection of rugs and weavings remained intact; miraculously withstanding the reign of terror inflicted upon his family and community.
Invisible Border also draws parallels with the Book of Shahnameh, an 11th-century Persian literary masterpiece regarded as one of the world’s longest epic poems. Like many of Shahnameh’s mythic tales, Ali’s intricate works also depict stories of demons, angels, conquest, and war through the lens of the persecuted Hazara community.
IMA Executive Director and exhibition curator Liz Nowell said she was thrilled to present Ali’s largest exhibition to date, in his adopted home of Australia.
“Khadim Ali is without a doubt one of Australia’s most acclaimed artists. His thought-provoking and poetic works have been seen all over the world: from the Guggenheim in New York to the Venice Biennale,” Ms Nowell said. “Through intricately constructed textiles that draw on literature, traditional art forms, personal narratives and global politics, Invisible Border speaks powerfully to the experience of displaced peoples everywhere.”