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Sulaïman Majali - saracen go home

Collective Gallery, Edinburgh until March 29th
Four stars

Through the window from the inside of the Collective’s Hillside gallery you can see the wall surrounding the venue’s buildings. In the context of Sulaïman Majali’s constructed interior for this latest edition of the Collective’s Satellites programme for developing artists, it’s easy to think of biblical Jericho, 1970s Berlin, the Gaza Strip or Trump’s Mexican fantasy.

Inside, Majali draws from ideas of diaspora and imperialism in the wake of racist graffiti on a mosque in Cumbernauld that gives the show its title. A row of four grey/black plastic bucket seats are lined up opposite a microphone stand beside a stage monitor in the corner. The monitor broadcasts a looped collage of anthropologically-inclined field recording fragments that move from hushed mantras to electronic hums and heart-beat percussion.

The powerfully named ‘though we know the dream is built from the collateral of our minds and the shrapnel that lies within it’ culminates with the last few minutes of what sounds like a traditional middle eastern flute concert punctuated by applause. In both its nomadic spirit and psycho-geographic ambience, Majali’s 42-minute sound-piece echoes work by the late Bryn Jones, aka Muslimgauze, who drew from similar historical and geo-political sources.

Various totems dotted around the room include a peacock feather; a strip of artificial lemon peel curled up on the floor like a day-glo fossil; a 3D print of a twelfth-century fragment; a star-shaped green mirror placed flat-earth style on the floor. These are facsimiles of absorbed culture created for an imagined fourth world, and this its museum’s waiting room.

But waiting for what? For a performance or ceremony to begin? For integration? Acceptance? The end of the world as we know it? Or just the tedious paperwork required to pass through one border to another? Either way, the seats mark out a terminal bureaucratic limbo as walls beyond come tumbling down. 

The List, February 2020



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