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Pratt Institute Visiting Artist Lecture Series: Baseera Khan

March 7, 2023 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM


Baseera Khan is a New York-based visual artist who sublimates colonial histories through performance and sculpture in order to map geographies of the future. Baseera collages distinct and often mutually exclusive cultural references to explore the conditions of alienation, displacement, assimilation, and fluidity. Against the backdrop of a crestfallen edge, their work also gestures toward humorous pop cultural references. Using visual legacies of body identities, ritual, and spiritualities, Khan also attempts to reveal volatile subjectivities especially within capitalist-driven social environments such as the United States. Making layers in their work that fit besides, on top, in between, and underneath creates numerous projects that evoke senses of living under surveillance, in suspension, between exile and kinship. Khan generates installations of concealment, momentary reflections, and sanctuaries. Their life’s work is dedicated to the development of their own legacy, on their own terms, with the use of fashion, photography, textiles and music, parody, sculpture and performance, they manifest their femme native born Muslim American experience.

Painful Arc (Shoulder-High) expands upon the artist’s interest in interrogating architectural archetypes and the authority they represent. Central to Islamic architecture, while also serving as entry ways and meeting places in American cities and towns, archways act as gateways to a wide range of structures, including religious sites and memorials. Using commonplace materials, including plywood and high-density foam, Khan renders a traditional arch clad with panels incised with patterns sourced from illustrated Islamic manuscripts and self-portraiture. On the upper half of the structure, two silhouettes of the artist’s body mirror each other, as if climbing the façade of the arch. Recurrent symbols from the artist’s practice such as the triangle, the crescent moon, and the microphone suggest a sense of weightlessness, freeing the work from a predetermined history and inscribing it with the artist’s own experience. The installation encourages viewers to rethink colonial powers and their historic influence, while raising questions about equity, access, and the need to build new monuments for a more inclusive future.