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Khaled Sabsabi

Naqshbandi Greenacre engagement  2011

3-channel digital video, 2-channel sound, wooden table, plastic folder with photocopied texts

90:06 minutes

Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2011


About the Artwork

In Naqshbandi Greenacre Engagement, Khaled Sabsabi invites us to join the Naqshbandi Sufi Order of Australia in their devotions. The Naqshbandi Sufi Muslims are mystics who believe that one’s journey in life is the path of return to God. Sabsabi’s project presents us with a rare and privileged view into the spiritual and communal gatherings of members of the Greenacre order in western Sydney. Sabsabi has recorded continuous footage of one of their weekly gatherings in a Greenacre scout hall, which he screens on three monitors placed on the gallery floor. In front of the monitors is a carpet and low table, where viewers are invited to sit and engage with the experience they see before them – Sufi Muslims practising the devotional act of Zkir, in which prayers are chanted aloud.

The view provided by the static camera is of a nondescript room, enlivened by the presence of adults and children who sit on the floor and chant together to the beat of a tar, an Arabic drum. Toddlers wander from one person to the next and lie in the laps of their seated parents. Plastic folders with the words of the chants, of which one is presented on the low table of the installation, are passed around, from which people recite aloud or silently. The natural and unaffected interactions of the devotees in the ordinary space they occupy underscores their purposeful gathering, in which spirituality and transcendence are enacted through a communion of souls. The Naqshbandi Sufis, who come from a variety of cultural backgrounds, invited the artist into their ceremonial setting, allowing him (and us as his audience) to witness a room that eloquently explores the subtle social realities of shared spirituality, within the context of an everyday, suburban, Australian existence.

The dual identities that develop through the migrant experience can create anxiety and uncertainty, but they can also generate awareness. Going between Arab culture and western or Australian culture, you have the ability to experience and see and to analyse both cultures, both traditions, both histories.

Khaled Sabsabi, 2011

Khaled Sabsabi

– About the artist

Born 1965, Tripoli, Lebanon. Lives and works Sydney and Tripoli.

Khaled Sabsabi migrated with his family to Australia in 1978 following the outbreak of civil war in Lebanon. They settled in Western Sydney, where Sabsabi now lives and works. Since the late 1980s Sabsabi has worked with communities, particularly Western Sydney communities, to create and develop arts programs and projects that explore the complexities of place, displacement, identity and ideological differences associated with migrant experiences and marginalisation.

Sabsabi began his creative life as a hip-hop performer but more recently has produced sound art, immersive installations and theatre pieces. As a video artist, he continues to work across borders of discipline, nationality and culture to create artworks that challenge the passive consumption of media spectacle. Sabsabi has exhibited nationally and internationally in exhibitions including Subject to Ruin, Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, Sydney (2014); Where We Are Now, 5th Marrakech Biennale, Morocco (2014); The Australian Platform, Art Stage, Singapore (2014); Sharjah Biennial 11, Sharjah, UAE (2013); Edge of Elsewhere, Campbelltown Arts Centre, NSW and Gallery 4A, Sydney (2012); Making It New: Focus on Contemporary Australian ArtMCA, Sydney (2009); Out of Place, Kunstverein Tiergarten, Berlin (2009); Soft Power: Asian Attitudes, Shanghai Zendai Museum of Modern Art, Shanghai (2007); ASIA – EUROPE Mediations, National Gallery, Poznan, Poland (2007); The Resilient Landscape, Ivan Dougherty Gallery, Sydney (2007); Interdigitate, The Moving Image Centre, Auckland (2006); and Living Here Now – Art and Politics, Australian Perspecta (1999).

Sabsabi’s work is held in a number of public and private collections including the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth; Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, Sydney; Campbelltown Arts Centre, NSW; and Italy Casoria International Contemporary Art Museum, Casoria.

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