Artist Kameelah Janan Rasheed (American, born 1985) uses printmaking, photography, painting, and video to explore alternative systems of reading, writing, and learning.
For Unsewn Time, Rasheed worked with mark making, rubbing, folding, chemical reactions, and other material explorations to consider how meaning is conveyed in forms that are created through intimate rituals and improvisational processes. Rasheed painted and collaged directly on light-sensitive photographic paper to create two large-scale works for the exhibition. She played with the quantity, order, and duration of applying photographic developer and fixer, as well as the introduction of slivers of light. She also worked with materials such as vaseline, ink, and rubbing alcohol, consciously ceding control and letting chance effects guide her working process. In addition to these material interactions, she considered her full body as an important tool in this process. In her home studio, she used the weight of her walking or rolling over the paper with her body to create marks, impressions, and varying distribution of chemicals.
The photographic works and prints—all commissioned for the exhibition—appear alongside Keeping Count (2021–23), a video that combines animation with excerpts from educational films. Inviting viewers to wade in a flood of poetic fragments, Keeping Count acts in concert with three additional video loops that together reinforce the questioning of our desires for fixed outcomes and instantaneous legibility.
The title of the exhibition, Unsewn Time, is drawn from The Arab Apocalypse (1980), a poem by writer and artist Etel Adnan (Lebanese, 1925–2021). Beginning as an abstract poem about the sun when the Lebanese civil war began, Adnan was moved to craft a 59-stanza poem that in addition to responding to the war tragedies, asks the reader to consider what can and cannot be articulated in words. Adnan’s poem incorporates hand-drawn symbols or glyphs that annotate and expand the primary text, encouraging the reader to move between different modes of reading, but never fully capture precise meaning of those glyphs. Taking this text form as well as the histories of Black “experimental” poetry as inspiration, Rasheed’s Unsewn Time moves between poetic fragments, annotations, and marks to other modes of storytelling to consider our relationships to unpredictable change and ruptures in time.
The following works, and particularly the excerpts shared below, were highly influential for Rasheed as she developed Unsewn Time.
Kameelah Janan Rasheed would like to gratefully acknowledge the following collaborators: Jazmine Catasus, EFA Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop Program, and Chris Cunningham, founding director, Loupe, Chicago.
Kameelah Janan Rasheed: Unsewn Time is curated by Grace Deveney, David C. and Sarajean Ruttenberg Associate Curator, Photography and Media.
The Ruttenberg Contemporary Photography Series is generously supported by the David C. and Sarajean Ruttenberg Arts Foundation.