So far most of Karíma Al-Mukhtar’s creative work has been predominantly in the fields of installation and performance. Thematically, her work often examines various myths from the domains of the so-called “urban legends” and physical phenomena. Although in this sense much of her work may seem closely related to a type of magic trick on the one hand, and laboratory or social research on the other hand, usually the outcome is not a point or piece of information, but a visual situation. The artist’s articulation of object, process and social situations results in forms presented in a sensitive way, which can be, for a great part, attributed to the influence of her teacher Jiří Kovanda. At the same time, by basing her activities on the cultural codes of superstition and scientific research, and recently by examining her relationship to Arab culture, the artist has been shifting the meaning of this inherited visual language into a newly articulated context.
The process that begins with her intention and results in the final form is particularly manifested in the artist’s performances. In Feel the Jump (2011) she reconstructed the scene of a fall, derived from Yves Klein’s famous action, into a static moment. Using physical effort she held herself on the verge of a free fall from a plinth placed in the gallery. Her work here became the embodiment of the moment of surrender to gravitational force stretched into a long time interval. In another work,, titled Between (2013), she performed subtle physical intervention by sewing together the fingertips of two friends sitting opposite each other, using a needle and thread on their skin. Here she created a corporeal situation as well as a parable of social relationships.
Al-Mukhtar further touched upon the above-mentioned world of superstitions and myths in her 26 works called 28X1509/2011/12 (2011-12) in which, as part of her research, she undertook to verify diverse urban legends. The cycle primarily consists of installations conceived as tests of the functionality of a given principle that ultimately represents autonomous art solutions. Among these works we find a bookshelf full of books hanging in the air held only by the friction of the pages of two interleaved books (Project nr. 11, 2012), or some smaller projects where Mukhtar took advantage of the unexpected effects brought about by a pair of intersecting objects. For instance, in her work Nr. 21 (2012,) she made a contrast of a fresh tomato interwoven with cooked spaghetti. As evident from the last-mentioned work, the realizations from this cycle often represented ephemeral outcomes, leading to an aesthetic conclusion instead of an empirical one.
In many of her recent works the artist utilizes the results of the above research in projects where her previous position of a “magician” shifts to bringing about an effect using the contrast of materials and unusually applied techniques. The aesthetic and semantic values of such confrontations take over the fascination aroused in the viewer by a “magic trick”. In her series Exception (2013-4) the leading role belongs to cross-stitching, uncharacteristically applied to wood where she created a number of wooden posts with embroidered patterns. In another part of this series, the artist experimented with embroidery in the human skin, which is documented by photographs.
In the exhibition project Dear Valued Customers (2014), the artist’s interest in embroidery was demonstrated in relation to the phenomenon of Arabic ornament, applied at an exhibition on a mannequin dressed in a burqa. In the context of the artist’s work, we can perceive this connection as work with a specific handicraft, but also as a non-dogmatic commentary of contemporary multiculturalism issues. Instead of pronounced theories, we are addressed here by a purely visual situation carrying a message about another culture by using its forms.
Karíma Al-Mukhtar’s work balances on the border of aesthetics of object relations, process experiments and playing with cultural codes. It is precisely this marginal position, where visual art does not stiffen in its petrified form, performance does not get lost in an expressive gesture, and playing with meanings does not occlude objectivity, which is perhaps this artist’s powerful foundation.
Manifestation of Medium - Petr Krátký, Viktor Takáč, Bonobo First Floor, Berlin
Quando sorge la luna - Anežka Hošková, Lucie Mičíková, Bonobo First Floor, Berlin
DRÖMMAR/Markéta Vlčková, Galerie Prokopka, Praha
Posun o 90°, Galerie NoD, Praha (s Viktorem Čechem)
Spolukurátorka Galerie Altán Klamovka
Spolukurátorka galerie I.D.A., Praha
Čech, Viktor: Odpařující se konceptuálno, aneb o současné situaci výtvarnosti nad třemi příklady, Artalk.cz, publikováno 10.2.2015
Čech, Viktor: Essl Art Award CEE 2013, Časopis Ateliér č.13/2013, s.16
Ledvina, Josef: Výtvarnost / konceptualita, Časopis Ateliér č.12/2011, s.4