Haig Aivazian at The Showroom

Haig Aivazian’s first UK solo exhibition consists of two films, each of which collages together found material from a dizzying range of sources—tech-bro TED talks, Georgian indie bands, phone footage of police violence, Tintin—tracing a tangle of connections between sport and war, power and profit, surveillance, spectacle and state-sanctioned murder. Light and fire are running motifs: Aivazian asks what gets lit up and why, who gets to see and who is always being watched.

Prometheus, 2019, revisits the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona in the aftermath of the Gulf War, a conflict that, Baudrillard famously argued, did not take place. Footage of American basketball players bowing on the podium cuts to an image from the 2003 invasion of Iraq: the much-mythologized toppling of the giant statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. Both Baudrillard and Aivazian are drawn, again and again, to light, as technology and as metaphor. The “megalomaniac light show” the philosopher describes is conjured by the artist in one deft cut from Disney’s Aladdin (1992), in which a merchant hurls sparks into the darkness (a whole history of orientalism suggested in just a few seconds), to video footage of night-time gunfire.

Protesting recent power outages across Lebanon, a result of endemic corruption, All of your Stars are but Dust on my Shoes, 2021, is more contemporary and more ambitiously ecological. Aivazian dances from the murder of whales for oil, to entwined histories of public lighting and police violence, to the latest data-driven technologies of control. A light map charts a history of destruction and loss in Syria. Protestors have smartphones now. Aivazian finds patterns everywhere. Rigorously researched and dextrously woven from a mass of material, the two films constitute a speculative, against-the-grain cartography of resistance against the injustices of absolutist abstractions.

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