Behjat Omer Abdulla
Abdulla has been concerned with the notion of identity for many years since finding himself in a state of exile trying to gain recognition by the Immigration system in the UK. It has been over thirteen years since he left his native land of Kurdistan-Iraq.
During this process, Abdulla has often been asked for identity pictures for the various types of ID cards he was required to have and now owns a collection of “self-ID pictures”. His work developed directly from an investigation into the use of these ID cards, what they say about people’s origins, and how these people are ultimately presented at the end of the governmental process.
Abdulla tries to question the effects and the outcomes of this systemic categorization. It is shocking to see how codes and numbers classify and shape us within a system that, to us, is almost invisible. It is quite surprising and rather fascinating to see that we expect ID photographs to be a true reflection of who we really are, when in fact they only represent a superficial side of our identity; our physical appearance. However, this process of categorisation extends beyond the Immigration services and other governmental departments. The desire to reduce a person to only their photographic image is widespread.
As a mixed media artist working mainly with drawing, photography, and video installation, Abdulla uses his practice to listen to peoples’ stories and to try to create a platform for debate around the issues raised. “To me art questions who we are and how we place ourselves in the world. It is a way to be in touch with our responses to life and a way of speaking that allows viewers to translate, decode and change it to their own languages”.
“In Limbo”: is a set of drawings first produced for the Conjunction 10 exhibition at AirSpace Gallery, these were reproduced and displayed for the Hayward Gallery, London in the 2011 exhibition “Avenue of Portraits”, which was part of the Festival of Britain celebrations. The exhibition examined the cultural diversity and impact that immigration has had in the uk, in the last 50 years.