Mozan: Textiles, Triggers, Transformations

Mozan: Textiles, Triggers, Transformations

Wrinkled fabric. Creases mark the silhouette of a creature stirring under the textile, waiting to emerge. Then there's a cut; a harnessed man is staring at the viewer, blinded by a cloth pulled over his head and gagging on a thick piece of rope. He clutches his half naked self in the bathtub. As a hand squeezes his neck under water, the tension grows unbearable. The man rises, bursts out through the water and rips the cloth off his face, gasping for air. 

The opening shots in Mozan's video work "Djine Stories" may depict nothing less but a reawakening of the former law student and the birth of a visual artist. His youth in the port city of Dammam, Saudi-Arabia, offered a very limited view on art. "It is considered a childish thing and it's connected with immaturity," he explains (in fact, drawing a turtle in shelling waters is one of his nicest childhood memories). In Saudi, as Mozan calls it, a small group of artists feed off of a limited circle of individuals and institutions. "There is an art community, but I would say they have no true impact on society. It's very much within their own island."

Mozan didn't live on this island. He was drowning.

His transformation has been impressive. From the day he didn't show up to his final exam at a law school in Wales (family and friends called him crazy), to his BFA at The New York School of Visual Arts, Mozan, 29, has been vividly exploring the dimensions between his Arab roots, Western contemporary art and the cultural forces pulling at him and at each other. His work contains a steady flow of back references to the region without losing itself in folklore or truisms: A glittering blue disco ball in the shape of a crescent, an army of toy soldiers decomposing a pita bread, a laser-cut deconstruction of the usually perfect geometric symmetry in a Middle Eastern design. 

In search of what rules restrict us and what norms we play by, almost any material can trigger Mozan's urge to sculpt and to build. In his view, a taxidermy beehive or a broken lamp post can quickly grow into a three dimensional statement if seen from the right perspective. The most recent installation for his Carpet Series was born from a couple of badly stacked rugs at the old market in Dammam. Hung from the ceiling in his Chelsea studio, the cut-up carpet shapes burst apart over powerful rays of light and seem to explode in the viewer's face. But their reverse hanging calls for a different viewpoint, exposing the unpleasant backside of an all-too-shiny front, in a region where criticism can be a rare commodity and apparent truths are easily swept under the rug. 

"I really applaud people who are trying to make a change back there. But I don't have time to struggle. I'm not an activist", Mozan notes. He has stopped distinguishing so strongly between the worlds of Saudi-Arabia and the West and calls himself a product of human culture. "For me the most important thing an artist can do is to document. You're not supposed to change opinions."


by Johannes Schmitt-Tegge