Courtesy Waheeda Malullah

Date: 9 – 15 January 2009
Venue: Delfina Foundation

In her diverse practice, that includes elements of video, photography, installation and performance, international resident-artist Waheeda Malullah uses childhood playfulness to identify the rules of the social game. In Play! (video, 2005), Waheeda uses football to stage her feelings and the projection of her desires.

Waheeda’s interest in football goes back to her childhood dream of becoming a footballer. Given gender segregation at the time (Bahrain’s national football team was formed in 2003), Waheeda’s unfulfilled ambition became a recurring element of her work, and the motive for the ongoing, symbolic association between football, and the confrontation of her personal desires with the role assigned to her by society.

The binary dynamics evoked by team sports (usually involving two entities strategising one against an other) often feature in Waheeda’ s works, as means to explore ideas around absolute opposites, and tensions between individual freedom and the requirements of being in a group  – a team, a family, a society. Not unlike the rules of a football game, the laws of community living govern individuals’ everyday choices.  For instance, looking at social interactions in Bahrain, through the prism of gender, the male/female dichotomy is reflected in colour-coded clothing habits, which Waheeda often refers to in her work: women traditionally wear Black while men wear White.

The association/evocation mechanisms on which the fragmented narration of Play! are based go back to earlier works such as Stopped Ball (installation, 2003). A short video-documentary, based on an interview with Waheeda, attempts to track the origin and development of these mechanisms back to biographical elements, through to the experimental period (both with media and art forms), which characterised Waheeda’s thought process for Play!.

Untitled (Digital print on Aluminium, 2003, 2009) is a indirect product of Play!. This photograph of Waheeda and the children who participated in the video, posing for the camera, is not to be seen as an artwork as such, but rather archive documentation. It was shot on location, during the production of the video.

This video screening forms the last part of with a small p, a series of events and commissions, during which Delfina Foundation invited six artists to explore how mechanisms inherent to children and adult’s games – association, transposition, transformation, exaggeration, disguise, appropriation, and interaction, can be used as a trickster to reveal absurdities and expose topical conditions.