'When I Desire You A Part Of Me Is Gone’, a solo show by Aidha Badr
‘All human desire is poised on an axis of paradox, absence and presence its poles, love and hate its motive energies’ - AnneCarson, Eros the Bittersweet (1986).
In her seminal book Eros the Bittersweet, Anne Carson explores the multidimensional possibilities and intricacies of desire. Through a philosophical and poetic analysis of the Ancients - Aristophanes, Socrate and others - the Canadian poet, essayist, translator, and classicist reflects on the paradox of love that ultimately results in what Greek poet Sappho coined as glukupikron (‘bittersweet’) love. As Carson puts it, twisting the famous Cogito ergo sum, or ‘I think therefore I am’, of René Descartes: Odi et amo ergo, or ‘I love and hate, therefore I am’.
Just as desire is at the core of Carson’s book, it is at the core of Aidha Badr’s new solo exhibition whose title, ‘When I Desire You A Part Of Me Is Gone’, is a line directly borrowed from Eros the Bittersweet. Yet, it is not its sole romantic facet that the artist seeks to understand; rather, she seeks to untangle the roots of female desire by using memory as a medium and exploring theories of attachment.
At the beginning, there was the mother. Following the work of Nancy Kulish and Deanna Holtzman on ‘The Persephone Complex’, or the intricacies of the daughter-mother relationship, Aidha Badr scrutinizes the way the mother figure and its representations play a significant role in childhood and the early stages of a girl's development. Her Cloth Was Cut From Heaven, She Wished To Be Me And I Wished To Be Her (2021) depicts the attachment of the young girl to her doll. By taking care, dressing, undressing, and cuddling the doll, the little girl replays the role of the mother, thus subconsciously constructing a strict set of beliefs about what a woman essentially is and what she must become through this process.
In this painting, the abstract motherly figure holds a small, distant red sun between her fingers. This recurring motif in Aidha Badr’s work comes from the song her doll would automatically sing You Are My Sunshine by Johnny Cash after pressing the button on her stomach. The iteration of the red sun from one painting to another highlights the way the past intertwines with the present and how a memory - whether it is of an object, a place, or a person - can lastingly infuse and shape one’s memory.
In his influential book Poetics of Space (1957), Gaston Bachelard analyzed the importance of the sites of our intimate lives, and foremost of the house. For the French philosopher and poet, space is - rather than time - the receptacle of memories that are not fossilized but constitutive of the present and of imagination which allows us to fulfill the desire to stop time.
This attachment to places and the objects that shape them is explored in several works of Aidha Badr, such as My Grandfather's House The Way I Remember It (2022), where she directly refers to a specific period of her childhood spent in Alexandria. By painting significant objects - the drying laundry, the coffee pot, the ladybug clicker toy, the comb with white hairs,the eau de Cologne and the misbahạ - the artist recreates the figure of her beloved grandfather in an attempt to cope with the grief of his absence.
Love and attachment walk hand in hand in Aidha Badr’s work; the stronger the love, the stronger of fear of losing the loved ones. Death is inevitable and grief is nothing more than love, all the love that we are no longer able to give, all the objects that were left behind, and all the unoccupied corners and spaces that now take form in the corners of our eyes, and the hollows of our chests. The state of grief is flagrant in Grief Is Love With Nowhere To Go (2022) where she portrays herself seated on the checkered tiles, surrounded by objects that embody her attachment to the time inAlexandria, a time she bids farewell while accepting her grief with open arms.
With ‘When I Desire You A Part Of Me Is Gone’, Aidha Badr follows Ariadne's red thread in the maze of the self. By convoking the works of psychoanalysts and feminist theorists, she unravels the manifold events, feelings, memories
and persons that have shaped her identity, especially as a woman. Her examination of the roots of three different desires - love, motherhood, and creation - which she identifies as a fundamental characteristic of womanhood, brings the artist to collect her past through her own memories as well as through hearsay. But this reconstitution is flawed, full of omissions and additions that she explicitly assumes and reclaims; as she warns us, these memories have been altered to fit the story she’s telling - a complex story of love, attachment, and desire in which Aidha Badr is both the narrator and the protagonist.
By Océane Sailly
In the eyes of a seven-year-old, her grandfather’s house in Alexandria is a treasure chest. A wondrous space full of exciting details unfolding into endless possibilities that caress a child’s imagination: a green marble table becomes a car, ideal for playing a mechanic and lying underneath the table, repairing the vehicle and gently touching the bottom side of the cold heavy green marble slab; a tiny corner between an armchair and chiffon curtains, perfect for hide-and-seek. The most important, however, in these scenes, is a loving grandfather, who braids the young girl’s hair, buys her Haribo cherry gummies splitting each cherry in half and teaches her to count to ten in ten different languages, entertaining her in a manner strictly reserved for grandparents: ever-so-generous, kind and wholeheartedly allowing. The year the seven-year-old girl spent in Alexandria, inextricably bound up with these memories, marks a starting point for the story of Aidha Badr’s, a Brooklyn-born and Cyprus-based visual artist, whose work explores memories, daydreaming and the intricacies of female desire.
In order to preserve and care for contemporary architectural heritage, Alserkal has launched Jossa by Alserkal. Located in Warehouse 45, formerly the home of the Jean-Paul Najar Foundation, Jossa by Alserkal was designed by renowned architect Mario Jossa of Marcel Breuer & Associates, whose work was influenced by the Bauhaus movement.
Opening on May 19, 2022, from 5:00pm to 9:00pm
Exhibition till June 6, 2022, open everyday from 11:00am to 7:00pm
At Jossa by Alserkal (Dubai)