NOBA Nordic Baltic contemporary art platform

Much like Hanni Kamaly’s practice, the artist’s chosen title for the exhibition at Index – THE MIGHT THEY HAVE – is layered, considered, precise. A fragment of a statement, it is an acknowledgement suggestive of status and respect. It also seems to pose a question within its grammatical structure. A question of what might have been, what they might have done – if they could have.

Hanni Kamaly works with sculpture, film and performance. Through a research-based process, the artist has developed a practice in reading material culture in terms of racial and colonial history. In these varied mediums and manifestations, Kamaly engages with questions of memory, embodied narratives, attention and agency. With meticulous attention to detail, the enduring lineages of power exerted through systems of oppression are traced and investigated. Abuse, control, life, bodies, flesh, brutality, politics, suffering but also poetic connections, criticality, and agency as a way to mark beyond linguistic control. Kamaly’s artistic production brings fragility to a critique of assumed structural power relations.

At Index, Kamaly’s works set up a complex spatial constellation. Wrought from metal, the sculptural works are simultaneously powerful and delicate, both in materiality and stance. Older sculptures co-exist with recent works, constructing a silent presence spanning time and inhabiting the space together with the multi-screen installation of a newly produced film work.

Hanni Kamaly looks critically at the histories that objects fail to represent, complicating questions of how – and crucially what – societies memorialize, depict and commemorate, the narratives constructed and evoked by material objects.

Threading the artist’s practice is an exploration of subject-object relations, anchored in an understanding of the human body as the site where subjectivity is produced. This is prevalent in the titles of sculptural works which bear the names of individuals, people whose lives have been through oppression and violence. In calling forth their stories, the sculptural figures perhaps cannot represent, but stand in as a marker for those who were denied dignity, agency, freedom, a voice.

The new film work Gadju Okabak Ulrikab Koskimo, 2021, deconstructed across multiple screens, makes visible the mapped network of connections uncovered through research. The artist’s approach to filmmaking entails an established working methodology of mapping; tracking a web of looping associations which rarely operate in a linear manner, but rather back in on themselves, with categories and characters informing and referring back to each other. In this new film work, Kamaly focuses on the displacement of particular subjects among people brought to Europe by the Norwegian explorer Adrian Jacobsen for the zoologist Carl Hagenbeck. Their bodies, identities and images subsequently became absorbed and embedded in ethnographic presentations, publications, exhibitions, forcibly transforming their individual subjectivities into an objectified representation, illustrative of race typology.

Inherent in the encounter with Gadju Okabak Ulrikab Koskimo is a demand on the audience: the necessity of choice. Carefully edited sequences become nodes, chapters in a journey. The viewers are invited to navigate and form their own narrative, choosing where to position their bodies amongst the sculptures, where to begin and which path to select, in a performative narrativity which flows in multiple directions simultaneously. This awakens an agency and even a potential responsibility, enabling the viewer to choose their own path, to draw their own connections, to reflect actively.

Through film and performance works, Kamaly draws attention to how narratives of oppression transfer into contemporary public space and everyday life. In an extension of the mind-mapping methodology in the research process, Kamaly reveals the referents that are enduringly present: in architecture, the politics of representation within art histories, in media and pop culture.

In parallel to the exhibition, Hanni Kamaly has developed Passages a series of performative guided walks through Stockholm, produced by Index in collaboration with Stockholms Kvinnohistoriska (Stockholm Museum of Women’s History) as part of the initiative Utom Husen. Read more about the project Utom Husen here. With this iteration of walks, structured around the specific sculptures, architecture, public space and histories manifested in Stockholm, the artist invites small groups to participate in demarcating what is visible but so often unseen in our common spaces.

Hanni Kamaly (b. 1988, Hamar, NO) is a visual artist based in Stockholm. Kamaly received an MFA from Malmö Academy of Art and has also studied at Bergen Academy of Arts and the International Art Academy of Palestine. Kamaly’s work has been exhibited at the following institutions and spaces: Moderna Museet Malmö (2020), Interkulturelt Museum, Oslo (2019/20), coyote, Stockholm (2020), Lunds Konsthall (2019), Ginerva Gambino, Cologne (2019), Tegel, Stockholm (2019), Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2018/19), Luleå Biennial (2018/19), Galleri Ping-Pong, Malmö (2018) Ahrenshoop Kunsthaus, Ahrenshoop (2018), Malmö Art Museum (2017/18), Skånes konstförening, Malmö (2017), Almanac, London (2017), Inter Arts Center, Malmö (2016) Rupert, Vilnius (2016).

Gallery name: Index gallery Stockholm

Address: Kungsbrostrand 19, Stockholm

Opening hours: Wed-Fri 12:00 - 18:00, Sat-Sun 12:00 - 16:00

Open: 30.04.2021 - 18.07.2021