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Róza El-Hassan

The early work of Róza El-Hassan is pervaded by a post-conceptual approach to objects and images. Her objects are realized on the borders of art and non-art, picture and sculpture, as well as in two and three dimensions. She has hung Wrapped Objects (1992–94) and, notably, installed Stretched Objects (1995) in order to place everyday objects on the wall of the white cube as a panel painting. El-Hassan wrapped or stretched these objects to transform them into works of art. In the case of Lighting Fruits (1997), she used the opposite method: real apples and pears transformed the traditional genre (still life, nature morte) into a vivid installation.

In 1999, then, in a shift that ran counter to her earlier analytical approach to art, El-Hassan turned to political criticism and activism, focusing on the genres of public and participatory art movements. In that year she began the I am Overpopulation project, which is still one of her main preoccupations. Initially, she mounted public art events and produced photographs together with Milica Tomić; in these, the two artists ironically represented the capitalist individual as being subjected and reduced to numerical data. This conceptual change of perspective also came to pervade El-Hassan’s graphic art, especially her drawings, which increasingly became a sort of public political protest and a personal visual diary. Concurrently, El-Hassan’s making of objects has also been transformed, while the R. is Thinking/Dreaming about Overpopulation sculptures have appeared in different spaces as re-contextualized artistic alter egos. Her roughly carved sculptures made of wooden slats portray sitting and inward-looking figures that simultaneously represent the visual traditions of contemplation and lonely suffering. This technique only increases the sense of ambivalence, referring simultaneously to the visual culture of expressionism, neo-expressionism and amateur “sculptural” practice. One of the most significant performances of El-Hassan, Blood Donation (2001-2002), is also a part of the I am Overpopulation project. Moving westward, El-Hassan donated her (part-Hungarian, part-Arabian) blood to the victims of the war on terror in three different cities (Belgrade, Budapest, and Zurich). This project—for which she lay on a large photographic print of Yasser Arafat, who donated blood to the victims of 911—is connected to her own identity politics and the visual and political culture of terrorism.

 

S.H.

1966 Budapest / HU

 

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