Experiment # 1: I capture the desert

I haven’t concretely written down my project proposal yet, but brainstorming and some research has yielded the following answers about what I am seem to be seeking:

  1. I want to build simultaneous narratives to explore the ‘slice of life’ story of an absent protagonist.

  2. I want my art to reflect the ‘stream of consciousness’ or ongoing story in the inner mind’.

  3. I want to unlock the narrative potential of everyday objects and materials, and their embedded cultural associations.

  4. I am inspired by the ongoing dialogue between art and the audience in this digital era, and the potential of the audience to contribute to the meaning of the art.

  5. I draw inspiration from literature and written narratives.

Over the last couple of months I have been spending my time exploring Jeddah; the art galleries, the personalities, the people, the landscapes. My observations, combined with the fact that mosaic art is something you see everywhere in Jeddah (restaurant fronts, pavements, roundabouts), inspired me to create this experimental mosaic on MDF board using a variety of found objects as tesserae.

It began as something concrete, but evolved into something abstract. I guess, it was my brain’s way of sticking to my initial idea of a simultaneous narrative:

simultaneous narrative is a type of narrative that has very little visually discernible organization to those who are not acquainted with its purpose. It can focus on geometric or abstract designs as well as the placement or arrangement of items within the artwork.

But despite becoming completely abstract, when I looked at it, I felt it still exuded the aura I was trying to capture. I felt like I had still managed to capture my view of Jeddah. So I named it after one of my favorites, Dodie Smith’s book, ‘I capture the castle’. Except, of course, this was called, “I capture the desert.”

I capture the desert

Since it was the most hybrid, experimental, work in progress piece on my hands at the moment I decided to let this one be one of the pieces I submit for the ‘2 girls gallery’ exhibition. However, since the work was to be displayed on a screen, and I had been wanting to explore processing a bit more ever since our class on processing, I decided to take it a step further.

I found a code on openprocessing.org that allowed me to generate a bunch of images that could be compiled into a video. The video itself consisted of a variety of squares (that resembled the tesserae) appearing rapidly. I converted this code into a video and then added a filter to it to give that nostalgic, hazy quality of a dream. In the video I wanted the squares to evolve into the painting. Somehow a reflection on how I had arrived at this experiment in the first place, through random exploration of the streets of Jeddah. I added an oud guitar sound in the background as well because it rang so true to the region; I think I’ll always associate that lilting sound with Jeddah.

Here’s the final video along with the label I submitted to the exhibition:

Title: I Capture the Desert 
Name: Kehkashan Khalid
Material: Up-cycled tesserae on MDF, photographed and converted into video using processing and imovie.
Time: 12 seconds
Description: Kehkashan’s focus is on contemporary forms of narrative art; forms that shed the need for characters, plots and settings, and instead explore the narrative potential of everyday objects and materials, as well as rely on the ongoing dialogue between audience and artist in the digital sphere, to unlock cultural revelations. ‘I Capture the Desert’ is an abstract piece built from found objects and materials on MDF board; an expression of how she views life in Jeddah. It was then converted into video format to reflect the dream-like haziness of exploring, understanding and assimilating into new cultures and new surroundings. 

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