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Swedish-Palestinian artist Tarik Kiswanson discusses identity through his multidisciplinary artworks. Informed by philosopher Édouard Glissant’s notion of “trembling thinking,” Kiswanson’s practices are based on the premise of rejecting stability and categorization and embracing the “in-between” spaces within which identities oscillate.
Kiswanson’s two works both involve preadolescents and mirror the artist’s own experience growing up as a mixed-race person migrating between countries. Passings (2019), which was developed during the artist’s recent performance Dust (2019) at Centre Pompidou, takes the ghostly form of radiological scans for boys’ sportswear clothing, overlaid with middle-eastern, North African and Asian ethnic costumes loaned from the Tiraz Foundation in Jordan. The Reading Room (2019), on the other hand, shows a 6-year old boy struggling to read in English, with narration by an adult, presumably the boy grown-up, recalling the feeling of being lost.
While the former implies the burden of understanding one’s own lineage, the alien cosmologies that follow one by birth, the latter implies that of adapting to “other” cultures. Together, they accentuate a feeling of rootlessness and the struggle for self-identification as one becomes identity-conscious. The sentiment of belonging to everywhere yet nowhere, however, is not unique to children of cross-cultural backgrounds. The artworks underline the conditions of globalization-capitalism experienced by many: beneath the facade of super-interconnectedness enabled by technologies, one might feel increasingly disconnected—to others, to the past, to the future, to other cultures, to one’s own culture, to oneself. But at the same time, the works convey hope through the presence of children and inspire viewers to rebuild these connections.