Hamja Ahsan is an artist and independent curator based in London. Ahsan’s practice encompasses the entire span of media: drawing, sound, painting, appropriated text work, sculpture, photography, performance, video, directing exhibitions and critical writing. His thematic concerns as an artist and writing revolves around contesting secularism, diaspora politics, indexing time, the prison system and new formations of Imperialism.
Ahsan makes the case for a world more inclusive of neurodiversity in Shy Radicals: The Antisystemic Politics of the Militant Introvert (Book Works), originally published in 2017 and now in its third edition. To launch the book, Iniva hosted a panel discussion with Ahsan to discuss Shy Radicals with spatial designer and activist Shukri Sultan, artist Daniel Oliver, and art librarian Nick Brown. In 2019, Ahsan adapted the book into Crack Up – Crack Down, an exhibition project for the Thirty-Third Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts where it received top honors as the winner of the biennial’s Grand Prize.
He has previously presented projects at Tate Britain, Aicon gallery, Deptford X, Shanaakht Festival (Pakistan), Shiplakala Academy (Bangladesh), Guild gallery (New York) and across artist-run spaces. He is the co-director of Other Asias – an artist-run organisation of 10 interweaving curatorial currents, exploring national and regional representation, unthinking Eurocentrism, the language of officialdom and public access, and the politics of history-making, exclusion and inclusion. His foremost interest is in the space between being an artist and a curator and translating the forms of parallel conceptual thinking of non-art disciplines (e.g. geography, economics, blogging) into contemporary art practice. He is the co-curator with Fatima Hussain of the REDO Pakistan project – a nomadic art project that engages with the contested histories and futures of South Asia – in the form of an activist newspaper stall, generating further work in the form of radio sessions, archives, video essays, vocabularies, plays, symposiums and film events on its journey.
His ongoing collaborative archival project with the jazz musician Zoe Rahman explores Bangladeshi nationhood as performative identity. His work includes producing video installation as commissioned media artist for Bangladesh Independence Day and the second edition of REDO PAKISTAN: Declaration of War against the Present Times. Ahsan is an alumni of Central Saint Martins (BA Fine Art), Chelsea College of Art &Design (MA in Critical Writing & Curatorial Practice) and Royal College of Art (MA Curating Contemporary Art). His solo-show at Watermans Arts Centre was titled ‘Nation-Building’.