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Clothes, Cloth & Culture Group Alinah Azadeh & Dr Christine Shaw-Checinska

19 May 2016

Join us to hear artist Alinah Azadeh in conversation with Dr Christine Shaw-Checinska about her interdisciplinary practice, often involving personal narrative and performative ritual to transform and reveal the hidden meanings in seemingly everyday objects.

Audio recording of the event available at the bottom of this page 

The act of carefully wrapping objects in fabric is an integral part of much of Alinah’s work. It is often overlaid with written texts, literally interweaving personal and collective narratives. Mother Tongue (2009) features her mother’s rice cooking pots visible in outline through many layers of entwining cloth. The text is from a Farsi song which poignantly connects three generations of Azadeh’s family. Alinah listened to the song before the birth of her first daughter and the text was then translated into English by her mother who would later be tragically lost in the Asian Tsunami of 2004.


Mother Tongue (2009) ©Alinah Azadeh, photo Xavier Young

Other works reference the artist’s Iranian heritage, such as extracts from 13th and 14th century Persian Sufi mystic poetry or a Santoor (a stringed musical instrument similar to a dulcimer, a gift from her mother) rendered mute by enclosure in green cloth. Green is also the colour of the opposition movement which was similarly silenced after the 2009/10 Iranian election.

The social processes of gifting, exchange and, more recently, debt have been recurrent themes and processes within her work. Burning the Books, a touring public performance and collaborative intervention explores and exorcises the ever pervasive concept of debt, both monetary and metaphorical. Azadeh has travelled the country collecting people’s stories of debt in Liverpool, Newcastle, Birmingham, Brighton and Brixton. The stories where then inscribed on the pages of a book, to be symbolically burnt in front of the contributors.

The conversation will connect the themes of this work with Alinah’s current research and development for a new audio App and installation immersing the listener in a vivid set of interactive stories. These centre on encounters with – and beyond – walls, borders, the invisible barriers between people and those within the human self.

Alinah’s work is currently on show as part of the exhibition Tall Tales at Swiss Cottage Library until the 29th May 2016.


Alinah Azadeh is an interdisciplinary artist, working predominantly in the public realm. Her work is currently on show as part of Tall Tales at Swiss Cottage Library (until 29 May 2016). Recent shows include the touring performance Burning the Books (2013-15), Child’s Play at The Asia Triennial Manchester (2014), and Chasing Mirrors: Portraits of the Unseen at the National Portrait Gallery (2010). Since her MA in Art and Media Practice at the University of Westminster in 2001 she has produced installation works, encompassing sculpture, textile and written language, which act as a container for narrative exchanges in response to the central themes of human experience. Her initial concepts lead to processes involving live interaction with audiences, rooted in communal ritual and processes of gift and exchange. Alongside her public work, she creates smaller works such as fabric sculptures, which are a combination of found objects, cloth bindings and texts.

Dr Christine Shaw-Checinska Is a designer, writer and curator. Christine’s work is situated at the meeting point between material culture and contemporary art. She writes about the relationship between cloth, culture and race. The cultural exchanges that occur as a result of movement and migration, creating creolised cultural forms, are her recurring themes. The correlation between personal history and received history is an ongoing interest. She is currently an Associate Researcher at VIAD, University of Johannesburg and an Associate Lecturer in fashion at Goldsmiths,London. As a creative designer, Christine has created womenswear collections for a number of iconic British brands including Margaret Howell. Her natural design flair and creative energy has seen her anticipating new trends, styling press launches, fashion shows and shoots, alongside mentoring emerging fashion practitioners.