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Emii Alrai Future Collect Commission at The Hepworth Wakefield

07 Apr-04 Sep 2022

Emii Alrai (b.1993), will present A Core of Scar at The Hepworth Wakefield this spring. Alrai, who lives in Leeds and has a studio in Wakefield, creates works and installations that subvert the traditional visual language of museum displays. Alrai weaves together ancient mythologies from the Middle East and oral histories from her own Iraqi heritage in objects which imitate archaeological artefacts. Alrai’s work draws attention to the contrast between the polished aesthetics of museums and the states of ruin which befall archaeological objects and the landscapes they are excavated from.

For The Hepworth Wakefield, Alrai is creating a series of hand-blown glass vessels that evoke ancient funerary urns. The vessels are marked by scars and seams, which emerge from the making processes of casting and joining. In archaeological artefacts, such scars can hint at the violence of the object’s separation from its homeland – a separation that parallels experiences of migration and diaspora.

These glass vessels will be shown together with engravings from Wakefield’s collection of historic Yorkshire landscapes, depicting gorges and scars formed by melting glaciers. In these distinctive and dramatic landscapes, Alrai finds affinities with bodily scars, which were once open wounds. Alrai’s commission investigates these physical markers of the past, weaving together body, landscape and object as sites of memory. Photographs, sketches and small sculptural objects will also be displayed to reveal Alrai’s research and creative process in developing the commission.

About the commission, Emii Alrai, said: “I’m excited for the opportunity to develop my practice, expanding my current interest in museums and their collections. Through conversations with both iniva and The Hepworth Wakefield, I want to interrogate how we collect things. The opportunity to engage with The Hepworth Wakefield’s collection would be extremely beneficial to this work, particularly looking at the way in which Barbara Hepworth used materiality to explore the relationship of the geographic world through her forms.” – Emii Alrai

Alrai was selected by curators at iniva and The Hepworth Wakefield for the second year of Future Collect, owing to her sensitivity in navigating complex diasporic narratives and her imaginative exploration of materials. The commission will be acquired into Wakefield’s permanent art collection. Future Collect is a three-year programme aimed at transforming the future of public art collections across the UK to better reflect our culturally diverse society. It offers a year-long paid Curatorial Trainee position, which this year was awarded to Amber Li, who is working with Alrai to curate the commission. Future Collect is supported by Art Fund, Arts Council England and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

Image: Devil's Arrows in Boroughbridge in North Yorkshire. Photo by Emii Alrai, 2021.
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