Friday, 15 October 2010

Home, Memory, Memory of Home

A presentation/talk between Ali Zaidi and Antonio Pizzo
Monday 11th October - talk at the Museum of Oriental Art in Turin
A photographic intervention in porta palazzo on saturday 9th followed by a screening of selected short films from 60x60 Secs... identity, home and its memory was discussed between Ali Zaidi (motiroti) and Antonio Pizzo (Officine Sintetiche).
Antonio Pizzo Give us a context about 360 degrees and your preoccupation with the idea of home?
Ali Zaidi Born in India, migrated to Pakistan with my parents and now living in UK - curious to how people in similar situation view the idea of home, I set up this project across the three countries. Artists from India and Pakistan were appointed as creative associates who alongside myself took the responsibility of recruitng the artsists. There was a £300 commission for each of the sixty one minute films … the films had to be translatable within different geographies in a potent visual language. After a year of hard work and phenomenal telephone costs… remarkable works came out of it and we are showing the works still after two years. So here we are today screening some selected works and talking about them in the context of home and memory.
Let me take a lead and ask you what home mean to you?
Sixty films were commissioned just for this reason so that I don’t have to answer this myself.  Let me show you a film that begins to address your question. National Lottery by Daniel Saul. A documentary bout his cousin. For me home is a state of mind. My grand mother used to say home is where ever your two feet are.
This man in Dan's film moved to London and now his biggest dream is  to go back to India?

Okay… the attitude towards Anglo-Indians is similar to na pesce na carne… his dream whilst being in India was to be in UK and now being here he realizes this is not the space to be.
The idea of home is probably related to memory or dreams about home and most of the times you exist in between these two points… there is a pain involved as well?
Idea of pain and joy is simultaneous, one can not exist without the other. I will go back to some of the selected works I have brought here to use as a response to your questions. In the process of looking at ones idea of home and memory we have to deal with history which for me is a collective memory. Memory is debatable. Your idea of history can be very different from mine. Let me share one other film where home is being considered symbolically as an object in space and has a physical locaton. I wonder if memory has also got a physical location. Nitin Das from India followed by Nida Bangash from Pakistan… thoughts long similar lines but very different takes, the drama between Pakistan, India and Kashmir and other is about walls and divisions which aren’t necessarily between countries but can be created within.
The format for the evening is that we are asking questions to each other and showing films where the conversations lead to rather that showing works in a linear fashion. You play with the idea of separation. Within memory and home I was affected by the Anglo-Indian example… Tell me of your experience. You don’t belong to any one place anymore but you are different things altogether.
It is not easy. At times it is very easy. Wherever your two feet are, you belong. It is how one negotiates. Part of the question for me is about a relationship – a continual relationship. I asked different people what is easy - to love or to hate? Some said its easy to love because you just love! Another person’s response was that it is easy to hate because it does not require any work on your part. You just cease to engage. Where as to love requires a constant negotiation. For me hate is un-challanged memory (collective memory that is not yours or a memory that may be yours but one generating an un-negotiable point of view) where as love is constantly negotiated and is very much about now.
What was your question?
How do you deal with the identity when you are in the middle?
I will let this film roll. Akshay answers my dilemma very eloquently. This young man is a motiroti baby… he is dealing with the differences very knowingly and getting on with things.
The moment you are able to unpick the stereotypes by subverting then you start getting something different. Either you fight or you go with a question of what if?
Another film coming!! Telephone Pyar. This is made from archival popular Pakistani film footage. Screenings in Pakistan some young folks were totally in awe that these were films made in their country a few decades ago… older generation got rather offended as feminists had fought against the trivialization and objectification of women. In India some young university women in the audience wolf whistled as they never imagined sexuality or desire to be part of cinema associated with the neighbouring country.
I find this film interesting in the same way as old photos are used to jog a failing memory. Reminding the Pakistan of today -associated with terrorism and fear of the Taliban that there ‘was’ another Pakistan… hey you once you were like this!
To summarise home , identity and memory are big issues.  Sometimes your point of view has an irony and you can smile and laugh at them. Don’t you think that this hides the pain and suffering… sort of trivialises the issues?
I don’t feel its about hiding, it is certainly about revealing different points of views. By the way, not everyone making the films were ‘artists’. Some of the young people who addressed the question of home and identity via their one minute film... in their fresh and na├»ve way, addressed the discourse very successfully. For example 505 – the youngest of 60x60 Secs contributors, they were under eighteen at the time. This is their take on the division within the country itself. One last one for the road… Arriving.
We are hushed and rushed about time!
In the big playground of motiroti called identity we shared sixty commissioned perspectives on home and now somehow it makes sense to focus on memory. I took portraits of the audience who came to see 60x60 Secs  and they were asked to reflect on what home meant to them. Its from that collection that I have wanted to make a work in the area of memory – exploring the fear of loosing memory… amnesia, alzhiemers, political amnesia; where memories are being manipulated… Indo Pak subcontinet, here in Italy and many other places in the world. And the ageing population of the world, the digital age and memories being deposited left right and centre – it becomes a very interesting moment to focus on memory. 
Antonio myself and Andrea walked in Porta Palazzo to engage people with the question of memory of home. We spoke with different types of(detest this word but…) we interviewed and photographed people who represented different cultures. We must have looked an odd bunch walking around and talking, getting people to reflect on the questions and to write and photographing in their workspace. Idea is that when I go back to London, the motiroti Memory Lab will be informed by this intervention… we are planning our next Officine Sinteche and motiroti residency memory and dreams - an inter-generational  and inter-cultural project for 2011.
Memory is very dear to me. I fear one day I would loose my memory. Yesterday I got a young man to imagine in a kafkaisque way what would happen if he would wake up the next day with a face from a different race… his response after some time was that he would go to his mum and dad and try to convince them that he is their son.  But what if there isnt a memory to recognize that difference??
It is the collisions - in terms of migrations and identity that inform who we we are… it brings out the complexity and richness, the joys and confusions.
Memory of home for the Carmen, a Romanian mother and her son Gabriel were totally different. Silviana talked about her family and a fear that she didn’t want to loose the family – all very relevant things in the mix. Pangs for distance are too much for Zahid Mullah from Bangladesh – he wants to return!
Hopefully in another few months down the line having had the first of the motiroti Memory Lab in December… and a little clearer in terms of what can be done with the collected, collated and generated material on memory, we will hopefully see some of you again in Turin next year or perhaps some of you accompany the Labs in London.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

history and its memory... memory and its history

While talking to people about the limitless possibilities of delving into aspects of memory... while some said it is scientifically proven that we do not remember things before the age of seven, to some one narrating their earliest memories as a child of eighteen months being pushed along in the parks of crystal palace... to observations on 'political dementia' - as in memories being methodically erased by rewriting of histories... i chanced upon an article that dr.meenu gaur had written sometime back and published in a Sarai post... shared below is an extract from it

No body talks about things such as the supply of electricity in the camps, for instance, which might be many times better than in Kashmir, where one may get electricity for merely an hour in a whole day in the bitter winters.

The Kashmiri migrants carry a miniaturized, idealized Kashmir in their hearts. The memory of Kashmir is also a ritual of remembrance. Some of these narratives stemming out of personal experiences might seem suspect when measured up to certain facts about the life of these migrants in Kashmir but nonetheless they hint at a complex reality. A complex reality which involves
a rejection of what the French historian Pierre Nora calls “the terrorism of historicized memory”.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

motiroti archive online

motiroti archive covering most of its projects from the last 21 years is now available online.

Providing a valuable source of research for students, scholars, artists, collaborators and producers it charts the journey of the company. This archive is by no means exhaustive neither is it accompanied by critical discourse or writings. It is a visual treat never the less and with short accompanying texts on content and context, it creates an opportunity for me to acknowledge all those who have been part of this bigger picture and without who agency, collaboration, participation and generosity these works would never be made possible.

And I hope it creates an opportunity for you to be able to see how the narrative of motiroti has evolved and to contribute to ways in how the organisation can continue to develop!
motiroti is an internationally acclaimed arts organisation led by Artistic Director Ali Zaidi. The company was founded in 1996 by artists Ali Zaidi and Keith Khan, who worked together from 1989 to 2004. 

Sunday, 20 June 2010

ARL -01... on memory

Memory = Identity
What is memory? How is it triggered? 
Personal memory vs collective memory vs received memory...
What happens when memory fades or is suddenly lost?
And what of amnesia... forced by illness or forced by politics?
Memories are crucial to our sense of self, community and society but they are also fragile, tentative and contested. Understood in popular culture to be primarily a cognitive/mental phenomenon this Lab intends to expand our understanding of memory by exploring it also as an embodied, sensorial and social phenomenon. That is, memory resides as much in our flesh and body as it does in mementos and memorabilia and social relationship as it does in the mind.
How then do our senses, material objects and relationships trigger memories that can both locate and dislocate us?
Our memory makes us who we are and the loss of it frightens us more than the prospect of death.
All of these and more will be explored and researched through the perspective of artists, science and society at large, leading up to an intensive camp/lab period with my other associates and artists in August 2010.
Public talks and showings of the early stages of work coming out of the camp/lab will be presented in later in autumn this year. The thoughts and ideas brewed up in this session will be carried forward to a second camp/lab planned to take place with collaborators and perhaps hosted in India and Pakistan. By summer 2011 a new immersive installation will emerge from this process and be ready to tour!

Follow my tweets, meanders and more... pls do contribute with your insights and observations too.
more on

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

the elephants in london

I had my day off today. Had worked too long too hard over the weekend to make sure that the site was live. James who has designed it and was on the phone guiding me... and Juan who came in over on saturday to help. Poor little heart all aflutter with the prospect of getting all content in place... so, thank you both for being there. My reward however was an early night yesterday and having done sufficient packing today for my move later this week... my lovely couch surfer back from Denmark had to return my house keys and we had a catch up by Royal Festival Hall over a coffee this breezy and cold afternoon (at least it was NOT raining!!).

Cecil said she hadn't seen any parks in the city yet... I had to walk her to my favorite of them all, the tiny little St James Park. I recommend you too, experience the testosterone driven moor cocks making a big hoo n haa. In and out of the shallow lake trying to woo the moor hens with their bravado and flying feathers... the ladies were kind of going about their business saying hmmm... ha!

Out of the park and without getting too close or sidetracked by the grandeur we circumvented through Green Park.
"I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;"

... well daffodils they were not!! A bunch of fibre glass elephants - Indian Elephants... a crowd of them.

Stereotypes... love them or hate them... I can't live without them!

Being a visual anthropologist  she observed that these wild blasts of patterns and colours were by artists who had Asian sounding names. In all the variety and gaiety to attract enough funds from the auction of these colourful beasts, one stood out a mile. S/he is grey and is created by a couple that have a very English sounding name.

It looked a little sad.
I liked it though! Is it a tad too conservative of me??
... well sad indeed that around the same time large swathes of crowds were cheering another young grey elephant just a few streets away as it replaced an outgoing white elephant.

Monday, 10 May 2010

ali zaidi-motiroti wala: motiroti seeking EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

motiroti seeking EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR


motiroti is looking for an exceptional and talented individual with passion, skill and a strategic mindset. Working with Artistic Director Ali Zaidi, you will deliver collaborative interdisciplinary projects using contemporary media, with a range of national and international partners.

Through ground breaking creative arts projects motiroti plays on challenging perceptions of culture, identity and interconnectivity. Current and new initiatives include public art projects, a multiplatform series of guides and interventions, research labs, engagement and participation programmes, performance and installations in the UK and international touring from 2010 - 2012.

Based in Islington, London, the Executive Director will play a key role in delivering new business strategies along side the creative direction of the company, working closely with a core team, plus associates, commissioners and partners.

Salary c £45,000 pa negotiable according to experience.
Deadline for applications: 31 May 2010
For application pack email:
Interview dates: 18 & 24 June 2010


Download the Application Pack via the NEWS section on

motiroti is a regularly funded organisation of Arts Council England