Erasure is an act of devaluation. It is also an act of revaluation.
My research locates the displaced or migrant entity – be it human or non-human – as a by-product of economic conditions. My practice starts from the observation that standardisation and industrialisation are the mechanisms of erasure that the current economic system imposes on human and non-human entities, migrant materials that have been isolated or uprooted from their origins or intended rituals. Such erasure can be contested through gestures of care for materials, forms of revaluation through rematerialisation. The excerpt of the video Taskscape: Rematerialising coins, revaluing liquidity shows how through the melting of coins, erasing their economic value, an (im)material revaluation is conceived.
In my practice I use materials such as textiles, bentonite clay, and mica gold leaves, coins, as well as industrially grown shells. In recognising the material history and trajectory of migrant materials, the invisible labour that is traced on their skin and surface, the multiplicity of the spaces they have visited, my multi-media installations imagine an alternative socio-economic system, where the poetic and decorative gestures combine my conceptual interest with my personal narrative as a migrant. In my recent research I conceptualised my studio practice as a taskscape, a term borrowed from the anthropologist Tim Ingold, that escapes the dichotomy between labour and leisure, the separation between land and labour.
Drawing on my Islamic heritage in relating the act of care to domestic materials, the decorative gesture corresponds to a material ecology beyond ornamentation. There care is materialised and finds its texture.
Azza Zein is a Melbourne-based installation artist and writer. Born to a Syrian mother and a Lebanese father, Zein grew up in Beirut, Lebanon. Her practice-led research examines concepts of value in art through the materiality of domestic space and personal experience as a migrant. Through a process of rematerialisation, conceptualised as care for ‘migrant materials’, her recent works comment on the dematerialisation of the economy and offer a revaluation of invisible labour. Her artistic research draws on her heritage and her background in economics to explore how artistic processes can be alternative modes of revaluation.
Zein has exhibited in both solo and group exhibitions held in artist-run spaces in Melbourne, and she has participated in art residencies in Argentina and India. Zein was recently a finalist in the Australian Muslim Artist Award (2019) and the Athenaeum Club award (2020). Zein won the Fiona Myer Art+Australia Internship award for 2020. In 2019, she published her writings in Art + Australia and in Kohl Journal for Body and Gender Research. She also performed in the CARE: transforming values through art, ethics and feminism, at George Paton Gallery in 2019.
Selected Exhibitions include Residual Lines, Seventh gallery; Stoppage, Rubicon A.R.I, 2018; Sea Of Corners, Blindside 2016; Digital Fever, c3 Art Space, 2014; A Map To Disappear, Seventh, 2013. And group shows including: Shepparton Art Festival, 2020; Martyn Myer Arena, VCA Grad Show 2019, Islamic Museum of Australia, 2019; Margaret Lawrence Gallery, 9x5 Now, 2017; Kings ARI 2016; Fort Delta, 2015; McClelland Sculpture Gallery (Victoria), 2012; SUB Rotterdam (Netherlands) 2013.
Zein was recently selected to participate in the Labour art residency at the Santa Fe Art Institute, New Mexico.