Tarik Kiswanson

In late 2017, Kiswanson stared working with Vadim, an eleven-year-old Romanian-French boy who he met during castings for a performance. Captivated by what he describes as a “hybrid voice, one that belonged everywhere and nowhere all at once”, he began working with Vadim on a regular basis. Over the course of four months, Kiswanson interviewed Vadim on a multitude of subjects concerning the human condition: from his beliefs on death, his thoughts on growing up and becoming an adult, what it feels like to breathe, talk, move and above all, what it means to be born between several cultures and languages. Using this raw recorded material as research, Kiswanson wrote a 23-page poem which he titled Vadim. Structured as an interview between the artist and Vadim himself, the poem runs on a 27 minute loop from four speakers spaced out as to create a square. The voices pull the spectators’ attention in different directions, creating a feeling of disorientation, displacement and instability. In this sound piece, the artist and the boy travel through time, constantly moving between a multitude of places: from the desert to the schoolyard, back in time to Jerusalem 1954 and back to the present in the music room at Vadim’s middle school. The voices of the artist and the young boy entwine, multiply, and at times cancel each other out. The work can be seen as an intimate self-portrait which finds utmost relevance in the contemporary context of migration and displacement.

Tarik Kiswanson is a Palestinian-Swedish artist, poet and writer based in Paris. His family exiled from Jerusalem to North Africa, and later to Jordan before finally arriving in Sweden in the beginning of the 1980s. Kiswanson studied in London and Paris and today splits his time between Europe and the Middle East. His identity is one defined by multiple cultures. His work stems from his own condition of being a first-generation immigrant shaped by the aftermath of the diaspora. It’s about living with the sensation of not belonging anywhere. Throughout his life, he has explored the question of identity, displacement, desire and the ‘in-between’ through writing and sculpture. The artist has described his work—which encompasses sculpture, writing, performance, sound, and video—as being “the border, the window between the iris and the world outside.” The window is less a demarcation between two opposed realms than a portal—a space between. This dynamic interstitial space nurtures his practice and animates his reflections on the human condition. His work evinces an engagement with the poetics of métissage: a means of writing and surviving between multiple conditions and contexts. Notions of rootlessness, regeneration, and renewal are recurring themes in Kiswanson’s oeuvre. His practice examines questions of displacement and interstitiality that specifically relate to the context of what is lost and what is gained, in the first generation of migration. He conceives works that articulate a fluid “politics of identity”, that encompasses the various collisions of culture that have shaped both his personal experience and artistic practice. His body of work can be understood as a cosmology of related conceptual families, each exploring variations on themes like refraction, multiplication, disintegration, hybridity, and polyphony through their own distinct language.