Liverpool Biennial’s strongest card? Open Eye Gallery’s Madhia Aijaz

Madiha Aijaz, These Silences Are All The Words (film still), 2017-2018

Liverpool Biennial’s strongest card? Open Eye Gallery’s Madhia Aijaz

One of Liverpool Biennial’s loudest, and aptly, quietest, statements about globalism and the impact of individualism on an increasingly international society, is from Madhia Aijaz. The Karachi born artist’s work reflects on individual ambition associated with the growth of the English language in Pakistan, and the shift away from Urdu.

‘Beautiful World Where Are You?’ a title I raved about when it was announced as this year’s Biennial theme, is nowhere better represented than here, at Open Eye Gallery, in a film which for me sets the spirit of the festival alight.

I suppose it’s a very personal thing, answering that question; where is the world we long for; how do we find it; do we already live it? The question itself is more a statement or intent. Artists are always looking to answer it, but most of our worlds are very small; only really extending to those we love and those we loathe, and crossing paths with those we have no opinion of.

Aijaz’s film has that introspection all over it, but one that has been affected by globalism, postcolonialism, and language; our language.

The film, These Silences Are All the Words, focusses on librarians, who have used Urdu all their lives, continue to do so and uphold the traditions of the language within a changing literary landscape and catering for modern ambitious readers whose aim is to make a global reality for themselves.

It’s a beautiful story told through personal reflections, but what gives it the context that sells it as this year’s stand out film at the Liverpool Biennial is it’s connections to national and international institutions. The story behind the work, and the commissioning breadcrumbs that have brought it to life lead from Karachi Bienniale to Liverpool Biennial via The Tetley, in Leeds. ROSL Arts, the commonwealth platform for career development for people working in the arts, and Hosptialfield in Arbroath, whose interdisciplinary residencies support artists from around the world working in Scotland, add to the list of reasons this film ticks so many global boxes.

It feels global because it is global. Produced for Liverpool’s international festival of contemporary art, on a subject only truly understood by its participants, giving a context that informs everyone and anyone who stop and engages.

— until 28th October
words, Patrick Kirk-Smith