Shezad Dawood was born in London in 1974 and trained at Central St Martin’s and the Royal College of Art before undertaking a PhD at Leeds Metropolitan University. He works across installation and film, looking at a discursive model of practice that takes in both mystical and literary/historical narratives. Often drawing on his complex heritage, his projects have been influenced by Sufism as much as Samuel Beckett and his large-scale interventions often work with musicians, actors and other collaborators across a breadth of global locations: including the Middle East, Europe, India and the Americas. Recent projects include ‘Inshallah’, a restaging of Samuel Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’, working with children of Arab immigrants in Milan and ‘Until the End of the World’, a large-scale neon installation at The Third Line in Dubai (both 2008), which was subsequently acquired by the forthcoming Museum of Modern Arab Art in Qatar. Dawood’s work has been exhibited internationally, including as part of ‘Altermodern’, curated by Nicolas Bourriaud, at Tate Britain, the 53rd Venice Biennale (both 2009), and the Busan Biennale in Korea (2010).
Greatest inspirations or influences?
Everyone from Al Ghazali to Brion Gysin. I'm very interested in a more multiple take on the world, and possible or imagined narratives that connect times and places that interest me.
Tell us about your recent solo show
Well it was about a confluence for me between sufism and the quasi-apocalyptic sci-fi of JG Ballard. In this case the specific works I was interested in were Farid Ud-Din Attar's 'The Conference of the Birds' and Ballard's 'The Unlimited Dream Company'.......if you read both closely they provide parallel allegories of the apollonian and dionysian aspects of the quest for the divine, and that was the basic tension I was after in the works in the show. Hence you had taxidermied birds flying through neon arcs, that extended through geometric patterns hand-painted and stitched onto vintage textile pieces.
For me the real highlight of the show, was my friend the composer Michael G Mills, composing a score in response to the show, which we performed together for a special evening at the gallery (Paradise Row, London).
What are you working on next?
I'm getting ready for the first leg of my Abraaj prize project, which will see a one-off event taking place at the Cinematheque Tanger, in Morocco on the 12th February. Working with my Abdellah Karroum from the appartement 22, and the great team at the Cinematheque, we'll be staging a unique concert and light-show, based on Brion Gysin's creative legacy in Morocco in the 1960s, which will then be presented as an installation and experimental film at Art Dubai.
Most memorable shows or collaborations?
All of them? Every show or project is part of an extended continuum of collaborations. And I've been fortunate to work with so many great people. Perhaps one of my favourites was working on my western film: Feature in 2007 (which was really a coded metaphor for the death of capitalism in the wake of so-called globalisation). The making of the film featured some crazy scenes, including a bar-room brawl which descended into total anarchy, and a scene where I have to get in a field with a whole family of giant bulls!
Favorite galleries in the world?
I really liked the new acquisitions galleries when I last visited MOMA in NYC last November.
- They had some great new work including Paul Chan's restaging of Beckett in New Orleans,
- work by one of my favourite female icons Ana Mendieta
- as well as work by LA-based artist Elad Lassry, whose work I really like.
Most interesting response to your work thus far?
Too numerous to mention. And some downright unprintable.
Anything else youd like to share with our audience?
The future is yet to be written.....