Sa’dia Rehman’s practice focuses on the relationship between printed images, text and the body: the individual body, the body politic, the family. At Kentler International Drawing Space, Rehman will exhibit works on newsprint and vellum paper and a wall drawing. For this exhibition Rehman looks at her family through the lens of surveillance and government-issued identification (passports, driver’s licenses, green-cards, visas). The Muslim ban and immigrant detention have focused public attention on the violence of the border. But documentation has been central to control black and brown people since the dawn of colonialism and enslavement.
Rehman focuses on the highly curated photos within contemporary forms of identification, with particular instructions for pose, size, and background. State Department instructions for U.S. passports require “a neutral facial expression” on a “plain white or off-white background” for a “2 x 2 inches” photograph with the head “between 1 - 1 3/8 inches from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head.”
Rehman’s process of cutting and erasing amplifies the violence of surveillance. In this exhibition, her modes of making include hand drawing, stenciling, and tracing. During the opening, Rehman will have a 1-hour performance titled The Story of the Tracings of all the Persons Before Us and After Them. Rehman’s works point to the subjectivity, rather than objectivity, of the artist and the viewer, and the various modes of power that mediate and condition the relationship.