Zarina Bhimji’s work
Zarina Bhimji has travelled extensively throughout India, Zanzibar and East Africa. Immersing herself in their discrete yet intersecting histories she took numerous photographs, studied legal documents, conducted interviews and read the biographies of policy makers in the shaping of British power within those countries.
Although her work always begins with such extensive research, the knowledge she accumulates is ultimately abandoned in her films and photographs, as facts and figures give way to instinct and intuition.
Bhimji’s photographs capture human traces in landscape and architecture. Walls are a recurring motif, attracting her through their absorption of history as they become a record of those who built, lived within and ultimately abandoned them. Despite a conspicuous absence of the body, the photographs emit a human presence. Reference to it is sometimes explicit – a row of guns awaiting use in Illegal Sleep, yet sometimes only implied – the hanging, disconnected and electrical wires in my Burnt my heart.
Waiting, made in a factory used to process Sisal, has an abstraction that hovers somewhere between film and painting. The washed-out colour of the hair-like material, the light, and the interior of the factory create a saturated monochrome that, combined with the film’s soundtrack, becomes immersive. Recorded on a 35mm film and then transferred to high-definition video, every nuance of the building is captured.
Bhimji captures her sites with relentless formal concerns intended to convey qualities of universal human emotion and existence – grief, longing, love and hope. Concrete places become abstract sentiments as the physical rhythms of landscape and architecture become psychological.