It was a time that was a time
Shezad Dawood

Through an expansive presentation of new and recent works—collaborative film experiments, textile panels and neon wall pieces—It was a time that was a time explores speculative futures and questions traditional notions of history and ritual, image and icon, time and space. This exhibition marks London-based artist Shezad Dawood’s first solo exhibition in the United States.

The exhibition borrows its title from Dawood’s new film of the same name, which was commissioned by Pioneer Works and made while Dawood was an artist-in-residence. The film is the result of a free-form, collaborative filmmaking experiment, whereby participants took turns documenting each other living in a speculative community formed in response to a theoretical environmental cataclysm, with devices that might have survived a devastating flood. As the artist explained, in this possible post-apocalyptic community, surviving on the periphery of New York, “rules of society, gender, and relationships are given new expression.”

Operating on the borders between speculative realism and performance, the piece features Brooklyn-based artists, costume designers, and choreographers, as well as youth participating in Red Hook Initiative—a nonprofit that organizes empowerment programs for the neighborhood. The film also features an experimental score by Weyes Blood.

Other pieces in the exhibition include: A Mystery Play (2010, 14:02 mins) and 7669 (2013, 3:23 mins), two of Dawood’s earlier films that employ a similar collaborative methodology; a series of neon wall works, which draw on Dawood’s research into modernism, esotericism, and astronomy in order to encourage alternative ways to read the world; and a series of hanging and wall-mounted textiles that conjoin geometric shapes with dissonant imagery and pattern, subverting visual codes and contexts.

It was a time that was a time is generously supported by the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) and is part of the official program for Crossing The Line, a fall festival organized by FIAF that presents interdisciplinary works and performances in New York.