Working across photography and digital mediums, Brooklyn-based artist Tahir Karmali’s interests lie in narrating outlier communities: groups who live away from mainstream society, but whose existences are indelibly shaped by economic, geopolitical, and social infrastructures. He draws from his own experiences as a well-traveled Kenyan citizen to structure narratives around migratory identity, specifically as it pertains to Indian migration of East Africa during the 1890s—prior to Kenya’s independence in 1963—and its contemporary implications.
More specifically, Karmali is drawn to paper or “papers,” documents key to legitimizing travel between borders. For PAPER/work, the artist has literally used his own passport as a basis for this new, site-specific installation of undulating, pulp-infused mesh screens and handmade paper sculptures. These documents’ embedded fibers, imagery, and textual details have been broken down and reconstituted as almost topographical, map-like abstractions. In interrogating paper’s material significance, Karmali utilizes papermaking—a process dealing in a filtration of sorts—as a tool to rethink notions of nationality, borders, and colonial history in personal terms.
PAPER/work is presented in conjunction with 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, as a 1:54 Special Project. Karmali will be a Pioneer Works artist-in-residence in Fall 2017.
Tahir Karmali received his Masters of Digital Photography from the School of Visual Arts, New York. His work has been shown at Brassage Photographique, Villers-la-Ville, Belgium; Biennial Fotografica Bogota 2017, Bogota, Colombia; Art Africa Fair, Cape Town, South Africa; Photobastei, Zurich, Switzerland; Kunsthal Rotterdam, Netherlands; Vitra Design Museum, Weil Am Rhein, Germany; and the Guggenheim, Bilbao, among other venues. Residencies include MacDowell Visual Artist Residency, BRIC, and Pioneer Works, where he will be a resident in Fall 2017. Born and raised in Kenya, Karmali currently lives and works in Brooklyn.