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Art exhibition inspired by ME/CFS

Monday 9 November 2009

Sam Darveniza and Ahmed Zehran The Saturday 7 November edition of Adelaide's The Advertiser newspaper had an article on a new art exhibition inspired by its creator's experiences with ME/CFS.

This Life was created by Sydney artist Ahmed Zehran and her husband Sam Darveniza (both pictured):

IMPACT: Human condition inspires art

Despair opens a door to personal expression

Louise Nunn

Sydney artist Zehra Ahmed's new work will resonate with anyone who has suffered a chronic illness.

Ahmed, 29, has spent a large part of her adult life in bed or a snow suit, the most efficient way she found to warm a body consumed by Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

It was the catalyst for her video work The Idle Thief, created in collaboration with husband Sam Darveniza and featured in the Contemporary Art Centre's new exhibition, This Life.

Inspired by Susan Sontag's essay Illness as Metaphor, about the mythologies that develop around illness, Ahmed said The Idle Thief is the first and last piece she intended making about herself.

"I hope it's not navel gazing because on a broader scale it deals with issues of control, and about being in control of your life," she said.

"I spent a large part of my 20s in bed but it was nothing compared to the stigma I endured because of my illness."

This Life is the second and final exhibition in the Contemporary Art Centre series developed by director Alan Cruickshank under the title The Human Condition.

The first, Homeland, looked at ideas of alienation and separation.

This Life builds on the theme with works exploring different realities or views of the world.

Ahmed's first video, Permission to Narrate, made a big impact and was shown around the world when it appeared in 2004.

It's image of a man in a kurta, or traditional South Asian skirt, breakdancing against a backdrop of Arabic graffiti, reaised the issue of people denied the right to tell their own stories.

The theme is echoed throughout This Life, Cruickshank said.

There's work by leading local artists Hossein and Angela Valamanesh, and distinguished overseas artists including Taiwanese Tehching Hsieh, Tehran-born Abbas Kiarostami, China's Liu Wei and Palestinian Sharif Waked.

The work is thought-provoking, moving and sometimes funny.

Either way, it provides a window on worlds we normally wouldn't see. Wei's video Hopeless Land, for instance, documents the plight of Chinese farmers forced to scavenge for a living after their land is converted to tips for city rubbish.

This Life opened at the Contemporary Art Centre last night [Friday 6 November] and runs until December 13.



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