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MIT List Visual Arts Center presents Azza El Siddique

June 30–September 4, 2022

Curator tour: September 1, 5:15pm, with Selby Nimrod

On June 30, Azza El Siddique’s first official institution solo exhibition will launch at the MIT List Visual Arts Center. The exhibition will feature a freshly commissioned installation by the artist and will be the 25th in the List Projects exhibition series.

Born in 1984 and based in New Haven, Connecticut, Azza El Siddique is well recognized for his room-sized sculptures that explore the interrelated themes of entropy, impermanence, and mortality. Her pieces appeal to a variety of senses and use materials that are transformed over time and by natural forces like water, light, and heat. She has previously added slow drip irrigation systems that dissolve unfired clay sculptures and heat lamps that disperse sandalwood aromas to austere metal creations. Both Islamic funeral rites and the artist’s sensory memories of her adolescence in a Sudanese community in Canada are evoked by these scents and materials.Recently, El Siddique has become drawn to the cultural and economic significance of scent in ancient Nubia and the neighboring Egyptian Empire, investigating the related histories and myths that endure in Sudanese culture.

El Siddique unveils In the place of destruction, where all the past was present and returned transformed (2022), a site-specific work that explores the individual, historical, and colonial tales of the perfumes employed in bukhoor, for her first museum solo exhibition. This common incense is a mixture of sandalwood chips, fragrant resins, and European perfumes prepared for export to North African markets, all bonded together with sugar. It is found in houses throughout Sudan and the diaspora. Bukhoor incense, which was fashioned into waterlily blossoms for El Siddique’s installation, is heated incrementally, filling the gallery with its aroma and eventually melting away to leave just a sticky residue.The steel structure of the installation is based on the layout of a temple devoted to Dedwen, an ancient Nubian god of incense who can change his appearance and gender. It also contains drawings that have been welded to steel panels and a two-channel video that maps the chemical composition of bukhoor’s various components. The 3-D scans of eerily floating piles of frankincense and other fragrant resins in the video are a nod to the aromatics’ historical trading networks and their employment in religious rituals that served as symbols of political authority.

The slowly developing events in El Siddique’s paintings are compared to the illusory and shaky construction of historical narratives and individual memories. According to the artist, “lineage and inheritance keep moving via systems” that are re-formed with the passage of time. This is demonstrated in the work by its atmospheric evocations of the lengthy, intricate histories of old sites, priceless resins, and customs.

List Projects 25: Azza El Siddique is organized by Selby Nimrod, Assistant Curator.

Exhibition support

Exhibitions at the List Center are made possible with the support of Fotene & Tom Coté, Audrey & James Foster, Idee German Schoenheimer, Joyce Linde, Cynthia & John Reed, and Sara-Ann & Robert Sanders. Additional funding for List Projects 25: Azza El Siddique is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. The artist wishes to thank the Canada Council for the Arts for their generous support.

General operating support is provided by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the Council for the Arts at MIT; Philip S. Khoury, Associate Provost at MIT; the MIT School of Architecture + Planning; the Mass Cultural Council; and many generous individual donors. In-kind media sponsorship provided by 90.9 WBUR. The Advisory Committee Members of the List Visual Arts Center are gratefully acknowledged. 

MIT List Visual Arts Center
20 Ames St.
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

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