The Red Chador: Genesis I by Anida Yoeu Ali
Utilizing an interdisciplinary approach to artmaking, Anida Yoeu Ali’s installation and performance work investigate the artistic, spiritual and political collisions of a hybrid transnational identity. In particular, her recent works directly confront the misrepresentation of Muslim women in an era of heightened Islamophobia. The Red Chador series continues the artist’s thematic use of religious aesthetics to provoke ideas of otherness.
The exhibition at the Western Gallery relates through sculptures, video projections and photographs how the artist encounters the unsuspecting public through small acts of interventions. Cloaked in a red sequin chador, or “Muslim” headdress, Ali has entered public places in cities around the world to challenge the public’s perception and fears of the other. Her interventions take the form of durational performances, where she walks silently for hours along main streets and alleyways, sidewalks and beach fronts and appears at historic sites and everyday locales such as train stations and bus stops. The artist counters public complicity to “othering” through performances that are hypervisible and public. And at the same time, her performances are intimate, calling on those she encounters to ask themselves a few simple questions: “If you encounter The Red Chador, would you fear her or walk with her? Would you help her across the terrain, or would you block her path? Would you take a moment to notice her? Would you care at all?”
Like much of her work, Ali’s performance-installations evolve over time, often adapting each iteration as an original response to a political moment and the site of community engagement. Her work continues to complicate narratives and push forth transnational hybrid identities as unapologetic modes of representation.
The Red Chador: Genesis I is a reimagined continuation of the 2015 iteration, originally commissioned as a 12-hour performance at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, in response to the Charlie Hebdo killings, French colonial accountability and Islamophobic media headlines. Since then, the work has been performed and shown in Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, and U.S. cities including Washington D.C. While stateside, Ali has encountered public policies that perpetuate religious intolerance and challenged the idea that her Muslim and American identities are at odds. In 2017, Ali announced the “death” of The Red Chador following its enforced disappearance. She traveled with the original one-of-a-kind garment to a performance conference in Ramallah, but The Red Chador never made it back home. After extensive efforts to locate the missing work, Ali was informed that the artwork never made it out of Tel Aviv. In response to the loss, Ali held commemorative exhibitions, without the garment, in Adelaide, Melbourne, Phnom Penh and Philadelphia memorializing the work through published obituaries, archival photos, performative eulogies and mourning rituals. In 2019, supported by a commissioning residency with the Shangri La Islamic Museum of Art, Culture and Design, Ali rebirthed the project as an act of resilience and resistance in the face of great loss and hostilities. The Red Chador: Genesis I is the first public solo exhibition of the rebirthed series since the disappearance of Ali’s original chador garment at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv.
Anida Yoeu Ali is an interdisciplinary artist whose works span performance, installation, new media, public encounters, and political agitation. She is a first-generation Muslim Khmer woman born in Cambodia and raised in Chicago. Currently based in Tacoma, Ali is also the co-founder of Studio Revolt, an award-winning collaborative media lab. Ali is the winner of the 2014-2015 Sovereign Asian Art Prize for her series The Buddhist Bug, a multidisciplinary and internationally recognized work that investigates displacement and identity through humor, absurdity and performance. She has performed and exhibited at the Haus der Kunst, Palais de Tokyo, Musée d'art Contemporain Lyon, Jogja National Museum, Malay Heritage Centre, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, The Smithsonian, and Queensland Art Gallery. She is the recipient of grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation, the National Endowment of the Arts and the Art Matters Foundation. Ali holds an MFA from School of the Art Institute Chicago (2010) and a BFA from University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (1998). Ali serves as a Senior Artist-in-Residence at the University of Washington, Bothell where she teaches courses in Interdisciplinary Arts, Performance and Global Studies.