‘Curse’ A focus on artist Gailan Abdullah’s Video-Performance

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The duration of the Gailan Abdullah’s video performance is three minutes and fifteen seconds, and it is broadcast on two different screens. In the video performance ‘Curse’, which was produced in Paris in 2014, Gailan Abdullah aims to capture a dualism within ideology – to be more precise, religious ideology. This is seen in the problem of good and evil, or, say, ongoing battles in religious sects (Shia and Sunni, for example). The project comprises two opposing characters, one personifying a black personality and the other a white one. However, both characters are actually one and the same person – the artist himself.


Both personalities are seen vying against one another on the opposing screens. Both personalities represent different directions, and both are so indignant that they’re even willing to spit at one another, and by the end of the film the image of both characters becomes increasingly nebulous until both of them disappear completely.

This culmination of the tug-of-war within a binary is a power struggle that bears uncanny similarities with the aesthetic interplay within art more broadly. The problem/crises between the two opposing directions can no longer retain their manifestations as before and consequently end in some kind of apex.

This process of development in Gailan Abdullah’s art signals the high importance of both respecting and diversifying one’s beliefs and, more broadly, ways of thinking.

Interestingly, any dearth of tolerance and compassion, and any attempts to reject and finally erase the other, eventually constitutes the undermining and erasing of any one of the directions embodied within the art. This is candidly represented in the images of the two characters in Gailan Abdullah’s video performance. Using one personality, which is the artist himself, to elaborate the two opposing directions within the struggle, we come to see an indication of the stark similarities that constitute two seemingly opposing directions.

‘Black’ and ‘white’ are, metaphorically speaking, primarily identified as ‘at odds’ with one another. Two colours that have been, and still are in many respects, considered to be both the origins and carriers of formulated good vs bad binaries. Such a formulation of course took its “legitimacy” from mythology and religion. The shadows of its putative legitimacy that, as I have already said, stem from both mythology and religion, are still present today, and both still claim to symbolise “truth” par excellence. They both think they are the powers of “life and death”. The ‘rightness’ of the symbolic indications of Black and White comes at the cost of subordinating other colours, colours that are relegated to the meagre position of power, a position bereft of any “ultimate truth”.

The traditional representation of white is one that symbolises light, peace and life, whilst, conversely, the traditional representation of black is one that symbolises darkness, war and death. However, those colours that fall outside such binaries cannot, of course, be convinced that these two primary colours are ultimate calls for truth. Instead, other colours recognise that such a binary consists merely of wailing calls that they do embody “ultimate truth”.

Other colours – those at odds with such a binary by way of having symbolised nuanced forms of perspectivism and contingency –  see that whichever power speaks of “ultimate truth” impose imminent dangers to humanity.


In his ‘Curse’, Gailan Abdullah presents an enlightening video in which his characters epitomize powers which, many of us recognise to be the case, represent forms (or, rather, wailing calls) of “ultimate truth”, powers coloured in opposing black and white hues, colours that manifest viperous antitheses – both spitting and cursing each other. These viperous antitheses are indications of a power struggle, one in which both endeavour to bewitch the other and wipe them out.

What we should see, though, in the video presentation presented by Gailan Abdullah, is that as long as these two colours are trying to impose their hegemony over the other colours, there is constant instability, one in which a power struggle can have all sorts of implications.

What we see from this, artistically, is an overt “strangeness”, because Gailan Abdullah’s film demands a visual transfer or, rather, embrace of information through the two screens and what is broadcast on them, and one that, unlike academia, demands no recourse in the complexities or, rather, the limitations of, text.

Profile of Gailan Abdullah: He was born in Eril in Iraqi Kurdistan in 1983. He completed his education at the Institute and later on college of Fine Art in Erbil. He is completing his MA in Contemporary Art in France. He participated in various exibitions inside and outside of Kurdistan. He was awarded the young artisy of the year in Kurdistan in 2008. 

Written by Culture Project’s editing staff.