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Shezad Dawood: University of NonDualism
Shezad Dawood: University of NonDualism, 3 October6 September 2019, Frieze LIVE, Regent's Park, London UK

We are delighted to announce Shezad Dawood’s participation in this year’s edition of Frieze LIVE curated by Diana Campbell Betancourt with a newly commissioned multi-layered performance work, made possible with the generous support of The Bagri Foundation and presented by Jhaveri Contemporary and Timothy Taylor.

Developed through a series of ongoing conversations and a shared fascination with architectural modernism in South Asia between curator Campbell Betancourt and artist Shezad Dawood, Dawood has been invited to unveil some of these key ideas at Frieze this year.

University of NonDualism is a series of collaborations built around a 'stage set' conceived by Dawood which takes its starting point from the work of Muzharul Islam, a modernist architect, urban planner, educator and activist hailing from Bangladesh (1923–2012). Considered the Grand Master of regional modernism in South Asia, Islam’s style and influence dominated Bangladesh’s architectural scene in the 1960s and 70s. Islam was instrumental in bringing major US architects such as Louis Kahn, Richard Neutra, Stanley Tigerman, Paul Rudolph and Robert Boughey to work in Dhaka.

Dawood is particularly interested in the idea of advaita, or non-binary thinking, and how Islam embodies this in his architecture and writings, neither opposing the modern to the vernacular, nor the rural to the urban, but instead looking for ways to integrate these modes within his buildings.

Referencing Islam’s legacy and his approach to non-dualism, the project enacts a series of characteristic dynamic collaborations with fashion designer Priya Ahluwalia (Ahluwalia Studio), electronic music producer patten and choreographer Adrienne Hart (Neon Dance). Dawood creates a synergy between these artists’ cross-disciplinary approaches akin to Islam who regularly collaborated with artists, poets and singers. Drawing on the startlingly futuristic geometry of Islam’s drawings, Dawood’s adaptable ‘stage set’ functions somewhere between architecture and tapestry. Dawood has been developing a notion of ‘paintings without painting’, that are created through the collaging and sewing of different textile elements. These works also function as hangings and room dividers into which a slipstream of dancers activate the space dressed in androgynous apparel developed with Ahluwalia Studio to reflect where the body and the fabric become architecture. Their clothing becomes an extension of the architectural and fabric elements of the setting - in such a way that specific lines and geometry continue across the dancers and ripple as they move and contort within the space. A new score by patten is being commissioned especially for the performance and will layer sounds examining the influence of Bengali polymath Rabindranath Tagore on Muzharul Islam, but also on the later more spiritual work of Alice Coltrane.

University of NonDualism will be Dawood’s fourth body of work looking at South Asian Modernism, an interest that began with his 2010 project Cities of the Future that explored the relationship between Corbusier and Tantra in the development of the planned city of Chandigarh. And further projects relating to Antonin and Noémi Raymond’s work in Pondicherry and Richard Neutra’s proposed embassy in Karachi. This collective line of inquiry looks at specific fault lines between the modern, the non-aligned movement and the Cold War across South Asia after Partition, and has been exhibited amongst others at the Gwangju and Sharjah Biennales.

University of NonDualism will travel to Dhaka Art Summit in Bangladesh in 2020 working with local classical dancers and beyond in an exhibition curated by Diana Campbell Betancourt with Sean Anderson (Associate Curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at MoMA, New York) and Nurur Khan (Muzharul Islam Archives) opening on February 7, 2020.

Shezad Dawood: University of NonDualism – Timothy Taylor