Sixth Tone is an experiment seeking to work through dialogue and peer-to-peer exchange in the process of exhibition-making. During a series of group meetings carried out over six months, four artists and two curators assembled to question identity, belonging, and the idea of “home.” Engaged in a collective dialogue, they explored one another’s artistic oeuvre using their societies and diverse cultural background as guides.
Reflecting this diversity, the works in Sixth Tone express “hybrid identity,” a fluidity that internalises the negotiation and processing of different cultural perspectives. This term implies that a person may feel equally belonging to more than one cultural sphere and that this multiplicity could also comprise contradictions when the cultures that form one’s identity do not coincide. The works on display convey the complexity of belonging to a place you disagree with; the desire to reconcile individuality with cultural and political norms; the relations that may form through sharing one’s knowledge and experiences.
All artists in the project hold a hybrid identity. Some live abroad, negotiating between their country of origin and where they choose to live, while others are conflicted by the prevailing ideology in their home country, tirelessly striving to settle their sense of belonging and criticism of the regime. By coming together and beginning a dialogue, the discrepancies in the artists’ identities are rethought, as the group collectively looks for alternative strategies to be from a place and live in a place.
The project highlights the group’s opposition to oppressive forces and top-down hierarchical structures. The process was carried out in an egalitarian manner, in which curators set aside their position as decision-makers, opting for an equal peer-to-peer exchange. As a politically-driven decision, it aims to resist the reproduction of power structures within the art world and around the Middle East, as well as any manifestation of oppressive state politics. The multiplicity and plurality expressed within such a setting transformed the group meetings into a communal exercise in intimacy and vulnerability, taking place in a safe space, devoted to debate, disagreement, and listening.
The exhibition’s title, Sixth Tone, refers to a musical term denoting an imperfect consonance. Unlike the perfect consonances, in which two notes may be perceived as one, imperfect consonances always maintain a gap between the sounds. By choosing this name, the six group members sought to foreground the mismatches, the imperfections that are at the core of an attempt to create dialogue. It is not about trying to attain an ideal form of conversation, but creating one that also attests to the rifts, fractures and unease inherent to it. We wish to consider the imbalances that still exist between the group members; to acknowledge oppressive power structures that remain prominent in our region.
At philomena+, the group will present individual works alongside glimpses from their dialogue through responses and reflections on each other’s artistic objects.
*All practitioners participating in the exhibition condemn any sort of oppression or colonialism.