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Project: Dahlia Elsayed

Ideological Tug of War

I read an article about Winston’s Hiccup, which refers to the really irregular border of Jordan, supposedly because Churchill drew the boundary after a long, boozy meal. It got me thinking about the deep attachments to territories, and the arbitrary lines that divide places, ideologies and identities.
For Ideological Tug of War, I wanted to make the pull over an arbitrary line more literal, situating this theme in a community performance about enacting sides, through the game of tug of war. Based on student input, 16 different categories of idea systems (ranging from the eternally puzzling faith vs. state to the more absurd kittens vs. puppies) will play/pull against each other to determine an ultimate winner, using a March Madness type of bracketing system.
The teams are:

  • Faith vs. State
  • Money vs. Passion
  • Science vs. Art
  • Spectacle Vs. Nothingness
  • Theory vs. Practice
  • Logic vs. Chaos
  • Work vs. Sleep
  • Puppies vs. Kittens

About the Artist:

Dahlia Elsayed combines text and imagery to create visually narrative paintings that document internal and external geographies. Her work is informed by autobiography and environment to create illustrated documents of places and memories. Her paintings, prints, and artist books have been shown at galleries and art institutions throughout the United States and internationally, including the 12th Cairo Biennale, BravinLee Programs, Clementine Gallery, and Aljira Center for Contemporary Art. Her work is in the public collections of The Newark Museum, The Zimmerli Museum, Johnson & Johnson Corporation, and the New Jersey State Museum, amongst others.

Dahlia has received awards from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, the Edward Albee Foundation, Visual Studies Workshop, Women’ s Studio Workshop, Headlands Center for the Arts, and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. She received her MFA from Columbia University and lives and works in New Jersey.

Artist's Statement

Writing and painting are close processes for me, coming in part from my background in writing, as well as from an interest in the relationship between language and image. For over a decade, I have been making paintings and installations that synthesize an internal and external experience of place, connecting the topographical with the psychological through image and text.

Visually, the work pulls from conceptual art, comics, cartography, and landscape painting, and employs symbols of hard data - text, geologic forms, geographic borders, signs/markers, coastlines, tide schedules - to frame the soft data of the ephemeral, adapting a quantitative schema to the qualitative.

Artist Lecture

Please join us for a Public Lecture by the Artist on Tuesday, Feb 5 at 5pm in the Trahern Art Building (TR401).

Artist Website