I Can't Sleep: Homage to a Uyghur Homeland
Women and children – posturing, gazing, playing on bed frames – become “coincidental subjects,” their vivid garments sharply accentuated against the muted earth tones of the vast Taklamakan Desert. This far west region of China (Xinjiang), home to the Uyghur people, is a place Lisa Ross has imaged and imagined for over 15 years. Recently, the Chinese state has amplified its efforts to forcibly assimilate minority populations, imbuing the artist with a sense of urgency to display these pictures.
Behind the photographs, Ross has created a printed backdrop with monochromatic imagery of close friend and renowned anthropologist Rahile Dawut, whose recent disappearance speaks to an increasingly precarious existence. Uyghur culture is often exoticized by the Chinese state for their vibrant oasis-centered lifestyle. Ross’s installation juxtaposes these bed-framed portraits with the shadow of her friend, simultaneously evoking the freedom of sleeping under the stars and that of muted suffocation. As a Uyghur commentator writes, “In this exhibition, the artist presented herself with a challenge: to reflect atrocity by narrating a peaceful everyday existence. The contrasting but supplemental dynamics between the colorless and colorful is a creative process of re-interpreting and communicating these images at a time of desperation.”