Baseera Khan Uses Artifacts as Armor

Appearing at the New York artist’s solo exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, a new “performance photograph” positions Khan’s body as a site of history, trauma, and cultural exploitation surrounding displaced cultural artifacts.

“Mosque Lamp and Prayer Carpet Green from Laws of Antiquities” (2021) by Baseera Khan. Image courtesy the artist and Simone Subal Gallery

Here, we ask an artist to frame the essential details behind one of their latest works.

Bio: Baseera Khan, Brooklyn (@baseerakhan)

Title of work: “Laws of Antiquities” series.

Where to see it: Brooklyn Museum (200 Eastern Parkway) until July 10, 2022.

Three words to describe it: Policy, artifacts, nativity.

What was on your mind at the time: Searching for my sense of self while thinking about adornment and fashion as armor.

An interesting feature that’s not immediately noticeable: The shadows that creep in around all the edges, and the fact that I consider this work “performance photography”—work that’s for the camera only, not for a live audience.

How it reflects your practice as a whole: Thinking about policies that have been made over time in the United States and international law to protect objects or preserve objects has a parallax effect. Some laws protect native cultural artifacts, and not all cultural artifacts are protected by laws. Also, laws displace historical artifacts and its people, but on the other hand it creates spaces of viewing and influence for large groups of people over time.

One song that captures its essence: “I’ve Seen That Face Before” by Grace Jones. 

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