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Music Producer And Artist Fatima Al Qadiri

Fatima Al Qadiri is a conceptual artist and music producer who was born in Senegal, grew up in Kuwait, and has just released a debut solo album that she describes as a “meditation on China”, a country she’s never visited. Mostly instrumental, it plays with the sort of tinny, electronic, quasi-“Asian” sounds you might hear in a Holly­wood kung fu movie or at a dim sum joint in New York, the city where Al Qadiri has been living since 2007. It fits in with the theme of several other art installations, videos and music EPs she’s made during the last half-dozen years, which look at cultural conventions and the way their meanings can become garbled when their context changes. One of these is a performance piece, created with fellow Kuwaiti artist Khalid Al Gharaballi, that stiffly re-enacts a women’s tea gathering in a giant ballroom in Kuwait. Another is the exhibition currently on at PS1, an offshoot of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, by the collective GCC, which is made up of nine young artists with family ties to the Gulf. A series of trophies, photographs of handshakes and an upbeat, nonsensical promotional video make fun of empty achievement ceremonies and diplomatic ­propaganda. Even the title of her new album, Asiatisch [], from the German for “Asian”, is designed to disorient. “So much of the record is about dislocation from a native reality,” she says over Skype from London. “I can’t speak from a native Chinese perspective, nor have I ever claimed to. I am speaking as a third party who is being fed information about China from another source, a western source.” Growing up in Kuwait, a place that Al Qadiri has previously described as “the most American country in the Arab world”, may have something to do with this fascination. Born to a diplomat father and a mother who painted and screen-printed and encouraged her two daughters to express themselves creatively, Al Qadiri lived in Kuwait City from the age of 2 until 17, spending summers in London. She was 9 when Iraqi forces invaded and for a year her school was turned into a barracks, while she and her family were shuttled around relatives’ houses for their safety. An EP she released in 2012 called Desert Strike is inspired by the strange childhood experience of playing at war via video games, while tanks rumbled by outside. At 17, Al Qadiri won a scholarship from Kuwait’s ministry of education to go to college in the United States and bounced around several schools until she became eligible for a course in New York – linguistics at NYU – and jumped at the chance. She was inducted into the overlapping worlds of art, music, fashion and publishing after being asked to soundtrack a runway show by the fashion designer Telfar Clemens. “I was lucky,” she says. “He has an amazing circle of friends and supporters. I was introduced to the right people and they became fans.” Since then, collaboration and creative networks have always been a big part of her work, which has encompassed journalism, installation art, video, soundtracks, dance music and digital photo­graphy. Attracting attention as both an artist and as a musician allowed her to create projects that strayed over the traditional boundaries of each medium. For Genre-Specific Xperience, an EP she released in 2011 on the electronic dance-music label UNO, Al Qadiri asked artists including Ryan Trecartin and Sophia Al Maria to make music videos and premiered them at the New Museum, New York’s institution for experimental art.

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