Emii Alrai (b.1993) presents a new commission at The Hepworth Wakefield this spring.
Alrai, who lives in Leeds and has a studio in Wakefield, creates works and installations that subvert the traditional visual language of museum displays. Alrai weaves together ancient mythologies from the Middle East and oral histories from her own Iraqi heritage in objects which imitate archaeological artefacts. Alrai’s work draws attention to the contrast between the polished aesthetics of museums and the states of ruin which befall archaeological objects and the landscapes they are excavated from.
For The Hepworth Wakefield, Alrai has created a series of hand-blown glass vessels that evoke ancient funerary urns. The vessels are marked by scars and seams, which emerge from the making processes of casting and joining. In archaeological artefacts, such scars can hint at the violence of the object’s separation from its homeland – a separation that parallels experiences of migration and diaspora.
These glass vessels are shown together with engravings from Wakefield’s collection of historic Yorkshire landscapes, depicting gorges and scars formed by melting glaciers. In these distinctive and dramatic landscapes, Alrai finds affinities with bodily scars, which were once open wounds. Alrai’s commission investigates these physical markers of the past, weaving together body, landscape and object as sites of memory. Photographs, sketches and small sculptural objects will also be displayed to reveal Alrai’s research and creative process in developing the commission.