Exhibition text: Glitch The City as Palimpsest: A curatorial text by Huma Kabacki

"As a remedy to life in society, I would suggest the big city. Nowadays it is the only desert within our reach."

Albert Camus


Glitch: The City as palimpsest curated by Huma Kabakci at Cooke Latham Gallery explores the urban landscape and the city as a palimpsest- with the many historical layers, erasures and reconstructions it may hold. The exhibition brings together work by Radhika Khimji, Hamish Pearch, Shahpour Pouyan, Jaro Varga and Adia Wahid. Similar to a palimpsest, the layers of urban form keep a city's history alive by constantly effacing, rebuilding, and ameliorating. The artists in the exhibition explore theories and ideas around landscape, psychogeography and utopia.


A city is not only made up by its people but also within its own complex history, agglomeration of buildings and possibilities, it can offer its inhabitants a distinctive identity. Climate, typography, and architecture are part of what creates that distinctiveness, as are its origins. Examining where cities originate from and what they mean, we can see that they hold a futuristic ideology, where people moved from the country into the city in order to escape the ancient forces of nature and build their own futures. In his article The City In The Age of Touristic Reproduction (playfully responding to Walter Benjamin's 1935 classic)Groys describes the city as somewhat utopic; "The city possesses an intrinsically utopian dimension by virtue of being situated outside the natural order. The city is located in the ou-topos. City walls once delineated the place where a city was built, clearly designating its utopian - ou-topian character."   [1]


Through gentrification and changes in the urban landscape, architectural interventions separate old and new, unintentionally distancing historic buildings from their evolving context. Recent geopolitical shifts, ongoing conflict, and economic and climate migration make urban change inevitable. In a metropolitan city such as London, Paris, Istanbul, or São Paulo, where our sense of time is speeded up and our understanding of history is blurred, preserving the heritage of the past and cultivating community becomes crucial. Through painting, sculpture and ceramic the artists in this group exhibition aim to question how psychogeography plays a role in relation to the city, whether it is global or local.


Whether it's through recording, erasing, and imitation of the digital glitch, Adia Wahid's paintings remind us of diagrams doubled over diagrams, constantly in search of time. Time and cultural syntax are entwined together in a way that leaves gaps or striations. There is an in-betweenness, an absence, and a presence in Wahid's paintings. Memory plays an important role in Wahid's practice, especially as a woman living in the diaspora and having moved between different cities where she is absorbed within restrained histories such as carpet and textile weaving, cuneiform writing tablets, mathematical syntax, computing, and painting. Similar to Wahid, working with painting, collage, and drawing, Radhika Khimji has developed a way of working informed by the physicality and materiality of the making process to deconstruct, evade and erase constructions of formulated identities. Through many photographic documentation, cut-outs, and drawings, the artist often questions belonging by playfully inventing new terms or naming things to generate a new narrative for an object and render it abstract from its loaded history. In her drawings and meditative stitching by both imprinting and rediscovering Khimji gives new meanings to existing places and spaces. Shadows, circular motifs, and layers are present in her work.


 In his body of work, Jaro Varga questions creation and destruction by seeking out subtle details of what is lost and systematically examines what has been born. In his ongoing series, City Diaries Varga explores geopolitical topography, the production, and archiving of knowledge through a  personal lens including writing, abstract drawings, and drafts. The drawings playfully respond to the book cover they are stuck to, some less abstract than others. City Diaries combines subjective and objective knowledge and studies and considers architecture as the simplest means of articulating time and space, modulating reality, of engendering dreams. Varga's drawings are placed site-specifically based on the discrepancy between nature and culture, and the juxtaposition between the cultivated and wild. In both his miniature drawings and ceramic architectural sculptures, Shahpour Pouyan seeks to transform historical and political issues into a monument of poetic and visual form by combining historical aesthetics and mediums with his own personal experience and humour. Pouyan's recent ceramic sculptures and drawings are influenced by science, archeology, and the poetry of architectural forms that bridge past and present. The untitled ceramic domes and buildings meshed between history and human anatomy where replicas of real-life human skulls are integrated into its architecture. In his ongoing miniature drawing series since 2017, Pouyan presents illustrations that have been reworked from celebrated Persian manuscripts, editing out the key human figures that are mythological, anachronistic, or have since vanished. There is something that draws the visitor towards the drawings that seem nearly identical to a historical miniature but leaves an eerie feeling of void.


Hamish Pearch reflects on the complex structures humanity occupies, exploring the materials, objects, and spaces that make up our day-to-day lives. There is humour and irony in Pearch's approach to objects and places whereby playing with scale, he interrogates the border between real and imagined states. To play with the perception of reality, the artist combines found objects, natural forms, and commonplace materials alongside the cast and modelled sculptures made from jesmonite and resin in his work. Sprouting mushrooms or cacti appear from Pearch's found objects, reflecting on how time, certain geographies, and histories are accumulated over time. Placed closer to the ground his  installations reveal what is forgotten - left to gather dust, rot, and decay.






In textual studies, a palimpsest is a manuscript page, either from a scroll or a book,

from which the text has been scraped or washed off so that the page can be reused for another



Psychogeography is an exploration of urban environments that emphasises playfulness and

"drifting". It has links to the Letterist and Situationist Internationals, revolutionary groups

influenced by Marxist and anarchist theory, as well as by the attitudes and methods of Dadaists

and Surrealists.


[1] Groys, Boris. "The City In The Age of Touristic Reproduction." / A R T E F A C T, http://artefact.mi2.hr/_a02/lang_en/write_groys_en.htm.