#eye #eye

أغنية أمي

Sara Jajou, Jackson Elhage, Rob Elhage and Andrea Thao
Plastic, paper, plaster, clay, cement, date syrup.
60cm (W) x 60cm (L) x 73cm (H)

Sara Jajou and Jackson Elhage, أغنية أمي (2024), plastic, paper, plaster, clay, cement, date syrup, 60cm (W) x 60cm (L) x 73cm (H).

Image courtesy of Andrea Thao.

Jackson:  You named the piece ‘أغنية أمي’.Can you tell the story behind that name?

Sara: This work was on the backburner for a longtime, it was actually meant to be in Go Home Yankee in October 2023 alongside themes of cultural grief and anti-imperialist anger. At the time, Jermaine and were interested in the resources and colonial waste in our home countries. The irony of a colonial force seeking out 'valuable' resources in other countries and in turn leaving behind an abundance of 'invaluable' resources such as waste. I was looking at digital archives of lost, destroyed and trafficked art from The Iraqi Museum that came as a consequence of Bush's occupation. I think it is tragic that under the Western gaze, other countries are viewed as incapable of making use of their resources, regardless of whether it is oil or artefacts. At the same time, my mum told me about her childhood where sugar and other goods were no longer being imported into Iraq. Instead, dates replaced sugar as sweetness. It makes me wonder if America would ever invade Iraq for dates...

I started making the first version and scrapped it before it progressed anywhere. How did you interpret it as we were making the second version together?

Jackson: To me it feels like a love letter to Iraq, to culture, an ode to the stories passed down to you from your family, and a bridge between the themes of Yankee and the themes of Love Song. I don't think it stuck out in any way, even though it was a holdover from a previous show with different themes. Love Song isn't just about love, it's about experiencing loss, and actively choosing love in the face of it. I think it works well alongside Jermaine’s grave to push that message to the forefront. It felt great to help you realise a concept you've been so passionate about for so long.

Sara: I think the work changed for me as we moved into Love Song too. I was thinking about my family’s displacement from Iraq and the varied nostalgia they have. I never realised my mum missed Iraq because of how much she simultaneously criticised it. But it slipped out one day and she said she missed it. 

I’m also moved by the reopening of The Iraq Museum in 2015 after it had shut in 2003 when it was looted and invaded. I think stories of endurance are important. Completing this work with you also feels like a homage to those efforts which I respect. I wanted to harness that dedication to rebuilding inbetween the first and second iterations of the fountain.

Jackson: The fountain went through so many iterations. From starting out with brickwork as a base for version 1, thinking about this vague metal wire idea when concepting version 2, to eventually settling on using plastic pots as a base. It feels like the whole thing felt so impossible for so long, but came together very quickly when we started the actual building process. How did you feel during the concepting phase vs. when we were actually working on it?

Sara: In my ADHD brain, I imagined a giant 2m functional fountain and obviously that wasn’t what we were working on in the second version. I found it a relief to scale down the work and pay more attention to the craftsmanship of the mediums we had at hand. This work was probably my favourite to make with you since we took on so many material challenges when combining mediums. It felt a bit like at home engineering; trying to fit and hold different pieces together as well as keeping layers bonded. Like we were inventing a new way to make ceramics. It was just real good fun for my brain and hands.

Was there any moment you doubted the structure?

Jackson: When we were talking about creating a frame of metal wire, I was incredibly skeptical, both of the feasibility and practicality of doing that in such a short time frame. I just couldn't think of any other way until I saw the plastic pots at Bunnings. After we figured that out, I was ridiculously confident. Did you feel similarly?

Sara: I felt the same. At every layer, I did have the thought ‘ oh what if this substance doesn’t stick to the previous substance?’ But it worked out quickly and it was incredibly rewarding. I still had that doubt on the day of the opening night at Love Song where it still needed the final fix spray, and I didn’t apply it until it was actually installed. 

I really liked the materials that we worked with, especially the cheapness of it all. It made sense to work with materials that were monetarily worthless in relation to the ideas of resource value I was first interested in. And I joked that I would sell it for $10,000 if it ever did sell. I think the date syrup was more expensive than the paint and cement combined which is a nice touch.

Stacking different plastic pots to build the base shape. Image courtesy of Andrea Thao.

Jackson and I working with paper mache to stick to the plastic. Before this we had riveted the pots together.

After finishing the paper mache, I used quick plaster filler to scrape across and coat the fountain.

Sanding the plaster first with regular sanding paper, and later thanks to Rob Elhage, an orbital sander. Image courtesy of Andrea Thao.

A lovely selfie of me with our child, beginning to build up a layer on airdry terracotta clay. 

Bricklaying with terracotta clay. Image courtesy of Andrea Thao.

Jackson cementing in the sun with a mixture of cement, glue and water.

First and second coat of a mixture of paint, glue and water.

Driving our child to the gallery.

Spraying the final layer of a clear glossy fix.

Glazing in date syrup a couple hours before opening night.
! صحتين