Haseeb Ahmed and Em Meine, The Conditional Mosque, 2011, Janus Project.
THE CONDITIONAL MOSQUE
The Conditional Mosque is a critical reflection on the form of the mosque and its appropriation in art today. By bracketing out all but form, a religious object is no longer strictly religious as such. The aestheticization of religious form has the ability to liquidate it entirely, but also open it up to a multitude of new interpretations.
All mosques must point towards the empty black cube of the Kaaba in Mecca, which has its roots in the primordial mosque built by Abraham and his son Ismael. Aside from this, the form of the mosque is not determined by any formal protocol. Instead, the mosque derives its historical form from its ability to evoke collective recognition as a place of prayer for Muslims locally as well as globally.
What do we see when we see a mosque? The global Muslim community revolves around a struggle to clarify the concept of the Ummah, or collective body of believers. Ummah, as a modern concept, refers to a community as part of the nation state that transcends territorial bounds. Thus, in non-Muslim nations, the mosque takes on a semblance of sovereignty. For this reason, the form of the mosque itself has become regulated, as has been seen in Switzerland. This regulation masks underlying issues that remain in social tension such as immigration, class, and labor. The mosque, its location, construction, and destruction, becomes a site of ideological contention.
The Conditional Mosque seeks to ask "What is the role of art in assessing religious, political, and societal influences through the aesthetic form of the mosque?"
Azra Aksamija’s Dirndlmoschee, or Dirndl Dress Mosque, takes collective practice and literally scales it to the level of personal attire. At the same scale, Haseeb Ahmed grows muqarnas blocks out of expanding foam and places 2x4's under tension of the gallery itself to evoke skeletal mosque architecture. Em Meine's paintings reduce the mosque form even further to iconic silhouettes, testing what is immediately signified by them today. Azin Feizabadi's film, Time, Space, Karbala, abstracts the Persian folk art of Pardeh-Khani, aestheticizing a religious story through the physical demonstration of painted scenes.