Squad: The Calling of the Common Hero - Page 14

Abdu’Allah investigates issues of representation and identity as he presents his personal friends rather than actors or strangers in his compositions. In The Last Supper I, Abdu’Allah’s friends are depicted in the attire they would customarily wear to mosque. Conversely, The Last Supper II depicts these figures in everyday clothing. The Muslimidentifying figures of The Last Supper diptych occupy a well-known scene of Christianity and as a result challenge the viewer to reconsider assumptions about who these figures are and perhaps, to truly see them as individuals with complex identities. This work by Abdu’Allah relates to the idea of selection in that he hand picked his subjects, requested they dress in their traditional religious garb as well as their daily wear, and positioned them in the biblical narrative. In this way, The Last Supper denotes the first level of selection where the artist is in nearly full control and the end product is dictated by his artistic vision and decisions. A later work by Abdu’Allah illustrates another place on the spectrum of selection. During his residency at Stanford University, Abdu’Allah created Adeve (2012) after witnessing a truly inspiring interaction of care and trust between two friends, Alex Fialho and A-lan Holt. Afterwards, Abdu’Allah asked Fialho and Holt whether or not there was anyone else in their lives with whom they felt a similar closeness. Had these two young adults said, “no,” Adeve would never have come to fruition, however, each told Abdu’Allah of another person they trusted implicitly, Adeve was born. Photographed at the same time of day, in the same location, the individuals connected by trust 10 Squad multiplied, as each person selected another trusted person in turn, expanding to a chain of ten. Choosing the two initial subjects of his work, Abdu’Allah began the project in complete control of the selection process. As he realized the potential of the work, he relinquished control of selection, and in the end that became the leading—if not the controlling factor—of the piece. Abdu’Allah had faith that this initial bond would reveal an expansive web of friendships. The project in its early stages was marked by instability because the line of friendship could abruptly end at any point. But this was not the case, and although Abdu’Allah initially had control of his piece, his subjects determined its continuation and end result. Adeve is constructed of two rows of ten images; the individual portraits do not appear separate but rather are contiguous. This intentional artistic decision directly relates to the connected friendships between the subjects of Adeve. Backlighting gives life to the static portraits of Abdu’Allah’s composition, all of which are headshots of the individuals. As the subjects lack facial expressions, the viewer is faced with an interaction devoid of answers to questions raised from viewing Abdu’Allah’s work. Identity is evident in this piece, but not as straightforwardly as the viewer would imagine. With knowledge of the foundational relationship and premise of Adeve, one can begin to suspect the identities of the individuals included in the composition. The viewer is conscious that each person wholly trusts the succeeding one, but the specific attributes of the trusted individuals are undisclosed