The question of identity is nothing new –all of us have asked this question in one form or another, at one time or another. The more ambitious amongst us – the Philosophers, Sociologists, Psychiatrists, Artists, Doctors, even Chefs – have taken the quest for an answer to a whole different spectrum; though with the speed of time, the question of identity has become more complicated than Socrates would have imagined it. Our identities, distributed along a thousand fault lines, are more blurred today than ever before.
Ayesha Saeed is one of those ambitious being amongst us. A recent graduate of Royal College of Art, her first debut exhibition titled “The Psychogeography of the Right Thumb” is currently on display at the newly established THP Gallery. Psychogeography is described as “playful and inventive ways of navigating the urban environment in order to examine its architecture and spaces”, and this is just what one finds in Ayesha’s work.
The trajectory of her fun and inquisitive quest begins with the exploration of her right thumb and the identity mark that it imprints across the digital frontier. The work is a commentary on the reduction of identity in this age and time, and the connection between our physical markers and our digital codes. Through her work, Ayesha is giving a formal landscape to this world of zeros and ones, and through it reveals the unarguable loss of essence of what it has always meant to be human. The very fact that she can turn the exact science of our digital identity into something playful points, for me, to the seriousness one tends to associate with the question of who we are.
Her social commentary, which comes through in five works on display, are all varied and thus introduce you to the diversity of her thought process with regards to this one question. “Privileged Landscape (One side of the right thumb)” at a first glance looks like a rugged mountainscape reflected on either side, but as the title hints, it is in fact the play of the right thumb that has been manipulated through and through till the identity is blurred beyond recognition.
The question of identity is further stretched in the “Set of Artists Book” which seek to translate the identity of the artists into codes. That however is not all. The diversity of the set skills of the artist come through in the very binds of the books itself. Her interests in bookmaking is part and parcel of her work and this quest on which she has set herself on.
While artists without any doubt push the boundaries of what is Art and all that is related to it all the time, in most cases you would find this to be unidirectional. Ayesha Saeed however is trying to change all that! You are bound to find yourself asking if this is really photography, which as the artist would point out, is the very intention. Her whole philosophy is based on pushing the boundary of what is defined as Art and interdisciplinary, and this is where THP Gallery itself comes into being.
THP or “The Happieee Place” is the first venture of Saeed Research Studio founded by Ayesha herself. The space is the result of a different quest of hers – a truly interdisciplinary research lab, which reaches out across disciplines. The Gallery is the research wing of the Research Studio, with an aim to be a space for collaborative query and creation, much like its parent studio. It has set itself up for challenges that if realized are sure to create an exciting art scene.
Just like the advent of the camera made painters and artists explore new dimensions in paintings, the advent of smartphones, where the idea of an image and capturing it has become a part of our everyday existence, it should not surprise anyone that photographers have to find new ways to redefine themselves and their Art. Ayesha Saeed is doing just that – the only thing that she is taking a holistic approach to the entire idea. The Research Studio and Lab, along with a collaborative space, is the right approach to the world of conceptual art, no doubt, and while the tone has been set, it would be the future projects that would ultimately come to elevate her work to a multidirectional dimension.
 Definition by Tate Art Terms