The Question

The Question, a video piece created over a three-month period in 2012, records the personal journey of the artist as he interviews twenty-eight individuals about their feelings, perceptions, and beliefs about Allah. People from all walks of life and different ages are captured at the moment the conversation begins between the artist-interviewer and the one being interviewed. Recorded here are twenty-eight moments when the human mind and (heart) attempt to express thoughts and feelings about one of the most private and profound matters that occupy humanity. Although the title of the work refers to “the question,” in fact, there was not a single question. According to the artist several questions were asked and each conversation unfolded organically according to each interview. The conversations were unscripted and what was shared remains private between the artist and those interviewed. Thus, this silent piece, accompanied by music, also captures the video booth as a sacred space, expressing an inviolate trust between the participants and the artist. We, the viewer, are left to imagine the conversations, but we will never be privy to what was shared. Or what was asked. The title of the work also refers to the thought process of the artist as he began the project. The starting point for the project was a question Al-Othman pondered, which can be loosely expressed as: if I ask people to tell me their thoughts about Allah, what will I learn and what will I hear? The title also holds the place for the many questions that each of us asks in the course of a lifetime, and perhaps in particular to the bigger questions that shape our lives. The question was included in the collateral exhibition Rhizoma, curated by Sara Raza, founding curator at Alāan Artspace, as part of edge of Arabia’s presence at the 53rd Venice biennale (2013), the celebrated international art fair, which dates back to 1895. The piece is set to music by Philip Glass (I’m going to make a cake, 2002).

Text by Curator Mary Teeling