The Safe, 2019

Basel 2019
Galerie Nagel Draxler
Insulated quilted synthetic leather walls and door, stainless steel basin, plastic awning, stamps; 600
600.0 x 400.0 x 400.0 (cm)
236.2 x 157.5 x 157.5 (inch)
In his work The Safe, Abdulnasser Gharem alludes to the assassination of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Istanbul. A soundproof padded cell, similar to those in psychiatric clinics or prisons for violent inmates, stands isolated in the room. The walls inside are insulated and rubberized. This corresponds to Gharem’s artistic method, where rubber stamps are the subjects of and material he employs for his art, one brimming with hidden messages, read backward. The stamp challenges our idea of formal bureaucratic approval, of certification, and of the power implied within and to what end that object is used. In reversed form and very subtly hinted at, the Saudi Arabian flag can also be seen in the padded cell. Inside the cell, classical music can be heard. Visitors, ushered in by guards in roughly 40-second intervals, can reach into the stainless steel basin for the stamps provided there and leave their ‘imprint’ on the wall or write a statement, by hand. The stamps bear phrases originating from politics and historic epics of violence.