testsite 19.3 ~ st.itch

Afrah Shafiq & Cynthia Toles

November 10 - December 15

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      Afrah Shafiq, st.itch (video still), 2018. Multimedia Patchwork with 4 Channel Video, Scannable Codes, 13 min, HD, Sound. Image courtesy of the artist.

      Fluent~Collaborative & testsite are pleased to present st.itch, a collaboration with artist Afrah Shafiq and contemporary art collector Cynthia Toles. The project opens on Sunday, November 10th with a public reception from 4 to 6 PM—a conversation between the artist and collaborator at 4:30 PM. Following the opening, Shafiq will deliver a lecture on Tuesday November 12th, at UT’s Department of Fine Arts (room 2.204) at 7PM. More information to follow.

      Afrah Shafiq based out of Goa, India, and Cynthia Toles of Houston, Texas, did not know each other before their testsite collaboration, but subsequently have learned that they have a lot in common. Each approach what they do—art making and art collecting, respectively—in a similar way. “Archive as Playground” is Shafiq’s self-described artistic process. The artist approaches libraries and collections without a thesis or a pre-conceived notion of what she is looking for or what she will find. Rather, she trusts that concepts will reveal themselves through following threads of interest, by immersing herself in primary documents and images. Toles’ approach to art collecting can be described as “Collecting as Playground,” i.e., choosing objects, installations and videos based on instinct. Her highly idiosyncratic collection has been assembled from encounters with artworks or experiences that feel new, or magical, or scary . . . sometimes, even initially negative. Shafiq’s and Toles’ sensibilities cluster around certain themes –gender, inner lives, and invisibilized histories for Shafiq; for Toles, shifts in scale, the overlooked, the humorous, and homages to Duchamp and other artists she admires.

      For their testsite project, Shafiq will show st.itch, her most recent work, a multimedia patchwork and interactive 4-channel video installation based on archival research. She also will deliver a multi-media lecture about the nature of her work and artistic process. In her Austin lecture, titled Making from Archives: Research as an Artistic Playground, Shafiq will share her work around women's inner lives drawn from research in archives in India and the North of England, and will incorporate findings from her month-long research residency in Austin with Fluent Collaborative.

      The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue, which includes an essay by Cynthia Toles, which chronicles her first encounter with st.itch at the 2018 Kochi-Muziris Biennial, along with color images of the work, and an interview with Shafiq.


      Afrah Shafiq (b. 1989) is a multimedia artist and documentary filmmaker based between Goa and Bangalore. Using the process of research as an artistic playground, Shafiq intertwines archival findings, history, memory, folklore and fantasy to create a speculative world born of remix culture. Her work moves across various mediums, drawing from the handmade language of traditional folk forms and connecting them to the digital language of the Internet and video games. Animation, interactivity, archival material, video, code, sound, glass mosaic, painting and objects come together to create an alternate reality that can be inhabited to experience through wit and irreverence the gaps in history, invisibilized experiences, ideas of belonging, fitting in, resistance, performing your true self and the inner workings of the mind.

      Shafiq’s works have exhibited at various festivals, group shows and galleries across India and in other parts of the world, including the 4th edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in Kochi, The Guild Art Gallery in Alibaug, Be.Fantastic in Bengaluru, What About Art in Mumbai, Digital Graffiti Festival in Florida, USA, The Fusebox Festival in Texas, USA, Re-conference in Nepal and the Goethe Institut, Bangalore. She has been invited on a residency with the Liverpool Biennale of Contemporary Art as part of the New North and South program and is currently a research fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies in Nantes, France, where she will be researching for a new work that will be produced in 2020.

      Cynthia Toles is a contemporary art collector and supporter of the arts with ties to Austin and San Antonio who is based in Houston, Texas. A graduate of the University of Houston Law Center (1978) and a financial services lawyer by profession, Toles cites art as her true passion, taking particular pleasure in fostering the development of young artists and curators by supporting exhibitions, funding travel, hosting dinners, and collecting work. A longtime arts patron and advocate, Toles was Founding Chair of the McNay Contemporary Collectors Forum in San Antonio, TX, a patron group that has grown to over 250 members in its 20+ years. She serves or has served on the following boards: MFAH Core Residency Program (Chair) and Core Salon (Founding Chair); Artpace San Antonio, an international artist residency; Art Lies, a Texas-based critical journal of contemporary art (Chair); Gulf Coast, a Houston-based literary and art journal; Houston Arts Alliance; Rice Design Alliance (Houston); Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston; Blue Star Contemporary (San Antonio); Sala Diaz (San Antonio), and Aurora Picture Show, a Houston-based micro-cinema.


      Opening reception at testsite: Sunday, November 10, 4-6pm with a conversation between the collaborators at 4:30pm. Exhibition on view through December 15.
      : 502 West 33rd Street, Austin, TX
      Hours: Sundays 4-6 PM and by appointment (e: ABoiarsky@fluentcollab.org, t: 512 453 3199 x2)