041 – Amanny Ahmad (Artist)

#041 – Tuesday, May 17, 2016: A Gateless Gate with guest, Amanny Ahmad (Artist)

Amanny Ahmad is a Palestinian-American artist maneuvering through photographic and sculptural languages. A bi-coastal dweller, Ahmad celebrates the nuances of daily life amongst the diversity of the city landscape. Elegant and acute, the recent works of florally engaged sculptures, continue the conversation occurring in her photographs as she illuminates life’s aberrant assemblages, questions cultural symbology, and eulogizes our curious human behaviors. Ahmad has exhibited work at Slow Culture Gallery, Bleeker Street Arts Club, and her alma-mater, Cooper Union. Through Shabazz Projects, Ahmad has published the first book in a series of photographic works entitled Sega Sega.
We’re pleased to welcome Amanny to the program with a Q&A, followed by a mix that draws from zen koan and the riddles of life itself.

Firstly, can you talk about this mix you made for us?
I like to spend time digging on the internet for musical gems. I see it as aural thrifting, lots of reward without the material presence that has to be moved and stored and maintained. Lately it has seemed logical to make them into these little (technically unsophisticated) mixes. Some of my sources are pretty questionable, so the sound quality varies as much as the songs themselves. There typically isn’t any rhyme or reason as to how things make their way on to them, other than that I really enjoy the songs and hope that others will too. It’s always pretty random, and I suppose that with this mix there is a meandering pointless-ness that reflects the title, which itself refers to a collection of zen koan that serve as exercises to assist one in considering the duality of existence/the point or pointless-ness of trying to exist.

You were raised in Utah, then relocated to New York for school? How did life in New York affect or vary from what you were used to?
I was born in Salt Lake City and and raised between there and the West Bank in Palestine. I went a few other places in Western America, but eventually I found myself in Manhattan for school, and have mostly been here on and off for about 8 years. I’ve always had a somewhat unsettled life, so I adapt quickly to new situations and places, leading nowhere to feel too crazy/different/overwhelming to me. I guess the main difference between everywhere else I’ve lived and New York, is that it is always really stimulating here. The potentiality of every excursion, of all the different types of people and things that are accessible at any given time, is really incredible.

And you currently go between LA and New York? Any plans to make one city home-base or go some place different all together?
I’ve been consistently in New York for the last year or so, and while there are many things I love about it, the longer I am here the more I wonder how sustainable it is for me as far as quality of life goes. I fantasize about moving to other countries, random places I haven’t ever been. I have my summer planned out, but after that, who knows where I will be.

I’ve followed your work within varied mediums of film and iPhone photography, unconventional paintings and sculpture, etc. but I have to say I’m really into your series of floral arrangements, as I share a deep fondness for flowers. Is Japanese Ikebana at all in your domain of influences or interests? I only mention it because I’ve been studying it myself and noticed some similarities. Maybe it’s just complete coincidence!
Thank you! Floral arrangement is a practice that I maintain, though evidence of it doesn’t always appear in my outward world. I am very much interested in/influenced by Ikebana. When I was in Japan last year I visited some of the schools, which was very lovely for me; overall, Japanese culture and aesthetic is very captivating and makes a lot of sense to my brain. I have a constantly growing collection of old Ikebana books, and am constantly investigating new plants/materials to incorporate in my arrangements and sculptural works. I love it as a framework for considering organic matter, and then extending that framework to include objects or ideas. Last year I did a performance where I set up a workstation with flowers, containers, and objects and guests were invited to come have a “floral portrait” made of them. It was an exercise that I didn’t really know the meaning of when I set out to do it, but both friends and strangers came and it was really fun and interesting to explore the unseen aspects of an individual through these materials.

Considering the basketball hoops you capture, along with a book you released on Shabazz Projects on the subject, can I assume you’re a fan of basketball? Are you keeping up with the playoffs or are you more a past times fan?
Ha! I was raised on basketball, and I will always be a huge John Stockton fan (have his number tattooed on me). I can’t say I follow it much anymore, other than the parts that come up in current rap music, but I will always have an affinity for 90’s-00’s era of basketball. It was a great time and there were some incredible players I will always love to watch. The basketball hoops are a project I have been interested in for several years now. I love the omnipresence of such a simple object, a thing which transcends economic and social class, race, gender, culture, and continent. Most places where I travel there is always some semblance of a basketball hoop, whether one of those official NBA ones with the water filled base found in American suburbia, or a piece of plywood with a square painted on it and a circle made of metal hangers twisted together in the middle of some jungle.

Walk us through an intimate day in your life….
My eyes open at the first sign of lavender light seeping through the shell beaded curtains that graze the curved walls of my palatial cliffside rotunda, overlooking the Aegean sea. I kiss the shoulders of my love, throw on my kimono, and make a cup of herbal tea (maybe some fresh chamomile flowers or mountain mint) as I wipe the sleep off. I end up in the garden, where I meditate, nestled in the center of my Nelumbo Nucifera Gigantus. I caress the velvety exterior of each petal with the back of my hand, and as they recognize my touch, each falls open to reveal a seed pod exactly the blueprint of my seated position. I climb in and am lulled into the ideal void. After I transcend space and time, I make a breakfast of Japanese sweet potato roasted and anointed with coconut yogurt, broccoli flowers, pepitas, and umeboshi. I then speed read about 14 different books, taking exhaustive notes, while simultaneously absorbing every possible piece of information—this process takes about 45 minutes. Next, I float to my observation deck and do yoga by the guidance of the midday Suns which litter the sky carelessly. Afterwards, I jump straight from the cliff into the azure waters, diving for the translucent rainbow pearls left behind by migrating 7 legged octopuses, a creature common to the island. I walk up the path to the courtyard and let my latest finds fall into the submersion pool filled with these pearlescent drops of oceanic magic. I spend the rest of the afternoon in my studio, clipping and arranging sculptures, painting, making photographs, weaving strands of detritus, anything and everything, really. One hour before the sun begins to set I will begin to make a simple meal over the flames of the constant fire that sits in the courtyard, for myself and my love, after which we will relax by climbing into the pearl pools, our skin surrounded by thousands of tiny cool pearls, shimmering and lightly clattering together.

A record you never tire of?
Philip Glass – Piano Songs

What are you listening to?
Lately: Japanese minimalist compositions from the 70’s, Bootsy Collins, Alice Coltrane, Soul/Funk from the 60’s-80’s, I love Young Thug (who doesn’t), Future, Kanye, etc. I like to stay somewhat current with rap/hip hop…keeps me young 😉

What are you reading?
The Book of Tea by Okakura Kakuzō, Alice Water’s Simple Food, The Science of Breath, Teaming with Microbes, about 5 other gardening books, and a few books on wild foraging/food preparation.

Last movie you watched?
Pumping Iron, the 1970’s documentary on Arnold Schwarzaneger and the culture of body building. Highly recommend!
Iverson, the documentary about Allen Iverson, a beautiful man with a sad story. It definitely made me super nostalgic of the era of basketball that I love most.

Favorite color?
Blues of all kinds, and lately goldenrod/mustard.

Favorite flower?
It changes with the season, but lately I am really into Veronicas and Dubium.

If you could collaborate with anyone/anything, past/present, who/what would it be?
Isamu Noguchi, Robert Smithson, Francis Mallman, so many people I have yet to know…

What’s else is in the works for you this year?
Over the next few months I will be in upstate New York cooking and starting a garden for a friend on their property. I have had health reasons to change my diet in the last year, and I see these limitations as great tools, like a culinary version of Matthew Barney’s early Drawing Restraint exercises. To have excessive limits but still be able to create something beautiful and delicious and interesting is a great challenge that I am super intrigued and stimulated by. I’m really looking forward to furthering my explorations of food as both nurture and medium, while also getting to grow our own food and flowers. I have few more projects up my sleeve, but I like to keep things pretty loose and open-ended, I find that’s how the best things happen.

*For more information please visit Amanny on — Website | Instagram

01. Delegation – Oh Honey ………………. (Delegation: The Best of:, State Records, 2012)
02. The Three Degrees – Maybe ………………. (Maybe, Roulette, 1970)
03. Love Apple – Guess I Always Knew ………………. (Eccentric Soul: Love Apple, Numero Group, 2012)
04. Charlie Megira – The Girl That Was Frightened of Ashtrays ………………. (The Abtomatic Miesterzinger Mambo Chic = דה אבטומטיק מיסטרזינגר ממבו שיק, The Charlie Megira Recording Company, 2001)
05. Gloria Ann Taylor- World That’s Not Real ………………. (Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing, Love N’ Haight, 2015)
06. John Coltrane Quartet – I Wish I Knew ………………. (Ballads, Impulse!, 1963)
07. Coldreams – Eyes ………………. (Morning Rain/Eyes, Rock Hardi, 1986)
08. Future Holograms- Valentine ………………. (Future Holograms, Occult Dreams, 2013)
09. Josh Grant – Gucci Mane – Im Da Shit (remix) ………………. ( untitled )
10. Philip Glass – Runaway Horses (Poetry Written With a Splash of Blood) ………………. (Mishima, Nonesuch, 1985)
11. Young Thug – With That (Cresce x Sensi Sye Remix) ………………. (Soundcloud)
12. René Et Gaston – Vallée De Larmes ………………. (Vallée De Larmes, Fresh Fruit Records, 1993)
13. Network- Tinted Glass ………………. (Tinted Glass, Sylvester Music Company, 1980)
14. Mkwaju Ensemble – Mkwaju ………………. (Mkwaju, Better Days, 1981)
15. Sun Ra – Somebody Else’s Idea ………………. (In the Orbit of Ra, Strut, 2014)
16. The Royal Band de Thiès – N’dongo Dara ………………. (Vol. I : Dioubou CS, 1980)
17. Brian Eno – Final Sunset ………………. (Music for Films, Editions EG, 1976)
18. Alan Watts – Purposelessness ………………. (From the lecture ‘On Taoism’)

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