Two Atlanta artists interrogate liberation in their work

Rozina Shiraz Gilani and Matheus Blasczak hope to activate Atlanta with ‘Resist: A Simulation of Struggle’

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Photo credit: John Arthur
MEETING RESISTANCE: Curator Gilani (from right) and assistant curator Blasczak.

Two lifelong artists and activists, Rozina Shiraz Gilani and Matheus Blasczak, are on a mission to promote a new way for Atlanta to experience and support art. Their new group, Atlanta’s Radical Art Community, will host its debut showcase, titled “Resist: A Simulation of Struggle,” on September 21-22.

The interactive multimedia show will take place at the Collective Ink & Art Society’s studio and promises to be like nothing you’ve experienced before. “Resist: A Simulation of Struggle,” featuring more than 16 political artists, will explore social and political topics through a spectrum of mediums, from tattoo to dance. Attendees will not just witness the showcase, but participate in it through visual and performance projects.

Rich and varied life experiences have led Gilani, the mind behind the show, and Blasczak, her assistant, to undertake such a project. Gilani studies, choreographs, and teaches Indian classical dance. As a child, she used dance to perform traditional Hindu epics, but felt little connection to the stories. Her dance became intertwined with her work as a social justice and community organizer when she first visited Palestine more than a decade ago. There, where she taught and choreographed Indian classical dance, working alongside local organizers and exposure to political artists inspired her to use her art form as a medium for liberation. When she left, she carried her new philosophy with her.

“As I started to invest more in community and social justice issues,” Gilani says. “I realized my [art] had the capacity to serve as a sort of movement testimony. I focused more on the stories that I felt were relevant and could touch people, move people towards action.”

Blasczak, a Brazil-born transplant to Atlanta, found himself troubled by the slew of violent injustices occurring in the United States. He volunteered for the 2016 Bernie Sanders campaign, which became his first foray into activism. But the intersection of art and activism for Blasczak took a more profound form following his experience with the No Dakota Access Pipeline (NODAPL) campaign.

While brainstorming art to take to North Dakota, Blasczak sought the advice of members of the indigenous community’s on how to appropriately use Native American themes and images. The owner of Little Five Points’ Coyote Trading Company advised him to recreate Native American art only when his mind was clear and positive, then drew a buffalo design for him that Blasczak replicated on banners he created for NODAPL.

In North Dakota, Blasczak met an indigenous woman named Great White Buffalo, who immediately felt a connection to his banners and asked him to paint the design on her tent. She told Blasczak that the symbol of the buffalo would protect her from the Black Snake energy of the pipeline.

“That Buffalo — just that whole journey, was a very epic moment in terms of relating art and activism,” says Blasczak, who has since obtained a tattoo of the same buffalo design.

The common and central thread for Gilani and Blasczak was learning how art could — and should — be more than just beautiful. Both see art as a sacred exchange, and like any successful exchange, participants have a responsibility to communicate with one another. After their upcoming show, Gilani and Blasczak hope to create more spaces for radical artists to showcase and connect with one another and to ultimately build a self-reliant community, independent of institutional support, where issues of racism, sexism, fascism, colonialism, transphobia, homophobia, islamophobia, ableism and xenophobia can be challenged head on.

Of the upcoming exhibit, Blasczak says,“It’s an open door for different experiences for different folks. Be ready when you walk in the door to either be challenged or celebrated.”

Experience Atlanta’s Radical Art Community’s debut. $15 suggested. 7:30-11:30 p.m. Sept. 21-22. Collective Ink & Arts Studio, Ste. 5097, 675 Metropolitan Parkway S.W. 404-993-2811. https://www.tickettailor.com/events/atlantasradicalartcommunity.

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