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Thinking Difference: a reimagining of British South Asian identity

Driven by Audre Lorde’s theory of difference my work seeks to extend thought into action. By existing in the discomfort of difference like Lorde this project engages with methods that resist the violent production of difference that permeates our way of life and is ‘used against us in the service of separation and confusion’ (Lorde A. 2009). This project affirms differences as that which empowers and is about creating works that develop ways in which differences can lie together. Between practices of fine art and craft, feminist theory, philosophy of difference and cultural theory, as an artist and an activist my research project explores the potential of expanding future visions with difference. This project is driven by feminist activist practices and examines the cultural anxieties that shape British South Asian agency. In reimagining perceptions of self and belonging within these communities this project also activates Luce Irigary’s assertion to think things through difference (Irigaray L., 1994, 1996).

By unifying different materials through an agential practice this research shows the ways in which they function as a means of thinking and how this can challenge dominant views of difference as limitations This practice intentionally thinks with these materials in connecting to real forms of human differences, race, sex, age, class to disrupt the ways cultural, social, political and racial differences are used to suppress marginalized bodies. enabling thinking

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More about Sohaila

My work draws from feminist strategies, uniting craft traditions, fine art practice and embodied self-reflexive writing to investigate cultural anxieties that shape British South Asian agency. I look at how materials evolve as they are disrupted by others. I purposely unsettle their structure, experimenting with how far I can push them to change. Textiles are integral to my practice because of their primary role in the construction of meaning and knowledge, but also as they hold an unequivocal presence that speaks directly to the human body. I use various other quotidian materials like fibres, nails, wood and found objects, as well as text and imagery but my intention is to always find ways in which they can be manipulated with cloth to foreground its agential capacity.

I engage with durational practices, repeating a rigorous set of processes to construct works that privilege the notion of gendered labour and insist on the agency of women as political actors. Inserting structures that affords the difficult processes involved in the making of artworks an importance equal to the finished products. Writing is another necessary element used to understand my methods of working, particularly the significance of reproductive labour within my practice. It gives an alternative voice to activities born out of struggle. Again It is not more or less than the artworks, as they share equal importance and joins all aspects of this research project as a chorus of voices.

I think from a position of difference to develop a methodology that inserts the voices and experiences of those bodies that are devalued, silenced, rejected and excluded because of difference. My research is iterative, and expands on concepts that can build on and through difference by working productively with differences, to create spaces of affiliation and alliance.

MA Fine Art Print, Royal College of Art, 2003

BA (Hons) Fine Art, Surrey Institute of Art and Design, 2000

LAHP (The London Arts and Humanities Partnership)

Baluch S., The Uncaring Tongue, CARE(Less), eds. Sharon Kivland and Gemma Blackshaw London, UK: MA BIBLIOTHÈQUE, 2021

Baluch S., 'I care by asserting difference...', 'I Care by...', eds. Gemma Blackshaw, Sohaila Baluch, Marita Fraser, Nora Heidorn, London UK, Royal College of Art, 2021

Baluch S., Y, Prova 6, ed. Chantal Faust, London UK, Royal College of Art, 2023

Baluch S., CAREFULLY AWARE OF THE CHORUS [with JUNE JORDAN], Prova 6, ed. Chantal Faust, London UK, Royal College of Art, 2023