Desperate Measures

Video Installation

10 min video, 15 gas masks on steel museum stands, charcoal, paint


During the Gulf War, Kuwaitis witnessed Iraqi soldiers in gas masks, which ignited rumors of a potential chemical attack. In a desperate response, the Kuwaiti ‘Underground Resistance’ (moqawama) distributed formulas for DIY gas masks through leaflets and word of mouth. My mother and aunts recall sitting in my grandma’s kitchen, stitching make shift gas masks for the family. In the 8-minute video performance ‘Semiotics of War in the Kitchen’, I attempt to recreate a gas mask, in the same kitchen, using my mother’s instructions. The result is messy and dysfunctional, a realisation they had made after stitching over a dozen masks. As a final form of defiance, they put their faith in God. ‘Symptom of a Sign’ is a sculptural installation showcasing 16 gas masks that are unified through the exclamation: ‘In God we trust’. In the third piece ‘Semantics’, a found image of an Imam praying with other men wearing gas masks is framed and presented alongside a photocopy of my mother’s DIY gas mask instructions. The instructions are handwritten on two sides of a paper, mimicking the Resistance’s style of distribution. Together, the pieces respond to each other based on ‘semiosis’: the relationship between a sign, an object and a meaning.