Vusal Rahim’s artistic practice bridges conceptual and contemporary art, using diverse media to explore personal struggles, gender identity and social issues. Originally from Ganja and now based in Baku, he studied in the department of Theatre and Decorative Design at the Azerbaijan State Academy of Art and his interest in performance is clear in his work; his projects, whether paintings, video art, or sculpture, center around people and their stories, making them emotional and engaging. While he has worked professionally as a stage and costume designer, he has exhibited his art around the world including Russia and United States.
Vusal’s artwork examines social constructions of masculinity and femininity, as well as the experience of the human soul seeking to ascend the confines placed upon the body in which it inhabits. His background in theater is evident in the staging of his performances and videos through his layering of symbolism and aesthetics. Inspired by the ancient mythology of Azerbaijan, strong female characters often emerge as the heroines of his paintings, sculpture and video work.
Vusal’s recent artistic performance ‘Nurcan,’ held at ARTIM in Baku in 2018, is one such project that spotlighted the illegal but ongoing practice of underage women being wed before they reach legal adulthood, a practice which negates feminine agency and self-actualization. In this work, he staged a ‘black wedding,’ an event that had the appearance of a wedding but the imagery of a funeral, mourning the loss of a young girl’s innocence and her unrealized potential. Like a classical play, the project included three staged scenes: the announcement and preparation of the wedding, the wedding celebration, and the aftermath of the event. In the public performance that was staged at ARTIM, the artist arrived at the gallery to meet an actor playing his young bride, surrounded by her family ready for their marriage, and the celebration commenced. However, the bride herself, while appearing silent and demure, made a strong symbolic statement – she was played by the daughter of the activist Aynur Cavid, who campaigns against forced marriages of minors and whose poetry was written on the walls of the gallery. The wedding celebration and the traditions leading up to the wedding ceremony were captured via film and video and displayed in the gallery the day after the wedding for the public to view. The performance, while highly stylized and dramatic, was inspired by a true story of the tragic murder of a 16-year old bride that was recently in the news, bringing a personal dimension to the artwork. In this work, Vusal asks us to reflect on our place in society and the hidden struggles of the people around us.
Through his artwork, Vusal examines social relationships with empathy and care, using his platform as an artist to tell the stories of people who are marginalized, and giving voice to personal conflicts that are often unspoken or ignored. By using his own body – through performance, music, and movement – he invites us to see ourselves in the scenarios he presents, and in doing so, asks us to reconsider how we see our role in the world around us.