Soup presents the gallery’s fifth exhibition, ‘I’ll Wear The Bangles From Your Hands’, a solo showing of new work by British-Indian artist duo Athen Kardashian & Nina Mhach Durban (both b. 2000). The exhibition marks the first anniversary of their collaborative practice, which South London-based Kardashian & Durban began after originally meeting on their foundation at Kingston University.
United by a shared interest in diasporic femininity, girlhood fandom and turn-of-the-millennium popular culture - consolidated by their twinned upbringing in London under Indian mothers - Kardashian & Durban’s collaboration centres around an almost subconscious ongoing dialogue and a mutual understanding and appreciation of each other’s lived experience. Often community notice boards, school whiteboards and kitchen cork boards as their starting structures, referencing their appreciation of juvenescent scrapbooking and reflecting the collages that adorn their maternal grandmother’s fridges and mantelpieces, the similarities between fanatic fan culture and religious devotion converge in shrinelike constructions of collected imagery and ephemera. Evidence of their Indian heritage merge and mingle with quintessential Y2K kitsch, as bindis meet Bratz dolls, bangles meet Gogo's Crazy Bones and Bollywood starlets brush shoulders with Hollywood heartthrobs.
Throughout, they celebrate the aesthetics of South Asian culture while reclaiming certain symbology, including the Swastika - a symbol of spirituality and divinity in Hinduism and Buddhism despite it's farright connotations in Western history, it remains a welcome part of Hindu marriage ceremonies and Diwali celebrations worldwide. Similarly, their love of their hometown is foregrounded in treasured tourist tat and saved souvenirs, invariably emblazoned with ‘I <3 London’, a slogan the pair have previously likened to a devotional emblem. Recognition of the importance that place, home and identity played in their elder generation’s experience of migration, and the diversity of people and culture to which our capital plays host.
As they enter the second year of their collaboration, Kardashian and Durban have become increasingly interested in how their Indian lineage is viewed through a Western lens, and the extent to which South Asian culture has been embraced, amalgamated and assimilated into British culture at large. They look to 2002’s Bend It Like Beckham, written and directed by British-Punjabi Gurinder Chadha, which has been praised for spotlighting the migrant experience, or to Konnie Huq, who in 1997 became the first Asian presenter of BBC’s flagship children's programme Blue Peter, empowering adolescents with mixed identities. Additionally, they are keen to examine and pay homage to the feminine experience of migration, that often overlooked role of the matriarch or homemaker that the title of this exhibition makes reference to. Evident in their exhibition-making, they approach the gallery space as they would their own homes or bedrooms, experimenting with means of display and inviting the viewer into a welcoming semidomestic environment. Advancing an aesthetic which is entirely their own, Athen & Nina manage to hold space for each other in the more personal and intimate moments of their collaged constructions - the faded or discolour print-outs with their curled edges and the hand-written dedications that decorate stickers and key-rings or are otherwise engraved into the faces and frames of their lock-ables.