Róza El-Hassan „Kamień z kolorowymi szpilkami” („Stone with Coloured Pins”), średnica 45 cm, 1993. Wystawa „Beyond the Obvious – Contemporary Women Artists from CEE”, Deák Erika Galéria. Budapeszt 2015
The lonely, individual sitting figure appears in the works of Róza El-Hassan as a drawing and later within the framework of a performance (Bonn, Helsinki), called „R. thinking/dreaming about overpopulation”, when the artist herself squats down, covered in a black chador, holding an orange balloon in her lap. The posture and attire of the performance returns in the form of a child-sized crouching sculpture, as part of the series continuing until today, consisting of performances, sculptures and drawings. It is here that the dual identity of Róza El-Hassan „and the relevance of her Syrian origins” appears as a determining factor in her work. (…) Among the fragile, decorative, colourful figures, the motif of the heart as an even more basic symbol of humanity has appeared in a number of small-scale objects during the last two years. Their genesis is similar to that of the sitting figures in the sense of the very personal assemblage of the heart from small stones, gluing and wiring them together like a puzzle in space. El-Hassan collects the stones herself, as a kind of meditative preparation for an object, which in its simplicity collects energy and radiates it, just as an inter-religious motif.
Back in 1993 her work „Stone with coloured pins”, an enormously heavy basalt stone dotted with small bright pins was shown in the Aperto section of the Venice Biennale. (…) The inner conflict in the works reflects Róza El-Hassan’s questions about her own twofold Syrian/Hungarian identity. The series of works „R. thinking/dreaming about overpopulation” has been developing since 1999 in various formats incorporating performance, drawing, sculpture and video. The first sculpture in the series, a crouching figure of a woman in a black chador with an orange balloon in her lap, appeared again later in exhibition rooms and in public spaces as a roughly worked, asexual, wooden figure sunk into itself.
The „Blood Donation Series” (2001-2003) also came into being in the context of this series of works. In response to 11th September 2001, El-Hassan organised a project in the Belgrade Museum of Contemporary Art, showing solidarity with Arab peoples around the world who found themselves confronted with accusations of collective guilt. She lay down on a life-size reproduction of the photo of Yasser Arafat that appeared in the world’s press showing the then Palestinian President donating blood for victims in New York – and gave blood herself too. The audience was also urged to donate blood. El-Hassan repeated the happening in Budapest and Zurich, receiving varying reactions in these venues. In Belgrade, in the immediate aftermath of the NATO bombing campaign, she met with a sympathetic response. In Budapest the largest institution for contemporary art censored the act with the justification that the institution might be accused of anti-Semitism, whilst the artist was forbidden to use the politician’s photograph at an event organised at the ETH in Zurich in cooperation with the Red Cross. (…)
Over the last few years a sense of growing political responsibility has been perceptible in El-Hassan’s artistic production. Her discovery of the complexity of identity gave rise to projects and works in which solidarity and collective responsibility take centre-stage. During the vernissage of the „Hidden Holocaust” exhibition in 2004, also in the Mücsarnok art centre, she organised a happening entitled „My Victim – Your Victim”. The guests at the vernissage moved through the building holding hands and – irrespective of their various individual creeds – creating an almost religious sense of togetherness.