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Look Up

by Rita Adib, Parham Ghalamdar, Bahzad Sulaiman and Ally Zlatar

Look Up is a series of new visual artworks displayed in outdoor public locations across Leicester, Manchester and Portsmouth. The works have been created by international artists Rita Adib, Parham Ghalamdar, Bahzad Sulaiman and Ally Zlatar, with mentorship support from Rachel Dobbs and Adam Broomberg.

Each artist has created a unique and personal artwork, designed to share messages, stories and images that respond to themes of well-being and mental health, cultural greetings, national identity and borders, as well as privilege.

The Look Up artworks were developed in collaborative artistic residencies hosted by Aspex Portsmouth, UK, and coculture in Berlin, Germany.

Look Up 2021 Locations
Leicester - Manchester - Portsmouth

View some of the artwork below or visit locations on maps


Rita Adib: Occupy

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Occupy is a series of two dimensional interventions that address the politics of space. They draw absurd and hypothetical scenarios, altering the functionality of surrounding elements in public spaces in order to shift the viewers’ attention towards their relationship with their environment, and to invite them to interact with it. Playfully placed phrases question what kind of reality we aim to build, live, create or recreate.

Through imaginative suggestions, the notion of space production is re-examined, aiming to critique the segregation a person experiences according to their social and political position, gender identity, race, etc.

This is an ongoing collaborative project that will continue to spread in time and geography as these stickers are distributed to collaborators in different countries. The photos shown here represent imagined locations for the work. #Occupy

Parham Ghalamdar

Parham Ghalamdar has been exploring digital animation and AI-generated media as a strategy to expand his painting practice to the digital world due to the inaccessibility of his artist studio since the National Lockdown in 2020. During the Look Up 2021 residency programme, he trained an AI engine to study the flags of 253 different countries to find patterns and create new flags. The conclusion of this exploration is a series of moving and still images resembling Mark Rothko's paintings, only in a state of flux.

The AI engine looking for similarities in flags is inherently paradoxical because flags are created to declare differences and boundaries; this explains the confused glitchy aesthetic of the imagery.

The Science-Fiction approach of Parham's works invites the viewer to a collective/social way of practicing imagination, and an encouragement to think out of binaries. These dynamic borderless flags belonging to no nation are reminders that no position is viable for eternity, and things change.

Bahzad Sulaiman: Look up to this move

Look up to this move is a video and poster series, marking a step to reinterpret and contemplate traditional forms of greeting as a performative phenomenon. Greetings affect us on a physical, psychological, and social level; and symbolically change from one culture to another. The concept of the work invites the viewer to consider the psychological care required now concerning the mental health crisis facing our communities. There is an urgent need to address en masse the feelings we have experienced, and to acknowledge the psychological pain, social discomfort, and emotional precariousness that we have lived though, in times of pandemic.

The artworks in this series allow the audience to experience the present moment, and to pause to rethink the things we have lost. If we take a general look, we will find that the emerging pandemic not only stole people’s lives, but also physical behaviors, such as everyday greetings which usually help us to show compassion for others and alleviate their suffering. For Bahzad, the importance of the quick greeting lies in the fact that it shows us the beautiful diversity and difference between us as human beings and cultures. 

We need touch, hugs and physical contact to show sympathy, love, and friendliness between people.

Ally Zlatar

Ally Zlatar also deals with issues surrounding mental health through her series, by delving into themes of the embodied experience of living with and through mental illness. Mental health can be interpreted in so many diverse ways but, during this project, she started off by exploring her personal struggles through the last year and engaging with how she felt at specific times. She made notes and outlined key quotes which formed the basis of the works.

From there she felt compelled to bring what is an inherently isolating experience into the public realm, and through these works start conversations that need to be had now, more than ever. By creating pieces that engage with her personal experiences, and sharing them large-scale throughout the festival, she edifies how much we suffer alone.

Commissioned by ArtReach for Liberty EU at Journeys Festival International, co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union. 

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