We Will Not Fail revolves around the October 1, 2001 issue of TIME Magazine, the first instance of Osama Bin Laden on the magazine’s cover and the first issue dedicated entirely to the “war on terror.” In this body of work, Yamin meticulously hand cuts Islamic geometric patterns into photographs of Middle Eastern subjects. In this context, portraits of presumed Arab insurgents, American soldiers serving abroad, local civilians, and architectural structures are simultaneously defaced and embellished by Islamic traditional motifs. Yamin’s hand-cut latticework repeats geometries that, in Islamic culture, represent the underlying and infinite structure of the universe. The patterns evoke both the decorative and the divine.
Exquisite in design and subversive in content, the works in We Will Not Fail hold aesthetic beauty and terror in precarious tension. In this exhibition, the October 1, 2001 issue of TIME Magazine is installed in multiple formats. It is displayed in its entirety like an illuminated manuscript uncannily floating in a transparent vitrine. Four additional excised articles are framed and hung individually on the surrounding gallery walls.
Who is the implied “We” in the exhibition We Will Not Fail? Is the “We” intended to vocalize a Western position or might the “We” champion cultural perspectives from the Arab lands? Yamin’s aesthetic interventions physically and metaphorically question the legibility of media images; they turn seemingly nationalistic binaries into a multi-layered conversation. Carved into the pages of TIME, Yamin’s work transfigures and reinterprets journalistic representations of war. Quite literally, her interventions puncture existing narratives, question the production of news, and initiate a nuanced relationship between the sacred and the profane, beauty and terror, and the United States and the Middle East.
We Will Not Fail is organized by Jeffrey Uslip, Curator-at-Large for the Santa Monica Museum of Art.