Sahara Azzeg Disabled Artist Queer artist Political performance Disability representation Activist art Inclusive exhibitions Intersectional symbolism Accessible venues Artistic expression Contemporary painting Queer activism Disabled lives Artistic inclusivity Social justice art Activist spaces Inclusive art world
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January 22, 2024
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Sahara Azzeg on Bridging Activism, Disabilities and Art in Queer Spaces

Explore the onirique world of Sahara Azzeg, a Queer artist making waves in both activist and art circles. From politically charged performances at queer festivals to layered classical paintings, Azzeg's work seamlessly intertwines activism and artistic expression, shaking the established artistic scene without annihilating it.

Currently in the midst of a second master's program at HEAD (Geneva), the artist Sahara Azzeg has gained attention in recent years for his interventions at queer art festivals with politically charged performances, reading his political manifesto  (“Pas d'écologie validiste” Dissidentes festival, “c'est nous les PD” du collective Lucioles’ drag show in Angers, France). They've also notably participated in exhibitions like Embrace (Fesses-tival, Geneva) and Sweet Crip (Bienne).

Having been accustomed to activist spaces since childhood — with for instance memories of participating in protests with his father from the age of 6 — Azzeg's trajectory wasn't initially predetermined. While art, particularly painting, has always played a major role in his life, involving visits to museums either solo or with initially reluctant friends, it was after getting his high school diploma with a specialty in economics and social science that Azzeg delved into Fine Arts in Besançon, then Angers, refining his artistic practice.

Azzeg works as much in performance as in painting. While their shows are assertive by declaiming their political manifesto (with each performance having its own manifesto), they are also designed to be as accessible as possible for disabled people, with the use of a self-made subtitle scrolling machine, no flashing lights, or accessible venues. He also incorporates objects in his clothing (costumes made especially for each occasions) that reference his life as a disabled artist.

Simultaneously, Sahara Azzeg paints, adhering to classical painting codes. But don't mistake their work for smooth and conventional; quite the contrary. For instance, he glorifies his wheelchair in a 180x180cm canvas, explaining that the paintings have multiple layers of interpretation. "You start by seeing a wheelchair, then leaning in, you notice a 1312, which stands for ACAB (All Cops Are Bastards), opening up to various readings like class differences and how they betray each other. You can also see spikes on the wheelchair handles, a means for disabled individuals to protect themselves from those who might attempt to move them by seizing the wheelchair. Looking at the wheels, you can also find the colors of the intersex flag." His use of easter eggs in his work makes for a wonderful blink towards art history, as by integrating modern day symbolism in his work, Azzeg ensures that the disabled and queer community do not disappear from it. All these references contribute to making Sahara a comprehensive artist, where activism and practice are inseparable.

Thus, painting becomes Sahara's way of celebrating aspects of his daily life and the lives of queer and disabled individuals. Not everyone has the privilege of navigating a world adapted to their needs. Sahara Azzeg challenges the art world to open up in every sense of the term: exhibition spaces must offer more accessibility solutions and transparency regarding their accommodation capabilities. Moreover, they should represent more artists whose reality parallels that of able-bodied individuals, realities that intersect far too infrequently.

image courtesy of Alizée Quinche, cover image by Simon Cholat

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