Hajra Waheed’s work seeks to address personal, national and cultural identity formation in relation to political history, popular imagination and the impact of colonial power globally. An interest in the codes and operations of security, surveillance, profiling and wartime dehumanization runs through much of her work. Waheed develops narratives around a number of single fictional characters in ongoing bodies of work that constitute a growing personal archive. The mixed-media installation KH-21 grew out of her earlier Architectural Studies, a series of drawings in which cutout details of spy planes accompany floor plans of historical mosques. Bringing together works on paper and a sound sculpture, KH-21 makes reference to the recently declassified HEXAGON Program of the United States’ National Reconnaissance Office, which launched twenty highly classified intelligence-gathering satellites between 1971 and 1986.
Moving through the installation, viewers may piece together a story about an estranged ex-flight engineer who has dragged something in, an object dropped from the sky. In Waheed’s spatial narrative, fact and fiction are hardly distinguishable, calling the imagination into play. And thus, while grounded in historical fact, the installation calls for an examination of ways in which the past and the future collide.