I don’t want to be there when it happens


Raj Kumar, Sonia Leber & David Chesworth and Adeela Suleman.

I don’t want to be there when it happens brings together artists who explore the psychology of contemporary trauma. Recent works by Raj Kumar, Sonia Leber & David Chesworth and Adeela Suleman all confront the larger socio-political realities of Pakistan in the era of contemporary warfare. Through video and installation, the artists address the experience of the individual in the midst of a continuous state of war. By scanning the landscape with nonsensical logic, futilely seeking to document destruction, and questioning the appropriation of religion, the artworks in the exhibition avoid resolution and closure. Instead, they highlight the individual’s inability to comprehend the expansive uncertainty of combat, and the impossibilities of representing the trauma of conflict.

I don’t want to be there when it happens presents truth as a precarious oscillation between fiction and reality. The artists resist literal or documentary approaches to their subjects, relying instead on speculative, symbolic, ambiguous and unstable modes of representation. In doing so, they emphasise how the individual’s attempts to understand and comprehend the reality of contemporary conflict are equally characterised by uncertainty and irresolvability. I don’t want to be there when it happens also seeks to acknowledge and present a multiplicity of perspectives on the ongoing conflicts in Pakistan and its region—perspectives which are all too easily overlooked or obscured by Western media and political interests.


Adeela Suleman’s work to be shown in I don’t want to be there when it happens has been co-commissioned by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art and The Keir Foundation.

Presented in collaboration with:




About the artists:

Adeela Suleman (b.1970, Karachi, Pakistan, lives and works in Karachi) draws attention to troubled sectarian and gang-led violence in Pakistan. Drawing from the traditions of Islamic art, Suleman moulds hardened steel and co-opts found objects to memorialise the countless killings within her country. With generous support from The Keir Foundation, 4A has co-comissioned Adeela Suleman to create new artworks for I don’t want to be here when it happens.

Suleman studied Sculpture at the Indus Valley School of Art and completed a Master’s degree in International Relations from the University of Karachi. She is the Coordinator of Vasl Artists’ Collective in Karachi, in addition to being Associate Professor and Head of the Fine Art Department at Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture. Suleman has participated extensively with group and solo exhibitions worldwide, including Phantoms of Asia at the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco; the 2013 Asian Art Biennial at the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Art; Hanging Fire – Contemporary Art from Pakistan at The Asia Society, New York; Gallery Rohtas 2, Lahore; Canvas Gallery, Karachi; Aicon Gallery, New York; and, the International Exhibition of Contemporary Art, Bologna, Italy.

Raj Kumar (b. 1984, Tando Mohammad Khan, Pakistan, lives and works in Tando Mohammad Khan) examines the religious practices, rituals and beliefs of Islam and its place in the contemporary world. Kumar draws from his own Islamic faith and experiences of living in Pakistan, a nation with where 97% of the population are Muslim. This is Kumar’s first international exhibition and is supported by the 4A Set (Sydney) members.

Raj Kumar graduated from the National College of Arts in Textile Design in 2007 and holds a Masters of Visual Arts (Honours) from the National College of Arts, Lahore, Pakistan. The 2015 National College of Arts Degree Show in Lahore was Kumar’s first exhibition as an artist.

Sonia Leber & David Chesworth (Sonia Leber b.1959, Melbourne, Australia, David Chesworth b. 1958, Stoke, England, live and work in Melbourne, Australia) have collaborated since 1996, creating multi-channel sound and media installations for a range of arts and public spaces. The have exhibited widely, including solo exhibitions include Zaum Tractor, Fehily Contemporary, Melbourne, 2014; The Way You Move Me, Fehily Contemporary, Melbourne, 2012; Space-Shifter, Detached/MONA FOMA, Hobart, 2012, and at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, 2011. Leber & Chesworth premiere their new work, Earthwork, at 4A as part of this exhibition.

Their work has also been included in numerous group exhibitions including Borders, Barriers, Walls, Monash University Museum of Art, 2016; Substation Contemporary Art Prize, Melbourne (winner), 2016; The Documentary Take, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne, 2016; 56th Venice Biennale: All the World’s Futures, 2015, 19th Biennale of Sydney: You Imagine What You Desire, 2014; Melbourne Now, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2013-14; Cooperation Territory, 16thLine Art Gallery and Makaronka Art Center; Spaced: Art Out of Place, Fremantle Art Centre, 2012; Animal/ Human, UQ Art Museum, Brisbane, 2012; Stealing the Senses, Govett-Brewster Gallery, New Plymouth, New Zealand, 2011.