An exhibition at The Renaissance Society, Chicago, shows the artist's investigation into the ways labour and debt operate in Miami's Liberty City.
It is difficult to determine exactly where the artistic process of Shadi Habib Allah ends and the lives of his subjects begin. The Miami and New York-based, Palestinian-born artist often implicates himself in his works, which result from intensive, embedded research in the cultural contexts and socioeconomic power structures they investigate. In Put to Rights, films, sculptures and an installation document makeshift systems of exchange for goods and services, highlighting the ways labour and debt operate on a local level, particularly in underprivileged communities.
In the dimly lit, vaulted gallery of the Renaissance Society, Habib Allah showcases a selection of works from the last eight years alongside two new works made in 2018. These latest works further his engagement with the subcultures and alternative economies of Liberty City, Miami, an area marked by historical racial disenfranchisement. 70 Days Behind Inventory (2018), the show’s central installation, employs material sourced directly from one of the Liberty City convenience stores that operate as sites for cash exchange in the absence of local banks. Vinyl floor tiles from this bodega have been installed on the floor in the middle of the gallery. Scuffed and stained from use, the tiles are notched where shelving units once stood, an eerie evocation of absent bodies.