Installation view, The Socio-Parasitology Manifesto (image courtesy Sabrina Mumtaz Hasan)

You need to interrupt in order to have agency

You need to interrupt to become positive

You need to interrupt so you are parasitic

­                        The Socio-Parasitology Manifesto, Sabrina Mumtaz Hasan

LONDON — In a reactionary exhibition, ten artists respond to a treatise – the Socio-Parasitology Manifesto — that compares migrants to parasites. Written in reaction to how immigrants are seen pejoratively in the British media, curator Sabrina Mumtaz Hasan’s manifesto redefines terms like “parasite” in a favorable light.

Essentially, Mumtaz Hasan’s theory focuses on a positive “parasite-host” relationship. In biological species relationships, parasites have a host; in this case the “parasite” is the immigrant, and the “host” is its new home. The manifesto looks at how the point of interruption — where the parasite and the host engage or “interrupt” each other — is actually beneficial for the new hosting environment. Mumtaz Hasan’s manifesto has been realized artistically at the centre of the exhibition, in the form of a metal spring hanging from the ceiling. A speaker suspended in the centre of the coil projects the manifesto throughout the gallery, with the exhibiting artist’s reacting to this declaration.

Madeleine Barratt’s “Host-Guest” (2018) is a film that dissects the relationship between the human body and other living organisms. In a graphic display, leeches are shown to be sucking against bare skin. The clip is influenced by historical rituals of bloodletting, exposing a guest/host relationship through the transfer of vital bodily fluids. In this case, the leeches and their host – the human body – are beneficial to each other. From blood to water, fluid is also seen in “Extended Self” (2019) by Katie Taylor, Catalina Renjifo, and Aura Raulo. The installation work consists of white roses suspended from the ceiling in individual test tube bottles. While the buds are above the surface, their roots have been submerged in colored liquids. As a result, each bloom has changed color so that the flowers turn every shade of the rainbow. Thus, as a result,  the transformation of the rose petals might be described as being more beautiful.

A number of works in the exhibition use fabric to comment on migration. Sandra Janete Magalhaes Poulson T. and Moetaz Osman Fathalla’s “The Living Room” (2019) hangs from the ceiling like a curtain. The textile work – which is predominantly covered in a black and white camouflage print – centers around a photograph of a man and a woman having a conversation. Both figures are seated, and are surrounded by text bubbles in green and yellow. The female is labeled as “Luanda – Angola” and the male “Nubia – Egypt.” The green bubbles contain comments on what the fragments of the image display: “window/the estate/satellite dish,” but also include some descriptions that open up conversations about class and status: “the balcony as a core extension of the living space/waiting for better conditions plastic chair.”  The questions printed onto the fabric ask: “to what extent do we control our exposure?” and “in which ways does such layered conversation shape future practices?” “The Living Room” makes the audience consider the status of the objects that take up space in our lives, repositioning them as parasites that are hosted inside our homes. In another textile work however, fabric is used to comment on how the garments that are hosted by our bodies can be restricting. Samiya Younis’s “Flight Revisited” (2019) is an installation made up of second hand South Asian women’s and children’s clothing that is stretched and threaded together with Indian silks, cotton, and laundry bags. The work relates to the oppressive nature of traditional Pakistani clothing, which is wrapped tightly, constraining movement and individual expression. It is almost as though Younis is trying to warn against influences that are trying to intercept potential relationships that may lead a migrant to shed the garments of their homeland. This seems apparent in the way that the fabrics have been tightly stretched, with fragments fraying at the ends.

Installation view, The Socio-Parasitology Manifesto (image courtesy Sabrina Mumtaz Hasan)

The Socio-Parasitology Manifesto looks at all points of contact as interruptions that are exercised by the parasite. According to Mumtaz Hasan, all humans are parasitic. The focus is on interruption and not disruption, looking at the socio-parasitic relationship in a progressive way. That said, the exhibition includes work that criticizes the impact of the parasite. Farrukh Akbar’s “Olympus Arisen” (2018) is a comment on the problematic relationship between humans and technology. The holographic sculpture of a cyborg comprises a video projection of a modern athlete onto a traditional handmade sculpture. The robot explains: “I cannot see, I cannot hear, I cannot smell, I cannot touch, yet I exist.” Dissecting the effects of artificial intelligence on humankind, the work compares human self-awareness with non-sentient artificial machine intelligence. What happens if we are oblivious to “socio-parasitic” points of interruption? Akbar’s “Olympus” asks us these questions, while also subtly comparing the increased use of technology  with the effects of immigration.

Mumtaz Hasan’s manifesto shifts the emphasis of migration away from the negative images projected by the media, and on to how engaging with immigration can be beneficial to an environment. Focusing on the effects of human migration, and not the reasons why people move from one place to another through the parasite-host relationship, the  “manifesto” succeeds in reframing immigrants and minority groups in a positive, fundamentally natural, biological light.

The Socio-Parasitology Manifesto curated by Sabrina Mumtaz Hasan and  Rayvenn Shaleigha D’Clak is on view until January 19 at the Nunnery Gallery, London (181 Bow Road, London E3 2SJ).

Lizzy Vartanian Collier is a London-based writer and curator. She runs the Gallery Girl website ( and has written for Canvas, the Guardian, Harper's Bazaar Arabia, Ibraaz, Jdeed, ReOrient,...