Crossing Borders / Curriculum Link / VCE Art and Studio Art, International Baccalaureate Art / Bani Abidi

VCE Art and Studio Art, International Baccalaureate Art

These questions and activities have been designed to address the Victoria Certificate of Education (VCE) Art and Studio Art Study Designs and relate to the International Baccalaureate (IB) Art curriculum.

They are suggested starting points for teachers and students to explore the work of five contemporary artists: Bani Abidi, Lorraine Connelly-Northey, eX de Medici, Yee I-Lann and Yinka Shonibare.

It is essential to listen to the filmed interviews with the artists, which show examples of their work, before engaging with the material on this page.

List of Artists

Bani Abidi | Lorraine Connelly-Northey | eX de Medici | Yinka Shonibare | Yee I-Lann

Bani Abidi

from Reconstruction 2003
colour DVD, sound, 1:24
Collection of the artist
© Bani Abidi

Background Information

  • This image shows part of the video entitled Reconstruction which the artist made soon after she returned from the United States to live in Lahore, Pakistan.
  • The figure is tapping his fingers to the tune of the official American military anthem.
  • The ancient Iraqi carpet is being blacked out by a computer graphics tool while a fresh grid of lines is being placed on top of it.


  • Imagine you are describing this image to someone who has never seen it before. Write a brief description of the work which will allow the person to visualise it. Include the following information:
    The type of artform, subject matter, art elements, style, media and the mood and feelings that the work evokes.
  • Why might the artist have entitled this work Reconstruction, 2003?
  • Discuss how you believe this work reflects the time it was made in?
  • This work is considered to be a work of art rather than a documentary. What are the differences between video art and documentaries? Compare Reconstruction, 2003 with a documentary you have seen giving examples of their similarities and differences.
  • What are the implications for the artist of making video works which are not easily marketable in Pakistan where she lives? What does the fact that the artist continues to make videos in this environment suggest about her approach to her work?


  • What issues or themes do you believe the artist is exploring? Give reasons based on what you see in this work.
  • How have the artform, use of materials and the formal art elements contributed to communicating the artist's issues or themes?
  • How do these issues or themes reflect contemporary society?


  • Visit the artist's website
  • Choose one of the artist's other video projects documented on the site. Compare this project with Reconstruction, 2003. How are they similar or different? Consider the themes, aesthetic qualities, style, mood and meanings. Suggest reasons for the similarities and differences.
  • Research the work of Hiraki Sawa, a Japanese artist working in London. The following website may be helpful:
  • Research the work of Australian contemporary artist Tracey Moffatt.
  • Compare and contrast a video work by one of these artists with Reconstruction, 2003. How are they similar or different? Consider the themes, aesthetic qualities, style, mood and meanings. Suggest reasons for the similarities and differences.


Interpretive frameworks

  • Discuss what factors may influence the way different people interpret Reconstruction, 2003 eg age, political allegiance, cultural background etc.


  • Why do you believe that so many contemporary artists are choosing video as a medium for expressing their ideas? List the advantages and disadvantages of working with video.

Meanings and messages

Bani Abidi
born Pakistan 1971
Still from Shan Pipe Band learns the Star-spangled Banner 2004
colour DVD, sound, 7:31
Collection of the artist
© Courtesy of the artist

  • Identify two opposite concepts which can be found in this work eg tradition/modernity, unified/segmented. How do you believe they add to the meaning?
  • The key images in this work are: an ancient Iraqi carpet, a computer graphics paint bucket tool blacking out the carpet, a grid of lines and a close-up view of a man's stomach while he raps his fingers to the music. What do you believe each of these symbolize in Abidi's work ?.
  • Do you believe the American military anthem playing in the background of this work contributes to its meaning? Explain.
  • Write a review from an art critic's perspective explaining your interpretation of the work. Discuss whether or not in your opinion the artist's ideas have been communicated clearly. Include a comparison of Reconstruction,2003 with the work of at least one other contemporary artist whose work reflects on contemporary issues.

Materials, techniques and processes

  • Why do you believe the artist explores her ideas through the medium of video? Give examples of how video might offer her opportunities for expression denied in her original mediums of sculpture and painting.
  • Discuss how you could explore the same ideas in an installation, a sculpture and a painting. Consider the materials, techniques and processes.


  • The artist says that her work has been influenced by her love of film. Give an example of where this is evident in Reconstruction, 2003. Discuss at least two other influences on the artist which are evident in this work eg culture, new technologies.

Art Issues

  • Discuss the long term implications if an increasing number of contemporary artists decide to express their ideas through the medium of video. Consider design of art galleries, storage, conservation etc.