Orlow's practice is research-based, process-oriented and multi-disciplinary, including film, photography, drawing and sound. He is known for single-screen film & film video works, lecture performances and modular, multimedia installations that focus on specific locations and micro-histories, and bring different image regimes and narrative modes into correspondence. His work is concerned with spatial manifestations of memory, blind spots of representation and forms of haunting.
The Short and the Long of It (2010–2017), on view in the exhibition, is a modular installation that comprises video, photography, text and drawing, and takes as a starting point the failed passage of fourteen international cargo ships through the Suez Canal on 5 June 1967. Caught in the outbreak of the Six-Day War between Israel and Egypt, Jordan and Syria, the vessels were only able to leave the canal in 1975, when it re-opened. While stranded for eight years, the Cold War political allegiances of the multinational crews were dissolved and gave way to a form of communal survival and the development of a social system. This involved the organisation of their own Olympic games in 1968, amongst other activities. Exploring the materialities of archival research and bringing different narrative and pictorial modes into correspondence, the multifaceted body of work in different media focuses on this episode hidden in the shadow of social histories and politics of the region. The work opens up a space of imagining new forms of communality and co-existence in both difficult circumstances and within a context of different cultures and identity politics.
Though the project was initiated in 2010, when Orlow spent a few months in Egypt, the artist has further developed the project for the exhibition on Samos, focusing on the Suez Canal as a theatre of marine migration. Since the canal opened, in 1868, the waterway, which connects the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, has also been used by migrating marine species attracted by the warmer temperatures and higher salinity in the Mediterranean. This zoological phenomenon is named 'Lessepsian Migration', after Ferdinand de Lesseps, the entrepreneur who realised the old dream of joining the two seas. Biological textbooks describe 'foreign' species in the Eastern Mediterranean that have taken over the habitat of indigenous marine life; consequently, migrating fish and crustaceans serve as an allegory for the Mediterranean today. The new work imagines a biopolitical alternative: Instead of conflict and competition, it conjures the potential of cross-breeding and the emergence of new, hybrid species out of this encounter.
Orlow is Visiting Professor at the Royal College of Art, London and Reader at the University of Westminster, London; he also teaches at the University of the Arts, Zurich. His solo exhibitions include: The Showroom, London (2016); Castello di Rivoli, Turin (2015); John Hansard Gallery, Southampton (2015); CCS Paris (2013); Al-Ma'mal Foundation, Jerusalem (2013); Depo, Istanbul (2015); Spike Island, Bristol (2013); Les Complices, Zurich (2013); Centre PasquArt, Bienne (2012); Prefix ICA, Toronto (2012). Orlow's work has also been included in several major exhibitions and biennials including: the 13th Sharjah Biennial (2017); EVA International, Limerick (2016); Edinburgh Art Festival (2014); Recent British Artists Film and Video, Tate Britain, London (2015); Bergen Assembly (2013); Aichi Triennale (2013); Manifesta 9 (2012); 8th Mercosul Biennial, Brazil; Swiss Pavilion, 54th Venice Biennale; 3rd Guangzhou Triennale (2011).