Baseera Khan
Baseera Khan. Image courtesy of the artist.

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2022 FotoFocus Biennial Artist Baseera Khan Wins MTV Reality Competition

Posted on April 18, 2023

2022 FotoFocus Biennial Artist Baseera Khan recently won MTV’s reality competition The Exhibit: Finding the Next Great Artist. Khan competed against six other artists for the chance to win a cash prize and a solo exhibition at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. FotoFocus reached out to Khan to learn more about their experience on the show.

Anyone living in the 21st-century is likely familiar with the cultural phenomenon that is reality television competition. From MTV originals like The Real World and the plethora of singing competitions available (i.e. American Idol, The Voice, X Factor), the reality television programming is endless; however, the structure of these shows generally remains the same. MTV and the Smithsonian Channel partnered on a new reality competition, The Exhibit: Finding the Next Great Artist, that featured seven contemporary artists with varying practices, including 2022 FotoFocus Biennial Artist Baseera Khan. Each week, the artists had several hours to make one “commission” in response to a provided theme—gender, social media, etc.—and their work was critiqued by a rotating panel of judges. The winner of the competition received a $100,000 cash prize and a solo exhibition at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. 

Khan shared with FotoFocus that the decision to participate in The Exhibit stemmed from their desire to support their “own performance work through having access to actual TV producers.” Not only that, Khan mentioned “meeting the entire crew” as a favorite memory from the experience. Khan has an experimental television show called By Faith that they worked on during a residency at Queenslab. By Faith encompasses “scenes based on intimate, real-life conversations and situations” to which Khan staged, directed, and performed in collaboration with friends on a film set replicating their own apartment. 

FotoFocus chatted with Khan to learn more about their experience on The Exhibit

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Baseera Khan, a contestant on MTV and Smithsonian’s The Exhibit: Finding the Next Great Artist (Source: Paramount)

FotoFocus: What was the most challenging aspect of the show?

Baseera Khan: To share myself in a vulnerable way with my family. I love them, they love me, but we have limitations of knowing each other in visual ways. 

FF: What was the weekly critique process like and how did you take that feedback into consideration for future commissions?

BK: I have three placements in Virgo so I take critique well. I can handle it. I learn and adapt faster than you have time to critique—so I guess I digest information really fast. 

FF: Can you talk about one of your commissions that you believe most accurately showcases your skills and technique?

BK: I think the critiques that walked away from hot button topics were places I did better because, for me, hot button topics are my everyday life. The tertiary topics gave me time to be more nuanced. 

FF: ArtNews referred to you as the “larger-than-life performance artist” on the show—what do you think about this description?

BK: I think people feel uncomfortable in their own skin. And that comment was more about their preconceived notions then about me at all.  

FF: Is there anything you want viewers of the show to take away about you as an artist after watching?

BK: I am more than meets the eye. 

Baseera Khan Weight on History at CAC by Wes Battoclette 043
Installation view, Baseera Khan: Weight on History. Photo: Wes Battoclette, 2022. Image courtesy of the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH.

FotoFocus welcomed Khan to Cincinnati in October 2022 for the 6th FotoFocus Biennial, where they participated in a conversation with Guest Curator Amara Antilla for Day 1 of the Symposium. Khan’s 2022 FotoFocus Biennial Curated Exhibition Weight on History is currently on view at the Contemporary Arts Center through September 24, 2023. 

The Hirshhorn exhibition opens to the public on May 3, 2023. Khan shared that this exhibit “will be about desire and surveillance walking a thin line. Warrior and victim walking a thin line. Come see the work.”