Exhibition of Mahmoud Sabri in London

http://fhs1973.com/2013/06/14/exhibition-of-mahmoud-sabri-in-london/

محمود صبري

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Mahmoud Sabri (1927-2012)

This summer (25th June – 6th July) a very unique and special exhibition will be held in London: ‘Mahmoud Sabri; a retrospective’. Mahmoud Sabri (1927-2012) was one of the leading artists from Iraq, for many one of ‘the big three’ who were crucial for the Iraqi modern art movement, as mentioned by the Iraqi artist Ali Assaf (Rome), in the introduction of ‘Acqua Ferita’ (‘Wounded Water’), the catalogue of the Iraqi Pavilion at the Venice Biennial of 2011 (see also here on this blog). Unless the other two, Jewad Selim and Shakir Hassan al-Said (also discussed a few times on this blog, like here) the role of Mahmoud Sabri seems almost being erased from history. In most literature he isn’t even mentioned, or at least as a footnote, without showing one of his works. Also for me it was not easy to find a proper reproduction of one of his works, till around 2010, when his daughter Yasmin Sabri (working as a computer scientist based in London) launched a website with many of his works and writings.

The main reason that Sabri seems to be forgotten is that he was a dissident of the regime of the Ba’thparty from the very first moment. When the Ba’thists for the first time came to power, in 1963 , Sabri wrote a manifesto in which he stipulated the fascist nature of the new regime. Immediately after he went into exile. For decades he lived in Prague, during the years of the Cold War, so out of sight of Western critics and exhibition-makers, who started gradually to pay some interest in the modern art of the Middle East. Also later he became for many too much an outsider or exile, to be discussed in the history of the modern art movement of Iraq or the Middle East in general. Although he lived the last decade of his live in London, where many initiatives took place in the field of contemporary art of the Middle East, both in literature as in several exhibitions, his importance for the Iraqi modern art and contemporary art wasn’t really recognised.

He was never forgotten by many Iraqi artists. Very often I heard, when I was interviewing the Iraqi artists in exile here in the Netherlands, that Sabri was one of the greatest pioneers and an important key-figure, in pushing the Iraqi modern art forward. Many of them consider Sabri as a symbolic teacher and a source of inspiration. For example, when in 2000 thirty Iraqi artists, based in the Netherlands, came together to held a group exhibition in The Hague, they dedicated this initiative to Mahmoud Sabri.

For me it is a great pleasure to announce this wonderful initiative by Yasmin Sabri and Lamice el-Amari, professor theatre studies based in Berlin, also on my site. Later this month I will visit this exhibition myself and will write an extensive article on Mahmoud Sabri, in which I also will discuss this exhibition.

From http://www.lagalleria.org/section697199.html:

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Mahmoud Sabri, 97 percent Human

Mahmoud Sabri

Mahmoud Sabri – A Retrospective

An exhibition of the pioneering Iraqi artist Mahmoud Sabri
25th June – 6th July

The exhibition features the work of the pioneering Iraqi artist Mahmoud Sabri (1927 – 2012) and takes us through his lifetime journey, from his early work that reflected the suffering of the Iraqi people to his pursuit of a new form of art that represented the atomic level of reality revealed by modern science which he termed “Quantum Realism”.
At the age of forty, Sabri started working on the relationship between art and science, and its link to social development. In 1971 he published his Manifesto of the New Art of Quantum Realism (QR). QR is the application of the scientific method in the field of art and graphically represents the complex processes in nature. In his words, “Art is now the last area of human activity to which the scientific method is still not applied”.
His Quantum Realism collection is displayed for the first time in the UK. The exhibition presents a unique opportunity to see a comprehensive collection of Sabri’s work spanning over 4 decades.
Mahmoud Sabri was born in Baghdad in 1927, he studied social sciences at Loughborough University in the late forties. While in England, his interest in painting developed and he attended evening art classes. Following university, he worked in banking and at the early age of 32 he became the deputy head of the largest national bank in Iraq, the Al-Rafidain Bank. He resigned from the bank to take the responsibility for establishing the first Exhibitions Department in Iraq and to set up the first international exhibition in Baghdad in 1960. Following that, he decided to focus on painting, resigned from his job and went to study art academically at the Surikov Institute for Art in Moscow 1961-1963. After the Baathist coup d’état in Iraq (1963), he moved to Prague to join the Committee for the Defence of the Iraqi People. His paintings during that period reflected the suffering of the Iraqi people under that regime. From the late 60s he started working on Quantum Realism and continued to develop it until his death in April 2012 in the UK.
Mahmoud Sabri was a member of the Iraqi Avant-garde artists group. He was a founder member of the Society of Iraqi Artists. He had several publications on art, philosophy and politics (in Arabic and English). He lived most of his life in exile. (More info on QR on www.quantumrealism.co.uk )

Events
29th June, 14:00 – 15:30: Artist Satta Hashem will give a lecture and a guided tour of Sabri’s work
3rd July, 18.00 – 20.00: Symposium – Mahmoud Sabri and art in Iraq. Includes a panel discussion and documentary films

The exhibition is open 25th June – 6th July, 2013
Mon -Saturday: 11:00 – 19:00
Sunday 30th Jun: 12:00 – 18:00
Saturday 6th Jul: 11:00 – 17:00

La Galleria Pall Mall
30, Royal Opera Arcade
London SW1Y4UY

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Mahmoud Sabri, extract from ‘Watani’ (My Country), 1960′s

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Mahmoud Sabri, Hydrogyn Atom (1990′s)

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Mahmoud Sabri, Air- 2

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Mahmoud Sabri, Water, Salt and Vinegar

More is coming after I visited the exhibition myself. See for more information: http://www.lagalleria.org/section697199.html

More on Mahmoud Sabri: www.quantumrealism.co.uk

Update (2-7-2013): An impression of the exhibition (more details will follow later)

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Mahumoud Sabri, The Hero, oil on canvas, 1963

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photos by Floris Schreve

 

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My Beautiful Enemy; Farhad Foroutanian & Qassim Alsaedy (exhibition Diversity & Art, Amsterdam)

http://fhs1973.com/2013/04/19/my-beautiful-enemy-farhad-foroutanian-qassim-alsaedy/

Flyer/handout exhibition (pdf)

Qassim en Farhad

Farhad Foroutanian and Qassim Alsaedy (photo: Nasrin Ghasemzade)

My Beautiful Enemy   – دشمن زیبای من – عدوي الجميل

Farhad Foroutanian & Qassim Alsaedy

قاسم الساعدي و فرهاد فروتنیان

Mesopotamia and Persia, Iraq and Iran. Two civilizations, two fertile counties in an arid environment. The historical Garden of Eden and the basis of civilization in the ancient world. But also the area were many wars were fought, from the antiquity to the present.The recent war between Iraq and Iran (1980-1988) left deep traces in the lives and the works of the artists

The artists Qassim Alsaedy (Iraq) and Farhad Foroutanian (Iran) both lived through the last gruesome conflict. Both artists, now living in exile in the Netherlands, took the initiative for this exhibition to reflect on this dark historical event, which marked the recent history of their homelands and their personal lives. Neither Farhad nor Qassim ever chose being eachother’s enemies. To the contrary, these to artists make a statement with ‘My Beautiful Enemy’ to confirm their friendship.

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Farhad Foroutanian, Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 2013

Farhad Foroutanian

Farhad Foroutanian (Teheran 1957) studied one and a half year at the theatre academy, before he went to the art academy of Teheran in 1975. At that time the Iranian capital was famous for its hybrid and international oriented art scene. Artists worked in many styles, from pop-art till the traditional miniature painting, a tradition of more than thousand years, in which Foroutanian was trained.

After his education Foroutanian found a job as a political cartoonist at a newspaper. During that time, in 1978, the revolution came, which overthrew the regime of the Pahlavi Shah Dynasty. For many Iranian intellectuals and also for Foroutanian in the beginning the revolution came as a liberation. The censorship of the Shah was dismissed and the revolution created a lot of energy and creativity. A lot of new newspapers were founded. But this outburst of new found freedom didn’t last for long; in the middle of 1979 it became clear that the returned Ayatollah Khomeiny became the new ruler and founded the new Islamic Republic. Censorship returned on a large and villain scale and, in case of the cartoonists, it became clear that they could work as long as they declared their loyalty to the message and the new ideology of the Islamic Republic.

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Farhad Foroutanian, Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 2013

The artistic climate became more and more restrictive. In the mid eighties Foroutanian fled his homeland. In 1986 he arrived with his family in the Netherlands. Since that time Foroutanian manifested himself in several ways, as an independent artist, as a cartoonist and as actor/ theatre maker (most of the time together with his wife, the actress Nasrin Ghasemzade Khoramabadi).

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Farhad Foroutanian, Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 2013

In his mostly small scaled paintings and drawings Foroutanian shows often a lonely figure of a man, often just a silhouette or a shadow, who tries to deal with an alienating or even surrealistic environment. This melancholical figure, sometimes represented as a motionless observer, sometimes involved in actions which are obviously useless or failing, represents the loneliness of the existence of an exile. Foroutanian:

“If you live in exile you can feel at home anywhere. The situation and location in which an artist is operating, determines his way of looking at theworld. If he feels himself at home nowhere, becomes what the artist produces is very bizarre.

The artist in exile is always looking for the lost identity. How can you find yourself in this strange situation? That is what the artist in exile constantly has to deal with. You can think very rationally and assume that the whole world is your home, but your roots- where you grew up and where you originally belong-are so important.It defines who you are and how you will develop. If the circumstances dictates that you can’t visit the place where your origins are, that has serious consequences. You miss it. You are uncertain if you have ever the chance to see this place again. The only option you have is to create your own world, to fantasize about it. But you can’t lose yourself in this process. You need to keep a connection with the reality, with the here and now. Unfortunately this is very difficult and for some even something impossible. You live in another dimension. You see things different than others ”.

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Farhad Foroutanian, Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 2013

In his works the lonely figures are often represented with a suitcase. Foroutanian:

“A case with everything you own in it. Miscellaneous pieces of yourself are packed. And the case is never opened. You carry it from one to another place. And sometimes you open the trunk a little and do something new. But you never open the suitcase completely and you never unpack everything. That’sexile”.

Foroutanian emphasizes that his political drawings were for him personally his anker that prevented him to drift off from reality. The concept of exile is the most important theme in Foroutanian’s work, in his paintings, drawings, but also in his theatre work, like Babel (2007) or No-one’s Land (Niemandsland, 2010). In all his expressions the lonely figure is not far away, just accompanied with his closed suitcase and often long shadow.

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Farhad Foroutanian, Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 2013

Foroutanian participated in several exhibitions, in the Netherlands and abroad. He also worked as a cartoonist for some Dutch magazines and newspapers, like Vrij Nederland, Het Algemeen Dagblad and Het Rotterdams Dagblad. Like Qassim Alsaedy he exhibited at an earlier occasion in D&A.

The quotes of Foroutanian are English translations of an interview with the artist in Dutch, by Floor Hageman, on the occasion of a performance of Bertold Brecht’s ‘Der gute Mensch von Sezuan’ (‘ The Good Person of Szechwan’), Toneelgroep de Appel, The Hague, see http://www.toneelgroepdeappel.nl/voorstelling/153/page/1952/Interview_met_Iraanse_cartoonist_Farhad_Foroutanian

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Qassim Alsaedy, untitled, oil on canvas, 2009

Qassim Alsaedy

Qassim Alsaedy (Baghdad 1949) studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Baghdad during the seventies. One of his teachers was Shakir Hassan al-Said, one of the leading artists of Iraq and perhaps one of the most influential artists of the Arab and even Muslim world of twentieth century. During his student years in the seventies Alsaedy came in conflict with the regime of the Ba’th party. He was arrested and spent nine months in the notorious al-Qasr an-Nihayyah, the Palace of the End, the precursor of the Abu Ghraib prison.

After that time it was extremely difficult for Alsaedy to settle himself as an artist in Iraq. Alsaedy: “Artists who didn’t join the party and worked for the regime had to find their own way”. For Alsaedy it meant he had to go in exile. He lived alternately in Lebanon and in the eighties in Iraqi Kurdistan, where he lived with the Peshmerga (Kurdish rebels). When the regime in Baghdad launched operation ‘Anfal’ , the infamous genocidal campaign against the Kurds, Alsaedy went to Libya, where he was a lecturer at the art academy of Tripoli for seven years. Finally he came to the Netherlands in the mid nineties.

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Qassim Alsaedy, untitled, mixed media, 2012/2013

The work of Alsaedy is deeply rooted in the tradition of the Iraqi art of the twentieth century, although of course he is also influenced by his new homeland. The most significant aspect of Alsaedy’s work is his use of abstract signs, almost a kind of inscriptions he engraves in the layers of oil paint in his works. Alsaedy:

“In my home country it is sometimes very windy. When the wind blows the air is filled with dust. Sometimes it can be very dusty you can see nothing. Factually this is the dust of Babylon, Ninive, Assur, the first civilisations. This is the dust you breath, you have it on your body, your clothes, it is in your memory, blood, it is everywhere, because the Iraqi civilisations had been made of clay. We are a country of rivers, not of stones. The dust you breath it belongs to something. It belongs to houses, to people or to some texts. I feel it in this way; the ancient civilisations didn’t end. The clay is an important condition of making life. It is used by people and then it becomes dust, which falls in the water, to change again in thick clay. There is a permanent circle of water, clay, dust, etc. It is how life is going on and on. I have these elements in me. I use them not because I am homesick, or to cry for my beloved country. No it is more than this. I feel the place and I feel the meaning of the place. I feel the voices and the spirits in those dust, clay, walls and air. In this atmosphere I can find a lot of elements which I can reuse or recycle. You can find these things in my work; some letters, some shadows, some voices or some traces of people. On every wall you can find traces. The wall is always a sign of human life”.

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Qassim Alsaedy, untitled, mixed media, 2012/2013

The notion of a sign of a wall which symbolizes human life is something Alseady experienced during his time in prison. In his cell he could see the marks carved by other prisoners in the walls as a sign of life and hope.

Later, in Kurdistan, Alsaedy saw the burned landscapes after the bombardments of the Iraqi army. Alsaedy:

“ Huge fields became totally black. The houses, trees, grass, everything was black. But look, when you see the burned grass, late in the season, you could see some little green points, because the life and the beauty is stronger than the evilness. The life was coming through. So you saw black, but there was some green coming up. For example I show you this painting which is extremely black, but it is to deep in my heart. Maybe you can see it hardly but when you look very sensitive you see some little traces of life. You see the life is still there. It shines through the blackness. The life is coming back”.

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Qassim Alsaedy, untitled, mixed media, 2012/2013

Another important element in Alsaedy’s mixed media objects is his use of rusted nails or empty gun cartridges. For Alsaedy the nails and the cartridges symbolize the pain, the human suffering and the ugliness of war. But also these elements will rust away and leave just an empty trace of their presence. Life will going on and the sufferings of the war will be once a part of history.

His ceramic objects creates Alsaedy together with the artist Brigitte Reuter. Reuter creates the basic form, while Alsaedy brings on the marks and the first colors. Together they finish the process by baking and glazing the objects.

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Qassim Alsaedy, untitled, mixed media, 2012/2013

Since Alsaedy came to the Netherlands he participated in many exhibitions, both solo and group. His most important were his exhibition at the Flehite Museum Amersfoort (2006) and Museum Gouda (2012). He regularly exhibits in the Gallery of Frank Welkenhuysen in Utrecht.

Floris Schreve, Amsterdam, 2013

My Beautiful enemy

28 April- 26 May 2013

O P E N I N G op zondag 28 april om 16.00uur – deur open om 15.00 uur
door Emiel Berendsen – Programma Director Tropentheater

logo Diversity & Art

http://www.diversityandart.com/

Diversity & Art | Sint Nicolaasstraat 21 | 1012 NJ Amsterdam | open: do 13.00 – 19.00 | vr t/m za 13.00 – 17.00

عدوي الجميل

قاسم الساعدي وفرهاد فوروتونيان

يسرنا دعوتكم لحضور افتتاح المعرض المشترك للفنانين قاسم الساعدي ( العراق) وفرهاد فوروتونيان ( ايران ) , الساعة الرابعة من بعد ظهر يوم الاحد الثامن والعشرين من نيسان- ابريل 2013

وذلك على فضاء كاليري دي اند أ

الذي يقع على مبعدة مسيرة عشرة دقائق من محطة قطار امستردام المركزية , خلف القصر الملكي

تفتتح الصالة بتمام الساعة الثالثة

An impression of the exhibition:

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Kunst, Satire en de strijd om vrijheid in Syrië

http://fhs1973.wordpress.com/2012/09/24/kunst-satire-en-de-strijd-om-vrijheid-in-syrie/

 

 

الفن والنضال من أجل الحرية في سوريا

Tentoonstelling en manifestatie Culture in Defiance; continuing traditions of satire, art and the struggle for freedom in Syria

Pins Claus Fonds voor Cultuur en Ontwikkeling. Herengracht 603, www.princeclausfund.org, 4 juni-23 november, 2010

Prince Claus Fund Gallery
4 June to 23 November 2012
10 am – 5 pm, Monday through Friday

Free admission

‘Looking at the drawings you will understand the hopes and fears of the Syrian people under the Ba’ath regime’, according to Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat about his work in the exhibition on Syria’s creative dissent at the Prince Claus Fund gallery.

The 2002 Prince Claus Laureate opened ‘Culture in Defiance’ with an emotional speech (look back underneath) about the current situation in his home-country Syria. Which he left in 2011 after he recuperated from being attacked and having his hands broken. His family felt his life was in danger and urged him to flee. Ferzat joined the thousands of other Syrians who could no longer remain in their country due to the violence of the regime.

The exhibition Culture in Defiance: Continuing Traditions of Satire, Art and the Struggle for Freedom in Syria reveals an incredible outburst of creative dissent under this extreme duress. Some like Ferzat, started working during the long years of Hafez Assad; others like Masasit Mati, the group who produces the cyber puppet plays Top Goon: Diaries of a Little Dictator, only last year. The exhibition features a wealth of short films, animations, popular songs, graffiti, art, posters, and wise words from inspirational Syrians.

The exhibition is an initiative of the Prince Claus Fund and curated by Malu Halasa, Aram Tahhan, Leen Zyiad en Donatella Della Ratta.

Culture in defiance

http://www.princeclausfund.org/files/docs/2012%20Culture%20in%20Defiance.pdf

Hij is de beroemdste cartoonist in de Arabische wereld: Ali Ferzat. Vroeger was hij bevriend met de Syrische president Assad, die zelfs hard moest lachen om zijn tekeningen. Totdat het regime zijn tanden liet zien: Ferzat werd vorig jaar in elkaar geslagen, zijn vingers werden gebroken.

Het was een ultieme poging van het regime om Ferzat het zwijgen op te leggen. De tekeningen van de cartoonist zijn immers een belangrijk wapen geworden in de strijd tegen de regering van President Assad.

Maar Ferzat herstelt en tekent nog steeds. Op uitnodiging van het Prins Clausfonds is hij in Amsterdam om, Culture in Defiance, een tentoonstelling over Syrische kunst en satire te openen.

Lecture by professor Sadik Al Azm (Syria)

Sadik Al-Azm, one of the Middle East’s most notable contemporary thinkers, will reflect on the effect of the Arab uprisings on civil society.

Sadik Al-Azm is Professor Emeritus of Modern European Philosophy at the University of Damascus and a fellow at the Käte Hamburger Institute at the University of Bonn. His area of specialisation was the philosophy of Immanuel Kant with a more current emphasis upon the Islamic world and its relationship to the west. He has also contributed to the discourse of Orientalism.

One of his most influential books, Al-Naqd al-dati ba’d al-hazimah (Self-Criticism After the Defeat), challenged the shifting blame that followed the defeat of Syria, Jordan and Egypt after the 1967 war and reasoned that Arabs had to embrace democracy, gender equality and science to achieve progress. When it was first published in 1968, the book marked a turning point in Arab discourse about society and politics and spawned other intellectual ventures into Arab self-criticism. However, in 1970, in response to his writings, Al-Azm was tried in Beirut and dismissed from his teaching post at the American University there. Still actively writing, Mr. Al-Azm has already left a legacy of piercing intellectual examination of the social, religious, cultural and political bases of modern Arab society. He has contributed to the Prince Claus Fund as a member of the Awards Committee.

Culture in Defiance
The lecture is part of the exhibition Culture in Defiance: Continuing Traditions of Satire, Art and the Struggle for Freedom in Syria in the Prince Claus Fund Gallery. Free admission, until 23 November.

Sadiq al-Azm (foto Floris Schreve)

Lezing door Sadiq al-Azm (korte samenvatting, gebaseerd op mijn summiere aantekeningen), zie een transcriptie van de lezing hier

The Civil Society debates and the Arab Spring

Prins Claus Fonds voor Cultuur en Ontwikkeling, Herengracht 603, Amsterdam, vrijdag 7 september 2012

De discussie over de noodzaak tot de vorming van een ‘civil society’ in de Arabische wereld begon in de jaren zeventig. Vooral na de dramatische nederlaag van de oktoberoorlog tegen Israël bleek dat het postkoloniale discours van Pan-Arabisme, Arabisch Socialisme en Arabisch Nationalisme gefaald had. De Arabische wereld kende, na de verschillende revoluties, vooral militaristische en nationalistische regimes, die zichzelf met repressie in het zadel hielden.

Al Azm noemt als belangrijke denkers over de noodzaak om tot secularisering en democratisering te komen Hassan Hanafi (Egypte) en Mohammed Abed al-Jabri (Marokko). Zij hanteerden hiervoor het begrip ‘almaniyya (علمانية ), ‘secularisme’, volgens de meeste vertalingen ‘laicism’, oftewel scheiding van religie en bestuur. De seculiere beweging had in de periode van halverwege de jaren zeventig tot eind jaren negentig het tij sterk tegen. De Arabische wereld werd gedomineerd door een patstelling tussen de autoritaire heersende regimes, ideologisch vaak een mix van socialisme, nationalisme en populisme, maar volgens al Azm al in diskrediet geraakt sinds Nasser, en aan de andere kant de enige oppositiekracht die nog een vuist kon maken; de politieke islam.

De jaren tachtig en negentig waren een periode van verdere stagnatie, waarin het Arabische politieke discours werd gegijzeld door de autoritaire regimes aan de ene kant en de steeds gewelddadiger wordende islamisten aan de andere kant.

In 2000-2001 brak er een korte ‘Syrische lente’ uit, na de dood van dictator Hafiz al-Assad. Het was ook de tijd van Charter 99. Al-Azm stelt dat veel ideeën van Charter 99 van grote invloed zijn op de verschillende Arabische democratiseringsbewegingen van nu.

Overigens kent ook de geschiedenis van de islamitische wereld een soort equivalent van de notie ‘Civil Society’. Het gaat hier om het begrip ‘assabiyya (عصبية) van de beroemde klassieke islamitische filosoof Ibn Khaldun (Tunis, 1332 – Caïro, 1406). In het discours van de huidige revolutionaire beweging steekt dit begrip vaak de kop op. Al-Azm ziet niet veel in de herwaardering de notie van ‘assabiyya. Hij wijst erop dat dit begrip al langer in gebruik was bij de islamistische beweging. ‘Assabyya in de traditionele zin houdt vooral groepssolidariteit in, met de familie, de clan en de eigen religieuze gemeenschap. Volgens al Azm is het zelfs gevaarlijk om deze notie uit het verleden de hedendaagse samenleving op te leggen. Natuurlijk, ‘assabiyya in de traditionele zin werkte vaak als een buffer tussen het individu en de staatsmacht, zoals in het Irak en Iran van de twaalfde eeuw. Zo’n buffer is volgens al-Azm ook nu absoluut noodzakelijk, maar hij ziet meer in de Civil Society, zoals die werd bepleit door Emile Durkheim of Antonio Gramsci .

De Arabische lente lijkt voorlopig een einde te maken aan de heersende families en hun naaste getrouwen. Het ultieme moment was, in de woorden van Sadiq al-Azm ‘the Tahrir-Square Experience’, zoals die in verschillende landen plaatsvond. Syrië heeft dat moment helaas niet gekend, althans tot nu toe. Daarvoor is de repressie van het zittende regime te gewelddadig geweest.

Zie bijvoorbeeld de stad Dera’a, die inmiddels al twintig keer weer op een gewelddadige manier door het regime is ingenomen. Dat dit twintig keer moest gebeuren zegt wel iets over de effectiviteit van de opstandelingen. De tactiek is nu om de spoeling van de troepen van het regime zo dun mogelijk te maken. Al zal het regime niet snel opgeven. Syrië wordt nu geregeerd door een kleptocratische klasse, die alles te verliezen heeft wanneer zij de macht verliest.

Ondanks de gewelddadige escalatie staat al-Azm positief tegenover de revolutie. Ook de Syrische opstand begon als een Tahrir Square experience. Al-Azm haalt de notie van de ‘Carnivalesque Spirit’ aan van Roland Barthes. De tentoonstelling in het Prins Claus Fonds is daar overigens een duidelijk voorbeeld van. De kern van de Syrische revolutie ademt volgens al-Azm nog altijd de sfeer van deze ‘Carnivalesque Spirit’ uit. Deze moet de leidraad van de revolutie blijven. De ‘Tahrir-Square Experience’ zou de basis moeten vormen voor een nieuw vrij Syrië en een vrije democratische Arabische wereld.

Floris Schreve

Amsterdam, september, 2012

Sadiq al-Azm met Christa Meindersma, directeur Prins Claus Fonds (foto Floris Schreve)

Sadiq al-Azm met Eduard Nazarski (rechts), directeur van Amnesty International Nederland (foto Floris Schreve)

Ali Ferzat

Ali Ferzat

Ali Ferzat

Ali Ferzat

Ali Ferzat

Khalil Younes, Hamza Bakkour

Khali Younes,About a young man called Kashoosh

tekst: ‘Homs, the Mother of all Heroes. The King of the jungle rides a tank.’ (‘Assad’ betekent ‘leeuw)- foto Pascal Zoghbi

http://www.volkskrant.nl/vk/nl/2668/Buitenland/article/detail/3263291/2012/05/31/Later-zal-iemand-dit-werk-zien-en-zeggen-dat-was-de-Syrische-Revolutie.dhtml

‘Later zal iemand dit werk zien en zeggen: dát was de Syrische Revolutie’

Door: Sacha Kester −31/05/12, 07:00

Hoe doe je dat – in opstand komen tegen een dictator? Waar haal je het lef vandaan om te blijven demonstreren, ondanks de sluipschutters op de daken en de tanks die je wijk omsingelen?

  • ‘Self defense is a legitimate right’ van Civil Society

‘Eigenlijk was dat de vraag die telkens weer bij me terug kwam’, vertelt Malu Halasa, curator van een tentoonstelling over cultuur tijdens de Syrische opstand. ‘Het antwoord werd heel scherp gegeven door Jameel, een Syrische poppenkunstenaar die alleen maar met een masker optreedt. Mensen kunnen dit, zegt hij, door te lachen, door schoonheid en door menselijke vastberadenheid – want zolang dat bestaat, kun je alle lelijke dingen op deze wereld aan.’

En lachen, dat doen ze. Lachen om het kwaad en dansen op protestmuziek. Het carnaval van de Syrische revolutie heeft spotprenten en theater, literatuur en film, graffiti en poëzie opgeleverd, die op initiatief van het Prins Claus Fonds door de Jordaans-Filipijnse Mala Halasa en drie andere curatoren bijeen zijn gebracht voor een tentoonstelling die vanaf maandag in Amsterdam te zien is.

Een klein wonder
Het was soms zwaar om hier aan mee te werken. ‘Je werkt samen met mensen die letterlijk onder vuur liggen – een paar weken geleden werd een van de beste vrienden van mijn collega neergeschoten in Homs’, vertelt Halasa over de telefoon. ‘Daarnaast is het moeilijk om werk het land uit te krijgen. Je kunt niet even naar Syrië bellen en vragen: ‘Hi, mail ons even wat materiaal in een hoge resolutie.’ Dat het toch gelukt is om alles bij elkaar te krijgen, is een klein wonder.’

Het resultaat is indrukwekkend. ‘Mensen zien alleen de afschuwelijke beelden van de oorlog’, zegt Halasa. ‘Maar het verhaal is nog veel groter. Stel je voor: mensen kunnen daar al vijftig jaar lang niet zeggen wat ze denken – niet uiten wat ze voelen. En nu is het deksel eraf!’

De Syrische revolutie is dan ook nauw verbonden met kunst. Drie maanden voordat de eerste demonstraties begonnen, maakte Ali Ferzat, een van de bekendste cartoonisten uit het Midden-Oosten, spotprenten van president Assad. Het was voor het eerst dat zoiets werd gepubliceerd, en daarmee werd er iets doorbroken.

Halasa: ‘Het inspireerde anderen, en zijn prenten werden tijdens de demonstraties mee gedragen. Er werd gezongen, er ontstond protestmuziek, en mensen dansten op raps als ‘We will fill all the prisons’. In kleine dorpen gingen jongeren ‘s nachts de straat op om hun eigen cartoons op de muren te spuiten en gevestigde kunstenaars verwerkten hun woede, hun verdriet, in hun werken.’

  • ‘Vomit’ van Yasmin Fanari

In de catalogus van de tentoonstelling wordt het fenomeen krachtig neergezet. De schilder Khalil Younes bijvoorbeeld, wiens werk ook in het westen wordt verkocht, vertelt in een interview dat hij de zaak heeft opgepakt om de ontwikkelingen ook voor volgende generaties vast te leggen. ‘Ik had het gevoel dat ik iets moest doen in de stijl van Francisco de Goya. Iemand zal dit werk later zien en zeggen: ‘Dát was de Syrische Revolutie’.’

Tranen
De ondergedoken blogger Razan Zaitouneh, winnaar van de Sakharov Prijs, beschrijft hoe het is om elke dag tientallen video’s van slachtoffers te bekijken voordat ze op het internet worden geplaatst. ‘Het is mijn taak om ervoor te zorgen dat de naam van de martelaar klopt, net als de details van zijn of haar dood. Elke dag, zie ik honderden mensen sterven. Gemiddeld duurt elke video een minuut. Binnen een uur kan ik getuige zijn van zestig lichamen, tenzij het er een video tussen zit van een massamoord – dan vermenigvuldigt dat cijfer zich.’

‘Experts van de Documentatie van de Dood, zoals ik, huilen niet. We kijken alleen maar, met open mond en gefronste wenkbrauwen, en op enkele specifieke momenten, horen we de tranen uit ons eigen binnenste komen.’

Er wordt niet meer gezongen en gedanst in Syrië. Niet in de steegjes, waar de protesten voorzichtig begonnen, en niet op de pleinen, waar de begrafenissen begonnen die tot nog grotere demonstraties leidden. Maar de veerkracht blijft. ‘Het is de piramide van Mazlov op zijn kop’, zegt Halasa. ‘Er is geen veiligheid, en voor sommigen is er niets te eten, maar zelfontplooiing houdt mensen gaande. Na een hele lange tijd hebben de Syriërs hun eigen stem weer teruggevonden.’

Onder de tekst is een kleine selectie van cartoons, foto’s en video te zien.

De tentoonstelling Culture in Defiance: Continuing Traditions of Satire, Art and the Struggle for Freedom in Syria is van 4 juni tot 23 november te zien in de Prins Claus Fonds Galerie, Herengracht 603, in Amsterdam

  • ‘Dungeons’ van Jaber al-Azmeh
  • Het schilderij ‘A young man called Kashoosh’ van Khalil Younes
  • Bullet
  • Cartoon van Ali Ferzat

Een impressie van de tentoonstelling (foto’s Floris Schreve)

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Lecture: A history of Iraqi modern art and Iraqi artists in the Diaspora, on the occasion of the exhibition ‘Distant Dreams; the other face of Iraq’, Kunstliefde (Utrecht)

http://fhs1973.wordpress.com/2012/02/27/

Handout of my lecture on Iraqi modern art and Iraqi artists in the Diaspora, Kunstliefde, Utrecht, The Netherlands, 24 February 2012, on the occasion of the exhibition Distant Dreams; five Iraqi artists in the Netherlands (Baldin Ahmad, Qassim Alsaedy, Salam Djaaz, Awni Sami and Araz Talib), with the addition of some of the visual material (click on the pictures to enlarge)

Introduction on the history and geography of Iraq

Origins and development of the Iraqi modern art (from 1950)

 

   

Jewad Selim   Faeq Hassan   Shakir Hassan al-Said

    

Mahmud Sabri    Dhia Azzawi      Rafa al-Nasiri

   

Mohammed Mohreddin     Hanaa Mal-Allah

Art and mass-propaganda under the rule of the Ba’th Party

 

Al-Nasb al-Shaheed (‘The Martyr’s Monument’, by Ismael Fattah al-Turk)

Bab al-Nasr ( ‘Victory Arch’, designed by Saddam Husayn and executed by Khalid al-Rahal and Mohammed Ghani Hikmet)

    

Statues and portraits of Saddam Husayn and Michel Aflaq (founder of the Ba’thparty)

Iraqi artists in the Diaspora

The Netherlands:

       

Baldin Ahmad    Aras Kareem    Hoshyar Rasheed

        

Araz Talib    Awni Sami    Salam Djaaz

       

Qassim Alsaedy     Ziad Haider     Nedim Kufi

Some Iraqi artists in other countries:

    

Rebwar Saeed (England)   Anahit Sarkes (England)

      

Jananne al-Ani (England)    Ahmed al-Sudani (United States)

     

Walid Siti (England)       Halim Al Kareem (Netherlands/United States)

     

Adel Abidin (Finland)       Azad Nanakeli (Italy)

      

Ali Assaf (Italy)          Wafaa Bilal (United States)

On the screen a work of Mahmud Sabri, one of the most experimental Iraqi artists in history

A work of Jewad Selim, more or less the ‘founder of the Iraqi modern art’

On the screen a work of Shakir Hassan al-Said, whose style influenced artists all over the Arab and even the islamic world

Left (in front) Qassim Alsaedy. Me behind the laptop. Behind me (left side) my sister Leonie Schreve and her partner Anand Kanhai. Behind them the Iraqi artist Ali Talib. Second right of me Brigitte Reuter, who created many works together with Qassim Alsaedy. On the walls (right) the work of Awni Sami

Front row, second from the left, the art historian and ‘colleague in contemporary art of the Middle East’ Dineke Huizenga. Left behind me Martin van der Randen, curator of this exhibition. Left on the wall the work of Baldin Ahmad

Floris Schreve

 
Photos during the lecture by Liesbeth Schreve-Brinkman
 
 
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Exhibition ‘Distant Dreams; the other face of Iraq’ (Kunstliefde, Utrecht, The Netherlands) and a lecture on modern and contemporary Iraqi art

http://fhs1973.wordpress.com/2012/02/04/tentoonstelling-distant-dreams-the-other-face-of-iraq-utrecht-en-lezing-over-hedendaagse-iraakse-kunst/

أحلام بعيدة، هي الوجه الآخر للعراق

معرض لخمسة فنانين عراقيين في هولندا

On Sunday February 19th in Utrecht (in the artists Society Kunstliefde) the exhibition ‘Distant Dreams, the other face of Iraq’ will be opened, an exhibition of five Iraqi artists who are living and working in the Netherlands, curated by Martin van der Randen. The participating artists are Salam Djaaz, Qassim Alsaedy, Baldin Ahmad, Awni Sami and Araz Talib , all on this blog ever mentioned or extensively discussed. On Friday, February 24 at 20:00 I will give a lecture at the exhibition on the history of modern art of Iraq and the Iraqi art in the Diaspora, in the Netherlands and elsewhere.

Here is the brochure of Distant Dreams; The other face of Iraq (both in English and Dutch)

In this blog entry, the documentation of the exhibition and the lecture will appear very soon. Below the official announcement. See also http://www.iraqiart.com/inp/view.asp?ID=1305 (Arabic):

Op zondag 19 februari wordt in de Utrechtse kunstenaarsvereniging Kunstliefde de tentoonstelling Distant Dreams; the other face of Iraq geopend, van vijf uit Irak afkomstige kunstenaars in Nederland, samengesteld door Martin van der Randen. De deelnemende kunstenaars zijn Salam Djaaz, Qassim Alsaedy, Baldin Ahmad, Awni Sami en Araz Talib, allen weleens op dit blog genoemd of uitvoerig besproken. Op vrijdag 24 februari zal ik om 20.00 bij de tentoonstelling een lezing geven over de geschiedenis van de moderne kunst van Irak en de Iraakse kunst in de Diaspora, in Nederland en elders.

Zie hier de Brochure van Distant Dreams; The other face of Iraq

In dit blogitem zal de documentatie van de tentoonstelling en de lezing verschijnen. Hieronder de officiële aankondiging.

Salam Djaaz سلام جعاز

Qassim Alsaedy قاسم الساعدي

Baldin Ahmad بالدين أحمد

Awni Sami عوني سامي

Araz Talib آراز طالب

Lezing op 24 februari, om 20.00 in Kunstliefde, Nobelstraat 12A, Utrecht (www.kunstliefde.nl)

Floris Schreve

(أمستردام، هولندا)

Opening (Sunday February 19th, 2012)

Qassim Alsaedy (l), Salam Djaaz (r)

Awni Sami (l), Baldin Ahmad (r)

Araz Talib

The writers/journalists Ishin Mohiddin (l), Karim Al-Najar (r)

Mrs Mayada al-Gharqoly of the Iraqi Embassy in the Netherlands. Behind her Martin van der Randen, curator of this exhibition

Mayada al-Gharqoly

Mounir Goran (ud), with the Dutch Kurdish Iraqi poet Baban Kirkuki

The Dutch Iraqi Kurdish writer Ibrahim Selman (l) with Qassim Alsaedy

From the left to the right: Baban Kirkuki, Mounir Goran, Qassim Alsaedy, Baldin Ahmad, Araz Talib, Salam Djaaz, Awni Sami

Finissage (Sunday Marcrh 18th, 2012)

Qassim Alsaedy with HE Dr. Saad Ibrahim al-Ali, Embassador of Iraq in the Netherlands

The embassador, with some other staff of the Embassy and some of the artists

Martin van der Randen with Baldin Ahmad

Baldin Ahmad and Salam Djaaz

Baldin Ahmad and Qassim Alsaedy

Baban Kirkuki, Salam Djaaz and Munir Goran

photos by Floris Schreve

 

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An impression of the Arab contributions at the Venice Biennial 2011

http://fhs1973.wordpress.com/2011/12/10/an-impression-of-the-arab-contributions-at-the-venice-biennal-2011/

مساهمة الدول العربية في بينالي البندقية

An Impression of the contributions of several artists from the Arab world at the Venice Biennial 2011. Photos by Floris Schreve. An extensive article will follow later

The Future of a Promise

Curatorial Statement by Lina Nazaar:

“What does it mean to make a promise? In an age where the ‘promise of the future’ has become something of a cliché, what is meant by The Future of a Promise?

In its most basic sense, a promise is the manifestation of an intention to act or, indeed, the intention to refrain from acting in a specified way. A commitment is made on behalf of the promisee which suggests hope, expectation, and the assurance of a future deed committed to the best interests of all.

A promise, in sum, opens up a horizon of future possibilities, be they aesthetic, political, historical, social or indeed, critical. ‘The future of a promise’ aims to explore the nature of the promise as a form of aesthetic and socio-political transaction and how it is made manifest in contemporary visual culture in the Arab world today.

In a basic sense, there is a degree of promise in the way in which an idea is made manifest in a formal, visual context – the ‘promise’, that is, of potential meaning emerging in an artwork and its opening up to interpretation. There is also the ‘transaction’ between what the artist had in mind and the future (if not legacy) of that creative promise and the viewer. Whilst the artists included here are not representative of a movement as such, they do seek to engage with a singular issue in the Middle East today: who gets to represent the present-day realities and promise of the region and the horizons to which they aspire?

It is with this in mind that the show will enquire into the ‘promise’ of visual culture in an age that has become increasingly disaffected with politics as a means of social engagement. Can visual culture, in sum, respond to both recent events and the future promise implied in those events? And if so, what forms do those responses take?”

http://www.thefutureofapromise.com/index.php/about/view/curators_statement

The participating artists are Ziad Abillama (Lebanon), Ahmed Alsoudani (Iraq, zie ook see also this ealier contribuition Ziad Antar (Lebanon), Jananne Al-Ani (Iraq), Kader Attia (Algeria/France), Ayman Baalbaki (Lebanon), Fayçal Baghriche (Algeria), Lara Baladi (Lebanon), Yto Barrada (France, Morocco), Taysir Batniyi (Palestine), Abdelkader Benchamma (France/Algeria), Manal Aldowayan (Saudi Arabia), Mounir Fatmi (Morocco, see this eariler contribution), Abdulnasser Gharem (Saudi Arabia), Mona Hatoum (Palestine/Lebanon), Raafat Ishak (Egypt), Emily Jacir (Palestine), Nadia Kaabi-Linke (Tunesia), Yazan Khalili (Palestine), Ahmed Mater (Saudi Arabia, see this earlier contribution), Driss Ouadahi (Algeria/Morocco) en Ayman Yossri Daydban (Saudi Arabia).

Mona Hatoum, Drowning sorrows (Gran Centenario), installatie van ‘doorgesneden’ glazen flessen, 2002, op ‘The Future of a Promise’, Biënnale van Venetië, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve

Mona Hatoum, Drowning Sorrows (detail)- photo Floris Schreve

‘Hatoum’s work is the presentation of identity as unable to identify with itself, but nevertheless grappling the notion (perhaps only the ghost) of identity to itself. Thus is exiled figured and plotted in the objects she creates (Said, “Art of displacement” 17).

‘Hatoum’s Drowning Sorrows distinctly exemplifies the “exile” Said denotes above. Drowning Sorrows displays the pain and beauty of being an exile without overtly supplying the tools with which to unhinge the paradox attached to it. It creates suggestive effects which ultimately lead the viewer towards its paradoxical ambiance. The work contains a circle of glass pieces drawn on a floor. The circle is made up of different shapes of glass flasks and, as they appear on the floor, it seems that the circle holds them afloat. The disparately angled glasses imply cuts from their sharp edges and their appearance is associated with a feeling of pain from the cut. This circle of glasses, therefore, signifies an exilic ache and embodies an authority to “figure” and “plot” the pain’.

The work signifies the reality of being unmoored from a fixed identity as the flasks are ambiguously put on a ground where they are perceived to be ungrounded. The appearance of the glasses is also unusual—we do not get to see their full shapes. As the artist’s imagination endows them with a symbolic meaning, they have been cut in triangular and rectangular forms of different sizes. These varieties of cut glasses speak of an undying pain that the exile suffers. In an exile’s life, irresolvable pain comes from dispossessions, uncertainty, and non-belonging. Being uprooted from a deep-seated identity, an exile finds him/herself catapulted into a perpetual flux; neither going back “home” nor a complete harmony with the adopted environment through adopting internally the “new” ideals is easily achievable. There exists an insuperable rift between his/her identity and locales which both are nevertheless integral parts of their identity. Hence, Hatoum portrays the exilic “identity as unable to identify with itself,” as Said puts it.

However, the glass edges above also represent that an exile’s experiences are nonetheless beautiful and worthy of celebration. The glass pieces show the experiences that an exilic traveller gathers in the journey of life. The journey is all about brokenness and difference. But an exile’s life becomes enriched in many ways by being filled up with varieties of knowledge and strengths accrued through encountering differences. Hatoum’s creation, therefore, befittingly captures these benefits by transferring them into an art work that bewitches the viewer through an unknown beauty. Being an expression of beauty, the art work is transformed into a celebration of “exile.” Despite “Drowning” in “Sorrows,” Hatoum’s work demonstrates an authority to give vent to the exilic pain through a work of beauty.

Ultimately, we see that an exile is not entirely drowned by the sorrows of loss. Notwithstanding the anguish, the exile gains the privilege to explore the conditions that create the pain; because the painfulness zeroes in on the very nature of identity formation. The exile has the privilege of reflecting on the reality surrounding his/her identity. Therefore, Hatoum’s glasses are not pieced together purposelessly; they depict the ambiguity that the exile feels towards identity. Her creative ambiguity makes us both enjoy the art and question the reality which we ourselves, exiles or not, find ourselves in. “Drowning Sorrows” shows a way to question the reality by being ambiguous towards it. Hatoum thus transmutes her exilic pain into a work of imagination which becomes an emblem of her artistic power through such suggestiveness.

From this point of view, Hatoum is an exemplary Saidian “exile” as she turns the reality of being uprooted from “home” into an intellectual power against the systematisation of identities. In Orientalism, Said distinguishes the dividing line that severs the supposedly superior Western culture from the ostensibly inferior one of the “Others.” He examines the modus operandi of such a disjunction. He studies power-structures to reveal how they dissociate cultures. Thus the Saidian “exile” develops independent criticisms of cultures in order to defeat the debilitating effects of discursivity that disconnect cultures. The “exile” thus sees the whole world as a foreign land captured in the power-knowledge nexus’.

From: Rehnuma Sazzad, Hatoum, Said and Foucault: Resistance through Revealing the Power-Knowledge Nexus? van Postcolonial Text, Vol 4, No 3 2008), see here

Emily Jacir, Embrace, 2005 (‘The Future of a Promise’, Venetië, 2011- foto Floris Schreve)

Embrace is a circular, motorised sculpture fabricated to look like an empy luggage conveyor system found in airports. It remains perfectly still and quiet, but when a viewer comes near the sculpture their presence activates the work; it turns on and starts moving. The work’s diameter refers to the height of the artist. The work symbolizes, amongst many things, waiting and the etymology of the word ‘embrace’.

Emily Jacir (statement for The Future of a Promise)

Ahmed Alsoudani, Untitled, acryl en houtskool op doek, 2010 (‘The Future of a Promise’, Venetië, 2011- foto Floris Schreve)

‘At the time I was in the tenth grade and I was spending hours reading Russian novels and poetry. Reading things like The Brothers Karamazow, The Idiot, War and Peace, Mayakovsky and Anna Akhmatova, and an anthology of poetry from the frontline of World War II- I can’t remember the title- helped me clarify my own circumstances and put the idea of leaving Iraq in my head. At that time in Iraq all ideas, even private thoughts, could land you in jail. As millions of Iraqis dreamt of leaving, I knew I had to plan carefully. (…) I left Baghdad in the middle of the afternoon and traveled by taxi to Kurdistan, which was under U.S. protection. We had to pass many heavily guarded checkpoints, but my older brother used his connections to bribe our way through. It cost him a lot of money. I stayed for a few weeks in Kurdistan, and later I met with an Iraqi opposition member who helped me cross into Syria (…) After I  escaped from Baghdad I spent four years in Syria. In the beginning life was pretty rough and lonely, but eventually I made a few friends. One in particular helped me tremendously- an Iraqi poet named Mohammed Mazlom who was a friend of my brother. He let me stay at his place in Damascus for a year and helped me get a job writing for the Iraqi opposition newspaper there. The big problem with Syria is that though they don’t bother you as an Iraqi exile, you can’t get the paperwork you need to be a legal resident either. You’re in a kind of a limbo: it’s almost if you don’t exist. I knew I would eventually have to leave there as well. In Damascus there is an office called UNHCR, which is a part of the United Nations. Every day the office is full of refugees waiting to get an application to leave. It was a complicated process but I decided after two years in this state of limbo to do it. It took almost a year of waiting but finally I got a meeting with someone from the US embassy. As someone writing for the Iraqi opposition in Syria my case was strong, and after several meetings they granted me political asylum’

(in Robert Goff, Cassie Rosenthal, Ahmed Alsoudani, Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ostfildern, Germany, 2009).

Ahmed Alsoudani, Untitled, acryl en houtskool op doek, 2010 (‘The Future of a Promise’, Venetië, 2011- foto Floris Schreve)

‘These turbulent paintings depict a disfigured tableau of war and atrocity. Although the content of the paintings draw on my own experiences of recent wars in Iraq, the imagery of devestation and violence- occasionally laced with a morbid and barbed humour-evoke universal experience of conflict and human suffering. Deformed figures, some almost indistinguishable and verging on the bestial, intertwine and distort in vivid, surreal landscapes. Figures are often depicted at a moment of transition- through fear and agony- from human to grotesque’

Ahmed Alsoudani (statement for The Future of a Promise)

Jananne Al-Ani, Aerial II, production still from Shadow Sites II, 2011 (bron: http://www.art-agenda.com/reviews/sharjah-biennial-10-plot-for-a-biennial-16-march-16-may-2011-and-art-dubai-16-19-march-2011/

The Aesthetics of Disappearance: A Land Without People – Jananne Al-Ani from Sharjah Art Foundation on Vimeo.

Jananne Al-Ani, Shadow Sites II, 2011 (The Future of a Promise, Venetië, 2011-foto Floris Schreve)

Jananne Al-Ani, Shadow Sites II, 2011 (The Future of a Promise, Venetië, 2011-foto Floris Schreve)

Jananne Al-Ani, Shadow Sites II, 2011 (The Future of a Promise, Venetië, 2011-foto Floris Schreve)

Shadow Sites II is a film that takes the form of an aerial journey. It is made up of images of landscape bearing traces of natural and manmade activity as well as ancient and contemporary structures. Seen from above, the landscape appears abstracted, its buildings flattened and its inhabitants invisible to the human eye. Only when the sun is at its lowest, do the features on the ground, the archeological sites and settlements come to light. Such ‘shadow sites’ when seen from the air, map the latent images by the landscape’s surface.  Much like a photographic plate, the landscape itself holds the potential to be exposed, thereby revealing the memory of its past. Historically, representations of the Middle Eastern landscape, from William Holman Hunt’s 1854 painting The Scapegoat (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Scapegoat_(painting), FS) to media images from the 1991 Desert Storm campaign have depicted the region as uninhabited and without sign of civilization. In response to the military’s use of digital technology and satellite navigation, Shadow Sites II recreates the aerial vantage point of such missions while taking an altogether different viewpoint of the land it surveys. The film burrows into the landscape as one image slowly dissolves in another, like a mineshaft tunneling deep into substrate of memories preserved over time’.

Jananne Al-Ani (statement The Future of a Promise)

.

Ahmed Mater, The Cowboy Code, op ‘The Future of a Promise’, Biënnale van Venetië, 2011 (foto Floris Schreve)

Mater in his statement about ‘Antenna’:

“Antenna is a symbol and a metaphor for growing

up in Saudi Arabia. As children, we used to climb

up to the roofs of our houses and hold these

television antennas up to the sky.

We were trying to catch a signal from beyond the

nearby border with Yemen or Sudan; searching –

like so many of my generation in Saudi –

for music, for poetry, for a glimpse of a different

kind of life. I think this work can symbolise the

whole Arab world right now… searching for a

different kind of life through other stories and

other voices. This story says a lot about my life

and my art; I catch art from the story of my life,

I don’t know any other way”.

Ahmed Mater

Ahmed Mater, Antenna, op ‘The Future of a Promise’, Biënnale van Venetië, 2011 (foto Floris Schreve)

Spring Cleaning! By Franck Hermann Ekra (winner of 2010 AICA Incentive Prize for Young Critics):

The lost Springs, Mounir Fatmi’s minimal installation, displays the 22 flags of the states of the Arab League at half mast. In the Tunisian and Egyptian pavilions, two brooms refer to the upheavals that led to the fall of President Ben Ali in Tunisia and President Mubarak in Egypt. This evocative, subtle and trenchant work of art has been inspired by the current protests against neo-patriarchal powers in the Maghreb, the Mashriq and the Arabian Peninsula.

In the anthropology  of the state, the flag is  a symbol rich in identity and attribution. It is a part of a secular liturgy which establishes  a holy space for the politically sacred.  Mounir Fatmi seems to have captured this with his intuition of an iconic device halfway between the altar and the universalizing official dramaturgy. He gets to the core of democratic representation, on the capacity to metaphorically catalyse the civil link. There is a touch of the domestic in his contemporary heraldry.

Mounir Fatmi, Aborted Revolutions (installation), 2011-Photo Floris Schreve

The necessary cleansing that Mounir Fatmi suggests does not concern the community but rather the dictators who dream themselves as demiurges. It calls for action-creation. The Brooms ironically point to some dynamic process and stimulating imitation effect.  Who’s next? What else should be dusted? Where has the rubbish been hidden?

Though the aesthetics of sweeping, the artist testifies to some timeless spring. A standard bearer of the pan-Arabic revolutionary revivalism and its enchanting Utopia, he breaks away from the prevailing monotony of always disenchanted tomorrows, irreverently using the devices of complicity through self-sufficient references, and blurring the familiar novel and popular romance. Giving his work an essential and symbolic function, he dematerializes it, as if to repeat over and over again that symbols are food for thought’.

From ’The Future of a Promise’.

Abdulnasser Gharem, The Stamp (Amen), rubber on wooden stamp, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

‘My relationship with the urban environment is reciprocal; streets and the cities inspire a particularly critical reaction. As a socially engaged artist, I need to take back to the people, to the city, to the built environment.

In previous works I have related the story of social environments marked for destruction, regardless of the fate of the people who live in it, or of disaster arising from a misplaced trust in the security of concrete. With the current work, I turn my attention to the false promise of the manufactured modern city.

Viewing 3D models for the future cities springing up across the Gulf, focuses attention on the disjunction between the apparent utopia of the future they appear to offer and the daily, complex and problematic reality of our actual urban lives.

These cities can be a distraction, a vehicle exploited by bureaucracies who wish to divert the attention of a sophisticated population away from a reality which is not model. Through the use of stamps, I underline the inevitable stultifying and complicating effect the bureaucracy will have, even as it works to build its vision for a better society. Why do we look to an utopian future when we have social issues we need to address now? I am not opposed to this brave new world but I want to see governments engage with the streets and cities, and the problems of their people, as they are now. Why built new cities when there are poor people we need to look after? This is a distraction: we should not be afraid to change.

Abdulnasser Gharem  (statement for The Future of a Promise)

Manal Aldowayan, Suspended Together, installation, 2011 (detail)

On Manal Al-Dowayan:

Suspended Together is an installation that gives the impression of a movement and freedom.

However, a closer look at the 200 doves brings the realization that the doves are actually frozen and suspended, with no hope of flight. An even closer look shows that each dove carries on its body the permission document that allows a Saudi woman to travel. Notwithstanding the circumstances, all Saudi women are required to have this document, issued by their appointed male guardian.

The artist reached out to a large group of leading female figures from Saudi Arabia to donate their permission documents for inclusion in this artwork. Suspended Together carries the documents of award-winning scientists, educators, journalists, engineers, artists and leaders with groundbreaking achievements that contributed  to society.  The youngest contributor is six months old and the oldest is 60 years old. In the artist’s words: ‘regardless of age and achievement, when it comes to travel, all these women are treated like a flock of suspended doves’.

 

http://universes-in-universe.org/eng/bien/venice_biennale/2011/tour/the_future_of_a_promise/manal_al_dowayan

Manal Aldowayan, Suspended Together, installation, 2011

Nadia Kaabi-Linke, Flying Carpets, installation, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

The Flying Carpet is an Oriental fairytale, a dream of instantaneous and boundless travel, but when I visited Venice I saw that illegal immigrants use carpets to fly the coop. They sell counterfeit goods in order to make some money for living. If they are caught by the police they risk expulsion.

There was a butcher in Tunis who wanted to honour Ben Ali. His idea was to call his shop ‘Butcher shop of the 7th November’, the day when Ben Ali assumed the presidency in a ‘medical’ coup d’ état from then President Habib Bourguiba. After he did so, he disappeared without a trace.

In winter 2010, I visited Cairo, a city which has more citizens than the country I was born. This metropolis is characterized by strong contradictions: tradition and modernism, culture and illiteracy, poverty and wealth, bureaucracy and spirituality. All voices fade through the noisy hustle of this melting pot, but if you risk a closer look on the walls you will find the whisper of the people carved into stone.

The three works document  the crossing of borders: traversing the European border leads to problems of being a EU citizen or not; the wide line between insult and homage was transgressed through the unspoken proximity of slaughter and governance of the former Tunesian regime; and the longing for freedom in the police state of Cairo was already written into the walls of the city’

Nadia Kaabi-Linke

Nadia Kaabi-Linke, Butcher bliss, mixed media, 2010

Nadia Kaabi-Linke, Impression of Cairo, mixed media, 2010 (detail)

 

The Future of a Promise, with works of (ao) Nadia Kaabi-Linke and Emily Jacir

The Pavilion of Egypt

http://www.ahmedbasiony.com/images/pdf/e-flux.pdf

Right: Ahmed Basiony, “30 Days of Running in the Place” documentation footage, February–March2010, Palace of the Arts Gallery, Opera House Grounds, Cairo, Egypt.

Left: Ahmed Basiony, 28th of January (Friday of Rage) 6:50 pm, Tahrir Square. Photo taken by Magdi Mostafa.

Biennale di Arte / 54th International Venice Biennale

Egyptian Pavilion, 2011

30 Days of Running in the Place

Honoring Ahmed Basiony (1978–2011)

Opening reception:

3 June 2011 at 4:15 PM

Runs until 27 November 2011

www.ahmedbasiony.com

 

 

Ahmed Basiony (1978–2011) was a crucial component as an artist and professor to the use of new media technology in his artistic and socio-cultural research. He designed projects, each working in its own altering direction out of a diversity of domains in order to expose a personal account experienced through the function of audio and visual material. Motioning through his artistic projects, with an accurate eye of constant visibility, and invisibility, while listening to audio material that further relayed the mappings of social information: Whether in the study of the body, locomotion through a street, the visual impact of a scream versus data representation in the form of indecipherable codes. The artist functioned as a contemporary documentarian; only allowing the archival of data the moment it came in, and no longer there after.

30 Days of Running in the Place is the play of a video documentation to a project that had taken place one year ago. Marking a specific time when the artist had performed a particular demonstration of running, in order to anticipate a countering digital reaction; the aim was to observe how in the act of running in a single standing point, with sensors installed in the soles of his shoes, and on his body [to read levels of body heat], could it had been translated into a visual diagram only to be read in codes, and visually witness the movement of energy and physical consumption become born into an image.

One year later, the uprisings to the Egyptian revolution took on Basiony’s attention, as it had millions of other Egyptians motioning through the exact same states of social consumption. It was from then on, for a period of four days, did Basiony film with his digital and phone camera, the events of downtown Cairo and Tahrir Square, leading to his death on the night of the January 28th, 2011.

An evolution of universal networks created out of audio, visual and electronic communications, blurring the distinction between interpersonal communication, and that of the masses, Basiony’s works only existed in real-time, and then after that they became part of the archives of research he invested into making. It is with this note, we collectively desired, under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture, to recognize and honor the life and death of an artist who was fully dedicated to the notions of an Egypt, that to only recently, demanded the type of change he was seeking his entire life.

A gesture of 30 years young, up against 30 years of a multitude of disquieted unrest.

Curatorial Team

Aida Eltorie, Curator

Shady El Noshokaty, Executive Curator

Magdi Mostafa, Sound & Media Engineering

Hosam Hodhod, Production Assistant

Website: http://www.ahmedbasiony.com

Contact: info@ahmedbasiony.com

http://www.dailymotion.com/embed/video/xkjond
Ahmed Basiony: Thirty Days of Running in the… door vernissagetv

My own impression:

Ahmed Basiony, 30 days of running in the space, video installation, Pavilion of Egypt, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Ahmed Basiony, 30 days of running in the space, video installation, Pavilion of Egypt, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Ahmed Basiony, 30 days of running in the space, video installation, Pavilion of Egypt, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Ahmed Basiony, 30 days of running in the space, video installation, Pavilion of Egypt, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Ahmed Basiony, 30 days of running in the space, video installation, Pavilion of Egypt, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Ahmed Basiony, 30 days of running in the space, video installation, Pavilion of Egypt, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Ahmed Basiony, 30 days of running in the space, video installation, Pavilion of Egypt, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Photos by Floris Schreve

The Pavilion of Saudi Arabia

http://www.thisistomorrow.info/viewArticle.aspx?artId=823

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Pavilion, Arsenale, Venice, Italy, 6 Jun 2011

The Black Arch

Title : The Black Arch, installation view Credit : Courtesy Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Pavilion

//


Press Release
Abdulaziz Alsebail, Commissioner, is pleased to announce that Shadia and Raja Alem will represent the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for its inaugural pavilion at the 54th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia, Mona Khazindar1 and Robin Start2 will curate The Black Arch, an installation by the two artists.
The work of Shadia and Raja Alem can be read as a double narrative. Raja the writer, and Shadia the visual artist, have a non-traditional artist’s background. While having had a classical and literary education the sisters acquired knowledge through their encounters with pilgrims visiting Makkah. Their family had welcomed pilgrims into their home during the Hajj for generations. Since the mid 1980s, the sisters have travelled the world for exhibitions, lectures, and for the general exploration and appreciation of art and literature, and in some way seeking the origins of cultures and civilizations that sparked their imagination through the stories of the visitors to Makkah throughout their childhood.
The Black Arch was created through a profound collaboration between Shadia and Raja Alem. It is very much about a meeting point of the two artists; of two visions of the world; from darkness to light, and of two cities – Makkah and Venice. The work is a stage, set to project the artists’ collective memory of Black – the monumental absence of colour – and physical representation of Black, referring to their past. The narrative is fuelled by the inspirational tales told by their aunts and grandmothers, and is anchored in Makkah, where the sisters grew up in the 1970s. The experience with the physical presence of Black, the first part of the installation, is striking for the artists; Raja explains, “I grew up aware of the physical presence of Black all around, the black silhouettes of Saudi women, the black cloth of the Al ka’ba3 and the black stone4 which is said to have enhanced our knowledge.” As a counter-point, the second part of the installation is a mirror image, reflecting the present. These are the aesthetic parameters of the work.
The Black Arch is also about a journey, about transition; inspired by Marco Polo and fellow 13th century traveller Ibn Battuta5 – both examples of how to bridge cultures through travel. Shadia explains how she felt a desire to follow Marco Polo’s example and “to bring my city of Makkah to Venice, through objects brought from there: a Black Arch; a cubic city, and a handful of Muzdalifah pebbles.6” The artists focus on the similarities between the two cosmopolitan cities and their inspirational powers. The double vision of two women, two sisters, two artists unfolds in a world of ritual and tradition which, however, confronts the day-to-day reality of human behaviour with simplicity.
“If the doors of perception were cleared, everything would appear to man as it really is, infinite.”  William Blake. 

See also the extensive documentation on the website of the Saudi Pavilion: http://saudipavilionvenice.com/

Impression by Floris Schreve:

Raja & Shadia Alem, The Black Arch, installation, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Raja & Shadia Alem, The Black Arch, installation, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Raja & Shadia Alem, The Black Arch, installation, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Raja & Shadia Alem, The Black Arch, installation, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Raja & Shadia Alem, The Black Arch, installation, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Raja & Shadia Alem, The Black Arch, installation, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Raja & Shadia Alem, The Black Arch, installation, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

The Pavilion of Iraq; my own impression

Introduction of the curator Mary Angela Shroth:

“These are extraordinary times for Iraq. The project to create an official country Pavilion for the 54. Biennale di Venezia is a multiple and participatory work in progress since 2004. It is historically coming at a period of great renewal after more than 30 years of war and conflict in that country.

The Pavilion of Iraq will feature six internationally-known contemporary Iraqi artists who are emblematic in their individual experimental artistic research, a result of both living inside and outside their country. These artists, studying Fine Arts in Baghdad, completed their arts studies in Europe and USA. They represent two generations: one, born in the early 1950′s, has experienced both the political instability and the cultural richness of that period in Iraq. Ali Assaf, Azad Nanakeli and Walid Siti came of age in the 1970′s during the period of the creation of political socialism that marked their background. The second generation, to include Adel Abidin, Ahmed Alsoudani and Halim Al Karim, grew up during the drama of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), the invasion of Kuwait, overwhelming UN economic sanctions and subsequent artistic isolation. This generation of artists exited the country before the 2003 invasion, finding refuge in Europe and USA by sheer fortune coupled with the artistic virtue of their work. All six artists thus have identities indubitably forged with contemporary artistic practice that unites the global situation with the Iraqi experience and they represent a sophisticated and experimental approach that is completely international in scope.

The six artists will execute works on site that are inspired by both the Gervasuti Foundation space and the thematic choice of water. This is a timely interpretation since the lack of water is a primary source of emergency in Iraq, more than civil war and terrorism. A documentary by Oday Rasheed curated by Rijin Sahakian will feature artists living and working in Iraq today.

The Pavilion of Iraq has been produced thanks to Shwan I. Taha and Reem Shather-Kubba/Patrons Committee, corporate and individual contributors, Embassy of the Republic of Iraq and generous grants from the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, Hussain Ali Al-Hariri, and Nemir & Nada Kirdar. Honorary Patron is the architect Zaha Hadid“.

Azad Nanakeli, Destnuej (purification), Video Installation, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

‘In my language Destnuej means ‘purification’, to cleanse the body from all sins. When I was a boy, water for daily use was extracted from wells for drinking, cooking and washing. Long ago the water from the wells was clear and pure, but already at that time, however, things had changed: my friends who lived in the same area suffered from illness linked to contaminated water. My nephew contracted malaria and died. Since then, much has changed and the wells no longer exist. As in most places they were replaced by aqueducts but the problem persists. Residues of every shape and substance are poured incessantly into the water, poisoning rivers and oceans.

Toxic waste, nuclear by-products, and various chemicals multiply inexorably, seeping into groundwater. Slowly, day after day, they enter into our bodies. For these reasons, the water is no longer pure. Drinking, cooking, washing. Purifying. Purification is an ancient ritual, disseminated in the four corners of the world.

The man who continues to drink this water contaminates his own body. The man who uses it to purify himself contaminates himself.

My work is based on and motivated by these themes, which are also linked to general degradation man causes to the environment around us’.

Azad Nanakeli, March 2011

From: Ali Assaf, Mary Angela Shroth, Acqua Ferita/Wounded Water; Six Iraqi artists interpret the theme of water, Gangemi editore, Venice Biennale, 2011, p. 52

Azad Nanakeli, Au (Water), Mixed Media Installation with audio, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

‘Au’ means water in Kurdish. It is present on our planet in enormous quantities. For the most part, however, it is not available for use: it is salt water that makes up our oceans and glaciers.

The remaining quantity, which we use for the needs of mankind, might be considered sufficient for the moment, but the resources are not unlimited. The need for water increases in an exponential way, with the rise of the world population, and in a few years time the supply might be in jeopardy.

Add to the man’s carelessness and irresponsibility. We waste and pollute water supplies in the name of progress, of consumerism and of economic interests.

It is estimated that within the next twenty years consumption is destined to increase by 40%. What’s more, already today a large part of the world’s population does not have access to clean water sources; among them are the people of the Middle East.

In ancient days and until a few decades ago, these sources existed throughout the territory. They were called oasis. Today after the building of dams by Turkey in the 70’s and by Syria in the 80’s, and the relentless draining of 15,000 square kilometers of Iraqi land (a decision by the regime) everything has changed: where there was once fertile land, there is now desert and desolation.

The World Bank estimates that, by 2035, only 90% of the population of Western Asia, including the Arab Peninsula,  will be without water. The small quantity that will still be available will be directed to urban areas, while the countryside will drown in inescapable aridity.

The accumulation of refuse of large urban and industrial areas over the years had created further danger and damage to the integrity of its precious resource.

Underground water levels are polluted by toxic substances. Non-biodegradable materials from refuse dumps accumulate in canals and oceans.

This work emulates the disturbing images from the media of islands composed entirely of accumulated waste.

Azad Nanakeli, March, 2011

Acqua Ferita, p. 56

Halim Al Karim, Nations Laundry, video installation, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Nations Laundry

In this video (Nations Laundry), the idea and materials used to reflect the concepts of threat, apprehension, and survival in matters of our environment. Within this work, my aim is to create an awareness that may, in turn, help bring about positive changes to our failing environmental systems that came as a result of yours and our wars.

Halim Al-Karim, March 2011

Acqua Ferita, p. 58

Halim Al Karim, Hidden Love 3, fotograph lambda-print, 2010 (photo Floris Schreve)

Halim al Karim (overview- source http://www.modernism.ro/2011/08/29/six-iraqi-artists-acqua-ferita-wounded-water-iraq-pavilion-the-54th-international-art-exhibition-of-the-venice-biennale/)

My works dwell on the envolving mentality of urban society. I am concerned with ongoing and unresolved issues, particularly when they relate to violence. I search both through the layers of collective memory and my personal experience in that context.

In this process, the main challenge for me is to identify and stay clear of the historical and contemporary elements of brainwash.

Through these works I try to visualize an urban society free of violence. These out of focus images, sometimes rendered more mysterious under a veil of silk, imply uncertainty of context, time and place. These techniques, which have become the hallmark of my work, are a means to overcome the effects of politics of deception and, in turn, transform me and the camera into single truth seeking entity.

Halim Al-Karim, March 2011

Acqua Ferita, p. 58

Ahmed Alsoudani (overview- source http://www.modernism.ro/2011/08/29/six-iraqi-artists-acqua-ferita-wounded-water-iraq-pavilion-the-54th-international-art-exhibition-of-the-venice-biennale/)

‘My deepest memories are central to my painting but it is often easier only to look at the surface; to see war, torture and violence and even to consider my art only in terms of the present Iraq war. My own approach is different from anything related to the first impression. I am interested in memory and history, and in the potent areas between the two that enable me to keep memories alive in the present. As an artist, it is important not to get obsessed with my subject matter. I need critical distance. Some of the events that inform my paintings are things I have personally experienced while others I have heard about from family or close friends. These events are refashioned  in my imagination in such a way that I am able to look at them both very personally and with some distance. If I were too personal and too literal about these subjects I would be overly emotional and that would negatively affect the work, I would take it into a place which is something other than art. In order for these works to survive as art I need the distance my interior process of distilling my subject matter affords me. In terms of Iraq, I care deeply about the country and the people there. My work is not intended to be a first person account on war, atrocity or the effect of totalitarianism in Iraq in the last twenty years; in fact I think there are universal and common aspects to these things throughout history and different parts of the world and I hope viewers will see this in my paintings in Venice’.

Ahmed Alsoudani, New York, april, 2011 (from Ali Assaf, Mary Angela Shroth, Acqua Ferita/Wounded Water; Six Iraqi artists interpret the theme of water, Gangemi editore, Venice Biennale, 2011)

 

Walid Siti, Beauty-spot, installation, 2011 (http://fnewsmagazine.com/2011/07/biennale-binge-part-2/ )

Beauty Spot

The Gali Ali Breg (Gorge of Ali Beg) waterfall is part of Hamilton Road, built in 1932 under the guidance of New Zealand engineer Sir Archibald Milne Hamilton to link Erbil with the Iranian border. The waterfall had long been a tourist destination, featured in Iraqi publications and on the current  5000 Iraqi Dinar note.

Two years ago a drought afflicted the region, and left the waterfall dry in the summer seasons. This prompted the Kurdish government to hire a Lebanese company to divert water to the falls, which involved pumping 250 cubic meters of water per second. The imagery on the note thus remained intact.

Walid Siti, 2011

Acqua Ferita, p. 64

Walid Siti, Meso (detail), Mylar mirror, twill tape, nylon fishing line and wood, 2011 (source: http://www.modernism.ro/2011/08/29/six-iraqi-artists-acqua-ferita-wounded-water-iraq-pavilion-the-54th-international-art-exhibition-of-the-venice-biennale/)

Walid Siti,   Meso (detail), Mylar mirror, twill tape, nylon fishing line and wood, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Meso 2011

From the air, the Great Zab River near Erbil forms a snaking, green body of water in a dry, golden landscape. Though beautiful, the sight also reveals the skeletons of dried out rivers and streams that once contributed to its flow. This piece exposes the fragility of the Great Zab (one of the main tributaries to the Tigris River), now exposed to the lurking threats of drought, rapid development and political tugs-of-war.

Walid Siti, 2011

Acqua Ferita, p. 64

Adel Abidin, Consumptions of War, Video Projection and amorphic installation (photo Floris Schreve- see here a compilation)

Adel Abidin, Consumptions of War, Video Projection and amorphic installation (photo Floris Schreve- see here a compilation)

Adel Abidin, Consumptions of War, Video Projection and amorphic installation (photo Floris Schreve- see here a compilation)

Adel Abidin, Consumptions of War, Video Projection and amorphic installation (photo Floris Schreve- see here a compilation)

Adel Abidin, Consumptions of War, Video Projection and amorphic installation (photo Floris Schreve- see here a compilation)

Consumption of War explores the environmental crisis through the participatory crisis and spectator culture of profit driven bodies. Today, global corporate entities encourage consumption on a massive scale for maximum profit, disregarding the obscene amounts of water needed to produce ‘necessities’ such as a pair of jeans or cup of coffee. In Iraq, major corporations have signed the largest free oil exploration deals in history. Yet while every barrel of oil extracted requires 1.5 barrels of water, 1 out of every 4 citizens has no access to clean drinking water.

In a corporate office, two men compete in a childish battle inspired by Star Wars, using fluorescent lights as swords. Each light is consumed until the darkened room marks the game’s abrupt end. Alternating between lush and dry, attractive and foolish, this is a landscape of false promises and restricted power’

Adel Abidin, March 2011, Acqua Ferita, p. 34

Narciso – Alì Assaf from EcoArt Project on Vimeo.

Ali Assaf, still from Narciso (photo Floris Schreve)

For the 2011 Biennale I have conceived two works. Between them, they approach several aspects following my recent visit to my hometown, Al Basrah, where I lived till the age of 18 and where the majority of my gamily still resides.

Narciso

In my parents’ house in Al Basrah, I found myself turning the pages of an old schoolbook on Caravaggio (1571-1610). Before an illustration of his ‘Narciso’, these questions came to mind:

‘What would happen today if Narcissus saw himself in the water?’

‘Would he be able to see his image in today’s polluted water?’

‘And myself? If I was able to see my image in the waters of Al Basrah, what would I see?’

In this manner my return to Al Basrah had the meaning of reflecting myself in my own history and in its own in-depth and intimate personal identity. But it was impossible to do, because I found this identity led astray and darkened.

Ali Assaf, al-Basrah, the Venice of the East (installation), 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Ali Assaf, al-Basrah, the Venice of the East (installation), 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Ali Assaf, al-Basrah, the Venice of the East (installation), 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Ali Assaf, al-Basrah, the Venice of the East (installation), 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Ali Assaf,  al-Basrah, the Venice of the East (detail), 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Al Basrah, the Venice of the East

My arrival at the border between Kuwait and Iraq was a shock.

A profound sense of frustration when confronted with this reality.

‘ There was nothing left from those memories that were so important to my survival. Only destruction and ugliness. The surviving friends and family had aged, the Shatt al-Arab River had become saline.

The canals had dried up and were a deposit for refuse and garbage, the historic buildings destroyed or substituted by illegal constructions, the dates were contaminated.

The Shenashil built of wood (with their Indo-English balconies) were abandoned to their own devices, to the sun and rain, they had lost their charm and characteristic beauty. These places were corroded by humidity and lack of care, marked by war and the embargo.

All without a trace of poetry.

Ali Assaf, 2011

Acqua Ferita, p. 46

Me in the Black Arch

Floris Schreve

(أمستردام، هولندا)

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Iraq returns to the Venice Bienial – Irak weer terug op de Biënnale van Venetië – العراق يعود إلى بينالي البندقية

http://fhs1973.wordpress.com/2011/06/14/irak-weer-terug-op-de-biennale-van-venetie/

Acqua Ferita / Wounded Water

The Iraqi Pavilion at the Venice Bienial/Het Paviljoen van Irak op de Biënnale van Venetië/ الجناح العراقي في بينالي البندقية

After an absence of thirty-five years, Iraq finally again is represented at the Venice Biennial. Although the situation in Iraq is far from favorable for artists and the circumstances are still very difficult (albeit in a different way than under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein), the Iraqi pavilion at the Biennale is probably something hopeful. Probably because it seemed not have been easy to achieve this. Ali Assaf, the in Italy living Iraqi artist who is the main initiator of this project (earlier I spent on this blog some attention on his work in this article in Dutch and see this clip with a compilation of older work), had initially planned an exhibition of artists who are living and working inside Iraq. Because of the insecure circumstances in Iraq (still no government and no guarantees for substantial support) ultimately this plan ended up impossible to realise and the project became an exhibition of six artists from the Iraqi diaspora.

The participating artists are Adel Abidin (Helsinki, born 1973 in Baghdad), Ahmed Alsoudani (New York, born in 1975 in Baghdad), Ali Assaf (Rome, born in 1950 in Basra), Azad Nanakeli (Florence, born 1951 in Arbil , Kurdistan), Halim Al Karim (Denver, born in 1963 in Najaf) and Walid Siti (London, born in 1954 in Dohuk, Kurdistan). The exhibition is curated by Mary Angela Schroth (curator), Vittorio Urbani (co-commisioner) and Rijin Sahakian (Projects Assistant). Honorary President is the world-renowned Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid.

The only one of these artists I’ve once personally  met is Halim Al Karim (Ali Assaf I once interviewed by phone about his performance Feet of Sand of 1996, see here). After his escape from Iraq Halim Al Karim spent some time in the Netherlands ( he studied at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam). I met him early summer 2000, when he exhibited in the no longer existing gallery Fi Beiti (which was specialized in artists from the Middle East) in Amsterdam. At that time he made ceramic objects (see this example). Although at that time  he was barely known in the Dutch artscene (in the Middle East he already had a great career), I found his ceramic work had a very special quality. His breakthrough in the West came when he had moved to the United States. This was especially with his photographic work, as shown below. Today, his work is represented in the Saatchi Collection among others (see here)

Anyhow it’s special that this pavilion was created. Here will follow some of the official documentation, supplemented with information and images of the participating artists. In a later context, I will publish an article in English in which I will discuss more extensively some of these artists.

Floris Schreve,  Amsterdam

فلوريس سحرافا (أمستردام، هولندا)

Click here for the essay of Mary Angela Shroth, curator of the Pavilion of Iraq

Ali Assaf, Al Basrah, the Venice of the East, Mixed Media Installation, 2011

Adel Abidin, Consumptions of War, Video Projection and amorphic installation

Walid Siti, Beauty Spot, Mixed Media Installation, 2011

Na een afwezigheid van vijfendertig jaar is Irak weer vertegenwoordigd op de Biënnale van Venetië. Hoewel de situatie in Irak allerminst gunstig is en kunstenaars het daar nog altijd bijzonder zwaar hebben (zij het op een andere manier dan onder de dictatuur van Saddam Hoessein), stemt het Iraakse paviljoen op de Biënnale enigszins hoopvol. Enigszins want het schijnt niet makkelijk geweest te zijn om dit te realiseren. Ali Assaf, de in Italië wonende Iraakse kunstenaar die de belangrijkste initiator van dit project was (eerder besteedde ik op dit blog aandacht zijn werk in dit artikel en zie hier een filmpje met een compilatie van wat ouder werk) was oorspronkelijk van plan om een tentoonstelling samen te stellen van kunstenaars uit Irak zelf. Uiteindelijk bleek dit niet realiseerbaar en werd het een expositie van zes Iraakse kunstenaars uit de Diaspora.

De particperende kunstenaars zijn Adel Abidin (Helsinki, geb. 1973 in Bagdad), Ahmed Alsoudani (New York, geboren in 1975 in Bagdad),  Ali Assaf (Rome, geboren in 1950 in Basra), Azad Nanakeli (Florence, geboren 1951 in Arbil, Koerdistan), Halim Al Karim (Denver, geboren in 1963 in Najaf) en Walid Siti (Londen, geboren in 1954 in Dohuk, Koerdistan). De tentoonstelling werd samengesteld door, naast Ali Assaf, Mary Angela Schroth (curator), Vittorio Urbani (co-commisioner) en Rijin Sahakian (adjunct Projects). Erevoorzitter is de inmiddels wereldwijd befaamde Iraakse architecte Zaha Hadid.

De enige van deze kunstenaars die ik zelf een keer heb ontmoet is Halim Al Karim (Ali Assaf heb ik een keer telefonisch geïnterviewd over zijn performance Feet of Sand uit 1996, zie hier). Na zijn vlucht uit Irak verbleef Halim Al Karim een tijd in Nederland (hij studeerde oa aan de Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam). Ik heb hem ontmoet begin zomer 2000, toen hij exposeerde in de niet meer bestaande gallerie Fi Beiti (gespecialiseerd in kunstenaars uit het Midden Oosten), aan de Prinsengracht in Amsterdam. In die tijd maakte hij keramische objecten (zie dit voorbeeld). Toen was hij nog nauwelijks bekend. Ten onrechte vond ik toen al, want zijn keramische werk had een bijzondere kwaliteit.  Zijn grote doorbraak kwam toen hij naar Denver was verhuisd. Dat was vooral met zijn fotografische werk, zoals hieronder te zien is. Tegenwoordig prijkt zijn werk in oa de Saatchi Collectie (zie hier)

Hoe dan ook is het bijzonder dat dit paviljoen tot stand is gekomen. In dit verband geef ik wat van de officiële documentatie weer, aangevuld met informatie en beeldmateriaal van de participerende kunstenaars. In een later verband zal ik in een nog te verschijnen Engelstalige bijdrage veel dieper ingaan op het werk van oa een aantal van deze kunstenaars.

Floris Schreve, Amsterdam

فلوريس سحرافا (أمستردام، هولندا)

Pavilion of Iraq 54th International Art Exhibition la Biennale di Venezia

Iraq’s experimental contemporary artists have never had a chance to present their work for an Iraq Pavilion at the Venice Biennale; the first and last major appearance in 1976 outlined only some of their “modern” artists. The Iraq Pavilion for 2011 will indeed show the world an exciting professionally-curated selection of 6 Iraqi artists from two generations, including various artistic media (painting, performance, video, photography, sculpture/installation).

Ali Assaf, Commissioner for the Pavilion of Iraq 2011

 

Acqua Ferita / Wounded Water Six Iraqi Artists interpret the theme of water

Site: Gervasuti Foundation, Fondamenta S. Ana (Via Garibaldi) Castello 995, between Giardini and Arsenale
Opening to the Public: June 4, 2011. Closes Nov. 27, 2011 10-6 pm daily except Mondays
Press Preview: June 2, 2011 7 to 9 pm
Commissioner: Ali Assaf
Co-Commissioner: Vittorio Urbani
Curator: Mary Angela Schroth
Organization: Nuova Icona and Sala 1
Media Partner: Canvas Magazine
In collaboration with: Embassy of the Republic of Iraq in Italy, Iraq UN Representation in Rome, Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, corporate and individual patrons and the Iraq Pavilion Patrons Committee

These are extraordinary times for Iraq. The project to create an official country Pavilion for the 54. Biennale di Venezia is a multiple and participatory work in progress since 2004. It is historically coming at a period of great renewal after more than 30 years of war and conflict in that country.

The Pavilion of Iraq will feature six internationally-known contemporary Iraqi artists who are emblematic in their individual experimental artistic research, a result of both living inside and outside their country. These artists, studying Fine Arts in Baghdad, completed their arts studies in Europe and USA. They represent two generations: one, born in the early 1950′s, has experienced both the political instability and the cultural richness of that period in Iraq. Ali Assaf, Azad Nanakeli and Walid Siti came of age in the 1970′s during the period of the creation of political socialism that marked their background. The second generation, to include Adel Abidin, Ahmed Alsoudani and Halim Al Karim, grew up during the drama of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), the invasion of Kuwait, overwhelming UN economic sanctions and subsequent artistic isolation. This generation of artists exited the country before the 2003 invasion, finding refuge in Europe and USA by sheer fortune coupled with the artistic virtue of their work. All six artists thus have identities indubitably forged with contemporary artistic practice that unites the global situation with the Iraqi experience and they represent a sophisticated and experimental approach that is completely international in scope.

The six artists will execute works on site that are inspired by both the Gervasuti Foundation space and the thematic choice of water. This is a timely interpretation since the lack of water is a primary source of emergency in Iraq, more than civil war and terrorism. A documentary by Oday Rasheed curated by Rijin Sahakian will feature artists living and working in Iraq today.

The Pavilion of Iraq has been produced thanks to Shwan I. Taha and Reem Shather-Kubba/Patrons Committee, corporate and individual contributors, Embassy of the Republic of Iraq and generous grants from the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, Hussain Ali Al-Hariri, and Nemir & Nada Kirdar. Honorary Patron is the architect Zaha Hadid.

         

Links en rechts: Adel Abidin, Consumptions of War, Video Projection and amorphic installation

    

Links: Ahmed Alsoudani, Untitled, Charcoal and acrylic on canvas, 2010. Rechts: Ahmed Alsoudani, Untitled, Charcoal and acrylic on canvas, 2011

      

Links: Ali Assaf, Narciso, video installation, 2010. Rechts:Ali Assaf, Al Basrah, the Venice of the East, Mixed Media Installation, 2011

      

Links: Azad Nanakeli, Destnuej (purification), Video Installation, 2011. Rechts: Azad Nanakeli, Au (Water), Mixed Media Installation with audio, 2011

    

Links: Halim al Karim, Hidden Love 1, photograph Lambda Print, 2010. Rechts: Halim Al Karim, Hidden Revolution, video still, 2010

   

Links: Walid Siti, Beauty Spot,  Mixed Media Installation, 2011. Rechts: Walid Siti, Mesa, Mylar mirror, twill tape, nylon fishing line and wood, 2011

Bron en voor veel meer informatie en beeldmateriaal: http://www.pavilionofiraq.org/upload/index.html

In een later verband zal ik nog uitgebreid aandacht besteden aan een aantal van deze kunstenaars.

Floris Schreve فلوريس سحرافا

Pavilion Of Iraq

54th International Art Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia

click on logo to visit the website

Azad Nanakeli, Destnuej (purification), video-installatie, 2011

Ali Assaf, Al Basrah, the Venice of the East, Mixed Media Installation, 2011

Adel Abidin, Consumption of War, video, 2011

Halim Al Karim, Nations Laundry, video installatie, 2010-2011

Ahmed Alsoudani, Untitled, Charcoal and acrylic on canvas, 2011

Walid Siti, Mesa, Mylar mirror, twill tape, nylon fishing line and wood, 2011 (detail)

Uit ‘The Wallstreet Journal’ van 24 maart 2011: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704893604576200652720598940.html?mod=WSJ_Magazine_LEFTTopStories

Iraq Comes to Venice

Curator and iconoclast Mary Angela Schroth is spearheading a campaign to return Iraqi art to the prestigious Venice Biennale after a 35-year absence

Read more: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704893604576200652720598940.html#ixzz1PMFU92Df

By MARISA MAZRIA KATZ

[mag411_schroth1] Courtesy of Robert Goff GalleryAHMED ALSOUDANI | The Baghdad-born, New York-based painter (‘Untitled,’ 2007, pictured here) will be among six artists showing work at the Venice Biennale’s Iraq pavilion opening in June.

Walking a provocative tightrope is what American contemporary-art curator Mary Angela Schroth does best. In 1993, with memories of apartheid still fresh, Schroth staged Italy’s first exhibition of South African art, and during the days of glasnost and a collapsing Soviet Union, she presented its first show of perestroika-era Russian artists. And in a move that some might interpret as the ultimate in cultural and political overtures, Schroth is now preparing the return of the Iraq pavilion to the 2011 Venice Biennale after a 35-year hiatus.

[mag411_schroth2] Photograph by Danilo ScarpatiCurator Mary Angela Schroth, photographed at mixed-media artist Ali Assaf’s studio in Rome.

Artists and curators who have worked with Schroth throughout her career, which includes running Rome’s first nonprofit art space, Sala 1 (pronounced “Sala Uno,” Italian for “Room One”), say it’s the native Virginian’s tenacity and inquisitiveness that have shaped her vision since she entered the art world back in 1977.

“With anyone else it would have been impossible,” says Basra-born, Italy-based artist Ali Assaf, who is the commissioner and one of six Iraqi artists presenting work in the pavilion. Bringing his native country back to Venice was a cause he championed for years, but decades of unrest prevented its materialization. “At first it couldn’t be done because of Saddam, but then it became impossible because of the severe fighting and confusion,” he explains.

In 2009, Assaf approached Schroth to curate the pavilion in hopes that the combination of his passion and her trademark ambition would lead Iraq back into the Venice Biennale limelight. “The pavilion, through its artists and collaboration with the new government, is one small, but significant step,” Schroth says. “It is an important symbol for change.”

[mag411_schroth3] Courtesy of Azad NanakeliAZAD NANAKELI | Stills from the Florence-based artist’s video installation ‘Destnuej’ (2011)

In the two years since, Schroth, 61, has worked with Assaf to select artists who represent a cross-section of intergenerational talent from the Arab nation. But with the exodus of much of the country’s creative class, as well as today’s fragile security situation, choosing artists currently residing in Iraq proved unfeasible.

“Getting Iraqi artists [who live in Iraq] is not an easy job,” says Iraq’s ambassador to the U.N. agencies in Rome, Hassan Janabi. “It could be tedious and possibly create friction. Instead, they sought out artists living on the outside who could truly reflect what constitutes an Iraqi artist.” The list includes New York–based Ahmed Alsoudani, who will simultaneously show several paintings inside the nearby Palazzo Grassi, and the London-based Kurdish artist Walid Siti.

[mag411_schroth4] Courtesy of Walid SitiWALID SITI | ‘Family Ties’ (April 2009), an installation in Dubai by the London-based artist

The title of the pavilion, “Acqua Ferita”—or “wounded water” in Italian—was selected to shift the Iraq conversation away from war and onto one many view as equally significant. “Terrorism is a theme people are fed up with,” Assaf says. “There are other problems, such as water loss in the region, that no one thinks about.” The concept drew support from Janabi, who was at the time an official adviser to the Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources. “Vast areas once covered with water are now desert,” Janabi says. “Water is life and this life has been taken away. This is critical and it’s now diminishing.”

Although some might chafe at the idea of an American curating the Iraq pavilion, contentious nationality issues have always remained far outside Schroth’s purview. “My nomadic life means I have more in common with these artists than a normal curator,” she says.

Indeed, it has been more than three decades since Schroth lived in the U.S. Her departure for Europe came on the heels of a five-year stretch working as an assistant at CBS under the helm of Walter Cronkite, covering events like Watergate, the end of the Vietnam War and the election of Jimmy Carter.

[0411Karim] Courtesy of Halim al-KarimHALIM AL-KARIM | ‘Hidden War’ (1985), a triptych by the U.S.-based photographer.

Her first destination was Normandy, France. Although Schroth had no formal art training, her enthusiasm led her to some of the country’s most off-the-map art happenings—the most fruitful of which was a collaboration with French contemporary artist Joël Hubaut. Together they established the independent art space Nouveau Mixage, hedged inside an abandoned garage in the center of Caen. It was there Schroth learned how to become an “artist’s producer,” or someone, she explains, “who could translate their projects into reality.”

While living in France, Schroth met the commissioner of the U.S. pavilion at the 50th Venice Biennale, Kathleen Goncharov, and the two have since traveled to remote biennials and art events around the world. “My investigations to countries outside the Eurocentric context have been a big part of my identity in my work with contemporary art,” Schroth says.

With the impending closure of Nouveau Mixage, Schroth relocated to Rome. She arrived in a city replete with sweeping, historic charm, but a flatlining contemporary art scene. “Rome was a backwater,” Schroth says. “It didn’t have in the early 1980s what it has today. It just wasn’t interested in international contemporary art.”

[mag411_schroth6] Courtesy of Adel AbidinADEL ABIDIN | Still from ‘Three Love Songs’ (2010-11), a video installation at Mathaf, the Arab Museum of Modern Art in Qatar.

A lack of galleries and independent spaces forced Schroth to spend her first year scouring the city for artists and setting her sights on transforming disused spaces into art hubs. One of the first such shows exhibited the work of Italian and British artists in abandoned, underground bathroom stalls in a central Roman piazza. The event, which still retains a kind of cult status in Italy today, proved to be one of the most pivotal in Schroth’s career, as it facilitated her introduction to sculptor and Passionist priest Tito Amodei.

Amodei’s art studio was housed inside a vaulted, former basilica compound owned by the Vatican. Inside the complex was also the 800-square-foot Sala 1 gallery that he used for sculptural exhibitions. He had for some time been on a desperate hunt for a director to take over the space. “Back then it wasn’t cool to be connected to the Catholic Church,” Schroth says. “Many didn’t think it could be a viable art space, but it just needed a curatorial jumpstart. Like any place, it was just a container unless you had a vision.” And so in 1985, Schroth assumed the role of director at Sala 1. The only rules for running the space, explains the now 85-year-old Amodei, were: “No politics. No religion. No Vatican. Only culture.”

Keeping their distance from their landlord, which meant never asking for financial assistance, has enabled Sala 1 to maintain a large degree of creative freedom—best exemplified in a succession of groundbreaking exhibitions. These include the 1995 “Halal” show, the first display of contemporary Israeli artists in Italy, and collaborating with the Studio Museum in Harlem in 2006 to present the U.S.’s first show of comic books hailing from Africa.

[mag411_schroth7] Courtesy of Ali AssafALI ASSAF | ‘Waters!’ (2009), an installation at Sette Sale in Rome.

Now with the 2002 opening of MACRO, the contemporary art museum and galleries, including an outpost from powerhouse dealer Larry Gagosian, Rome is beginning to take hold as a serious contemporary-art center. “At a time when Rome had mostly sleepy institutions, she was one of the only people working with emerging talent,” says Viktor Misiano, former contemporary-art curator at the Pushkin Museum and co-curator of “Mosca: Terza Roma,” Schroth’s 1988 exhibition of Russian art. “She is one of the few that had the courage to do something unusual.”

As if to underscore Schroth’s unremitting energy, she is also curating the first-ever Bangladesh pavilion for this summer’s Venice Biennale, which coincides with the country’s 40th anniversary. Both Bangladesh and Iraq will be housed in the Gervasuti Foundation, an artisan’s workshop in a construction zone in central Venice.

“For me being with the artist is as good as it gets,” says Schroth in a still-thick Southern accent. “And although sometimes it’s not perfect, in the end, they give you what I call illumination.”

“Which,” she adds, “just so happens to be the theme of this year’s Biennale.”

—The 54th Venice Biennale will run from June 4 to November 27, 2011.

Read more: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704893604576200652720598940.html#ixzz1PMEloVln

3/18. Bezoekers bekijken een kunstwerk van de Irakees Azad Nanakeli. Foto AFP / Filippo Monteforte (NRC, zie http://www.nrc.nl/inbeeld/2011/06/04/de-54e-biennale-van-venetie/ )

Ali Assaf, detail of Al Basra, the Venice of the East, video of oil soaked birds of the Gulf oil spill, accompanied by children’s songs (source http://www.artandpoliticsnow.com/2011/06/venice-biennale-2011-first-installment-the-iraqi-pavillion/ )

Ahmed Alsoudani, Untitled, Charcoal and acrylic on canvas, 2011

Ali Assaf, Narciso, video installation, 2010

Halim al Karim, Hidden Love 3, Photograph Lambda Print, 2009

http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2011/jun/02/venice-biennale-iraqi-voice

Venice Biennale gives voice to Iraqi diaspora and struggling younger artists

Iraq’s first pavilion for 34 years is about trying to change perceptions of a dictatorship-scarred and war-wounded country

Charlotte Higgins

Venice Art Biennale - Iraqui Pavilion

Azad Nanakeli’s Acqua ferita/ Wounded Water at the Iraqi pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Photograph: Christian Jungeblodt

“I want to create, I want to show the world what I am capable of, but I cannot.” So says a 16-year-old Iraqi photographer, as Iraq fields its first pavilion for 34 years at the Venice Biennale.

The words of Ayman Haider Kadhm are part of a short documentary that looks at the experiences of three young Iraqi artists struggling to find a voice in a war-ravaged country.

He talks of his camera being confiscated by the security forces. “Do I look like a terrorist? I am only a photographer who wants to record life.”

In fact the main installation of the Iraq pavilion contains work only by members of the Iraqi diaspora, most of whom left in the 1970s to study abroad before the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war.

According to Rijin Sahakian, the Iraqi-born, American head of the Echo cultural foundation, another supporter of the pavilion: “There has been a severance of training, and an isolation for decades compounded by a newfound violence.

“That’s why all the artists here are part of the diaspora. It’s been fractured for years, and the last 10 years have been the final blow.”

The biennale may be a critical event for visual arts, but – with its national pavilions – it also has inescapable overtones of soft diplomacy. Iraq’s presence is also about trying to change perceptions of a dictatorship-scarred and war-wounded country.

Azad Nanakeli left his home city of Arbil in Kurdistan aged 23 to study in Baghdad and then Florence – and stayed in Italy. He has created a film work and a sculptural installation exploring the pavilion’s water theme.

It is, he says, “a great thing to have a space here. In 1976 Iraq was present at the biennale but it was more political and belonged to the regime”.

The curator, Mary Angela Schroth, agrees. “I want people to see the work of these artists and see that there are some untold stories. And I want people to see Iraq not as a 30-year conflict zone but like any other country.

“We have deliberately got away from the war – we want to give it an identity, an identity that it has lost since the Saddam dictatorship.

“In two years it could be more than a reality to show Iraqi work made in Iraq. But at the moment young Iraqis can’t leave the country. It is very difficult for artistic practice – the country is essentially destroyed.”

The pavilion is funded by the Iraq government and a handful of private sponsors including Total, the oil company. Zaha Hadid, the Iraqi-British architect, is its patron.

The artists argue that culture is necessary as a means of expression after a traumatic period in its history.

According to Nanakeli, after the war: “We thought we’d get freedom. Now we have a big problem when we speak about contemporary culture. The government doesn’t give a lot of space for art, theatre, cinema and that is terrible for Iraqis.

“If we are to grow as a country we need to think about all areas of life. My hope is that there will be a future for artists, poets and writers.”

Sahakian adds: “People have been silenced for so long. Art is a crucial tool for talking about what’s happened, for self-expression, for the documenting of personal experience.”

The London-based Walid Siti, who left his native Duhok in 1976 to study in Baghdad and then Ljubljana in Slovenia, has created a pair of linked sculptural installations which look at the rivers of Iraq.

“To have a show in Venice is important – to say that there is something positive. The water metaphor, it can bring us together.”

He talks about the subject of one of his pieces: the river Azab, which rises in Turkey, flows through Kurdistan and then flows “like a vein – a kind of symbol of life and continuity” to the Tigris.

“In Iraq it is very hard for artists. Religious groups are pressurising the government to close to close down art, theatre, dance organisations.

“But people are coming up with ideas. For better or worse, what Iraq has been through is a source of ideas.”

The Iraq pavilion is at Gervasuti Foundation, Castello 995, Venice, from Saturday until 27 November

Interview with Ali Assaf (in Italian), http://www.blarco.com/2011/06/il-fascino-del-padiglione-delliraq-alla.html

http://haunchofvenison.com/films/ahmed_alsoudaniwounded_water/

Ahmed Alsoudani: Wounded Water

Film

Wounded Water: a short film with Ahmed Alsoudani from Haunch of Venison on Vimeo.

14 June 2011

Ahmed Alsoudani talks about his participation in ‘Wounded Water’, the Pavilion of Iraq, at the 54th Venice Biennale.

After a 35-year hiatus, 2011 marks Iraq’s triumphant return to the Venice Biennale. In an exhibition curated by Mary Angela Schroth, the 2011 Iraq Pavilion will present to the world six internationally celebrated Iraqi artists, including Haunch of Venison’s Ahmed Alsoudani (b.1975), an emerging artist whose paintings of war and human conflict have garnered him international attention and broad critical applause. The artists in the exhibition span two generations: Ali Assaf, Azad Nanakli, and Walid Siti were born in the 1950s and experienced periods of vast cultural richness and creativity in the country despite political turmoil; Ahmed Alsoudani, Abel Abidin and Halim Al Karim grew up during the Iran-Iraq War, the Invasion of Kuwait and daily life under intense UN sanctions and the tyrannical Ba’athist regime. The exhibition, entitled Acqua Ferita/Wounded Water, revolves around the six artists’ interpretations on the theme of water loss in the region through diverse mediums including painting, performance, video, photography, sculpture and installation art. According to Schroth, “The pavilion, through its artists and collaboration with the new government, is one small, but significant step.” The Iraq Pavilion will open on 2 June 2011 and is located at the Gervasuti Foundation, Fondamenta S. Ana (Via Garibaldi), Castello 995, between Giardini and Arsenale.

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  • Haunch of Venison © 2011

The New York Times, 3-6-2011,  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/05/fashion/middle-eastern-artists-at-the-venice-biennale.html?_r=3&ref=middleeast

The Art World’s New Darlings

Jessica Craig-Martin for The New York Times

AFLOAT Ahmed Alsoudani, left, poses for Adel Abidin.

By JULIA CHAPLIN
Published: June 3, 2011

//

Adel Abidin and Ahmed Alsoudani, the young artists who represent Iraq at the 54th Venice Biennale, were sitting on the terrace of the Bauer Hotel here at dusk on Wednesday, studying their elaborately hand-written invitations to a private dinner given by François Pinault, the French billionaire. How would they cross the water to San Giorgio Maggiore Island?

Jessica Craig-Martin for The New York Times

NETWORKING Ahmed Alsoudani, left, with Isabelle de La Bruyère at a Venice Biennale party.

It is the first time since 1976 that Iraq has participated in the prestigious art gathering. With Egypt, Syria, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia all showing there (a first for Saudi Arabia), Middle Eastern art was Topic A among the gaggle of oligarchs, aristocrats and movie stars who gathered for three days of frantic partying and private viewings before the fair’s official opening on Saturday.

So it wasn’t surprising when Yvonne Force Villareal, a founder of the Art Production Fund in New York, offered them a ride on her private water taxi, along with the photographer Todd Eberle, the socialite Anne McNally, and Bruno Frisoni, the shoe designer. They piled in, a tangle of gowns and glitter, and sped across the choppy waterways, which were clogged with other party commuter craft.

When they docked at the Cini Foundation, an opulent former Benedictine monastery, Mr. Pinault himself stood at the arched entrance shaking hands with a long line of about 1,000 guests that included Anna Wintour, Charlotte Casiraghi, Jeff Koons and Dasha Zhukova.

Mr. Abidin, 38, is the less active networker of the two artists. He seemed to defy Mr. Pinault’s cocktail-attire dress code, wearing Vans, striped ankle socks and a scarf over a pink button-up shirt. He was coming from a scrappy, laid-back party for a pan-Arabian exhibition, held in a sprawling old salt storage facility, and was eager to return to his friends there.

Mr. Alsoudani, 36, on the other hand, was in his element, and seemed to know every other curator and collector. His abstract paintings, which touch on themes of violence and war, are collected by Charles Saatchi and Mr. Pinault, a frequent visitor to his studio. “François said he liked my pants,” said Mr. Alsoudani, who wore a pair of snug-fitting Dior trousers, a white vest and a hat.

The two — the youngest of six artists who represent the Iraq Pavilion’s exhibition, “Wounded Water” — came of age during the Iran-Iraq war, the invasion of Kuwait and the rule of Saddam Hussein. Both now live in the West (Mr. Abidin in Helsinki and Mr. Alsoudani in New York City), but their works reference a collective memory of strife and hardship — in Mr. Abidin’s case, with a touch of humor. They had met for the first time that evening and seemed to inhabit opposite spectrums of the art world, one bling, the other purist, although they agreed about the changing Middle East.

“The revolution in the Middle East has made me believe that we still have the capacity for believing in our dreams,” Mr. Abidin said, referring to the Arab Spring. “Change is beautiful.”

The two artists had been sought after in Venice, receiving invitations to palazzo dinners and a decadent reception hosted by Ms. Zhukova, Neville Wakefield and Alex Dellal at the Bauer.

Inside the monastery, Mr. Pinault’s party was in high gear, extravagant even by Biennale standards: more candles than a Sting video, banquet tables piled with basil risotto and sparkling rosé, and long tables stacked with exotic cheeses.

Young aristos flitted about the gardens in Balenciaga and Lanvin. Seated at one table were Isabelle de La Bruyère, a regional specialist from Christie’s, and Sultan Sooud al-Qassemi from the Emirate of Sharjah. “Come sit with us!” they called to Mr. Alsoudani and Mr. Abidin, who was chatting with Lisa Phillips, the director of the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York.

“Middle East art is definitely trendy right now,” Mr. Alsoudani said. “But the truth is there is no Chinese art scene, or Indian art scene or Middle East. It’s easier to categorize it that way. The world is getting smaller and all art is judged by the same international standard.”

By 11 p.m., about two hours in, the crowd had mellowed and the BlackBerry typing began. Maurizio Cattelan was hosting a party for his magazine Toilet Paper on San Servolo Island. Others were heading to the Bungalow 8 pop-up club at Hotel Palazzina Grassi and others back to the Bauer.

Mr. Abidin refilled on red wine but seemed disillusioned by all the glitz. “I don’t like Venice,” he said. “I got divorced here and then had two breakups.” He returned to the pan-Arabian party on a boat with a D.J. and no dress code.

Mr. Alsoudani stayed behind. He hit the cheese table and his dealer, from Haunch of Venison, invited him to a party on a yacht hosted by the French collectors Steve and Chiara Rosenblum. “Isn’t Venice fantastic?” he said, contemplating all his choices.

A version of this article appeared in print on June 5, 2011, on page ST1 of the New York edition with the headline: The Art World’s New Darlings.

An exhibition of Halim al Karim in the Darat al-Funun, Amman, 2010

May 2010 Halim Al Karim’s work is a response to the artist’s own unimaginable experiences and his ongoing observation of the turmoil in Baghdad. Al Karim’s artistic approach is as an outward projection of his inner-consciousness and an expression of spiritual awakening. This exhibition presents a series of triptychs with blurred faces. Some are well known figures; others are film stills, artworks, or artifacts from his homeland. The identities of the figures seem immaterial with Al Karim’s out of focus photography technique; blurring their identities to emphasize the un-kept promises of freedom. In the series Witness from Baghdad, the artist highlights the non existence of a passive witness in times of war. Their striking, life-like eyes which reference Sumerian sculptures are proof that these quiet intangible faces are alive and well aware of what is happening around them. The works on show witness the evolving mentality of urban society in present day Iraq

Unveiled (Saatchi-Collection): http://www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk/artists/halim_karim.htm?section_name=unveiled

SELECTED WORKS BY Halim Al-Karim

 

Click on the images to enlarge
Halim Al-Karim

Hidden War

1985 Lambda print

138 x 324 cm

Hidden War

Iraqi artist Halim Al-Karim underwent a harrowing experience during the first Gulf War. Opposing Saddam’s regime and its compulsory military service he took to hiding in the desert, living for almost 3 years in a hole in the ground covered by a pile of rocks. He survived only through the assistance of a Bedouin woman who brought him food and water and taught him about gypsy customs and mysticism. Al-Karim has since emigrated to America, however, these events have had a profound effect on his life and form the basis for his art practice.

Halim Al-Karim

Hidden Face

1995 Lambda print

138 x 300 cm

Hidden Face

In this body of work, Al-Karim presents a series of triptychs, each comprised of three faces. Some are well known figures, such as Saddam Hussein in Hidden Face, others are film stills, artworks, or artifacts. Presented as enlarged panels their distortion is compounded, raising the question not of what they represent but of their deeper meaning and interconnectivity. Hidden Face was made in 1995, years before the famous photo of Saddam in custody; the figure is in fact made up, based on how Al-Karim imagined the dictator would look in the future. The two flanking out of focus figures are suggestive of world leaders – still in power – whose support of Saddam’s regime has been forgotten. Al-Karim has blurred their identities to show the duplicity of their motives, scripting them as anonymous accomplices who will never stand trial.

Halim Al-Karim

Hidden Prisoner

1993 Lambda print

158 x 369 cm

Hidden Prisoner

In this series of work, photography is used for its non-physical qualities: a medium which quite literally creates an image from light, capturing the transient and interwoven nature of time and memory. The Sumerian artifacts featured in Al-Karim’s Hidden Prisoner and Hidden Goddess were photographed in the Louvreand the British Museum; Al-Karim describes seeing them internedbehind glass, far away from their home, as a painful reminder ofvisiting his friends and family who were held as political prisonersat Abu Ghraib during Saddam’s regime.

Halim Al-Karim

Hidden Theme

1995 Lambda print

138 x 300 cm

Hidden Theme

Al-Karim’s Hidden series is a response to the artists own unimaginable experiences and his ongoing observances of the turbulences in his homeland. With pieces titled Hidden War, Hidden Victims, Hidden Witnesses, Al-Karim raises the awareness of not only the devastating effects of violence, but its many manifestations – both physical and psychological – from the political to the economic and domestic. His works adopt a skewed sense of scale and resolve to conceptually shift between the macro and the micro, the societal and individual, physical and emotive, offering a tranquil and meditative pause and space for reflection and catharsis.

Halim Al-Karim

Hidden Victims

2008 Lambda print

186 x 372 cm

Hidden Victims

Al-Karim merges aspects of Sufism – such as the belief in Divine Unity – with obsolete traditions, especially those of ancient Sumer, the grand empire which ruled in what is now Iraq from 6000-4000 BC. Sumerian symbols often appear in his images, and his photographs of women are in part inspired by a ritual which could elevate girls to the status of goddesses.

Halim Al-Karim

Prisoner Goddess

1993 Lambda print

124 x 372 cm

Prisoner Goddess

Al-Karim’s approach to image-making is as an outward projection of his inner-consciousness and a visual manifestation of spiritual awakening and serenity. His evasive dream-like images evoke a range of instinctual emotive responses, the ability of true perception existing as a preternatural power within each of us, which can be understood and harnessed through the pursuit of metaphysical enlightenment.

Halim Al-Karim

Hidden Witnesses

2007 Lambda print

138 x 300 cm

Hidden Witnesses
Halim Al-Karim

Hidden Doll

2008 Lambda print covered with white silk

200 x 360 cm

Hidden Doll

In pieces such as Hidden Doll, Al-Karim presents his photographs beneath a tautly stretched layer of white silk fabric that operates as both a physical veil masking the portraits and a metaphorical filter or screen. This ‘barrier’ between viewer and image can be conceived as a liminal space, a transcendental portal between being and becoming, where the mystical properties of change take place.

Halim Al-Karim

Hidden War 2

2003 Lambda print covered with white silk

200 x 330 cm

Hidden War 2

Themes of reconciliation are central to Al-Karim’s work, both emotionally and in relation to Sufi tradition, where faith is inwardly focused and strives for unity between consciousness and God. Contradictions and juxtapositions occur within his photos, but rather than creating tension, they have harmonious effect. As faces line up: beautiful and garish, monstrous and innocent, wizened and puerile, they form single conglomerate portraits, each segment completing the next, contributing to the understanding of the whole. In Hidden War 2, Al-Karim has covered his images with a transparent layer of cloth, urging the viewer to consider the hidden agendas behind the legitimising rhetoric of those who support the war

Halim Al Karim, Ashbook, porcelain and ash, 1999 (made in the time he lived in Amsterdam)

earlier work of Walid Siti

http://www.walidsiti.com/work/installation/constellation/constellation.htm

Constellation 2009

PlanetK, The 53rd International Art Exhibition, Venice

Board, emulsion paint, plaster, thread and nails.

Constellation is a large wall-based installation comprising the contours of a white mountain surrounded by constellations of black threads. The connections between the mountain and the black threads draw a parallel with an imagined cosmic world with many associations and metaphorical references to the memory of a physical landscape. The white mountain top in the centre of the work acts as a magnetic force that energises and coordinates the movements of the other elements, suggesting a network of dynamic links between the constituent parts. Constellation is an attempt to go beyond a superficial understanding of the physical elements of the work and to aspire towards an ideal landscape.

Constellation incorporates ideas and forms from ‘Precious Stones’ and ‘Family Ties’ – series of my drawings and paintings that preoccupied my work for over ten years. Both series focus on the significance of various symbols and forms such as stones, fire, cubes and circles, which both characterise the collective cultural identity of the Kurdish people and highlight the universal plight of the exile – physically distant though always emotionally close to home.

The work also plays metaphorically on the astrological meaning of constellation, allowing different readings and interpretations. The four arbitrary sets of constellations within the work are fragmented and incomplete, reflecting a state of contradiction and conflict in reality. This gives the work a new perspective and invites the viewer to contemplate and interpret it within a new context.

Walid Siti , London 2009

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Walid Siti, Suspended Mountains 2010, 400x400x600cm, Canvas tube, wire, pols Serdem Gallery, Suleymania

From the very beginning, mountains, rocks, and stones—in all their  diverse forms and shapes—have been a constant source of inspiration for my  work. I use them as metaphors, visual forms that convey my ideas about and  associations with political, social, and cultural topics as well as issues of  identity. These are the themes that concern me and that have shaped and  influenced my art and my life.

     

Earlier works of Ahmed Alsoudani

http://www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk/artists/ahmed_alsoudani.htm

We Die Out of Hand

Ahmed Alsoudani

We Die Out of Hand

2007 Charcoal, pastel and acrylic on paper

274.3 x 243.8 cm

During the first Gulf War, Ahmed Alsoudani fled to Syria before claiming asylum in America. Through his paintings and drawings he approaches the subject of war through aesthetics. Citing great artists of the past such as Goya and George Grosz whose work has become the lasting consciousness of the atrocities of the 19th and 20th centuries, Alsoudani’s inspiration comes directly from his own experiences as a child, as well as his concerns over contemporary global conflicts. In We Die Out Of Hand, the earthy background sets the stage for dreary prison gloom, while hooded figures are obliterated through mercilessly violent gestures, insinuating the horrors of Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay with exquisite and torturous beauty.

You No Longer Have Hands

Ahmed Alsoudani

You No Longer Have Hands

2007 Charcoal, pastel and acrylic on paper

213.4 x 274.3 cm

Alsoudani executes his works with a raw physicality, using materials such as paint and charcoal in an unorthodox way, often painting over drawing and vice versa. You No Longer Have Hands is spread over two large pieces of paper, the seam down the middle operating literally as a divide. Like many of Alsoudani’s images, there are no people in this work, rather the concepts of violence are presented as something too large and abstract to comprehend. Instead a graffiti strewn wall provides a hint of humanity against a raging black mass, torrential, abject and bereft.

Untitled

Ahmed Alsoudani

Untitled

2007 Oil, acrylic, ink, gesso on canvas

182.9 x 213.4 cm

Untitled

Ahmed Alsoudani

Untitled

2008 Oil, acrylic, charcoal gesso on canvas

213 x 184 cm

Alsoudani’s Untitled is barely recognisable as a portrait. Mixing charcoal with paint, the surface evolves as a dirty corporeal mass, as pure colours become tinged by sooty dust and paint drips down the canvas in contaminated streams. Describing what might be a head, Alsoudani offers up an anguished abstraction combining organic textures with geometric forms. Rendering carnage with an almost cartoon efficacy, Alsoudani summates the base instinct of destruction as a volume of fleshy fields punctuated by industrial rubble; hard-edged circles and arcs lend an absurd consumerist familiarity suggesting windows and bullet holes in the cold pictograph motifs.

Baghdad I

Ahmed Alsoudani

Baghdad I

2008 Acrylic on canvas

210 x 370 cm

“The falling statue of a despot in the centre of Baghdad I recalls the toppling of the statue of Saddam. The rooster-like figure symbolizes America. Here the rooster is not only a figure of control but is injured as well and constrained. The basket of eggs to the left side of its neck represents ideas – unhatched ideas in this case; an armory of fragile potential. Alsoudani’s fascination with molecules and cellular references are apparent in the central egg-shaped object in the center of the rooster’s belly. The flood bursting through on the bottom center of the canvas carries Biblical associations and references the fractured nature of daily life in Baghdad – nothing works, pipes burst, the city is tacked together, evoked by the large nails depicted in different parts of the canvas. A figure on the upper right of the canvas bursts forth in a flourish of pageantry, representing the new Iraqi government, sprung forth from the chaos, compromised, bandaged and standing precariously on a teetering stool.” Robert Goff

Baghdad II

Ahmed Alsoudani

Baghdad II

2008 Acrylic on canvas

250 x 380 cm

Baghdad II depicts a “typical” Baghdad scene: on the left side of the canvas a car has crashed into an American-built security wall – another suicide bombing attempt or an act of pure desperation. Stylized licks of red flame come up from the ground, an eyeball has rolled to the center of the painting on the bottom. The eyeball plays a role in terms of content and form but also alludes to Lebanese poet Abbas Baythoon. On the lower right hand side of the painting a head lies behind bars – this is a reference to a statue in Baghdad, which here Alsoudani has decapitated and, ironically, brought to life as an imprisoned figure. One way to read this is that under Saddam’s dictatorship art was constricted and imprisoned and this idea of censorship is continually evoked through a layered approach in this work. The female figure in the center right side of the painting is deliberately drawn in as opposed to painted, a martyr-figure both carrying and giving birth to change.” Robert Goff

Untitled

Ahmed Alsoudani

Untitled

2008 Charcoal, acrylic and pastel on paper

270 x 226 cm

Alsoudani’s Untitled mesmerizes with the power and chaos of an explosion, combining artistic references with combustive force. Reminiscent of cubist dynamics, Alsoudani approaches his theme of war from every angle, broaching the incomprehensibility of combat and its repercussions through his fragmented and turbulent composition. Drawn in charcoal and pastel Alsoudani’s gestures convey raw passion and intensity with a rarefied elegance, his subtle shading and ephemeral acrylic washes simultaneously evoking the detailed etching in Goya’s Disasters of War and the hyper-violent media graphics of Manga illustrations. Alsoudani negotiates these terrains with unwavering authority, responding to current events with commanding hindsight to develop contemporary history painting that’s both high-impact and enduring.

Earlier works of Adel Abidin

Cold Interrogation

Mixed media installation, 2004

A video installation dealing with the dilemma of being an Arab, Muslim and Iraqi individual living in a western society in this period of time.“Since I left my home country Iraq in 2000, I am dealing daily with different questions about my identity”.The work creates an interactive atmosphere, by inviting the viewer to take part in the interrogation.

Examples of the questions:

How did you end up in Finland?How is the situation in Iraq right now?What do you think of Osama bin Ladin?How does it feel to ride a camel?Are you with the war, do you support it?What do you think of the suicide bombers?What do you think of the Americans?And so on… The viewer can hear to the loud audio of the questions coming from inside the fridge, and see the video through the security peephole fixed on the fridge.

Details:

Country of production: Finland 2004 Duration: 01’00’00 min. (Looping) Aspect ratio: 4:3 Sound: Stereo Original Format: mini dv Screening format: DVD- all / Pal

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Hopscotch

A video installation, 2009

Hopscotch is a game children play the world over. In Abidin’s work, the squares lead to a gate – into another, unknown world. Abidin associates the work with the Iraq he experienced as child: “In this game, the players are being watched by people who have the power to terminate much more than the game. In a police state, children are taught the ‘rules of the game’ very early on.”

Video details:

8 meters * 4 meters built gate in the museum/ consists of: wood and Plexiglas

duration : 00’02’00 (looping) Shooting format: Mini DV Screening format: DVD- all Aspect ratio: 4:3 (round)

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http://www.abidintravels.com/

I’m Sorry

Sound installation including a light box, 2008

During a recent trip to the US, I met many people from different kinds of educational and social backgrounds. Yet, surprisingly, they all reacted in the same way when I mentioned that I was Iraqi”.

Details:

Country of production: Finland 2008 Sound installation including a light box Computer programs the sync between the sound and the lights.

JihadVideo piece, 2006

Jihad

Video piece, 2006

http://www.levantinecenter.org/levantine-review/articles/consumption-war-–-adel-abidin-2011-venice-biennale

“Consumption of War” – Adel Abidin at the 2011 Venice Biennale

      posted June 10, 2011 – 1:26pm by Editor
Subtitle:
five Iraqi artists represent their homeland for first time in 35 years

By Lina Sergie AttarIn Consumption of War, the latest installation by Iraqi-Finnish artist Adel Abidin, one stands in a room, between projection and reality, watching an absurd “war” break out between two corporate figures. The film leaves us in physical and metaphoric darkness, questioning not only the artist’s intention but also our implication within the narrative. Throughout his work over the last decade, exploring issues of identity, memory, exile, violence, war and politics, Abidin has harnessed the power of ambiguity.

Iraqi-Finnish artist Adel AbidinIraqi-Finnish artist Adel AbidinThis year, Abidin is one of five Iraqi artists chosen to represent their homeland at the prestigious 54th annual Venice Biennale. It is the first time in 35 years that a pavilion has been dedicated to Iraq. He represented his “other” home, Finland, in 2007 at the Biennale with his acclaimed installation, Abidin Travels, a mock travel agency that advertised the pleasures of visiting war-torn Iraq. The “agency” was complete with all the materials needed to “sell” an exotic locale: glossy brochures with catchy tag lines, “Baghdad: much more than a holiday” and a brightly-colored faux booking website. In the promotional video, Abidin juxtaposes a cheery, female voice with an American accent describing idealized scenes of Iraq’s famous antiquities and architecture against the footage of looted museums and taped executions. Abidin challenges the typical “Western” tourist’s immunity to the images of war by framing the grim reality within the fake packaging of imagined perfection.

"Consumption of War"“Consumption of War”The Pavilion of Iraq’s theme is Wounded Water. Severe water shortages and pollution in Iraq compete with the ongoing war as the deadliest threat to civilian life. The local plight is also a universal one as global corporations encourage consumption on a massive scale for maximum profit, disregarding the obscene amounts of water needed to produce “necessities” such as a pair of jeans or cup of coffee. Abidin is concerned, “In Iraq, major corporations have signed the largest free oil exploration deals in history. Yet while every barrel of oil extracted requires 1.5 barrels of water, 1 out of every 4 citizens has no access to clean drinking water.” Consumption of War explores this environmental crisis from the perspective of the competitive corporate environment.

The work occupies two adjacent spaces, the first a decrepit room with broken plaster exposing a brick structure and unused fixtures jutting out of a tiled wall. We enter, facing a white, bare wall with a stopped office clock. The disorienting light flickers in bright flashes. Between the flickers, we see a filing cabinet and a large poster of a parched landscape. In the second space, we face an office with the same clock projected onto the back wall and a vivid, lush landscape in the background. Two men, almost identical in height, weight and coloring, as typically corporate as the room, begin a duel using the florescent lights as swords. The camera shots oscillate between the main view and extreme close-ups of feet crunching glass, of furniture sliding across the room, of fingers grasping the light tubes, and of mock menacing facial expressions, with fuzzy, black and white surveillance shots sliced between. Everything in the room becomes a prop for the fight, cabinets become platforms, lights become swords, at one point a binder is used as a shield. The childish battle is an exaggerated slow-motion dance, referencing pop culture movies such as Star Wars and The Matrix. The light dims darker as the “light sabers” are shattered one by one, until we are left in darkness.

Abidin constructs a visual interpretation of a modern power struggle within the glorified corporate environment, its immaculate furnishings and model-like workers symbolize the pinnacle of global aspirations. Even the playful way they fight is idealized and sanitized. But these seemingly innocent actions are not without consequence; for every light bulb shattered in vain, resources are lost to the majority of people shut out of the power structure.

In Consumption of War, a room within a room changes scale to become a world within a world, representing the present and the absent, what is now and what will come in the future. Abidin strategically places the viewers in between an unclear future and a weary present. The viewers become participants in a game with no winners. As they leave the darkness back into the flashing alarms of light, the lush landscape dissolves into an illusion, a dream, replaced with the reality of a parched, depleted world. He leaves them with a choice: to idly watch as precious resources are sucked dry or to play a different game and stop the madness.

The Pavilion of Iraq opened as part of the 54th Venice Biennale on June 2nd, 2011 and runs until November 2011. Other artists presented in the pavilion are Halim Al Karim, Ahmed Alsoudani, Ali Assaf, Azad Nanakeli and Walid Siti. Info here.

Lina Sergie Attar is an architect educated in Aleppo, Syria, with graduate degrees from RISD and MIT. She has taught architecture, interior architecture and art history courses in Boston and Chicago. Lina is co-founder of Karam Foundation, NFP, a charity based in Chicago. She blogs at tooarab.com. This is her second article for the Levantine Review.

Azad Nanakeli, Destnuej (purification), video-installatie, 2011

earlier works of Azad Nanakeli

Azad Nanakeli, What is the Question? video-still, 2007

Azad Nanakeli, A Perfect World, 2009

Azad Nanakeli, Destnuej (purification), video-installatie, 2011

Earlier works of Ali Assaf (http://www.aliassaf.com/works.html )

 This image of Head of Nuisance (1983), by Ali Assaf can be found alongside numerous works created by Iraqi artists on the Iraq Memory Foundation website. (Ali Assaf/Iraq Memory Foundation)

Ali Assaf, Head of Nuisance, 1983

Ali Assaf, Him, just Him, everywhere Him, 1985

Ali Assaf, Belsem, installation (mixed media and sound), San Marino, 1991

Ali Assaf, Feet of Sand, performance, 1996

Ali Assaf, I wonder if your barber would agree, object of rubber, glue and human hair (translation of the German text: ‘A Dutch hairdresser once told me the hair of the Europeans has become more and more thin since the last thirty years, but if they mix with migrants of the south of the earth, (their hair) certainly will become strong again’

Ali Assaf, Mujaheed, cibachrome on foamcore, plastified, 1997

Ali Assaf, The obscure object of desire, installation, 2002 (details, click on picture to enlarge)

Ali Assaf, The obscure object of desire, installation, 2002 (overview)

Ali Assaf, Greetings from Baghdad, 2004

Ali Assaf, I am her, I am him, video, 2008

Floris Schreve, Amsterdam

فلوريس سحرافا

(أمستردام، هولندا

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Modern and Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa

http://fhs1973.wordpress.com/2011/05/21/modern-and-contemporary-art-of-the-middle-east-and-north-africa/

الفن المعاصر في العالم العربي وإيران

Since the recent developments in Tunisia and Egypt and probably to follow in other Arab countries, even the mainstream media have noticed that in the Arab world and Iran there is a desire for freedom and democracy. While in the Western World  often reduced to essentialist clichés of the traditional Arab or the Muslim extremists the recent events show the opposite. The orientalist paradigm, as Edward Said has defined in 1978, or even the ‘neo-orientalist’ version (according to Salah Hassan), virulent since 9 / 11, are denounced by the images of Arab satellite channels like Al Jazeera. It proofs that there are definitely progressive and freedom-loving forces in the Middle East, as nowadays becomes  visible for the whole world.

Afbeelding81.jpg

Wafaa Bilal (Iraq, US), from his project ’Domestic Tension’, 2007 (see for more http://wafaabilal.com/html/domesticTension.html )

Since the last few years there is an increasing interest in contemporary art from that region. Artists such as Mona Hatoum (Palestine), Shirin Neshat (Iran) and the architect Zaha Hadid (Iraq) were already visible in the international art circuit. Since the last five to ten years there are a number of names added, like Ghada Amer (Egypt), Akram Zaatari and Walid Ra’ad (Lebanon), Fareed Armaly and Emily Jacir (Palestine), Mounir Fatmi (Morocco), Farhad Mosheri ( Iran), Ahmed Mater (Saudi Arabia), Mohammed al- Shammerey and Wafaa Bilal (Iraq). Most of these artists are working and living in the Western World.

Afbeelding49.jpg

Walid Ra’ad/The Atlas Group (Lebanon), see http://www.theatlasgroup.org/index.html, at Documenta 11, Kassel, 2002

Mounir Fatmi (Morocco), The Connections, installation, 2003 – 2009, see http://www.mounirfatmi.com/2installation/connexions01.html

Yet the phenomenon of modern and contemporary art in the Middle East isn’t something of last decades. From the end of World War I, when most Arab countries arose in its present form, artists in several countries have sought manners to create their own form of international modernism. Important pioneers were Mahmud Mukhtar (since the twenties and thirties in Egypt), Jewad Selim (forties and fifties in Iraq), or Muhammad Melehi and Farid Belkahia (from the sixties in Morocco). These artists were the first who, having been trained mostly in the West, introduced modernist styles in their homeland. Since that time, artists in several Arab countries draw inspiration from both international modernism, and from traditions of their own cultural heritage.

Shakir Hassan al-Said (Iraq), Objective Contemplations, oil on board, 1984, see http://universes-in-universe.org/eng/nafas/articles/2008/shakir_hassan_al_said/photos/08

Ali Omar Ermes (Lybia/UK), Fa, Ink and acryl on paper

The latter was not something noncommittal. In the decolonization process, the artists often explicitly took a stand against western colonialism. Increasing local traditions here was used often as a strategy. From the late sixties also other factors play a role. “Pan-Arabism” or even the search for a “Pan-Islamic identity” had an impact on the arts. This is obvious in what the French Moroccan art historian Brahim Alaoui called ‘l’ Ecole de Signe’,  the ‘school of sign’. Abstract calligraphy and decorative traditions of Islamic art, were in many variations combined with contemporary abstract art. The main representatives of this unique tendency of modern Islamic art were Shakir Hassan al-Said (Iraq, deceased in 2004), and the still very active artists as Rachid Koraichi (Algeria, lives and works in France), Ali Omar Ermes (Libya, lives and works in England) and Wijdan Ali (Jordan). This direction found even a three dimensional variant, in the sculptures of the Iranian artist Parviz Tanavoli.

Afbeelding46.jpg

Laila Shawa (Palestine), Gun for Palestine (from ‘The Walls of Gaza’), silkscreen on canvas, 1995

What is particularly problematic for the development of contemporary art of the Middle East are the major crises of recent decades. The dictatorial regimes, the many wars, or, in the case of Palestine, the Israeli occupation,  have often been a significant obstacle for the devolopment of the arts. If the arts were encouraged, it was often for propaganda purposes, with Iraq being the most extreme example (the many portraits and statues of Saddam Hussein speak for themselves). Many artists saw themselves thus forced to divert in the Diaspora (especially Palestinian and Iraqi artists). In the Netherlands there are well over the one hundred artists from the Middle East, of which the majority exists of refugees from Iraq (about eighty). Yet most of these artists are not known to the vast majority of the Dutch cultural institutions and the general public.

Mohamed Abla (Egypt), Looking for a Leader, acrylic on canvas, 2006

In the present context of on the one hand the increased aversion to the Islamic world in many European countries, which often manifests itself  into populist political parties, or conspiracy theories about ‘Eurabia’ and, on the other hand, the very recent boom in the Arab world itself, it would be a great opportunity to make this art more visible to the rest of the world. The Middle East is in many respects a region with a lot of problems, but much is also considerably changing. The young people in Tunisia and Egypt and other Arab countries, who challenged their outdated dictatorships with blogs, facebook and twitter, have convincingly demonstrated this. Let us  have a look at the arts. There is much to discover.

Floris Schreve

Amsterdam, March, 2011

originally published in ‘Kunstbeeld’, nr. 4, 2011 (see here the original Dutch version). Also published on Global Arab Network

Ahmed Mater (Saudi Arabia), Evolution of Man, Cairo Biennale, 2008. NB at the moment Mater is exhibiting in Amsterdam, at Willem Baars Project, Hoogte Kadijk 17, till the 30th of july. See http://www.baarsprojects.com/

Handout lecture ‘Modern and Contemporary art of the Arab World’

محاضرة الفن الحديث والمعاصر في العالم العربي

Diversity & Art,  Amsterdam, 17-5-2011, at the occasion of the exhibition of the Dutch Iraqi artist Qassim Alsaedy

Click on the pictures to enlarge

Short introduction on the history and geography of the modern Arab World

  • The Ottoman Empire
  • The  Sykes/Picot agreement
  • The formation of the national states
  • The Israeli/Palestinian conflict

                      

Ottoman Empire 1739                  Ottoman Empire 1914                   The Sykes/Picot agreement

              

The modern Middle East       The modern Arab World

                        

Palestinian loss of land 1948-2000    The current situation (2005)

The early modernist pioneers:

           

Mahmud Mukhtar            Jewad Selim

             

Jewad Selim                    Faeq Hassan

Farid Belkahia

The ‘School of Sign’ (acc. Brahim Alaoui, curator of the  Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris):

                  

Shakir Hassan al-Said               Ali Omar Ermes                              Rachid Koraichi

Other examples of ‘Arab Modernism’:

                  

Mohamed Kacimi                           Dhia Azzawi                                   Rafik el-Kamel

The Palestinian Diaspora:

                      

Mona Hatoum                                    Laila Shawa                                       Emily Jacir

Recently emerged ‘international art’:

                              

Walid Ra’ad/The Atlas Group           Mounir Fatmi                                     Ahmed Mater

Art and propaganda:

  • Iraq (monuments, Victory Arch, Babylon, portraits of Saddam Husayn and Michel Aflaq, the founder of the Ba’thparty)
  • Syria (portrait Havez al-Assad)
  • Libya (portrait Muammar al-Qadhafi)

      

Victory Arch                               ‘Saddam as Saladin’

                                               

Statue of Michel Aflaq                    Statue of Havez al-Assad                 Muammar al-Qadhafi

The art of the ‘Arab Spring’ in Egypt:

         

Mohamed Abla                                Ahmed Bassiony

Iraqi artists in the Diaspora:

             

Rafa al-Nasiri                             Hanaa Mal Allah                         Ali Assaf

         

Wafaa Bilal                           Halim al-Karim                         Nedim Kufi

                              

Hoshyar Rasheed                            Aras Kareem                          Ziad Haider

Qassim Alsaedy, Shortly after the War, mixed media (installation) Diversity&Art, May 2011 (see here an interview with Qassim Alsaedy at the opening-in Arabic)

Selected Bibliography

• Brahim Alaoui, Art Contemporain Arabe, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, 1996

• Brahim Alaoui, Mohamed Métalsi, Quatre Peintres Arabe Première ; Azzaoui, El Kamel, Kacimi, Marwan, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, 1988.

• Brahim Alaoui, Maria Lluïsa Borràs, Schilders uit de Maghreb (‘Painters of the Maghreb’), Centrum voor Beeldende Kunst, Gent (Belgium), 1994

• Brahim Alaoui, Laila Al Wahidi, Artistes Palestiniens Contemporains, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, 1997

• Wijdan Ali, Contemporary Art from the Islamic World, Al Saqi Books, London, 1989.

• Wijdan Ali, Modern Islamic Art; Development and continuity, University of Florida Press, 1997

• Hossein Amirsadeghi , Salwa Mikdadi, Nada Shabout, ao, New Vision; Arab Contemporary Art in the 21st Century, Thames and Hudson, London, 2009.

• Michael Archer, Guy Brett, Catherine de Zegher, Mona Hatoum, Phaidon Press, New York, 1997

• Ali Assaf, Mary Angela Shroth, Acqua Ferita/Wounded Water; Six Iraqi artists interpret the theme of water, Gangemi editore, Venice Biennale, 2011 (artists: Adel Abidin, Ahmed Alsoudani, Ali Assaf, Azad Nanakeli, Halim al-Karim, Walid Siti)

• Mouna Atassi, Contemporary Art in Syria, Damascus, 1998 • Wafaa Bilal (with Kari Lydersen), Shoot an Iraqi; Art, Life and Resistance Under the Gun, City Lights, New York, 2008

• Catherine David (ed),Tamass 2: Contemporary Arab Representations: Cairo, Witte De With Center For Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, 2005

• Saeb Eigner, Art of the Middle East; modern and contemporary art of the Arab World and Iran, Merrell, Londen/New York, 2010 (with an introduction of Zaha Hadid).

• Aida Eltori, Illuminations; Thirty days of running  in the Space: Ahmed Basiony (1978-2011) , Venice Biennale, 2011

• Maysaloun Faraj (ed.), Strokes of genius; contemporary Iraqi art, Saqi Books, London, 2002 (see here the presentation of the Strokes of Genius exhibition)

• Mounir Fatmi, Fuck the architect, published on the occasion of the Brussels Biennal, 2008

• Liliane Karnouk, Modern Egyptian Art; the emergence of a National Style, American University of Cairo Press, 1988, Cairo

• Samir Al Khalil (pseudonym of Kanan Makiya), The Monument; art, vulgarity and responsibillity in Iraq, Andre Deutsch, London, 1991

• Robert Kluijver, Borders; contemporary Middle Eastern art and discourse, Gemak, The Hague, October 2007/ January 2009

• Mohamed Metalsi, Croisement de Signe, Institut du Monde Arabe, Parijs, 1989 (on ao Shakir Hassan al-Said)

• Revue Noire; African Contemporary Art/Art Contemporain Africain: Morocco/Maroc, nr. 33-34, 2ème semestre, 1999, Paris.

• Ahmed Fouad Selim, 7th International Biennial of Cairo, Cairo, 1998.

• Ahmed Fouad Selim, 8th International Biennial of Cairo, Cairo, 2001.

• M. Sijelmassi, l’Art Contemporain au Maroc, ACR Edition, Paris, 1889.

• Walid Sadek, Tony Chakar, Bilal Khbeiz, Tamass 1; Beirut/Lebanon, Witte De With Center For Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, 2002

• Paul Sloman (ed.), with contributions of Wijdan Ali, Nat Muller, Lindsey Moore ao, Contemporary Art in the Middle East, Black Dog Publishing, London, 2009

• Stephen Stapleton (ed.), with contributions of Venetia Porter, Ashraf Fayadh, Aarnout Helb, ao, Ahmed Mater, Booth-Clibborn Productions, Abha/London 2010 (see also www.ahmedmater.com)

• Rayya El Zein & Alex Ortiz, Signs of the Times: the Popular Literature of Tahrir; Protest Signs, Graffiti, and Street Art, New York, 2011 (see http://arteeast.org/pages/literature/641/)

Links to relevant websites of institutions, manifestations, magazines, museums and galleries for Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa:

An Impression of the lecture, 17-5-2011, Diversity & Art, Amsterdam

On the screen a work of the Iraqi artist Rafa al-Nasiri

Three times Qassim Alsaedy’s Shortly after the War

In front: The Iraqi/Kurdish journalist Goran Baba Ali and Herman Divendal, director of the Human Rights Organisation for Artists AIDA (Association Internationale des Défence des Artistes)

Me (left) with the Embassador of Iraq in the Netherlands, H.E. Dr. Saad Al-Ali, and Qassim Alsaedy

Floris Schreve فلوريس سحرافا (أمستردام، هولندا)

photos during the lecture by Hesam Hama

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Living in exile in their own land; contemporary Native American artists

http://fhs1973.wordpress.com/2010/06/11/living-in-exile-in-their-own-land-contemporary-native-american-artists/

English version of my original Dutch article on Contemporary Native American art, published in ‘Decorum’, journal of the department of Art History, University of Leiden, March 1997, issue 1+2 (also published on this blog, see HERE).

              

This article was my first real publication and also my first small research in the field of  ‘contemporary art from outside the western world’. In that time the Leiden University was the only university in the Netherlands which started to explore this unknown field within the disciplinary of art history, today an important part of the subject  ‘World Art Sudies’.

Since this project in the nineties I never lost my interest in this particular issue in studying contemporary art and world culture, which finally lead to my research to contemporary art of the Arab world in the diaspora, especially Iraq. But this was my first published article on this subject.

Jimmie Durham, Pocahontas’ underwear, mixed media, 1985

Contemporary Native American Art

‘I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people’s dream died there. It was a beautiful dream . . . . the nation’s hope has broken and scattered. There is no centre any longer, and the sacred tree is dead’. [1]

Black Elk

‘While the entire world is in an identity crisis, the New Indian still knows who he is’ [2]

Fritz Scholder

These quotations, the first of the Lakota Black Elk on the massacre of Wounded Knee in 1890 and the second by artist Fritz Scholder (Luseno) from the early seventies, show the North American Indians in this century have experienced turbulent changes. After the various Indian nations and tribes were subdued and banned to reservations, it was thought that America’s original inhabitants would disappear very soon. Nearly a century later, despite the social and economic problems, the Native Americans found a defined identity in a totally changed world. Also artistic the Native Americans manifest themselves in various ways. In the reservations, which are relatively isolated from the rest of American society, a revival can be observed of the traditional arts. This applies especially to the peoples in the south-western United States (Navaho, Pueblo, Hopi) and for the peoples of the Canadian west coast (Haida, Tlingit, Kwakiutl). Elsewhere in North America there is also a revival of various tribal traditions. These artistic expressions are not limited to nostalgia. Many of these artists are experimenting with new materials and shapes to give the traditional imagery a contemporary face. The most famous artists who work in this way are the ‘sand painter’ Joe Ben Jr. (Navaho) and the goldsmith and sculptor Bill Reid (Haida).

Joe Ben Jr., The Four Arrow-people, sand and pigment on earth (http://www.tribalexpressions.com/painting/ben.htm)

In this context I will discuss the more recent emerged artistic expressions. Beside artists of Native American origin who work in the tradition of their own cultural heritage, since the fifties a new phenomenon emerged, called ‘pan-indianism’, a movement that was close related with the increasing political and emancipatory struggle of the original inhabitants of America. This new activism was mainly originated by Native Americans living outside the reservations, and mostly had received university education. Although the first and for a while  the only Indian with a university education, the famous Indian affairs commissioner Donehogawa or Ely Parker, lived in the nineteenth century, the Native Americans in general are still an underclass minority in American society. This new activism was mainly originated by Native Americans living outside the reservations, most by Native Americans citizens living in the cities. From the fifties however, there were more Indians who followed an academic education. They were mainly representatives of this group who reconsidered their own identity. Also there were several political organizations established as ‘The National Congress of American Indians’ and militant movements like the ‘American Indian Movement’ (AIM) and ‘Red Power’ and organized political actions which sometimes took the attention of the world press, like the occupations of Alcatraz (1969) and Wounded Knee (1973, see this documentary by Roelof Kiers for the Dutch television of that time, Dutch and English spoken). In both cases these were intertribal actions, organized by AIM. These activities can’t be understood out of context of the general protest movement of the sixties. The rise of the emancipation movement of Native Americans took place at the same time as the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam demonstrations. However, the most important Native American writer of that time, Vine Deloria Jr. (Lakota), president of the ‘National Congress of American Indians’ during the seventies and author of We talk, you listen, God is Red and Custer died for Your Sins, stipulates the differences with the Afro-American emancipation movement. Although he clearly expresses his sympathy for the Civil Rights Movement, in Custer died for your Sins (the title refers to the U.S. General Custer in 1876 with the Seventh Cavalry Regiment of the U.S. Army was massacred by the Lakota, the Western or Teton Sioux , led by Sitting Bull at the Little Bighorn) that the Native Americans strive for other goals than e.g. the Afro-Americans. In his view the main aim of the natives is not to integrate into American society, because Western culture is imposed on them involuntarily. In his manifesto Vine Deloria Jr. pleas as much as possible autonomy for the indigenous population, for self determination, land and particularly the maintenance of their own cultural heritage. In this regard he particularly criticizes the romantic attitude of some Westerners to the ‘noble savage’. He rejects a fashionable interest in Indian mysticism in the western world, in his opinion it is outright theft of ideas, from one hypocrisy after first massive genocide was committed on the Native Americans. [3] These ideas are also in line with that of Pam Colorado (Oneida), professor at the University of Toronto: ‘In the end non Indians will have complete power to define what is and what is not Indian, even for Indians … When this happens, the last vestiges of Indian Society and Indian rights will disappear. Non Indians will then ‘own’ our heritage and ideas as thoroughly as they now claim to own our land and resources’.[4]

Bill Reid (Haida), The Raven and the First Men, cedar wood, 1980 (Vancouver, British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology)

The New Indians

It was in the context of renewed Indian activism ‘Pan-Indianism’ emerged as an artistic movement. It was not a movement relying on a particular cultural or tribal tradition. The first ‘Pan-Indian art’ of the New Indians, as these artists called themselves, was particularly protest art, inspired by Pop Art. Using irony these artists challenged the discourse of the dominant American culture. The most famous representative of this movement was the late Fritz Scholder (1937-2005). Scholder was a teacher at the Indian Art Institute in Santa Fe (Arizona) from 1964 to 1969, an institute which taught both traditional Native American art and Western art. His Pop Art-like works Scholder explains in an ironical way and expose abuses while he denounce Western stereotypes.

Fritz Scholder, Super Indian 2# (with Ice-cone), acryl on canvas, 1971

A typical work is Super Indian # 2 (with Ice-cone). In this work Scholder shows a stereotype image of an Indian from the Great Plains with an ice-cone. This paradoxical work could be interpreted in two ways: whether it is about the traditional Indian who became a part of today’s consumers culture and thus has become a kind of brand , or it is about the Indian self-conscious, which, while retaining traditions are able to maintain in today’s society. With these kind of works Scholder ‘tries to rewrite American history’. [5]

T.C. Cannon-Andrew Myrick

T.C. Cannon, Andrew Myrick, oil on canvas, 1974

Another striking example of the engaged art of the New Indians is a work of Tommy Cannon (Caddo / Kiowa), entitled Andrew Myrick. This work refers to a notorious event in Native American history during the war of the Eastern or Santee Dakota in Minesota in 1862. As the easternmost group of the Dakota / Sioux nation, in contrary to the western branch where the great and more than twenty years struggle had yet to begin, the Santees were already incorporated in U.S. reserves and were dependent on food supplies from the U.S. government. Because the distribution was in the hands of corrupt merchants the Santees received almost nothing of the Government’s supplies. This was the reason for Chief Little Crow to complain. In response one of the merchants Andrew Myrick answered: ‘If they’re hungry, let them eat grass’. This incident was the immediate cause of the great revolt in Minesota. Myrick was one of the first people who were killed. When the Santees slain him they filled his mouth full of grass and they mocked him with the words ‘Myrick is eating grass himself’. [6] The work of Wayne Eagleboy (Onondaga), We-the people is a clear example of the style of the New Indians. The title refers to the text of the U.S. Constitution. We see the American flag, but instead of the stars we see with a barbed wire behind the faces of America’s original inhabitants. An effective metaphor for the outsider in his own country, a theme that often plays a role in the contemporary art of the Native Americans.

Wayne Eagleboy, We-the people, acryl and barbed wire on buffalo skin, 1971

Exiles in their own land

Beside the New Indians, other artists emerged who reflect on their Native origin. In this context, we need to pay some attention to the writer N. Scott Momoday (Kiowa). This writer and professor of English literature at Stanford University (California) is one of the most influential theorists in the field of modern Native American culture in the United States. Although he is not a descendant of one of the various peoples of the Pueblo Indians (the Kiowa of the Great Plains were nomadic, although they are linguistically related to e.g. the Tewa, who have lived in Pueblos), he spent a part of his life in Jemez Pueblo, an ancient holy site that plays an important role in his work. This is reflected strongly in his novels, like House Made of Dawn (Pulitzer Prize 1969). The central theme of his work is ‘living in exile in your own country’. He argues the Native Americans, despite the domination, still have a spiritual connection to the land of their ancestors. Restricted in their freedom by political, bureaucratic and economic factors, it is hard for the Indians to continue their relationship with a particular location in freedom. [7] According to Vine Deloria Jr. is this the central issue of the ‘Fourth World Nations’, a concept which he defines as follows: ‘The Fourth World are all aboriginal and native peoples Whose lands fall within national boundaries and techno-bureaucratic administrations of countries of the First, Second or Third Worlds. As such, they are peoples without their own countries or, people who are usually in the minority, and without the power to direct the course of their collective lives’. [8] Several contemporary artists of Native American origin are concerned with this issue. Frequently these artists were born in reservations, but educated in the cities. The artists dicussed here have returned to their origins which they investigate from a new perspective. The relationship between people, history and land is a major issue for them. The artist George Longfish (Seneca / Tuscarora) introduced the term ‘land base’. Longfish: ‘… the interwoven aspects of place, history, culture, physiology, and their people a sense of themselves and their spirituality and how the characteristics of the place are all part of the fabric. When rituals are integrated into the setting through the use of materials and specific places and when religion includes one walks upon the earth- that is land-base’. [9] Longfish considers the Navaho art of sand painting as an example of ‘land base’ because ‘sand as an artistic medium is a microcosm of the surrounding desert’ [10], a form of art, religion and place in one.

You can't Rollerskate

George Longfish, You can’t rollerskate in a Buffalo-herd, even if you have all the Medicine, acryl on canvas, 1979 (Lippard, p.110)

In his work You can’t skate in a Buffalo Herd You, even if you have all the medicine is the ‘land base’ element is very evident. In this abstract work the central circle and the motive of the four corners dominate the composition. Pictographic characters refer to landscapes and footprints. The circular shape and the characters resemble the type of shield that was formerly used by the nomadic tribes of the Great Plains. The appearance of the four directions is a very typical element of the Navaho sand painting, as applied by Joe Ben Jr., a traditional working Navaho artist, who in 1989 exhibited at the famous exhibition of Jean Hubert Martin Magiciens de la Terre, in the Centre Pompidou in Paris. [11] You can’t rollerskate … could be a typical work might call pan-Indian, because elements are included of two different Indian cultures (those of the Great Plains nomads and those of the Navahos in the canyon areas of Arizona). These elements are not a part of the tradition of Longfish’ own origin; the Seneca and Tuscarora were sedentary farming peoples of the U.S. east coast. Longfish uses the circle motive, because he ‘was interested in the circle philosophy of the Native Americans. This title was chosen to put some ‘lightness into a serious painting’. [12] In the context of this circle philosophy the following quote of the Lakota poet / mystic Black Elk of the early twentieth century is very relevant. Black Elk: ‘In almost everything the Idian does you find the circle motive, because the Power of the World always works in circles and everything tries to be round … The flowering tree was the living centre of the circle and the circle of the four winds made him grow … The sky is round and I’ve heard the earth is round like a sphere just like the stars. The wind turns around when it is at the very most. Birds build round nests because their belief is equal to ours. The sun rises and sets in an arch. The moon does the same and they both are round’.[13]

Quick to See Smith.jpg

Jaune Quick To See Smith, Osage Orange, oil on canvas, 1985 (Lippard, p. 20). See also this dissertation Beyond Sweetgrass; the life and work of Jaune Quick-To-See Smith, by Joni L. Murphy, University of Kansas, 2008.

An artist who deals with a same kind of theme is Jaune Quick to See Smith (Salish). In her abstract work she is influenced by both the Native American pictographic tradition as the ‘classic modern masters’ like Klee, Gris, Picasso and Miró. Quick to See Smith’s use of color is inspired by the desert of New Mexico, where she lives. This is not the area where her ancestors came from (the original habitat of the Salish lay in the north-western states of Idaho and the State of Washington), but she also considers herself as a pan-Indian artist. She participates regularly in the so-called powwows, a twentieth century intertribal ritual, in which many elements of different tribes and cultures from across North America brought together in an eclectic way. Quick to See Smith calls her more or less abstract work ‘narrative landscapes’, where ‘the epic element is visible only to one who is able to live in the barren, empty landscape itself’. Quick to See Smith: ‘When we talk, we talk in the past, and future present. When I paint I do the same. When you grow up in this environment, live is not romantic … Thus living language and are not embellished but simple and direct. I feel that in my paintings as well … I paint in a stream of consciousness so that pictographs on the rocks behind me muddling together with shapes of rocks I find in the yard, but all made over into my own expression. It’s not copying what’s there, it’s writing about it’.[14] The work shown here, Osage Orange, is a clear example of such a ‘narrative landscape’. Between the abstract lines and color fields pictographic characters are all visible, pointing to recognizable figures, like humans, horses, snakes, a moose, astrological constellations and a canoe. The work as a whole represents a combination of natural forces and historical events, an imprint of space and time, according to the landbase philosophy always connected. The title refers to a small tree which branches were once used to make bows. When the first settlers came to the Osage Oranges were used as markers for barbed wire. ‘So this little  shrub played two very different roles in two different cultures’, sais Quick to See Smith. [15] So even this apparent non-political work can’t be understood out of context of the current situation of the Native Americans.

Jimmie Durham, We have made progress, mixed media, 1991

Jimmie Durham

‘Don’t worry, I’m a good Indian. I’m from the West, love nature, and have a special, intimate connection with the environment. I can speak with my animal cousins, and believe it or not I’m appropriately spiritual (even smoke the pipe). I hope I am authentic enough to have been worth of your time, and yet educated enough that you feel your conversation has been intelligent. I’ve been careful not to reveal to much, understanding consumers is a product in your society, you can buy some for the price of a magazine … I feel fairly sure that I could address the entire world if only I had a place to stand . You (White Americans) made everything your turf. In every field, on every issue, the ground has already been covered’. [16]

With these somewhat cynical words Jimmie Durham begins his essay The Ground has already been covered, in ‘Artforum’, summer 1988. This article describes the overall occupancy of the original Indian land by the white dominant culture, both materially and spiritually. The land has been splintered in unities with defined but artificial borders and in almost everything the occupation is noticeable, even considering ideas and language. In a certain way the concept of Durham fits in the notion of ‘exile in their own country’ of Scott O Momoday and Vine Deloria Jr. The tone is rather sarcastic and laced with cynical irony, a major strategy of the artist. Jimmie Durham (Arkansas 1940) is a Cherokee, one of the nations which in 1834 were expelled from their original habitat (approximately the current Georgia) and past the infamous ‘Trail of Tears’ to the ‘Indian Territory’, the current State of Oklahoma, more than one thousand kilometers to the west. In the words of Durham the Cherokee are ‘a nation of losers’, a notion that plays an important role in the work of this artist. [17] Jimmie Durham began his career as a political activist in AIM until the movement was unbound in the early eighties. From that moment he focussed on his art, which indeed always involves commitment. Durham: ‘It would be impossible, and I think immoral, to attempt to discuss American Indian Art sensibly without making central political realities’. [18] After a time, having lived in New York ( ‘the only place in the United States for an Indian somewhat liveable’), in 1989 Durham moved into Mexico, as ‘in the U.S. the homeland of the Cherokee has buried where for us it is not allowed to stay’. After his Mexican period, Durham left the American continent and lived successively in Japan, Belgium, Ireland. and finally Germany (Berlin) [19]

Jimmie Durham, Selfportrait

Jimmie Durham, Selfportrait, mixed media, 1986

Key issues in Durham’s work are identity and origin, language, the ‘subjective and ideologically loaded history’ (compare with Fritz Scholder), the stereotypes non-Indians have on Indians and the postmodern notion that almost everything has been said or written ( See ‘The Ground has already been covered’). In his statements Durham is often very outspoken and provocative. By example he considers the vast oeuvre of Picasso as a ‘form of environmental pollution’. The ‘vast profusion of images doesn’t contribute to communicate great ideas’, states Durham. [20] In his art he confronts the audience with their own stereotypes and prejudices by holding a mirror. In ‘The Ground has already been covered’ he projects all prejudices, stereotypes and romantic falsifications that non-Indians have on Indians to himself. Durham confronts the reader with all manner of ironic ambiguity to unmask certain fixed ideas and refute them. Durham doesn’t have much hope on improvement. In a double interview, together with the Cuban artist Ricardo Brey on the eve of the Documenta IX in Kassel, he calls himself an ‘anti-optimist’. He explains that this is not the same as a pessimist, the difference is between a nuance he only knows the Cherokee language. The bottom line is the phrase ‘probably not’ could mean a ‘maybe’, the hope of a ‘nation of losers’. Durham calls this his main philosophy: ‘Our life is in an intolerable way absurd. Everything is so banal, so absurd, that you aim to grin at it. I am not doomster, but I tend to say probably not’. [21] Durham work consists of installations, ready-mades and text, in which he show many possible ambiguities and paradoxes. He considers his ready-mades as one of the most ‘Native American elements’ in his work. Since the first confrontation with the Europeans the Native Americans were masters to let their new goods undergo a ‘Duchamp-like metamorphosis’. Cooking pots, beads and blankets were so transformed they were immediately identifiable as ‘Indian objects’.

Jimmie Durham, Karankawa, mixed media, 1983 (Lippard, p. 217)

Karankawa (1983) is a clear example of Durham’s ready-made objects. The processed skull was from a person belonged to the Karankawa, an extinct indigenous people, which Durham found at the beach of Texas. By putting the skull on a socle this person regains some of his dignity. Durham added the eyes, one outward (by a shell) and the other inward (through an empty candle holder). An other work in which he uses the motive of the outward and inward eye is Self Portrait from 1986. It is one of his most macabre objects. We can see the template of a human body covered with scars and wounds and filled with texts, surmounted by a mask. With this work Durham might give the appearance that he introduces himself to the viewer. Among the texts are some excerpts from his essay The ground has already been covered, but are mixed with other text fragments. Irony and self-mockery are again a part of his strategies. In the autumn of 1995 Durham exhibited in the Netherlands for the first time, with his installation The Center Of The World, in Museum ‘De Vleeshal’ in Middelburg. In the huge space Durham made a few subtle changes. First was a network of steel cables along the walls, which were laced as small objects, bones, walnuts and iron scrap. In the corner stood a chair showing a phone. On a small monitor in a different corner was a performance video display, which showed how Durham in the middle of a field was trying to install another phone. While he was doing this, there was a persistent ringing. At one point from outside of the image of the monitor someone threw with a stone the handset of the phone. But the sound of the ringing continued. Somewhere on the wall was stuck a little note with the following message: ‘Please understand that, in spite of all appearances I am not your enemy. It is my duty to find the truth and I will. I hope it will cause as little trouble as possible’. [22] Added to this installation Durham wrote a small booklet with poems, short stories, anecdotes and individual claims. The texts were written in the Cherokee [23], English, Japanese and French, the languages spoken in the various places where the artist had lived. These texts were more confusing than enlightening. For example: ‘Grandmother Spider said: “When I die bury me with my face to the East”. The Spring after, tobacco grew where her vagina was. That is the reason we smoke tobacco’. This seems another example of how Durham confronts the viewer (especially the viewer who is seeking for exotic and mystical truths of a ‘spiritual Indian’) by saddling him with semi-profound wisdom, as he did In his essay The ground has already been covered. In the foreword of the booklet it seems Durham unveils some of his intentions. The main theme of this installations are perhaps surprising and illogical associative ‘connections’. Durham: ‘If you follow one line it seems logical, if you follow a second it could still be true, but with the third everything falls apart’. The booklet ends with the poem ‘The Center Of The World’. Here Durham cuts the word ‘invisibilite’ in different smaller units and adds new elements, so that more new ‘connections’ are created, such as ‘business’ and ‘visibilité’. Finally, he suggests that the concept ‘The Center of the World’ was not chosen randomly for this location, because in Middelburg the telescope was invented (by Zacharias Jansen and Johannes Lipperhey in 1608), an instrument that has achieved again ‘new connections’. In this installation he spectator is the ‘Center of the World’. All around him are logical and non-logical ‘connections’ and it is up to the spectator whether he uses these lines to come to interact. Durham doesn’t make it easy and frequently gives the signal ‘wrong connection’ (almost literally, see the telephones). In my view the ringing phone on the monitor view represents Durham futile attempts to make contact, as he tries in The Ground has already been covered in ‘Artforum’ ( ‘I could address the entire world if only I had a place to stand’). Although all options are open this again fits in Durham philosophy ‘probably not’.

 

An impression of Durham’s installation The Center of the World, which was also exhibited at ‘De Vleeshal’  in Middelburg (The Netherlands), 1995 (http://vleeshal.nl/en/tentoonstellingen/jimmie-durham-the-center-of-the-world)

Position and place

The first thing that strikes after discussing these artists is the enormous diversity. Now this fact is not as spectacular as the traditionally Native America was a great patchwork of very different peoples, languages and cultures. It is striking, when initially expected that decimated the Indian population at the beginning of the twentieth century would soon disappear, since the sixties a great revival can be observed from various political and cultural events, not necessarily exclusively belonging  to a specific tribal or cultural tradition. Remains for us to see if the categories which Susan Vogel has developed for classification of contemporary African art, also applicable to the contemporary art of Native America (this was a part of the original assignment in 1996, FS, see also http://www.susan-vogel.com/publications.html). At first sight maybe a little bit. In the traditional reserves is sometimes referred to ‘Traditional Art’ or ‘Functional Art’. Furthermore you can find many examples of ‘Extinct Art’ (eg tourist ‘totem poles’ in Vancouver, fixed ‘sand paintings’ of the Navaho or other ‘traditional objects’, mainly commercial artefacts for the tourist markets). Yet I believe there is a danger in applying these types of African art on the contemporary art of the Native Americans. The situation of America’s original inhabitants is completely different than those of black Africa. Africa consists largely of former colonial countries, which are now the third world. The Indians of North America belong to the ‘Fourth World’, indigenous peoples are now dominated by imported culture, in this case within the boundaries of a First World country. This fact is, as previously shown, often essential on their contemporary art. To quote Jimmie Durham again: ‘It would be impossible, and I think immoral, to attempt to discuss American Indian Art sensibly without making central political realities’. Although the Fourth World issues in some areas of black Africa will play a role, perhaps as in southern Africa, where a very small minority of Bushmen is dominated by White Africans, Asians, Bantus and Zulus, is generally an African problem other than those of the North American Indians. However, the history and current status of the Indians in Canada and the United States (often a minority and exiles in their own country) is an essential element for a decent understanding and interpretation of the contemporary Native American art and culture .

Floris Schreve

Click here for a larger version

Jimmie Durham, Dead Deer, 1986. At the moment this work is exhibited in Het Stedelijk Museum Bureau in Amsterdam. Exhibition ‘In Between Things’, from 12 June – 8 August 2010, Stedelijk Museum Bureau, Rozenstraat 59, Amsterdam (see http://www.smba.nl/en/exhibitions/) .

References

[1] Dee Brown, Bury my heart at Wounded Knee, New York, 1970, (Dutch edition, Begraaf mijn hart bij de bocht van de rivier, Hollandia, Baarn, 1973, p. 381)

[2] Axel Schultze, Indianische Malerei des Nord Amerikas 1830-1970, Stuttgart, 1973, p. 75

[3] Lucy Lippard, Mixed Blessings; New art in multicultural America, New York, 1990, p. 117

[4] Lippard, p. 117

[5] Schultze, p. 75.

[6] Brown, p. 44, 48

[7] See about this history http://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/Indian.html[

[8] Lippard, p. 109

[10] Lippard, p. 109

[11] Jean Hubert Martin, Magiciens de la Terre, Musee Nationale d’ Art Moderne Centre Pompidou, Parijs, 1989, p. 92-93

[12] Lippard p. 109

[13] Ton Lemaire, Wij zijn een deel van de Aarde, Utrecht, 1988, p. 22

[14] Lippard, p. 119

[15] Lippard, p. 14

[16] Jimmie Durham, The ground has already been covered, in ‘Artforum’, summer 1988, New York, p. 101.

[17] Domenic van den Boogaard, Let Geerling, Outsiderart betekent uitsluiting; een gesprek tussen Ricardo Brey en Jimmie Durham, ‘Metropolis M’, nr. 4, Utrecht (The Netherlands) 1992, p. 24.

[18] Lippard, p. 204

[19] Hans Hartog Jager, Durham verstrikt bezoekers in netwerk van draad en botten, NRC Handelsblad (The Netherlands), 20-5-1995.

[20] van den Boogaard, Geerling , p. 24.

[21] idem, p. 25

[22] Jimmie Durham, The Center of the World, Middelburg, 1995, see http://vleeshal.nl/en/publicaties/jimmie-durham-document-3 .

[23] Although most of the Native American cultures of North America were non alphabethic (perhaps the Delaware, or Leni Lenape of the Eastern US Coast were an exeption) the Cherokee developed after the European invasion an alphabet of their own. This alphabet was developed by Sequoya (1760-1843), who used the phonetic European system by developing his own characters. The alphabet of Sequoya is still used by the Cherokee (see http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/535250/Sequoyah)

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