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the Kulture Files


Being Shurooq interview by Neha Rohera

When it comes to trends, it cannot be denied that modern and popular cultures have a significant impact on the economy and its demands. Although cultural events such as Pecha Kucha night and art exhibitions are regularly hosted in Kuwait, the way they are promoted and publicized are a marketer’'s

Critical Essay

The ancient history of the Middle East is full of inspiring architecture and culture. These remain unfortunately neglected in favor of more ‘trendy’ activities. Today, a regular weekend in Kuwait would involve a trip to one of the several posh malls, or if the weather permits, a barbeque at the beach.

Architecture of Politics & Politics of Architecture by Naji Moujaes

The concept of culture in Kuwait is transient. To an outsider, the exotic appeal of an Arabian adventure may seem enticing, but the ground reality is an entirely different story. Of course, Kuwait is home to many talented artists, writers, poets, performers and museums, art galleries and screenings. But there is some reluctance on the part of the general population to acquaint themselves with culture.


Marcel Duchamp

Architectural Spotlight

Samovar Carpets & Antiques


Pop! by Haya Al-Sharhan


The Big Bad Stage by Fatmah Al-Qadfan

Event Listings

Art Works

Serialism serialism by Naji Moujaes


Shanghai World Expo (minus) Kuwait by Naji Moujaes

Vol. 01 June 1, 2011

Vol. 01 June 1, 2011

Editor’s Note

nightmare. Most of these rely on word-of-mouth publicity, and yes, knowing the right people gets you everywhere. These days, a lot of independent events are publicized by way of blogs that post listings and reviews. It gives us great pride to be involved with clients whose projects afford us the chance to dip into the vast cultural resources of the Gulf. PAD 10’'s design initiatives also include projects like PressDesigns, a concept store that offers a range of products designed by us and manufactured from reused matter sourced from Four Films. A whole range of products in the PressDesigns collection has been dedicated to iconic people and monuments of Kuwait, reiterating our focus on bringing culture back into the equation. Through this compilation of files, we endeavor to introduce a new generation to the path-breaking art and culture that is being conceptualized and executed in the region, and to provide aficionados with a platform to exchange information and news. We hope to have brought seemingly elusive cultural concepts a little closer to our readers. Until the next quarter!


Dr. Shurooq Amin with her painting My Louboutins

Being Shurooq One can hardly be faulted for calling Dr. Shurooq Amin a determined go-getter. A slew of educational degrees and awards are proof of her talent and perseverance. She holds the distinction of being the only Kuwaiti delegate at the bi-annual Gulf Arts and Cultural Leaders Conference set in Doha, Qatar. Her recent work ‘Society Girlz’, sold for $ 28,000 at the inaugural Middle East Auction of Contemporary Arab and Iranian Art by JAMM, co-founded by Lulu AlSabah. The event was held in Al Corniche, Kuwait with auctioneers from Phillips de Pury of London. Here, Dr. Shurooq articulates on her inspirations, trials and triumphs.

to make a name for herself as a genuine artist on an international level; juggling a home, a job and a family, what with social obligations, patriarchal restrictions, censorship et al. But, as I recently mentioned to a friend, I’m great at creating beauty from pain, so in fact, my struggles and the struggles of every woman in the Middle East have been documented through my paintings all these years. Where do you draw your inspiration from? Inspiration comes from within, and it is triggered by two factors: either a dream, or an external force. It’s usually something I see or hear or experience. Who would you count as your influences in the fields of art, culture and literature? There is no particular person or book. I am an avid reader and I travel constantly, watch the news and good cinema, interact with people, and pay attention to the changes in the sky. I observe life, nature, people, politics and art and take heed of the wisdom of master philosophers and spiritualists. All this ultimately influences me.

As a woman, how would you encourage female talent in the Arab world? Well, I’d love to say “Follow your dreams” and other clichés, but it’s been done to death and I don’t think young women really ‘get’ what that means. So my advice is, “Speak your own mind.” We’re in dire need of more women escaping from their comfortable comatose cocoons and speaking up! Be your own voice. Let it be heard through art or writing or music or even an opinion. If every day, one or two more women achieved that strength, then one day we will rule the world. And then finally, world peace may become more than just a dream. What is your perspective on the cultural scene in

You express yourself through a variety of mediums.

Kuwait? Is enough being done to tap into the local

Which do you hold closest to your heart and why? I used to be a purist when it came to painting – using only oils and canvas. But as I’ve evolved spiritually, so has my work technically. So I now allow the end result to dictate the medium as opposed to vice versa. Hence, I get a vision and ‘see’ the painting first. I then work my way towards the goal, with whatever I can lay my hands on. I have been known to raid even the kitchen drawers for equipment! Currently, I’m working mainly with acrylic painting, calligraphy and raw photography.

talent? The cultural scene is picking up, albeit at snail’s pace. Is enough being done? Yes. But are the right things being done? No. Don’t even get me started on that. If I were in charge of art in Kuwait, we’d be in the Venice Biennale by next June. Unfortunately, the wrong people are in charge.

Have you charted your evolution as an artist? How does your earliest work compare to your more recent forays? I chart it subconsciously, I suppose. There’s a radical evolution in my work; the earliest dealt with self-central issues and stemmed from my private experiences. They were also less mature technically. My new works take their tone from the world around me, and deal with relevant, current socio-political and religious issues, opening up controversial dialogues in the community, and I’m technically creating my own school of art. I now consider myself a ‘voice’ for liberal Muslim people, not just women.

In what ways can we make art and culture a more integral part of Kuwait? First, start at school level with a fantastic international art and culture syllabus. Second, create a suitable museum of modern art, as Qatar and UAE have done. Third, invest in artists by representing them with contracts and by sending them to participate in art fairs. Fourth, establish peace between the National Council, the Kuwait Arts Association, and the private galleries. Please share with us what you consider your greatest achievements. My four children are my greatest personal achievement! Professionally, hosting my solo show in London and being represented in the UK, and now Switzerland, with New York to follow next year.

What are the greatest challenges you have faced and how have you overcome them? Personally, both the death of my father and my divorce have been trying. Professionally, my whole career has been challenging. As they say, “Success is a staircase, not a doorway.” Believe me; it is not easy for a Kuwaiti Muslim, single mother of four kids

Bullet series - Medusas Resting

Is there anything else you wish to convey? Remember to be grateful every morning that you wake up warm in a comfortable bed; remember to watch the sky and how huge it is, how beautiful its colors are as they change throughout the day. Notice the moon at night. Laugh.

Self Portrait , 1986

Pop! by Haya Al-Sharhan

An artist who creates a painting, photograph or multimedia work of art where the images are based on or inspired by signs, mass media and advertising is producing Pop Art. There are many artists, including a large number of artists from the Gulf region, who create works of art influenced by ‘pop culture’. Pop Art emerged in the mid 1950s in England, but it reached its fullest potential in New York in the 1960s, where it captured the attention of the art world. Pop Art continues to be a strong influence in today’s art world. Andy Warhol, one of the most famous Pop Artists, creates works of art that give the viewer a fresh look at things that are familiar to us. With the image placed out of its ordinary context, it allows the viewer to reflect upon the consumer environment. Warhol’s most popular works depict celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe. This kind of celebrity figure and stereotype is evident among Pop Art in the Middle East as well, where we see numerous images of Um Kalthum being used in different context. Pop artists gave popular consumer items and celebrities icon status by framing them into a context of ‘fine art’. Pop artists, such as Warhol, would base their subject on images you would see in the supermarkets or from the front pages of tabloid magazines. Pop art is as much a marketing phenomenon as it is an

Jackie, 1964

Marilyn, 1967

Architecture of Politics & Politics of Architecture by Naji Moujaes

If we decide to suspend judgment on how the politics of architecture becomes emblematic to an architecture of politics, only then would the bungalows add-on along the curved pavement feel right against Jorn Utzon’s House of Parliament. Democracy is taking a backseat to HOK’s teeth of tribalism reveal themselves ready to chew up the last hope for an edifice of form with nominal function. In 1972 the seeds of ‘democracy’ were planted along the shores of the Arabian Gulf in a beacon of hope called Kuwait. Oil was plenty and aspirations were high; what better than a modern parliament would have captured this moment of a great leap forward? The only parliament amidst a sea of autocratic sheikhdoms spiked in the belief that change is positively contagious in a milieu reeked with oil, where there seems to be no time to reflect and think, just consume! Sadly, it turned out that democracy itself was getting consumed as a commodity with a dual political system that can activate and deactivate up to one’s liking. The soil was not fertile and the seeds of hope burned out. The parliament became a mansion of bickering, feuds, and endless interpellations. Democratic institutions and

the pillar of it were toyed with by an uncomfortable coexistence with an autocracy on the outside and reactionary babblers on the inside whose core belief and drive is to cripple the same system they are operating in. Since its inception in 1961, majlis al umma has been disbanded five times and suspended for six years (1986-92). Architecture, symptomatic of the dual dysfunctional political system, dismantled the monument whose scale was the aspiration of a nation by butting it up with a three storey ‹apartment› like building, demystiying hope into disappointment. Architecture of politics has broken the mirror alluding to an edifice of democracy to reflect a shattered banana-bent complex. The unifying building of a nation is getting bullied by a compartmentalized strip for fragmented ‘parliamentarians’, each looking in a different direction, but all in agreement to look away from the democratic edifice, they were elected to serve in the first place.

note: Constructive self-censorship with an architectural elaborate text on the topic to be published in ‘Kulture Files, Vol. 2’

artistic movement. Artists are creating works of art, as much as they are trying to make sense of the consumer environment. A Pop artist isn’t really creating a new image; instead the artist has chosen images and subjects from popular culture and placed them into a new context. People derive their visual pleasures from television and magazines, and Pop Art comments on contemporary society and culture by using these images and incorporating them into the art world. There has always been a growing interest in Arab Pop Culture. Which is probably why Pop Art is very popular in this region. There are many different opinions on the Pop Art created by new emerging artists that are being displayed in galleries in Kuwait. A lot of the debate among visitors is that the works blur the boundaries between artist and designer. This could lead to confusion as much as it could raise their interest. Which ever it is, it seems many local artists have chosen that style to explore their artistic abilities. Some artists have done it better than other, but since Pop Art tends to be made up of shiny colors, catchy designs and has a sense of familiarity, it makes it easy to like.

Haya Alsharhan studied art history at Carleton University and currently works at Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah.

Samovar Carpets & Antiques, designed by PAD10, sets foot at the Pearl – Qatar with a very small footprint and relatively high ceiling. The main exhibition space is along the walls with a small floor area for customers’ display. Ceiling mounted tracks are used for displaying carpets where all walls are to be concealed by different carpet patterns, except for the impossible sensual spiral stair surface to be exploited by carpets’ display. This architectural moment for the visual refuge is centrally located to allow full exploitation of the perimeter walls, yet visually and spatially curate in between the different wall spaces meant to display different lines of carpets: Persian, Contemporary, Classic, etc.

Marcel Duchamp Dadaism found one of its strongest proponents in Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), painter and mixed media artist. And although he desired to avoid labeling his creations, he was also associated with Cubism and Surrealism. He was famed for eliciting outraged and shocked reactions from his audience through his exercises in pushing the boundaries of contemporary art of the early twentieth century. By the advent of World War I, he had rejected art he termed “retinal”, that which served only the eye. He proceeded to create art that would involve the mind of the viewer. He argued that art was defined by the title that an artist ascribed to it. He involved viewers in art with their varied responses, making them ‘copartners’ in his creations. His series of ‘readymades’ brought art into the mundane. Although some of his avant garde creations were rejected by most art institutions, Duchamp’s work has found much acclaim among artists and critics alike in later years.

The Big Bad Stage By Fatmah Al Qadfan

When I tell people, “I want to direct plays,” they smile like I just told a joke. Then I add, “in Kuwait.” At best, that gets me a raised eyebrow and a polite, slow nod. You know, like I just said, “I’m going to take the KPTC bus. From Sharq to Ahmadi.” Nothing throws your average Kuwaiti off like talking about theatre. Ask if they watch plays. Do they admit to it? Do they shuffle their feet and shrug? Do they repeat the clichéd exultations of that golden age circa 1970? They’re at a complete loss because the whole country can’t make up its mind about theatre! The pendulum swings too quickly between Admiration and Disgust. Edward Albee’s black comedy Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was a groundbreaking socio-political satire of its era and makes for an excellent paradigm through which to view current Kuwaiti theatre practice. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a tragically hysterical play that mirrors our tragically hysterical reality. Fun and Games The Guardian (UK) published an article in 2007 commending The National Theatre for innovatively advertising plays by showcasing e-trailers on their YouTube channel. Technically, The National Theatre’s ‘innovation’ was the use of social media and not in the production of ‘trailers for plays’. The article fails to mention Pippin, a musical that premiered at the Imperial Theatre in 1972. It broke new grounds with the first TV commercial that showed scenes from a Broadway show, and was followed by other commercials for the much-loved Grease, The Wiz and Evita. Kuwait’s cutting edge theatre movement has, for decades now, used ‘trailers for plays’—although the purposes and quality may slightly differ. Theatre artists (and I use the term with great trepidation) in Kuwait have been using TV commercials to advertise plays since, at least, the early 1980s. Play commercials continue to invade advertising space each year before and during the season (Eid al-Fitr), conjuring a national passion for predominantly comedic theatrical entertainment. These short trailers, with music, dance and a famous entourage set the stage for fun and games. The scathing verbal battles characteristic to Kuwaiti plays (and ironically reminiscent of Albee’s own writing) are merely done in jest to score laughs rather than shed light on the social ills they gloss over.

A still from Pippin

Walpurgisnacht Albee’s second act, Walpurgisnacht, picks up the pace of the play – very much like the rising hype during the annual theatrical season in Kuwait; a season that gives birth to a light-hearted culture, quite foreign to the country. The rarity of this unofficial national theatre celebration and the merriment it brings is much like Walpurgisnacht, the European spring festival with dancing and singing (not to be confused with the 17th century German tradition of a meeting of witches that went by the same name). During Kuwait’s Walpurgisnacht, parents rush (and fight if they must) to buy tickets for the whole family to see the sequel to last year’s zombie show, sociopolitical farce, whatever. It hardly matters, it’s just an excuse to play – pun intended. When the masses are seated and curtains lift, the Kuwaiti night sky is finally filled with loud laughter. Joyful cries ring from shabby theaters as actors slip and slide across the stage or verbally abuse each other. All in the name of comedy, of course. It’s the only time of the year when theatre is not only an acceptable social pastime in Kuwait, but is elevated to a nonsensical level of popularity which vanishes as soon as Eid is over. The Exorcism

A poster for Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?

Aye, there’s the rub. The shows come to an end, the curtains fall and the people come to their senses. The most rushed, tacky play commercial on TV that attracted audiences of all ages, is now imitated in disdain or featured in a back page caricature. Not only that, but a nationwide tirade against the decline of performance arts in Kuwait begins, mingled with indictments of heresy. No, children cannot participate in school plays, for fear of emulating the vampires that romped on the stage last month. No, we shouldn’t sit by and watch our youth waste their time writing such tasteless plays and directing crude actors. Swiftly, the country is exorcised of theatre; the playhouses lay abandoned and the country waits for the miasma to lift. In conclusion, this is precisely why I get strange looks and unmannerly lectures. Wouldn’t it be better if I spent my time doing something useful? is what they all want to know. I can’t blame them. Year after year Kuwait holds its breath, giving theatre a chance but all we’re ever left with is a bitter aftertaste of the big bad stage. But there is a glimmer of hope. Some local actors, playwrights and directors are defying this schizophrenic attitude toward theatre in Kuwait, producing work that honors the rich theatre legacy of constructive social contribution. Most importantly, an eager audience is patiently waiting for those young theatre makers to rise to the challenge.

A scene from Evita

Fatmah Al-Qadfan has a degree in anthropology and English literature. She works at Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah.

Event listings “Trippin....Inside a World within a world”, a solo show by Bader Qabazard at Dar Al Funoon. The exhibition is on display until 9th June, 2011.

Auditions for ‘Arsenic & Old Lace’: The Kuwait Little Theater will hold auditions for its upcoming production on June 7 and 9, 2011 between 7 - 9 pm and on June 11 from 10 am to 1 pm. The Kuwait Little Theater is located in Ahmadi.

“Shadows Of Memory” is a group exhibition by seven established artists: Reda Salem, Amira Behbehani, Sina Ata, Ginane Bacho, Lise Allam, Mutaz El Emam and Mary Tuma at the FA Gallery in Sharq. The exhibition is on display until June 22, 2011.

The movie ‘Capitalism: A Love Story’ will be screened on Thursday, June 2, 2011 at 4:30 pm in the Debatable Conference Room at the PAD 10 office in Kuwait City. PAD 10 is located in Sharq on Mubarak al-Kabir Street, Mubarak al-Kabir Tower, Block 6, Building 49, Floor 10.

Boushahri Art Gallery presents an exhibition of the Contemporary Egyptian Sculpture by the artists: Adam Heinen, Hassan Kamel, Mahmoud Al Doihi, Essam Darwish, Hani Faisel, Mohammed Radwan and Majid Mekhael. The show opened on Sunday, 29th May at 7.30 pm.

Serialism serialism by Naji Moujaes

Catalogue Vol. 1 (New York. 2001-2000) ‘Odd Side Of Broadway’ is a photographic documentation of the west side of Broadway, from Battery Park through the Bronx. It took one hundred 200ASA 35 mm rolls, in seven trips from 7 am to 12 noon, in the fall of 2000-01, to transform the miles of street into a 500-foot strip of snapshots. The operation registers the front façade strip from street level up to about a 30-foot height. It does not take into consideration the skyline or the city silhouette. It isolates itself from what is above and below to focus on the intersection of the oblique avenues in relation to the grid and its built context. Shot during weekend mornings, the project excludes the registers of daily human activity – which are temporal – and instead focuses on the language of the built fabric.

Catalogue Vol. 2 (New York, New Orleans, Boston, Niagara Falls, Florida, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco. 2002) 128 days frontal and profile digital photos are snapped to catalogue hair growth. The photos are overlaid sequentially on Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s “Untitled” (Death by Gun).

Shanghai World Expo (minus) Kuwait photos by Naji Moujaes 192 nations registered for the Expo (three countries that had already confirmed their participation needed to withdraw because of internal problems: Burkina Faso, Bhutan and Kuwait). There are 186 independent countries, recognized by the UN (the host country, China, included); two non UN-recognized nations: Chinese Taipei and Palestine; two associated states of New Zealand: Cook Islands and Niue, and the two Chinese SAR: Hong Kong and Macau.

France Ukraine Bahrain Mali Cambodia Canada Mauritania Algeria Republic of the Congo Hungary Switzerland New Zealand Central African Republic Cuba Zambia Turkmenistan Tajikistan Lesotho Uzbekistan Eritrea

Benin Samoa Kazakhstan Nigeria Australia Djibouti Italy Papua New Guinea Germany Albania Dominica Côte d›Ivoire Angola Turkey Philippines Bolivia Luxembourg Tanzania Croatia Palau Senegal

Monaco Seychelles Burundi Armenia Togo Comoros Netherlands Singapore Sri Lanka Equatorial Guinea Pakistan Cape Verde Nepal Spain Vanuatu Egypt Guinea Kyrgyzstan Mongolia Vietnam Myanmar

United Kingdom Bulgaria Poland Belgium Zimbabwe Namibia Laos Rwanda Tonga Montenegro Yemen Sudan Trinidad and Tobago Lithuania Kenya

Morocco Federated States of Micronesia Costa Rica Japan Gabon Saudi Arabia Palestinian territories Moldova Cameroon India Belarus Guatemala Indonesia Malaysia Portugal South Korea Russia Serbia Tunisia Greece Czech Republic Uruguay Sierra Leone Finland Azerbaijan Macedonia Romania Ireland Brunei Democratic Republic of the Congo Madagascar Argentina Cyprus Lebanon Peru

Chile Uganda Georgia Bhutan Thailand Guyana Ethiopia Austria Fiji Mauritius Mozambique Niger Haiti Iraq Jamaica Guinea-Bissau Liberia Denmark Oman Sweden Chad Cook Islands San Marino Somalia Iran Maldives Ghana Suriname Ecuador Afghanistan Bangladesh Norway Venezuela United Arab Emirates Syria North Korea Mexico Grenada Botswana Jordan Slovakia Niue Bosnia and Herzegovina Nicaragua Estonia South Africa Libya Kiribati Solomon Islands Tuvalu Israel Brazil Malta Iceland Marshall Islands Qatar Malawi Antigua and Barbuda

El Salvador Slovenia Dominican Republic Barbados Burkina Faso Kuwait Timor-Leste Latvia Bahamas Panama Paraguay Liechtenstein Honduras Nauru Belize Saint Lucia Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Saint Kitts and Nevis Colombia Gambia United States China Hong Kong Macau Taiwan

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