Page 1

editor-in-chief: rima nasser +961 3 852 899 editor: kasia maciejowska contributing writers: sheyma bu ali jennifer hattam john ovans india stoughton rajesh punj alberto mucci

printing chamas for printing & publishing s.a.l. graphic design: genia kodash photo editor: rowina bou harb

Sadik Alfraji, Video still from “Sisyphus goes on Demonstration 2012, Photo courtesy of the artist


“I exist because I see colours. Sometimes, at other moments,

“It is with an eye that does not belong to the sea that one paints.”

Etel Adnan, Untitled, 1995-2000, oil on canvas, 35.5x45.5cm

it is as if I didn’t exist, when colours seem foreign, unreachable, impregnable fortresses.But there is no possession of colour, only the acceptance of its reality



. And if there is no possibility for the possession of colour, there is no possession at all. Of whatever it is.” “We tried to figure out t


words: kasia maciejowska

Follow the latest updates from the Beirut Art Fair via the Selections app.

What’s Inside


at Arter, Istanbul – and also of course by influential men – Iraqi graphic maestro Sadik Alfraji and Lebanese painter Hussein Madi, both shown recently at Beirut Exhibition Center, and Rasheed Araeen, the Pakistani minimalist sculptor currently showing at Sharjah Foundation. Sheyma Bu Ali also reviews the wonderful work of Zhivago Duncan, whose exhibition As The Jungle Weeps at JAMM Dubai was the result of travelling with the Bedouin across Jordan. This issue’s catalogue extract comes courtesy of the Galeries National du Grand Palais, Paris, who shared with us the introductory text by curator Jérôme Neutres from their current retrospective of outstanding video art by Bill Viola, a seminal and celebrated show that continues until 21st July. Also in Europe, Rajesh Punj visits the elegant survey of abstract art, Lines, at Hauser & Wirth. In terms of art fairs this issue we look at the installations and performances at Art Basel and Art Basel Hong Kong, considering how these interventions into the static regular format engages audience and brings such fairs to life. We finish by thinking about the relationship between Beirut and Berlin – not only asking why Lebanese artists are living and working there, but also contrasting these two cities, whose comparable wartime geographies have nevertheless led to two very different regional capitals of artistic production.

Magazine now on your tablet

position, and produces its own art with particular contexts and references. In Beirut, women including (but not exclusively) Andrée Sfeir-Semler, Sandra Dagher, Lamia Joreige, Christine Tohme, Nadine Bekdache, Aida Cherfan, Rima Mokaiesh, and Naila Kettaneh-Kunigk, have driven the critical deepening and international standing of the city’s art dialogue, and subsequently the quality of its production and impact of its exhibition. Another such catalytic voice has recently joined their ranks, as Dagher and Joreige handed the curation of the Beirut Art Centre to Marie Muracciole, formerly at Jeu de Paume, Paris, having fostered it since its founding in 2009. It was a pleasure, for this issue, to interview both Marie and Andrée, of SfeirSemler, about art in the here and now. It says something that these two educated and passionate women are engaging so thoroughly with what is relevant to exhibit in this particular place at this specific time. Muracciole, in our discussion on the roof at BAC in April, remarked, “It’s not only curators but women artists are also very strong here and I’m interested in this phenomenon because in Europe people often have the idea that women in Beirut are totally alienated and of course it’s not true. The new generation of young women artists from here will be important I think.” In our pages we review exhibitions by influential women from the region – such as Turkish installation artist Füsun Onur, showing •

pposite is an untitled painting, real size 35 x 45cm, made sometime between 1995 and the year 2000. It’s by Etel Adnan: essayist, novelist, journalist, poet, playwright, painter, videographer and tapestry designer; philosophy graduate of the Sorbonne, Berkeley and Harvard; child of Beirut, born in 1925 to a Greek mother and Syrian father; and 89-yearold resident of Sausalito, California. She is currently being celebrated at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art with the retrospective show Etel Adnan in All Her Dimensions, curated by superstar Hans Ulrich Obrist. We wanted to show her paintings as large as our print space would allow, in the form of a poster that can be pulled out and kept. And we felt we had to quote from some of her writings that relate to her paintings, as she is so erudite and uplifting on the subject. Inside the back cover are sections from the first of her many manuscripts, a painted version of the Arabic poem Madinat Al Sindbad, by Badr Shakir al-Sayyab, reproduced by Mathaf for their current show. Obrist is fond of saying that Adnan should be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, according to Adnan’s gallerist Andrée Sfeir-Semler. The Nobel Prize has been awarded to women 45 times, out of 561 given in total; perhaps Adnan could raise it to 46. The intelligent women leading the Arab art scene forward continue to impress with their vision and tenacity. Within this wider milieu, Beirut of course holds its own

“Unfortunately, the contradictions and constraints create new hells.”


Etel Adnan, Al Hajj, 2013 Pencil, japanese ink, watercolor, colored aquarelle pencil on paper, 20 pages 18 x 12cm each, 240cm extended

xxx xxxx

the colour of outer space, the speed of the rockets, the landscapes seen by the astronauts, their thoughts, their feelings, their mutations.”

what’s inside

“Sometimes, while painting, something wild gets unleashed. Something of the process of dreams recurs... but with a special kind of violence.”

# 03

selections art paper

“The street is shoddy, but the sky is imperial. Anything is possi

A selections art paper

# 03

andree sfeir-semler

words: kasia maciejowska

Andrée Sfeir-Semler



Dr AnDrée Sfeir-Semler wAS born in beirut in 1953, AnD founDeD her firSt gAllery in hAmburg in 1985. She openeD her 1,000-SquAre-metre beirut SpAce in 2005, AnD wAS immeDiAtely forceD to cloSe it Due to iSrAeli Shelling.

re-opening two weekS After the 2006 wAr enDeD, Sfeir-Semler becAme SynonymouS with the poSt-wAr generAtion of contemporAry ArtiStS who now repreSent the region on the globAl Art plAtform. here AnDrée SpeAkS with the eDitor of the Art pAper About Art AcroSS borDerS AnD the complicAtionS of her birthplAce


feir-Semler stands alone in Beirut; it is the city’s only commercial gallery exhibiting worldclass conceptual and contemporary art in conversation with the leaders of today’s multinational art world. Its founder, Andrée SfeirSemler, supported and shaped the best among the generation of artists who followed the Civil War. Between them, they developed a body of work that played with reportage and historiography, taking on the mantel of post-war storytelling, in place of a formal history-making that has still never surfaced from more official sources. The location of her gallery - by the port - was a conscious demarcation that aligned it more with the postindustrial spaces of overseas museums than with the city’s existing galleries. “I wanted to be in Karantina because it didn’t belong to

anyone politically and it was out of the way. Our space is really museum-grade – it’s a top-quality grey and white box, with nothing to distract from the work.” Andrée knows she is the region’s go-to source for museum buyers and super collectors, and is proud of it. Beirut Art Center (BAC) and Ashkal Alwan, which participate in the same international dialogue, are not galleries but organisations, although the exhibitions at BAC do draw from the same pool of artists and sometimes take similar tones. “I’m afraid that most people in Beirut think that having an exhibition means hanging some paintings on the wall and shifting them”, she quips. If she sounds haughty about Lebanon, that’s because she is a little, but in a manner more akin to an ambitious mother than any sort of enemy. She criticises from the position of an

insider-outsider, as someone who has been striving to raise the bar for many years, and is disappointed not to see change. “Beirut is collapsing! There is no air to breathe because the pollution is disgusting, there is no water and everything is completely corrupt. You can’t even bring artworks into the country and store them in an honest way because the authorities will refuse you. It’s a banana republic. That’s why I feel like what I’m doing here is important. Germany doesn’t need me, but in Beirut there is so much to be done.” Her confident position in the region means she can make an artist’s career at the highest level. She has sold works to Tate Modern and the Guggenheim. Her artists exhibit at the Venice Biennale, at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, at Documenta, at The Serpentine. She suggests that today’s top curators are

so enamoured of Middle Eastern art now because it addresses subjects of substance. “Talking with German or European artists, I see that they sometimes struggle to make work that has real concerns, whereas of course here there are so many real concerns. Maybe this is part of why museums are so keen on art from our region now, because good art from here truly has something powerful and political to say that comes from a real drive to change things.” Andrée scooped up the leading portfolio of artists that includes Etel Adnan, Walid Raad, Mounira Al Solh, Akram Zaatari, Wael Shawky, Marwan Rechmaoui, and introduced them over time via her presentations. As the wider world caught on to the new artistic language coming from the Mediterranean Middle East she became respected for not only

The works shown at Sfeir-Semler range from paintings to sculpture, installation to video. More often than not, the represented artists work across different mediums, and Andrée curates her exhibitions so these counterpoint one another – such as in the current show, All Mother Tongues Are Difficult, by Mounira Al Solh. For Andrée, video and installation play an important part in defining the artistic voice of the contemporary Middle East because their narrative forms are rooted in native art history, rather than in visual art, which is a European import. “Our legacy is one of storytelling, and its not written down because the Arabian peoples were nomadic, so everything was in spoken word. Our creative history is one of architecture, design, and storytelling. So when an artist from say

Lebanon, Egypt, Syria or Palestine comes to express themselves they reach out for the purest medium for storytelling, which is often video and also installation. The history of contemporary art in the Arab world really starts with Egyptian cinema, because when filmmakers started working in Cairo their medium was young enough that they could make it their own, so this is a genuine heritage for today’s artists.” In searching for a language she could stand behind, Mounira Al Solh concerned herself with this tension in particular. She found it so hard to make art using the visual gestures associated with Lebanon’s former colonisers, the French, that she developed an alter ego Bassam Ramlawi for the drawing and painting aspects of her practice. It took Al Solh, whose family is Syrian-Lebanese but who

now lives mainly in the Netherlands, many years to use a pen in her own name. Andrée puts this in context, explaining, “It is very problematic for a conscious artist here to pick up a pencil or paintbrush and to not feel they are imitating art from the French or Western tradition. There are so many terrible derivative works of visual art showing up on the Middle Eastern art market now that the best artists really have to think before using the more traditional mediums because they are loaded with a complicated history, and these artists want to develop their own identity.” With one foot in Hamburg, where she mainly lives and works, Andrée’s roster of world-class artists draws from beyond the Middle East. Although she takes artists from here to show abroad, she exhibits very few of her European

Akram Zaatari, Letter To A Refusing Pilot, Venice Bienale, LEBANON PAVILLION

recognising good artists, but also for shaping a set that came to represent the region as its visibility increased. “My gallery’s role hasn’t really changed even as the art scene across the Middle East has developed around us. I am very pleased to see places like the Beirut Exhibition Centre opening and the new spaces in the Gulf, and of course Cristine Tohme continuing with her brilliant work at Ashkal Alwan.”

2004, SfeirSemler Gallery Beirut interior, pre-renovation

Walid raad, Scratching on Things, d13, Graue Moschee, installation view

Collective exhibition, Timo Nasseri, Philippe Taaffe, Christine Streuli, Sfeir Semler, 2010


artists in Beirut “because it’s important to me that the work is read and that what the artist has to say will resonate with the city.” Discussing the difference between how art is received here and in Europe, she believes the role of religion remains too strong in the region for art to be considered in the reverential way that it is in the West. “In Europe, art museums are like churches. People go there to find answers, to find truth, because contemporary art has become a transnational community for those who want to criticise the status quo and think in an independent way.” In her view, as the regional audience matures, a similar attitude towards art will follow - but that’s still a long way off. “To evolve, people here will have to reposition the role of religion in their lives. At the moment they are killing in the name of god and then looking to god for forgiveness. In contrast, when you read an insightful book or engage with a meaningful piece of art or a film, you look into yourself because critical culture encourages you to ask questions and take responsibility for the way you behave.”

m # 03

füsun onur: review

words: jennifer hattam

the pAth-breAking turkiSh ArtiSt füSun onur finAlly getS A retroSpective worthy of her long cAreer, now Showing At Arter


nitially ignored and dismissed for her experimental approach, Füsun Onur has become recognised as one of Turkey’s most influential contemporary artists by steadfastly continuing to follow her own path. She has described her art as “musical work without sound,” explaining, “I am taking everyday objects and using them as notes.” Born in 1938, Onur got her undergraduate degree at what is now the Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts in Istanbul, where she studied with Ali Hadi Bara. The Iranian-born sculptor was influential in moving Turkish sculpture away from official monuments and into more abstract realms.

Onur made her own mark by pioneering installation art that pushes the boundaries of both sculpture and painting, incorporating everyday objects and aspects of daily life but taking them out of their normal context in a way that prompts the viewer to reassess the meanings typically attributed to them. A comprehensive retrospective of her career is long overdue, says ARTER Exhibitions Director Emre Baykal, the curator of the Istanbul art space’s upcoming show Füsun Onur: Through the Looking-Glass. Opening 28 May and running through 17th August, the solo exhibit features more than 40 works from the mid1960s up to the present.

Fusun Onur, Dream of Old Furniture,1985, Installation view: Taksim Art Gallery, Istanbul

Making Meaning from the Mundane

selections art paper

Fusun Onur, Untitled, 1983, Mixed media on canvas, 40 x 70cm, Private Collection


“I am taking everyday objects and using them as notes”


rigidity of sculpture for something more ephemeral. “No matter how familiar you are with Füsun Onur’s work,” ARTER’s Baykal says, “it is always full of surprises.”

Füsun Onur Through The Looking Glass continues at ARTER until 17th August 2017.

Fusun Onur, Opus 2 – Variation 2003, 11 canvases Installation view: Proje4L, Istanbul Courtesy of Proje4L Elgiz, Museum of Contemporary Art

Fusun Onur, Any Chair, 1991, Installation view: Akm Exhibition Hall, Istanbul Vehbi Koç Foundation Contemporary Art Collection Courtesy of the Vehbi Koç Foundation

Already an influence on fellow artists working in an avant-garde milieu in the 1970s, Onur’s work attracted wider attention with her participation in two Istanbul Biennials during the 1990s. Since then, her art has been shown in Austria, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and Russia, as well as in Turkey, where Onur lives and works in the idyllic waterfront neighbourhood where she grew up. Although Onur spent time as a student in the United States, she has lived most of her life in Istanbul and her work is deeply rooted in her own personal history with the city, incorporating materials from her home and neighbourhood such as old fabrics and embroidery, beads, furniture, pieces of

Fusun Onur, Mixed media on canvas, July 1983, 40 x 70cm Private Collection

“The works in the exhibition are compiled together to cover an era of almost 50 years committed to an uninterrupted research on the potentials of space, time, rhythm and form that are inherent in simple, everyday materials,” Baykal says. Through the LookingGlass also features a couple of works that previously only existed as sketches or models, and are now being produced and shown for the first time. One of these pieces, Baykal explains, is, “An enlarged version of a three-dimensional model that was conceived in 1972 as a sculpture that you could pass through”. Another, he says, will be “a video documentation of a poetic outdoor intervention that was planned to take place on the Bosporus in 1993”.

Fusun Onur, Untitled, 1993

“No matter how familiar you are with Füsun Onur’s work, it is always full of surprises”

tulle, dolls and perfume bottles. One piece, Call Me Istanbul (2004), visualised the act of walking through the city using interweaving footprints in blue and gold, two colours that frequently characterise her work. Another, Elegy for Tekir (2012), memorialised her cat through silhouettes that traded the typical


selections art paper

# 03

sadik alfraji: review

words: kasia maciejowska

adik Alfraji has such a powerful style that it communicates a mood within one glance at a single image. His black silhouettes are sombre and primitive, generating instant empathy for his figures, which tragically reiterate the human condition. His simple forms depict stooped shoulders and sympathetic head gestures, simultaneously personalising and universalising the more sombre aspects of life to create a body of philosophical visual artworks that span video, painting, drawing, and prints. Having left Iraq, he now lives in the Netherlands, where he drew most of the works for this show. Many of his works were lost when he was forced to emigrate

after the war. Biography Of A Head was originally the name given to a series of woodcut prints made during the 1985 Iraq-Iran war, which the artist tried to exhibit in Baghdad in 1988 but was rejected for political reasons. During this earlier time in his career his primary media were etching and woodcuts, which is how he developed his monochrome palette. Speaking on his use of black, he says only, “Black is the most emotional colour.” As Alfraji writes in his artist’s statement, “I do not paint out of luxury, and do not seek beauty, but as an attempt to reason the world and myself. Yet, always, the result does not exceed a restless sort of crying.” The minimalist way that he communicates

Sadik Alfraji, The house that my father built (Once upon a time), 2010. Film, 6:12


Sadik Alfraji, In Baghdad, under the Freedom Monument 2, 2013, Indian Ink, Charcoal, Acrylic and Rice paper on Canvas, 270 x 590cm

Sadik Alfraji in conversation with Kasia Maciejowska at Beirut Exhibition Center, April 2014



irAqi émigré SADik AlfrAji uSeS Symbolic figureS in hiS StyliSeD grAphic Depiction of humAn SADneSS AnD the exiStentiAl voiD. he ShoweD the Art pAper ArounD hiS recent Solo Show biogrAphy of A heAD At beirut exhibition center

this perpetual sadness is so deft that he often only uses one line suggesting a downcast eyelid, or the silhouette of a solemn mouth. Modern, expressive and graphic, his style could be described as a sort of figurative existentialism. He regales me with a philosophic proposition: “When you wake up in the morning, you go to the mirror, and when you see yourself you think – ‘I exist’. The moment you have that thought you also recognize the possibility that, ‘I do not exist’. This feeling – this is my paintings.” For his show at Beirut Exhibition Center this Spring, he simply continued with his ongoing project, he says, only seeking to further interrogate “the dilemma of


human existence.” Rather than this being something inherently high-brow, Alfraji explains that his subject is a concern of daily life, and inhabits all our regular thoughts about freedom, love, death, and so on. Above all else, he says the body of work shown focused on freedom – or freedoms rather, as he articulates it, “Your freedom may be different to my freedom.” For Alfraji, there are

two levels of freedom: an apparent freedom that we experience day-to-day, in which we tell ourselves that we are free because we have choices – where to look, who to see – but if we look more deeply we discover that this is not the case; freedom on a deeper level is more elusive. He uses a simple example to explain what he means: “Yes I can choose whether to drive to Hamra or to Solidere, but if I

Sadik Alfraji, Video still from “Sisyphus goes on Demonstration 2012 Photo courtesy of the artist

of the Arab Spring”, framing it as futile in a simple and rather sweet animation. As with all his pieces, it also speaks of, “The Sisyphus in all of us.”

Sadik Alfraji, Still image from the video installation “Godot to Come Yesterday, 2013 Photo courtesy of the artist

there is no real freedom – only its apparition. “I believe that freedom is the more beautiful illusion that human beings have made so they can go on living. Without this, our minds cannot accept our situation.” The titles of his paintings, Once I Could Fly, for example, reflect this feeling. His video Sisyphus, after the hero from Greek mythology who pushed the stone up the hill only for it to roll down, refers to what he terms, “The giant illusion

look more closely I find a lot of mechanisms that move both inside me and around me and push me to make a certain choice. I cannot see them, or even feel them. I am free to say I am not free, but at the same time I am not free to see that I am not free. We can never step outside this cyclical dilemma.” This notion of manipulating factors means that for Alfraji,

Jamil Molaeb

a life worth living

Opening Of the exhibitiOn in the presence Of the artist Wednesday, May 7, 2014 at 6pM exhibitiOn cOntinues May 7 – June 7, 2014 Opening hours Tuesday to Friday from 10am to 7pm Saturday from 10am to 2pm • Closed Sunday to Monday

galerie Janine rubeiz and the editiOns Of l’Orient le JOur invite yOu tO the bOOk signing Of JOseph tarrab Jamil molaeb - Xylographies- Woodcuts Wednesday 21st of May 5pM-8pM at galerie Janine rubeiz The book will be signed by Jamil Molaeb.

Majdalani bldg. Ground Floor, Raoucheh, Beirut, Lebanon t: +961 1 868 290 f: +961 1 805 061

Histories of Art Explored

selections art paper

while the theme of the globAl Art forum iS intenDeD to be Set ApArt from the focuS of the Art fAir where it tAkeS plAce, At thiS yeAr’S eDition, entitleD meAnwhile… hiStory, Art wAS A perSpective through which the pASt wAS reviSiteD thAnkS to krtiStine khoury AnD ShivA bAlAghi

# 03

global art forum: review


he Global Art Forum (GAF) is a side program of Art Dubai, which was instigated by the Berlin-based writer Shumon Basar. This year GAF was co-directed by the independent artist and curator Ala Younis, and the translator, writer and codirector of Dar Al Ma’mun, in Marrakech, Omar Berrada. In more than 15 hours of discussion that took place throughout the week, there were two sessions that focused specifically on art in relation to history, while the dominant theme was history-centric but applied to other areas of culture and society. For the first of the two, writer and researcher Kristine Khoury traced the history of Kuwait’s Sultan Gallery, the first professional gallery in the Arab world. For the second, the academic Shiva Balaghi presented an ulterior

history of Iran told through the works of a Dubai-based private collection. Khoury’s session about Kuwait dug into the twenty years between the 1950s and 1970s, with a focus on the art and architecture that came through one particular – but highly influential – gallery space in the country. Khoury presented a nuanced look at the country as an unassuming new frontier for art exploration. Back in 1969, the Harvard-educated Ghazi Sultan and his sister Najat Sultan founded the Sultan Gallery, which still runs today. The 1970s also marked the beginning of exhibiting accomplished artists such as Etel Adnan and Fateh Mudaress in cities outside their own, many of them for the first time, starting a trend among Arab artists for travelling within the region to show their work. Khoury presented

1977 brought Andy Warhol to the country for a visit, backed by the National Council for Arts and Letters, with Najat Sultan very much involved, exhibiting his series of cats and dogs portraits

words: sheyma bu ali

Kuwait of that time to be a place of experimentation in cultural development. 1977 brought Andy Warhol to the country for a visit, backed by the National Council for Arts and Letters, with Najat Sultan very much involved, exhibiting his series of cats and dogs portraits. This surreal moment from recent art history was described as if fondly remembered and Khoury’s talk framed such an exchange as being far outside the norm of what was expected both in the international art world and in Kuwait at the time. Shiva Balaghi, historian and art history professor at Brown University, presented a time line of Iranian history through the prism of Mohamad Afkhami’s private collection. She explained Dubai’s relationship with the Iranian art world, casting the UAE city as a meeting point for artists who are unable to go to Iran, as well as a prominent place for Iranian art dealership. Balaghi discussed her timeline with a number of pieces marking pertinent points in political and art histories, giving context to the artworks. For example, Mitra Tabrizian’s 1989 piece, Surveillance, shows a collaged panorama that cites how the CIA, clergymen, and the Iran-Iraq war shaped modern Iranian history. Balaghi pulled out 1962 as the year that New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) acquired their

Global Art Forum 2014

h 10

first Iranian works. She referred to these pieces as ‘closeted Modernism’; Alfred Barr, founding director of the MoMA, knew there was modern art being produced in Iran, and acquired pieces from this canon, but he never displayed them. This collection also reflects the personal histories of the artists, such as Malekeh Nayini’s works about her parents, created from photos she found after they had died. All in all, the Global Art Forum, in its 8th edition, was an engaging, exploratory discussion series that emphasized the current tide of historiographic fascination and imagination in Arab art world, as the scene seeks to root itself in its own cultural lineage.


# 03

Marie Muracciole

New Direction


beirut Art center hAS A new Director, mArie murAcciole. She iS the firSt to be hAnDeD the reinS by founDerS lAmiA joreige AnD SAnDrA DAgher, who hAD been curAting the progrAmme Since opening in 2009. whAt iS it About her thAt won their truSt? AnD whAt About the orgAniSAtion perSuADeD her to leAve pAriS?

marie muracciole


words: kasia maciejowska

Meeting Points Exhibition, Beirut Art Center

selections art paper


urator and art critic Marie Muracciole swapped Napoleon’s repurposed tennis courts in the Tuileries Gardens of Paris for a Raed Abillama warehouse conversion in Beirut’s post-industrial Jisr El Wati . The move, which she made in March, was for her new role as director of the Beirut Art Center, one of the most respected visual arts venues in town. Freshly in Lebanon after five years working internationally as an independent curator, and following seven years overseeing the Cultural Department, responsible for conferences, lectures and education, at the Jeu de Paume museum in Paris, she steps in to the shoes of not one, but two women. Furthermore, these two women – Lamia Joreige and Sandra Dagher founded BAC themselves, mentoring it throughout its first five years. In Muracciole’s opinion, it was her background in education and wider cultural programmes that let Joreige and Dagher to choose her for the post. This emphasis on the educative side of arts programming draws on her passion for

“Let’s say I would like to change the visibility of certain things”

teaching. She holds an academic post at EBABX in Bordeaux, France, where she will continue to teach video and film theory. She says she loves the way her academic exchanges with students feed back in to her own understanding. “It develops my position intellectually, and influences my writing, which is the beginning of my practice. I write quite a lot and very often, as a vehicle for progressing my research and ideas.” Although returning to France once a month, the majority of her time will now be in Beirut. “I think it’s interesting to be between two countries at once, and it’s valuable to me to retain the stance of an outsider here as it will help me to maintain an experimental perspective.” Having curated exhibitions in the US, Switzerland, Belgium, Turkey, the Ivory Coast and Germany, this position of the outsider is something she enjoys. Transitioning from her background at French institutions into an organisation that is constantly seeking funding brings challenges, but she

counters, “It also offers freedoms. It allows you to focus on what is most interesting for the now and the best work in relation to the situation in the region, and to bring it to people quite quickly. In institutions you are always bound to a long-term schedule.” Her vision for BAC is that it should be somewhere “alive” where people can participate in discussion. On the subject of how she will change things once the programme put in place before she arrived comes to a close at the end of this year, she says, “My intention is to have a lot of interactive programming – lectures, screenings, workshops, conferences and perhaps not so many shows.” Despite her intention to reduce the scale and frequency of exhibitions, she believes that it was the right strategy for BAC to have taken it its early years, but now thinks that more dialogue-led happenings can open up work that is lesser known. “I quite agree with their earlier decision to put on many big shows, but for example this year BAC is showing work by big

artists whose work is already known, whereas one of my projects will be to exhibit the lesser-known works by well-known artists, or works by emerging artists who deserve the recognition. Let’s say I would like to change the visibility of certain things.” Top of her list of artists to show is Allan Sekula, who was the subject of her recent book Écrits Sur La Photographie. Explaining why his work should be shown here, she cites his treatment of globalisation as something that is both happening but also not happening as pertinent to Beirut. Among the themes that she wants to explore are globalisation in general and more specifically the postcolonial world – “Because we are in the middle of it.” So how will her new version of BAC sit within Beirut’s art landscape? “I see that for example BAC and Ashkal Alwan are closely related, not only location-wise, but they both push for experimentation and are removed from the market. A dialogue has already been developed around BAC and around its location, and my intention is primarily to reenforce this.”



pushing beyond art

outStAnDing pAkiStAni ArtiSt rASheeD ArAeen fillS ShArjAh Art SpAce with 50 yeArS of bounDAry benDing

words: anya stafford


became an artist because art pushed me into it.” So says Rasheed Araeen in the curator’s interview for Before and After Minimalism, his first major exhibition in the Middle East, which is currently on in Sharjah Art Foundation until 13th June, curated by Hoor Al Qasimi. Concurrent shows by Wael Shawky and Susan Hefunaare taking place simultaneously. Best known to many for creating Third Text, the art journal that for 26 years has been challenging monoculture in the art world, Araeen’s show is as much a document of his tenacity in this quest as it is an evolutionary retrospective, with early paintings and drawings, important sculptural works, and sketches for ideas. Araeen’s new piece

Rasheed Araeen, Before and After Minimalism, installation view at Sharjah Art Foundation Art Spaces, image courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation

# 03

Rasheed Araeen, Before and After Minimalism, installation view at Sharjah Art Foundation Art Spaces, image courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation

Rasheed Araeen, People of Karachi, 1955-1958, charcoal, pencil, crayon and biro on paper, 24 paintings, 57 x 43cm each. Araeen Family Collection, Karachi. Image courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation

selections art paper

Rasheed Araeen, Triangles, 1970, Wood and black and white photographs, 244x244x25cm. Image courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation


commissioned for the space, Sharjah Blues, 2013, is the first thing you see at the entrance to Building I of the Art Spaces. It’s a large-scale geometric steel sculpture, mounted on the wall and casting many shadows. The show inside presents itself in a spiral, starting with Views of Karachi 1953-1958, and People of Karachi 1955-1958, both collections of figurative landscapes and portraits from his hometown using whatever drawing material Araeen could get his hands on: watercolour, charcoal, pencil, crayon, biro. He compares discovering the Sketch Club at his local library to “entering a heaven”. The next groups of closely hung paintings chart his move away from representational works,

and define, as the artist frames it, “two things present very early on in my work: triangles and vertical movement.” Boats: Towards Abstraction, 1958-1962, are layers of triangles in charcoal and ochre, while Dancing Bodies (Hula Hoop Series), 1951-1961, are snake-like representations of helixes in flux. Around the corner his development towards abstraction and then minimalism is mapped further, culminating in sketches on graph paper that combine his engineer’s education and artist’s vision of what lies next: the colourful sculptures, or structures as he calls them, were made from 1964 onwards when he moved to London. In this inner room many of these structures are free

Rasheed Araeen, Chakras, 1969-1970, 24 circular discs and 24 colored photographs, 61cm diameter each. Dimensions variable, image courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation

Rasheed Araeen, In front of Shurbati, Forty Years On, 19732013, Wood and house paint, 3 pieces, 175x70x17cm. Image courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation


standing. As is the mode of sculpture today, none are on plinths, and some were even conceived to be rearranged by visitors. They may seem to have some classic minimalistic traits but on close inspection they are questioning Western hierarchies, inviting interaction, made from painted wood rather than with the industrial precision of his American contemporaries. First

Structure, 1966-1967, sits here, a cubic prototype whose faces bisect to create triangles that change depending on your perspective. Araeen’s triangles suggest vertical movement through Rang Baranga, and Lal Kona (Red Corner) from 1969. It was around this time that Araeen was knocking on the doors of the Eurocentric art establishment, to no avail. This disillusionment led to his

involvement with the Black Panthers and ultimately the birth of Third Text. Documentation from performative pieces that challenge the separation of art and life round off Before and After Minimalism: Disco Sailing, 1970-1974 and Chakras, 1969-1970. This year it was solely Araeen’s work at Grosvenor Gallery’s booth at Art Dubai Modern, and he

was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from ArtNow Pakistan. If art pushed Rasheed Araeen into it, it’s also responsible for the merit he has received since then.

Rasheed Araeen: Before and After Minimalism continues at Sharjah Art Foundation until 13th June 2014

selections art paper

ZhivAgo DuncAn brought hiS pArticulArly trAnSnAtionAl perSpective to chAllenge iDeAS About culturAl Difference for hiS exhibition AS the jungle weepS At jAmm Art gAllery, DubAi

words: sheyma bu ali

roduced during his travels with Bedouins through Jordan, Zhivago Duncan’s latest collection of works looks to dispel myths of cultural difference and investigate ideas on physical and moral truth. Duncan, born in Indiana in 1980 to Syrian and Danish parents, grew up between Saudi Arabia, France, Malta, Bulgaria, the United States and England, and is currently based in Berlin. This international upbringing is what informed the premise of the recent exhibition of his works entitled As the Jungle Weeps. Upon entering JAMM Art Gallery in Dubai’s Quoz district, one was first confronted by a friendly looking mechanical pony with a red mane and a royal seat. As Duncan describes, “It speaks Mandarin, when you put a coin in it, it sings in Arabic. I wanted to do a photo shoot with it out

Zhivago Duncan, Mufleh AK

“Duncan grew up between Saudi Arabia, France, Malta, Bulgaria, the United States and England, and is now based in Berlin”

zhivago duncan: review


Zhivago Duncan, Folklore 5



# 03

Zhivago Duncan, Patina of Time


in the desert”. And that is exactly what he did. Right behind it hangs Patina of Time, a surreal photograph that places the pony in the middle of the soft sand desert, its background is a landscape of mountains and sweeping blue sky. This seemingly playful aesthetic continued in the series entitled Folklore. Spray paint cans were placed in front of white panels which Duncan and his fellow travellers shot at using AK-47’s, which Duncan describes as, “The main tools of civil war”. Reminiscent of William Burroughs’ ‘shotgun art’ of the 1960s, the results were abstract splashes of colour. These technicolour bursts were in dialogue with Titan, a sevenvideo work that shows a JCB truck spilling sand at different speeds. A loop of an explosion from a 1960s Warner Brothers cartoon is projected on the veil of sand. “Both Folklore and Titan are made by machines that destroy and expand,” Duncan points out. The mirroring by the projection of colourful animated

explosions with the static reality of the colourful sparks on the boards drew a relationship between American popular culture, destruction, production and the reality of the war not too far in neighbouring Syria. Duncan’s aim to illustrate misconstrued conceptions about the isolation of each culture is expressed through the dialogue he sets up between his relational works, which highlight the abstract yet palpable connections between iconography, language and the movement of objects through time and place.


# 03

then and now


A retroSpective SpAnning Six DecADeS of the prolific ArtiSt’S work DemonStrAteS hiS verSAtility AnD viSion

hussein madi: review


oday he’s one of the Middle East’s most renowned artists, but in the 1960s Hussein Madi was an impoverished student who spent his days sketching animals at a zoo in Rome. A selection of these ably executed drawings greeted visitors to the comprehensive exhibition of his work at the Beirut Exhibition Center this spring. The visually engaging, sprawling show, entitled Hussein Madi: A Boundless Life, was curated by the artist’s long-time friend and gallerist Aida Cherfan and consisted of a staggering 475 works. The pieces spanned Madi’s lengthy career, some dated as early as 1959 and others completed earlier this year. Born in south Lebanon in 1938, Madi has lived a life ruled by his enduring passion for art. He defied the dictates of his family as a young man to study at the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts, before moving


words: india stoughton

Hussein Madi, A Boundless Life, Beirut Exhibition Center, 2014

selections art paper

to Italy in 1963. What was originally intended to be a short visit became a stay of more than 20 years. Madi didn’t return to live in Beirut until 1986. Now 76, the artist works as feverishly as ever, Cherfan says. It was Madi, she reveals, who wanted the animal sketches to appear in the retrospective, a nod to the artist’s long journey from humble student to the man often referred to as “the Picasso of the Middle East.” What is most striking about Madi’s work is his glorious eye for colour. Cherfan, who says she wanted the exhibition to appeal not only to those with specialist art knowledge, but to children and those with no artistic background, deployed his vibrant paintings to great effect, grouping hordes of sketches around one brilliant centrepiece. Forgoing the traditional chronological approach, Cherfan curated the work with maximum

visual impact in mind, displaying works according to subject matter or media. Madi’s preferred subjects are horses, bulls and birds, flowers, trees and voluptuous women -“macho” preoccupations, as Cherfan terms them. The retrospective provided an insight into the ways in which these classical subjects have appeared and reappeared in Madi’s work over the course of six decades, attesting to the artist’s seemingly endless capacity for reinvention. From simple pencil sketches to realist portraits, adeptly shaded charcoal drawings to acrylic and oil paintings, Madi’s works on paper and canvas run the gamut from realist to abstract to the figurative works for which he is best known, elegant, geometric compositions consisting of shapes formed by a straight and a curved line. His sculptures also formed an integral part of the retrospective. Angular,

origami-like shapes made from galvanised steel, they capture birds, animals and human figures, echoing the distinctive lines and subjects of Madi’s paintings. Those familiar with the artist’s more recent output were given a rare chance to glimpse some examples of his earlier work. These included a couple of beautiful tempera pieces, framed works on paper made by painting in a mixture of egg and pigment, which date from the 1960s and were on loan from private collections. Capturing flocks of birds, the works attest to an early propensity to experiment with different media and a lifelong interest in the subject matter that still forms the base of the artist’s work today. An exhibition bursting with colour and joie de vivre, Hussein Madi: A Boundless Life was a fitting tribute to an artist whose love of beauty is a pleasure to behold.


# 03

saad yagan: review

words: john ovans

As a personality, with his jaunty moustache, warm smile and twinkling eyes, seems at odds with his own output


he sun outside in Beirut is shining, but inside the Mark Hacham Gallery the walls are drenched in darkness. I’m here for an exhibition by Syrian painter Saad Yagan, whose work is nothing if not directional. It’s a little like being confronted with The Scream, over and over and over again: misery jumps off the canvases, and you can practically hear wails emanating from them too. The subjects are always the human body, which for Yagan is a site of suffering – suffering that doesn’t feel (to borrow the Catholic line of thinking) particularly

redemptive. He calls it, “The problem of the human being, the relationship between the human being and the world” – a relationship that manifests in Yagan’s paintings as sadness and anger. Art meets death with Artaudian brushstrokes, because according to Yagan, this is the state of the world that we live in: an inferno of “operatic death”. Born in Aleppo in 1954, Yagan has a long history with Beirut, first exhibiting in the city in 1970, and following the devastating impact of the war on Syrian art, many of his works have found a home here

saad yagan, halet ibdaa, acrylic on canvas, 120 x 100cm

in Lebanon. But while it finds itself represented in his work, the war was not initially his starting point. Even the most ordinary of scenes are infused with unhappiness, for instance the image of coffeehouse, with representations of women and politics (“When people drink coffee in Syria, that’s what they talk about,” Yagan reasons) flickering above the patrons’ heads as a ghostly collective consciousness. Yagan’s work is at once abstract and visceral: his skinless bodies, in ribbony binds of blue and red, are like biology diagrams floating through a winesoaked dream. Hands and feet are large and sinewy, and Yagan’s bodies never wear shoes, because, he says,

saad yagan, kalaat halab, acrylic on canvas, 140 x 180cm

SyriAn pAinter SAAD yAgAn DepictS the humAn form in All itS DrAmA

saad yagan, family (3a2ila), acrylic on canvas, 120 x 100cm

An Inferno of Operatic Death

selections art paper

saad yagan, omsiyah cheeriyah, acrylic on canvas, 120 x 90cm


he wants their physicality – suppressed, twisted movements – to give more power to his meaning. “I’m not an optimist,” he baldly states, “I can’t get out of my skin [to paint other things] because these are my feelings.” As a personality, Yagan – all jaunty moustache, warm smile and twinkling eyes – seems at odds with his own output. “The way I see the world,” he adds, “the light is becoming dark, not the other way round”, intimating that this is how he’ll continue to paint for the foreseeable future. I suppose like all painters, he’s just waiting for the light to change.


nassouh zaghlouleh: review


words: india stoughton

“Given the situation in Syria, I wanted to show how I personally feel towards Damascus. It’s a relationship of love between me and the city so I wanted to be alone with it for this project”


ince I was a child, instead of looking up at the sky and the sun, I used to look down at the spots of light and shade on the ground,” says Nassouh Zaghlouleh. “That’s where the compulsion to create this series came from.” The Syrian photographer is referring the 37 striking, high-contrast black-andwhite shots exhibited at Beirut’s Art on 56th gallery. Zaghlouleh’s first exhibition in Lebanon, the show is entitled Silence in Damascus, a reference to the lack of human figures in his

Nassouh Zaghlouleh, Silence in Damascus 1, Art on 56th gallery

SyriAn photogrApher nASSouh ZAghlouleh’S blAck-AnD-white ShotS cApture Ancient DAmAScuS through A chilD’S wonDering eyeS

photographs and a poignant reminder of the ongoing violence in Syria that has made keeping silent a thing of the past. Born in Damascus in 1958 and raised in the old part of the city, Zaghlouleh studied photography in Paris in the 1980s, remaining in France for 25 years. After a period teaching analogue photography at Paris’ International Institute for Image and Sound in the early 2000s, Zaghlouleh moved back to Damascus and to the old city where he’d grown up. It was here

that he made the shift to digital photography. Still entranced by the patterns cast onto the streets and pavements by the powerful sunlight that has so fascinated him as a child, he began to capture them in a series of blackand-white photographs. The resulting images appear abstract at first glance, but a closer look reveals the unique contours of a city. The high-contrast photographs capture Damascus’ winding, cobbled alleyways, tree-shaded streets and towering stone

Nassouh Zaghlouleh, Silence in Damascus 3, Art on 56th gallery

Sun, shade and silence in old Damascus


# 03

Nassouh Zaghlouleh, Silence in Damascus 2, Art on 56th gallery

selections art paper

buildings through a web of light and shadow, as they might appear to a child walking these pathways with his eyes closed, delighting in the shifting rhythm of black and red behind his eyelids. “I wanted to get away from the usual touristy photographs people take of Damascus,” the artist explains. “Given the situation in Syria, I wanted to show how I personally feel towards Damascus and how I see it.” It’s for this reason that he chose not to include human figures in any of the pictures, further enhancing

their geometric, textural appeal. The images are not intended to be abstract, Zaghlouleh explains, but to convey a personal vision. “It’s only about my relationship with old Damascus and it’s a relationship of love between me and city,” he says, “so I wanted to be alone with it in this project. I didn’t want others to intrude.” The artist has been working on the series since 2006, and the results of the eight-year project display a deep and abiding love for the ancient heart of one of the world’s oldest cities.


# 03

lines: review

words: rajesh punj

Geta Brătescu, Les Mains, 1977, 8mm Film transferred to digital media, Black and white, no sound, 7’30’’ Courtesy the artist, Ivan Gallery, Bucharest, Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin

curAteD by roDrigo mourA, the lineS exhibition At hAuSer AnD wirth in Zurich thiS mAy repreSenteD the reDuctive formAliSm of AbStrAct Art with workS thAt SeemeD to wAnt to DiSAppeAr from view

Nasreen Mohamedi, Untitled ca. 1970, Black and white photograph, 22.8 x 38.1cm / 9 x 15in © Estate of Nasreen Mohamedi, Courtesy of Talwar Gallery Marilá Dardot ,++ (detail) ,2014, Wooden table, styrofoam cell trays, vegetable seeds, vinyl letters 80 x 216 x 78cm / 31 1/2 x 85 x 30 3/4in © Marilá Dardot Courtesy Galeria Vermelho, São Paulo, Brazil, 2007


selections art paper

Johanna Calle, Reticulas rotas III, 2010 – 2012, Cut and painted wire mesh mounted on museum board, 53 x 51cm / 20 7/8 x 20 1/8 in, Courtesy the artist and Galeria Marilia Razuk



auser and Wirth’s Zurich show is a positively intellectual body of non-works that appear to want to disappear from view. Beneath the curved steel ribs that elevate up and into the ceiling, and the adjoining tiled pillars, this industrial mortuarystyle space could well be completely empty, were it not for the wafer thin works and cotton thread installations that resonate

from the walls like the residual effects of a series of ghostly séances. Here the slightest works of art pay homage to the original principles of European concretism (rejecting realism for a more concentrated interest in lines and colour), and the looser abstracted interests of non-concrete art. Curated by Rodrigo Moura, the show exhibits work by eight international artists who were originally

active in the 1950s, some of whom are still practicing today. Included is the work of Romanian Geta Brătescu, renowned for her destabilising drawings and collaged textiles; here her 8mm film Les Mains, 1977, shows her hands feverishly moving in front of the camera, in what is as much a tailored drawing as it is a table top performance. Colombian Johanna Calle’s, Reticulas rotas III, 2010 –

2012, is a series of wire mesh two-dimensional drawings on board, in which the delineated patterns could well serve as a crude outline for a fractured cityscape from above. Nearby, Brazilian Marilá Dardot’s vitrine styled table work, ++ 2014, appears to loosely reference a grid, as do all the works, in its flora-andfauna approach to the germination of principled aesthetics.

There is so little of the Duchampian sense of movement that predates horwitz’s graphs that these works appear to be more coloured mathematics than anything else preoccupied with the nature of motion in static drawing, and was clearly producing significant numbers of such detailed drawings. Yet there is so little of the Duchampian sense of movement that predates Horwitz’s graphs that these works appear to be more coloured mathematics than anything else. Dardot’s Brazilian contemporary Ivens Machado was interested in the microscopic tremors that he might well have induced when reproducing lines on sheets of paper.

Here his 1980 work Wine On Ripped Paper could well be perceived as a beautifully recorded incident of the death of paper, as a drop of wine has corrosively wounded the folded paper at its heart, and when unfolded the stain takes on a more formulaic pattern. For Mumbai-based Nasreen Mohamedi, the implied details of her drawings and photographs are so microscopic, that the ‘troubled destines’ she refers to within her work might well go unmeasured,

Channa Horwitz, Sonakinatography I Movement # III for Multi-media, 1969 Plaka casein paint on mylar, 53 x 48cm / 20 7/8 x 18 7/8in Courtesy of the Channa Horwitz Estate and François Ghebaly

Ivens Machado, Machucado e Curado,(Série Inscrito), 1980, Wine on ripped paper, 86.7 x 59.2cm / 34 1/8 x 23 1/4in © Ivens Machado Courtesy the artist, Galeria Fortes Vilaça and Hauser & Wirth Photo: Stefan Altenburger Photography Zürich

Lygia Pape, Drawing, 1955, Ink on Japanese paper, 25 x 35cm / 9 7/8 x 13 3/4in Courtesy the Lygia Pape Estate and Galeria Graça Brand

American Channa Horwitz, interested in reductive logic, has here multiple works from 1969, one of which, At the Tone the Time will be, is a short film of what can best be described as a whole series of algorithmic actions performed by four leotarded women in front of an audience. A second, Sonakinatography is akin to a well-measured thermonuclear reading of an increase in global temperatures. Much less specific, Horwitz was also

Channa Horwitz, At the Tone the Time will be


were it not for the reductive appeal of her approach. Mohamedi’s meditative Untitled photographs, 1970, show a layer of concentrated threads that criss-cross over space. Wth such diverse interests as geometry, design, abstraction and industrial production, the artists’ essential drawings and accompanying diary pages demonstrate a more scientific approach to the anatomy of creativity. The late Brazilian artist Lygia Pape, employed sculpture, film-making and engraving in a looser participatory approach to art. The works included in the exhibition reference her original interests in concrete art and her 1959 work Tecelar

reads like a balance sheet of two opposing wood cut prints that have been drawn together by magnetic attraction. Pape’s 1955 Drawing, is another work that resembles an unwritten score sheet that is masterfully held together inspite of the slight fracturing of everything on it. Unfortunately New York artist R.H. Quaytman’s Orchard Spreadsheet, 2009, is a dreadfully dull life-sized document that may well serve better as a fiscal printout than a visual possibility in a collected show of works that recalls something of the dry intellectualism of a formalist approach with a minimum of aesthetics.


selections art paper

# 03

art basel / art basel hong kong

words: india stoughton

AS gAllerieS, curAtorS AnD collectorS ArounD the worlD geAr up for Art bASel hong kong AnD the fAir’S home eDition, the Art pAper tAkeS A look At thiS yeAr’S pArticulAr highlightS – eSpeciAlly commiSSioneD inStAllAtionS AnD performAnceS thAt engAge the public in more threeDimenSionAl wAyS

Tang, Contemporary Art Conquer Encounters



ounded in 1970 by gallerists Trudi Bruckner, Balz Hilt and Ernst Beyeler, today Art Basel is widely hailed as one of the world’s premier art fairs. Showcasing contemporary and modern art, the fair takes place annually in Basel, Miami Beach and, since 2013, in Hong Kong. Far more than the sum of its booths, Art Basel’s program also includes talks, performances, curated projects, singleartist presentations, film screenings and site-specific artworks and performances. For those lucky enough to visit this year’s edition of Art Basel Hong Kong,

which runs from the 15th to the 18th of May, Encounters is likely to be the most anticipated section of the fair. A selection of large-scale installations and performances by 17 high-profile artists, curated by Yuko Hasegawa, chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art -- who also presided over last year’s program -- it aims to transcend the limitations of traditional art fair stands. Exhibited on four enormous boulevards on both exhibitions floors, the works include Argentinian artist Marta Chilindron’s enormous Cube 48 Orange,

in interactive installation spanning 60 square metres of exhibition space, which hinges like an accordion and can be folded into a cube or unfolded to form a labyrinth. Unconventional materials feature prominently in this year’s selection of work. German artist Tobias Rehberger will showcase Homeaway, a recreation of the artist’s favourite bar in Frankfurt, made out of open-pored bone china, while Chinese artist Gu Wenda is displaying United Nations: Man & Space, monumental installations made of human hair. Fellow Chinese artist

and performance piece in which people can visit an immigration office to apply for citizenship to an imaginary country. This year’s edition is also set to feature work by Miyanaga Aiko, Rebecca Baumann, Lee Wen, Michael Lin, Kishio Suga, Atelier Van Lieshout, Wang Jianwei, Morgan Wong, Xu Qu, Yang Xinguang and Yeesookyung. At Art Basel’s home edition, now in its 44th year, the focus is on 14 Rooms, a selection of live art by some of the art world’s most renowned figures. Taking place from the 14th to the 23rd of June, the exhibition -- a collaboration between Fondation Beyeler, Art Basel and Theater Basel -- is curated by Klaus Biesenbach and Hans Ulrich Obrist. Ed Atkins, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster and Otobong Nkanga are each creating new works for the show, while important, rarely staged works by prominent contemporary artists will make up the remainder of the performances, each of which activate a single room,

Roman Ondk, Swap 2011,11 Rooms, Manchester International Festival Photo courtesy: Manchester City Galleries

Xu Zhen, In Just the Blink of an Eye, 2005, 11 Rooms, Manchester International Festival, Photo courtesy: Manchester City Galleries

Shen Shaomin, meanwhile, is exhibiting I Touched the Voice of God, a 2012 work consisting of four large fragments of a Chinese spacecraft, inlaid with Braille inscriptions from the Book of Revelations. When it comes to performance, highlights include The Letters by Chinese artist Yu Cheng Ta, in which art fair visitors are invited to read out spam letters sent to the artist’s emails account, and Jing Bang: A Country Based on Whale, Chinese artist Sun Xun’s installation

Shen Shaomin, Osage Gallery

Ceciliade Torres Ltd Marta Chilindron, Cube Twin Wall, poly carbonate, 48X48X48in4red

In an installation by Chinese artist Sun Xun, people can visit an immigration office to apply for citizenship to an imaginary country

Allora Calzadilla, Revolving Door, 2011, 11 Rooms Manchester International Festival, Photo credit: Howard Barlow


exploring the relationship between space, time and physicality. The series of immersive and interactive works, all of which center on human performers instructed by the artists themselves, includes Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla’s 2011 piece Revolving Door, in which dancers sweep up visitors to the space in a circular rotation of the room, along with a littleknown work by Damien Hirst, entitled Hans, Georg. Conceived in 1992, the performance consists of a rotating cast of identical twins posed beneath a pair of the artist’s own identical dot paintings. Other highlights include Marina Abramovic’s 1997 work Luminosity, in which a performer on a bicycle seat affixed to a wall explores themes of isolation and spirituality and Chinese artist Xu Zhen’s In Just a Blink of an Eye, in which a body floats in mid-air, seemingly defying both time and gravity and forcing viewers to question reality.

Sculpting Time

selections art paper

# 03

bill violA iS wiDely recogniSeD AS the worlD’S leADing viDeo ArtiSt. the 63-yeAr-olD AmericAn iS currently being celebrAteD At the grAnD pAlAiS, pAriS, with the firSt exhibition DeDicAteD to viDeo Art in the hiStory of the muSeum, which trAceS violA’S SpirituAl journey through hiS Art over the pASt forty yeArS.

catalogue extract

words: jérôme neutres

Bill Viola, Video still from Tristan’s Ascension (the sound of a mountain under a waterfall), 2005

S 22

the ArtiSt tieS hiS own life Story together with the progreSSion of hiS meDium, SAying thAt he wAS born At the SAme time AS viDeo, AnD likening A cAmerA film to An Ancient written Scroll, AS A teller of tAleS through time. here we ShAre A Section from the opening cAtAlogue eSSAy by curAtor jérôme neutreS, reproDuceD with permiSSion from the gAlerieS nAtionAleS Du grAnD pAlAiS

“In short, landscape is the link between our outer and inner selves” Bill Viola, Reasons for Knocking at an Empty House, Writings

catalogue extract by Jérôme Neutres

“Sculpting time”: is how Bill Viola defines his art. “Time is the basic material of film and video. The mechanics of it may be cameras, film stock, and tape, but what you are working with is time.

You are creating events that are going to unfold, on some kind of rigid channel that is embodied in a strip of tape or celluloid, and that thing is coiled up as a potential experience to be unrolled.

In a certain way it is like a scroll, which is one of the most ancient forms of visual communication.” This time is something Bill Viola likes to extend, repeat and decelerate — as if to show us all its


Bill Viola, Video Still from Going Forth By Day, 2002

“If the doors of perception were cleansed, then everything would appear to man as it is – infinite”

contours, all its forms. It is an aesthetic not unrelated to the practice of meditation, which focuses on the present moment, zeroing in on the subject in order to perceive it more precisely. What can I see? For the artist, the camera is that second eye that “reteaches us how to see” and addresses the world beyond, or beneath, appearances.

Bill Viola, Video still from Going Forth By Day, 2002

Bill Viola, video still from Four Hands, 2001

Bill Viola, Video still from Fire Woman, 2005

William Blake, quoted by Bill Viola, Writings

The present exhibition is devised like an introspective journey and is divided into three themes based around three metaphysical questions Bill Viola has been wrestling with for forty years: Who am I? Where am I? Where am I going? In his art, Bill Viola’s intention is not to answer these questions but to confront us with them. “Ancient people call them

the Mysteries. These are not to be answered. There is no answer to birth or death. They are meant to be experienced, they can be approached and studied, but not finally answered.” A pioneer of video art, Bill Viola is a painter who has invented a new palette of technological and digital colour, creating pictures in motion that take their place in a singular history of art comprised of the works of the greatest masters, from Giotto to Goya, via Hieronymus Bosch. His ongoing oeuvre also amounts to an artistic and technological odyssey: it is the story of the creation of a new medium, one now omnipresent in contemporary art.

from beirut to berlin

words: alberto mucci

An increASing number of lebAneSe ArtiStS Are moving to the germAn cApitAl, europe’S centre of Art, looSe living AnD creAtive proDuction. the Art pAper tAlkS to Some of them to finD out why

Said Baalbaki Mohamad Said Baalbaki, AlBurak II, 2010-11, Kunstkammer im Georg Kolbe Museum photo: Armin Herrmann Mohamad Said Baalbaki, AlBurak I, 2007-08, Museum de Dinge, photo: Armin Herrmann

From Beirut to Berlin


Berlin, Arial view

# 03

MohamadSaid Baalbaki

selections art paper

Berlin, Graffiti



atthias Lilienthal is a Berlin-based theatre director and a visiting professor at Beirut’s Ashkal Alwan centre. He has been travelling up and down between the two cities for nearly three years and when asked about similarities and differences between the capitals without a moment of doubt he answers, “Both cities have a recent past characterised by war, and both were previously divided in an unnatural way: Beirut along the green-line, Berlin between East and West. At the same time, there is an

incredible interest in art, driven mostly by an ideology and a political purpose that aims at dealing with the past.” These ideas were echoed by Lebanese architect Jean-Marc Abcarius, who in conversation with the Art Paper highlights how the oft-compared histories of Beirut and Berlin diverged as they were rehabilitated, as he explains, “After their respective wars they had to undergo a radical reconstruction, but this is where the differences start to become obvious,”


economic pressure to their inhabitants. In the Lebanese capital an almost-absent government leaves people to fend for themselves. If this is on the one hand a limitation, it represents on the other a possibility to fill such a space with selfinitiated projects and a selfstyled live-work pattern. This tension is most perceivable in the attitude the Lebanese government has taken to dealing with post-war trauma. As highlighted by Lebanon’s Embrace foundation, an NGO dealing with post-war mental health,

head to Germany. He explains that his latest work, the series Buraq (which is the animal Prophet Muhammad flew to the moon with), “Could not have been built in Beirut because to put the Buraqs together I needed space and institutions able to support me. The Buraq project is a criticism of information manipulation, conveyed through models of Buraqs placed within a museum and presented as real archaeological findings. Lebanese artist Maria Kassab recently presented works at the Kuchling Gallery; a series of superimposed photographs where body and text merge into one another to become abstract shapes. Based in Beirut, she often shows in Berlin, a city she describes as, “An open diary, where anyone can share, express, write, and draw something.” Asked about a connection between her hometown

Maria Kassab, Lament, PhotographyPhotomontage, Cold press 300grs, 2013, 110x80cm

decades of last century following the fall of the wall, an unconstrained, nonjudgemental atmosphere means artists there feel the liberty to express themselves with fewer limitations. In stark difference to Beirut, such individual liberties come paired with a highly functional government that upholds policies such as property laws that favour tenants over landlords, and which funds the sorts of art institutions that Beirut can only dream of. Back in 2001, some of these reasons prompted Lebanese artist Said Baalbaki to leave his country and

Maria Kassab, Isolation, PhotographyPhotomontage, Cold press 300grs, 2013, 110x80cm

Abacarius says with a hint of sorrow. “Beirut was not re-built for people. It has no public spaces and there is no long-term plan for it. Berlin, on the other hand, was re-built to be inclusive for every person willing to make an effort.” A contributing factor, perhaps, to why the Lebanese are the latest wave of artists moving to the German capital. Yet, despite the different contexts, Beirut and Berlin both offer a degree of individual liberty hardly found in other capital cities that tend to apply more

Beirut, Arial view

Beirut, Graffiti

Maria Kassab

very little has been done to sooth the psychological after-effects 15 years of war. One consequence is that in order to heal, many Lebanese have turned to art, a medium perceived to be able to express feelings that would otherwise simply go unheard. In Berlin similar individual liberties abound, yet of a different type: as a libertarian community developed in the latter

and Berlin, she confirms the importance of their pasts, and mentions the relationship between their architectural shapes, saying, ”A witnessing of the past (war...) and of the present can be felt in both. Those walls were like canvases for artists and political activists and I could draw a link to Beirut’s pored walls, and the witnessing that so much political graffiti on the stillfallen-down buildings and bullet-marked walls pays to still-seething political tensions. You can feel the residues of the past, as well as the endurance of the people who struggled.” These few anecdotal observations of the Beirutto-Berlin experience offer a simple testament to the intercity dynamic, from the cultural capital of the Middle East to the urban opportunism that Berlin provides in Europe. The German capital is full of Lebanese artists who have recently moved there, perhaps to what seems like a more accessible version of the city they left behind, or perhaps for an intense cultural contrast, from one set of possibilities to another, between two regional centres of artistic production.

words: alberto mucci

happening in the Gulf, albeit via partnerships with existing museums from overseas. “A lot of collectors in the region purchase pieces of art and then store them safely in their homes. Some feel there is nothing wrong with that per se but such a choice makes access very difficult and plays down the role of art in society.” Before the Barjeel Art Foundation became the recognized organisation it is today, it was a collection that built up through his personal impetus, plus a little serendipity. “I would see something I felt worth buying and I would just purchase it,” Al Qaseemi recounts. The collection grew following his personal taste until the now internationally renowned

curator realised that what he had put together was “unbalanced”, as he puts it. “The proportion between contemporary and modern art was uneven and a disproportionate number of male artists were represented compared to female ones,” he admits. This is now gradually changing under the more formalised acquisition programme of the foundation. As Al Qaseemi’s six-hundred-piece collection approaches a more conscious representation of modern and contemporary art from the region, it has become considered an invaluable homage to Arab art. Asked about his future projects he smiles and says, “I can’t say yet.” A moment of pause follows before he adds, “But it’s going to be big.”

“It is with an eye that does not belong to the sea that one paints.”

“I exist because I see colours. Sometimes, at other moments, Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi in front of Khaled Hafez’s Divine Exodus

Lateefa bint Maktoum “Observers of Change I”, 2011 digital print mounted on dibond 148 x 220cm

no institutional players and little government support for any form of arts in the Arab world. As a collector you are pretty much left on your own so it’s a constant struggle, but one certainly worth undertaking.” The most notable result of Al Qassemi’s personal efforts is the Barjeel Art Foundation, an independent organization with the mission statement of “the intellectual development of the art scene in the Arab region”. Achieving such a grand goal is a significant challenge and one that many in the MENA art world empathise with. The collector firmly believes that art should have a public function, which of course begins with it become visible to all, which is gradually

“We tried to figure out the

Kamal Boullata “Eppur si Muove No.1”, 1999 acrylic on canvas 80 x 80cm

ultan Sooud Al Qassemi made a name for himself internationally by “tweeting a revolution”. When Tunisia erupted and Egypt followed, he translated Arabic tweets into English non-stop for several months from his office in Sharjah, UAE, documenting the wave of citizen uprisings that swept the MENA region from late 2010 onwards. Besides his social media stardom, Al-Qassemi’s cultural footprint is largely down to his art collection. He’s an important name in the region and has made art his main focus. “It’s actually hard work. ” he tells the Art Paper, “Being an art collector in the Arab world is not the same as in Europe or North America: there are

Kamal Boullata “La Ana Illa Ana” (There Is No ‘I’ But ‘I’), 1983 silkscreen print 60 x 40cm

Collector Profile: Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi


Images Courtesy of Barjeel Art Foundation

it is as if I didn’t exist, when colours seem foreign, unreachable, impregnable fortresses.But there is no possession of colour, only the acceptance of its reality

the SociAl meDiA commentAtor who Set up the bArjeel Art founDAtion tellS the . And if there is no possibility for the possession of color, there is no possession at all. Of whatever it is.” Art pAper About hiS intention to Develop the intellectuAl SiDe of the ArAb Art Scene

Nasser Al Yousif “Love and Kindness” 1997 linocut print 46 x 64cm

collector profile: sultan sooud al qassemi

Jaffar Al Oraibi “Untitled 7” 2010 oil, charcoal & spray paint on canvas 144 x 149cm

# 03

Etel Adnan, Untitled, 1995-2000, oil on canvas, 35.5x45.5cm

selections art paper


C 26

“The street is shoddy, but the sky is imperial. Anything is possi

“Unfortunately, the contradictions and constraints create new hells.”

“Sometimes, while painting, something wild gets unleashed. Something of the process of dreams recurs... but with a special kind of violence.”

Etel Adnan, Madinat Al Sindbad manuscript, Watercolour and ink on paper, 60 pages, 23.7 x 16cm each, (Poem by Badr Shakir al-Sayyab), 1964, Courtesy of the Artist

he colour of outer space, the speed of the rockets, the landscapes seen by the astronauts, their thoughts, their feelings, their mutations.”

"Syria’s Apex Generation" Curated by Maymanah Farhat

Othman Moussa, The Terror Group, 2014, Oil on Canvas, 150 X 120 cm

9 June - 2 August / Dubai | 12 June - 2 August / Beirut Opening Reception & Artists' Talk Dubai, Alserkal Avenue: Monday, 9 June from 7-9PM Beirut: Thursday, 12 June from 7-9PM

Art Paper #03  
Art Paper #03  

The Art Paper is the visual art supplement of bi-monthly culture & lifestyle magazine Selections. Produced in Beirut & distributed across th...