JOANA HADJITHOMAS & KHALIL JOREIGE 56th International Art Exhibition: All the Worldâ€™s Futures Venice Biennale May 9 - November 22, 2015 www.thethirdline.com t
Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige, Latent Images (Wonder Beirut Series), 1997-2007, Colour print with face mounting, 32 x 42 cm
+971 4 341 1367 +971 4 341 1369
Al Quoz 3, Dubai, UAE
4/29/15 3:42 PM
Photo: Jay Mclaughlin
Artliner stages inclusive art experiences around the world, bringing unique art projects to international and local audiences alike. www.artliner.com The Wind Tunnel Project, Artlinerâ€™s most recent project was an overwhelming success in 2014. Opening once again in July 2016, the multi-sensory art experience will be housed in and around 1917 and 1935 Grade 1 and 2 Listed buildings. www.thewindtunnelproject.com
Issue 00 / 2015
Rula Halawani ......................................................16
Sadik Kwaish Afraji ..............................................108
By: Basak Senova
By: Nat Muller
Photograher & Photographer ..............................26
Cristiana di Marchi ..............................................112
Camille Zakharia & Hrair Sarkissian WINDOW
Ahmed El Shaer ..................................................154
Wafaa Bilal ...........................................................36
By: Sabrina DeTurk
By: Sara Raza REVIEWS
New Media ..........................................................130
Arrival of a Peculiar Art ........................................40
#ISEA2014, By: Janet Bellotto
By: Mitra Abbaspour
Lamia Joreige ...................................................... 66
Tracing Performed Concepts ..............................124
By: Lara Tabbara
By: Woodman Taylor
Jawad Al Malhi .................................................... 42 By: Basak Senova
Noor Abuarafeh ................................................... 22
Adel Quraishi .......................................................48
By: Basak Senova
By: Aisha Mazin Stoby Maitha Demithan .................................................70
By: Alexandra MacGilp
Museum ............................................................... 54
Hazem Mahdy ......................................................10
British Museum, By: Venetia Porter
By: Anna Seaman
Maha Mullah ...................................................... 102
The Collected Book, By: Janet Bellotto
By: Akim Monet
Artist Residencies ................................................148
Hind Mezaina .......................................................80
Delfina Foundation, Questions by Nat Muller
Questions by Kevin Jones
Farah Al Qasimi ....................................................86
Christieâ€™s, By: Hala Khayat
By: Danna Lorch
Photo Fair ............................................................142
Steve Sabella ......................................................116
By: Simon Bowcock
By: Madeline Yale Preston
Art Fair .................................................................146 The Armory Show, By: Katy Orkisz
PORTFOLIO Hassan Hajjaj: My Rock Stars ...............................92
Publisher Mubarik Jafery
Assistant Editor Woodman Taylor
Research Assistant Lena Ahsan
Photo Editor Sueraya Shaheen
Copy Editor Sarah Spendiff
Legal Consultant Fatimah Malik
Assistant Editor New Media Janet Bellotto
Print Consultant Pratheep Kumar
Production Mushtaq Ahmed Mukthar Hameed Nur Mohammed Sikder Machine Operators Zaid Ali Khan Zain Ulla Rafick Moklesh
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Publication is part of Fujairah Media Free Zone Creative City Fujairah
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This catalog is created as a showcase of creative works within the region. Its aim is to create awareness of the arts. Please note that the information in this magazine, including all articles, and photographs, do not make any claims. Any information offered is expressly the opinion of the creator/author of that material. The content created by the authors, creators and works on these pages are subject to copyright law. The reproduction, editing, distribution and any kind of exploitation outside the limits of copyright require the written consent of the respective author or creator.
Editor’s note Hello, and welcome to the first issue of tribe, an international magazine focused on Photography and New Media from the Arab world. Curators, artists and professionals in the industry actively shape each issue. We enlist expert writers and thinkers on both subjects to create a visual and insightful structure every time. Our design is minimal, in order to give emphasis to the artwork, often printed on its own, to speak for itself. The text is creatively to the point. In this first issue, we showcase a wide range of artwork, including an outstanding lineup of essays and portfolios. In her essay, Mitra Abbasspour outlines the early uses of photography in the Arab world. Hassan Hajjaj’s awesome portfolio My Rockstars captures the visual energies of pop culture with a wink to the long Arab tradition of studio portraiture. This studio tradition is further highlighted in Hrair Sarkissian’s award-winning Background series. With Wafaa Bilal’s Hierarchy of Being, we include a unique interactive architectural space created to simulate the very camera obscura effect outlined first by medieval Arab scientist Ibn Haytham during the Golden Age. Dissecting Photography’s eco system by fleshing out the larger world of image based practice, we cover artist residencies, auctions, the marketplace, art fairs, education, new publications, previews and reviews, museum collections, and biennials. We would like to thank so many people, without whom this magazine would not be possible, especially art angel Maysoune Ghobash for believing in tribe from the very start, kicking us off the ground flying. Thanks to Rana Sadik for skyping sound advice, Nez Gebreel for sorting us out when confused and Nazneen Safi for giving us inspiration. We are grateful to God, our families, the universe, the Avengers and the serendipity of random circumstances, which led to creating tribe. This magazine is the first step to a bigger idea, with the hope that in time these volumes will become an archive, that trace the history and development of contemporary Arab Photography as well as the expanded field of New Media. As a global platform, we are about engaging, entertaining and documenting the continued evolution of these media in all of their forms.
Writers Aaron Cezar is the founding Director of Delfina
the Tate’s Collection. She is interested in film,
essays in catalogues and magazines devoted
Foundation, where he curates and develops
video, performance and installation practices
to contemporary art. De Marchi explores issues
its interrelated programme of residencies,
and archive materials. MacGlip is Curator at the
related to verbalization and translation, to the
exhibitions and public events. He recently
Maraya Art Centre in Sharjah.
correspondence between physical and nominal
oversaw the physical expansion of Delfina
dimensions. Some of her themes are the use of languages in propaganda, the transition
Foundation into London’s largest host of international residencies. Independently and
Anna Seaman is a visual arts writer. She has
between ‘territories’ and contexts as well as the
through Delfina Foundation, he sits on numerous
over 12 years of journalism experience, which
redefinition of memory and identity.
boards, committees and advisory groups
includes working for daily newspapers in the UK
including All Change Arts, Shubbak, Caspian
and a two year stint as the editor of Brownbook
Danna Lorch is a Dubai-based writer editor, and
Arts Foundation, the Young Arab Theatre Fund,
magazine in Dubai.
blogger covering art and pop culture from the
Davidoff Art Initiative and the Marrakech Biennial. www.delfinafoundation.com
Middle East. She is a contributor at ArtSlant. Basak Senova is a curator and designer, with
Other work has appeared in The National,
both a MFA in Graphic Design and a Ph.D. in Art,
Canvas, Contemporary Practices, Jadaliyya,
Aisha Mazin Stoby, an independent curator and
Design and Architecture from Bilkent University.
Selections, VOGUE (India) and elsewhere. She
researcher, recently curated The Spirit of the
She writes on art, technology and media; initiaties
blogs to make art more accessible at
Union, an exhibition of Emirati photography and
and develops projects; and also has curated
archives at the New York Public Library (2014).
numerous exhibitions since 1995. She has taught
Stoby also curated Oman et La Mer, an exhibition
at many universities in Istanbul, including Kadir
Hala Khayat is Head of Sales and Associate
on Omani trade histories exhibited at the Musée
Has University, Bilgi University, Koç University
Director for Christie's Dubai. She has a BA in Fine
National de la Marine in Paris in 2014 and Salon
and, most recently, at Bilkent University. Senova
Arts & Visual Communications from the University
Oman Nour at the Leighton House Museum as
was curator for the Pavilion of Turkey at the 53rd
of Damascus, Syria and an MA in Design Studies
part of London's Nour Festival in 2013. She has
Venice Biennale and recently was appointed
from Central St Martin's College of Art & Design,
worked in museums in New York and Oman, and
curator for the Republic of Macedonia at the
London. She has held a variety of roles in the
was a member of the planning team for the Oman
56th Venice Biennale. www.basaksenova.com
world of art and journalism, including working
National Museum due to open later this year.
as an art consultant for galleries in Damascus. Camille Zakharia studied Civil Engineering
She is a regular speaker on the history of Arab
Akim Monet was the North American Sales
at the American University of Beirut before
art and the Middle Eastern art market and has
Director for legendary Picasso dealer Jan
fleeing from Lebanon’s Civil War, residing first
been resident in Dubai for the past 10 years.
Krugier. As principal of Monet Art Advisory,
in the United States and then in Turkey, Greece,
he has discreetly handled important works
Bahrain and Canada. Subsequently he received
Janet Bellotto is an artist from Toronto, who
by many leading European artists for private
a B.F.A. from the Nova Scotia College of Art
splits her time teaching in Dubai as an Associate
clients. Since 2011 he has been Managing
and Design. Zakharia’s vast portfolio of work,
Professor and as Interim Dean of the College of
Director of Side by Side Gallery which focuses
using photomontage and collage to document
Arts and Creative Enterprises at Zayed University,
on thematically curated exhibitions, juxtaposing
his personal encounters with people, intimately
UAE. Also a curator and writer, she creates
artists from different periods in order to explore
captures the public and private spaces of his life.
projects that promote cultural exchange. With
and re-contextualize works of art. By exposing
His montages often include family photographs,
a current focus on photography and new media
thematic correlations, Monet’s exhibitions move
fragments of personal letters and other delicate
art in the MENA region, Bellotto was the Artistic
beyond a singular chronological presentation to
items, which he reassembles in a way that
Director for the 20th International Symposium
reveal converging currents and lasting influences.
portrays the rupture and discord of war as well
on Electronic Art (ISEA2014) held in Dubai. Her
as of exile. www.camillezakharia.com
artworks explore waves of experience, fluid and
Alexandra MacGilp is a curator, writer and art
Cristiana de Marchi is an Italian/Lebanese artist,
installation, photographic processes, video and
historian from London. She is the co-founder and
curator and poet who lives and works between
performance. Her work has been exhibited in a
editor of Artvehicle.com. She studied curating
Dubai and Beirut. Holding a Bachelor of Arts with
variety of collective, group and solo exhibitions
at the Royal College of Art and undertook her
first class honours from the Università degli Studi
internationally, including Beijing, Cairo, Dubai,
Ph.D. at the University of Reading in collaboration
di Torino, Italy, she conducts personal artistic and
New York, Mexico City, Toronto and Venice.
with Tate Britain, writing on the development of
literary research besides publishing articles and
aqueous moments oscillating through sculpture,
Katy Orkisz is an independent writer currently
she was Associate Curator at MoMA, for the book
York Museum as well as being YARAT Head of
studying curating at Goldsmiths. After graduating
and digital publication Object: Photo. Modern
Education and 2015 Public Art Festival Curator
from her combined BA (Hons) Cultural Studies
Photographs from the Thomas Walther Collection
for Baku, Azerbaijan. Concurrently Raza is a Ph.D.
and English Literature at London Metropolitan,
1909 – 1949. Recent publications include essays
candidate at the Royal College of Art where she
she worked at Pelham Communications curating
on Shirin Neshat and Lalla Essaydi. Presently, she
founded Punk Orientalism, an umbrella for her
the Trafalgar Hotel’s cultural programme and
teaches the History of Photography in the Middle
multi-disciplinary contemporary art practice. She
supporting public relations for the David
East at Cooper Union.
has a decade of experience as an international
Roberts Foundation and Lisson Gallery. Orkisz
curator and art critic including being adjunct
is particularly interested in researching diverse
Nat Muller is an independent curator and critic.
associate curator for Maraya Art Centre, Sharjah.
practises, collaborative approaches and is
Her main interests include: the intersection of
Raza formerly was a curator at Tate Modern and
currently researching media and performative
aesthetics, media and politics; media art and
is the founding head of curatorial and education
art practice relating to the notion of agonism.
contemporary art in and from the Middle East.
programmes for Alaan Artspace in Riyadh.
She is editorial correspondent for Ibraaz and
Kevin Jones is an independent arts writer
has also written numerous book chapters,
currently based in Dubai. New York-born and
reviews, catalogues and monographic essays.
Venetia Porter is Assistant Keeper (curator)
Paris-bred, he has lived in the Middle East for
She has taught at universities and academies in
of Islamic and contemporary Middle East art
the past 8 years and is currently the UAE Desk
the Netherlands and the Middle East, and has
at the British Museum. She is responsible for
Editor for ArtAsiaPacific. He contributes regularly
curated video and film screenings for projects
the collection of Islamic art, in particular of the
to The Art Newspaper, Artforum.com, ArtReview
and festivals internationally. www.natmuller.com
Arab World and Turkey as well as developing the
and FlashArt International, and a variety of
collection of modern and contemporary art of
publications in the UAE. His blog, devoted to
Simon Bowcock's photographs have appeared
the Middle East. She gained a degree in Arabic
fostering a critical voice on art in the Gulf region,
in titles ranging from The Guardian to The
and Persian at the University of Oxford, followed
is perpetually launching.
British Journal of Photography to Time Out.
by a M.Phil in Islamic Art, obtaining her Ph.D
He writes about art for magazines and other
on 'The history and monuments of the Tahirid
media in Europe, America and the Middle East.
dynasty of the Yemen 858-923/1454-1517' from
Lara Tabbara, a Lebanese New-Yorker, raised in
As an undergraduate he specialized in Middle
the University of Durham. Her exhibition Word
Geneva, Switzerland is a freelance a writer who
Eastern studies at Oxford University and has a
into Art on contemporary Arab art premiered at
covers galleries in the Middle East. With a B.A.
postgraduate degree in Photography.
the British Museum in 2006 and then travelled to
in Journalism and Art History from NYU, she is
Dubai. She recently curated the exhibition Hajj:
currently pursuing a Master’s Degree at Christie’s
Journey to the heart of Islam (2012).
Education. Tabbara is the founder of Art And The
Sabrina DeTurk is Assistant Professor of Art
City, a blog documenting her experiences in New
History in the College of Arts and Creative
Woodman Taylor’s interdisciplinary scholarship
York’s art scene, chronicling gallery openings,
Enterprises at Zayed University in Dubai. She
explicating performative practices of visual
museum exhibitions and artist retrospectives.
has previously held positions at La Salle University
culture addresses a wide range of topics, from
and Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia
ritual uses of Buddhist icons to the poetics of
and her Ph.D. in the History of Art is from Bryn
visuality in Bollywood. Recent research includes
Madeline Yale Preston is a photography
Mawr College. DeTurk’s research interests center
the articulation of conceptual art by both Emirati
specialist, independent curator and writer.
around art as a form of social commentary as well
and UAE resident artists. His essay and installation
Formerly Houston Center for Photography’s
as the contemporary visual culture of trauma and
Cycling the City was commissioned by the Dubai
executive director, her curatorial projects include
conflict. Current projects include a comparative
Culture and Arts Authority for the 2014 Sikka Art
Nermine Hammam: Wetiko and Maitha Bin
study of memorial architecture and memorial
Fair. With a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago,
Demithan: Ajyal (HCP 2014). Recent writings
museums in the U.S., Europe and the Middle
he has taught at the University of Illinois as well
are featured in Transfigurations: Tarek Al
East as well as research on street art and visual
as at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. After
Ghoussein (Black Dog 2014) and Steve Sabella:
culture in the MENASA region.
curating numerous exhibitions of South Asian and
Independence (Meem 2014). She is pursuing
Islamic art at Harvard and Boston's Museum of
her doctorate on Middle Eastern contemporary
Sara Raza is an independent curator, writer
Fine Arts, Woodman now teaches art history and
and co-editor of ArtAsiaPacific magazine who
ethnomusicology at the American University in
specializes in post-Soviet contemporary art from
Dubai, where he chairs the Department of Visual
Mitra Abbaspour is an independent curator and
Central Asia and the Caucasus. She is Curator
Communication and is founding convener of the
scholar based in New York. From 2010 – 2014,
for the Middle East & North Africa at the New
AUD Visual Cultures Forum.
PROFILES Images - Courtesy of Carbon 12 Gallery and Hazem Mahdy. Writer - Anna Seaman, visual arts writer.
Hazem Mahdy: A Meditation on Connectedness Abstracted and repeated to the point where it becomes a symbol,the artist’s arm is the subject for his photographic art as well as the medium.
Abstracted and repeated to the point where it
make the shadows disappear and to bring out
becomes a symbol, Hazem Mahdy’s arm is the
the highlights, and finally, in a meditative state, he
subject for his photographic art as well as the
creates the patterns. When Mahdy first discovered
medium. In his series, Atman, exhibited at Carbon
the technique, he says he thought the possibilities
12 Gallery in Dubai, Mahdy’s arm was used as a
of it were endless.
unit to create myriad patterns resembling Islamic geometry or mandalas from the Hindu and Buddhist
He began in 2012 with his first solo show,
traditions. Cast in blue, they also lent themselves to
One, Wahed, Yi, Eins, Alpha, where he used his
a spiritual reading, one that the artist holds close to
entire body to explore the concept of oneness in
the centre of his practice.
many spiritual schools of thought and to fuse the physical with the ethereal to create transcendent
“I use my body because this is me in my purest form
art. His second show was in some ways more
and it is the most genuine expression I can give,”
refined, and in other ways, more reflective of
he says. “There are no masks, no cover-ups and
his internal state.
there is no hiding. The patterns came from a vision I
I use my body because this is me in my purest form and it is the most genuine expression I can give. He says, “In the end I want to create spiritual
had while meditating on the idea of connectedness
He was by his own admission more conflicted with
art that pulls someone in to interact with it. The
that we are all one. My art is for everyone and I am
the second show and looking back, he says, he
viewer can see what they feel and their minds can
trying to bring together the concept that there are
was more conscious of the way they came out. “I
float around freely within it. That’s what I want.”
no separations between us.”
got stuck with the last show,” he says. “I was not
Using a remote and taking self-portraits with
controlling how the images would come. They
Hazem Mahdy is Egyptian and lives and works in
were becoming slightly aggressive.”
Dubai. He was born in 1986 in Sharjah. In 2014
his camera, Mahdy says that his technique of
he graduated with a Bachelor of Film Production
photography is less precise then it would be if he
The images are skillfully created pieces of art
from the SAE Institute, Dubai, and in 2009, he
was shooting another subject.
as well as being deeply contemplative and
received his Bachelor of Arts in Photography from
carefully considered works. He has taken
the American University in Dubai (AUD).
“It is as if I am shooting blind,” he says. “I have to
symbols and patterns that are loaded with
take the same image again and again to get it right.”
meaning and association and given them a
Attaining Moksha: Photography as Enlightenment,
new angle with his photography— a feat that
an exhibition of Mahdy’s work, including from his
Once he has the motif, he repeats the image in
allows him to claim his place as a promising,
early practice, was on display at AUD’s Rotunda
layers, manipulates it on a black background to
emerging contemporary artist.
Gallery in 2015.
One, Wahed, Yi, Eins, Alpha, 4 (2012), C print, 50 x 50 cm
Atman, 1 (2014), GiclĂŠe print, 110 x 110 cm
Atman, 3 (2012), C print, 100 x 100 cm
Atman, 2 (2014), GiclĂŠe print, 110 x 110 cm
Atman, 12 (2014), GiclĂŠe print, 110 x 110 cm
PROJECT SPACE Images - Courtesy of the artist and Ayyam Gallery. Writer - Basak Senova, curator and designer.
Rula Halawani: Confused Memories, a Project in Progress Working as a photographer in a political environment, her work demonstrates a strong relationship between art and politics. “In the summer of 2013 I visited the north
Her documentary photographs depict aspects of
of Palestine with my family for the first time
Palestinian life and have been widely exhibited
since high school. We went to Ras al Naqura
in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the USA
next to the Lebanese border, which was one of my favourite places in Palestine as a child,”
Halawani earned her BA in Photography from
Halawani reminisces. “I stood on top of the hill
the University of Saskatchewan in Canada
looking down on the Mediterranean Sea and was
before moving to London to complete her
shocked at how different it was. I could not find
MA in Photographic Studies at the University
my memories of this place. Childhood scenes of
of Westminster. As Founder and Director of
the pure sand merging with a sea that seemed
the Photographic Unit at Birzeit University in
to hug the blue skies were not there anymore.
Ramallah, Halawani introduced the first academic
The landscape of Palestine that I grew up with
training program of its kind in Palestine.
is gone.” In this project I’m curating images that
symbolize the distorted scene of the traditional
Her art was included in the 2003 and 2005
landscape of Palestine; I went back to the places
Sharjah Biennials, the 2007 Thessaloniki Biennial,
I loved during my childhood and photographed
the 2011 Istanbul Biennial, the Mori Art Museum
what they look like now.
in Tokyo, Japan (2012), the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (2013), the Houston Fotofest (2014),
Rula Halawani’s current photography series,
Jerusalem Show VII: Fractures (2014), and a solo
For My Father, displays dreamlike landscapes
show in London at the Selma Feriani Gallery
of Palestine, with extracted memories from her
(2013). Retrospectives of her work have been
shown at the Le Botanique, Brussels (2008) and the Al Hoash Gallery, Jerusalem (2009). Halawani
The large-scale photographs, first shown as a
lives and works in Jerusalem.
‘project in process, were part of the Jerusalem Show VII: Fractures The exhibition was held in
Her work is included in museum collections such
an abandoned venue, Hammam Sitna Mariam,
as London’s British Museum and the Victoria &
during the Qalandiya Biennial (2014), where
Albert Museum; the Centre Georges Pompidou
visitors followed a map around the Old City to
in Paris and the Khalid Shoman Foundation
find the location.
Darat Al Funun in Jordan.
Untitled, For My Father (2015), 100 X 150 cm
Untitled, For My Father (2015), 100 X 150 cm
I went back to the places I loved during my childhood and photographed what they look like now.
Untitled, For My Father (2015), 100 X 150 cm
REVIEWS Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Basak Senova, curator and designer.
Noor Abuarafeh: Art is a Family Memory Retelling the past through her grandfather’s archive of photographs taken in Palestine, Lebanon and Egypt.
Noor Abuarafeh’s work resonates between the
Abuarafeh explains, “Different elements may
collective and the personal, by recalling the
stand out forcefully to some more than others,
past and proposing a different perspective with
often a matter of age, surely when the viewer
which to read an archive based on personal
perceives the fact that the people in the picture
stories. Abuafareh does this by re-archiving
are no longer among us. This work is actually
her grandfather’s family archive of black and
an initiative to create a new history for archive
white photographs that were taken in Palestine,
photos through dismantling its components,
Lebanon and Egypt.
re-archiving them in, as well as outsourcing them to, the general collective space.”
“Memories are, in a way, a package passed on from one generation to the following. They become
Abuarafeh got her BFA from Bezalel Academy of
pieces compiling the collective memory. Black and
Art and Design and followed this with a one-year
white photos are said to be burdened with nostalgia,
study program in Lebanon (Homeworks Space
particularly when the photos come from a family
Program) at Ashkal Alwan. In the last two years
archive; where locations, people and time, and most
she completed a residency in Paris, at the Cité
important, the moment, is captured. They dwell in
International des Arts, and in Japan, at Tokyo
our collective memory,” she says.
Wonder Site. She was a member of the Open Studio group that organized several exhibitions
Abuarafeh’s recent works explore elements
in Palestine followed by workshops, lectures and
related to memory, history and identity using
collective projects, including the Young Artist
public and personal archives including oral
Award Exhibition in Ramallah, Identities in the
stories, blogs, photographs and books. The
World in Japan, A Fish, a Wish and an Untitled
artist examines these elements through a process
Event in Ramallah, Eye on Palestine in Brussels
of dissembling, using an allegorical language
and The Jerusalem Show VII: Fractures in the
to reveal different readings related to these
old city of Jerusalem. Abuarafeh lives and works
elements (memory, history and identity).
IN CONVERSATION Images - Courtesy the artist and Kalfayan Galleries, Athens/Thessaloniki. Writer - Camille Zakharia, photographer.
Through a Lens Darkly Camille Zakharia in conversation with Hrair Sarkissian.
While the world is embracing modern
I came across your work four years ago
technology and digital photography, you use
when I saw the Execution Squares series.
the large format camera. This, undeniably,
The images made a deep impression on
gives unparalleled results. Is this why you keep
me, particularly when I read about their
using the large format? I think the main reason
historical significance. Can you elaborate
is still feeling safer with the analogue system
on this particular project and shed more light
than the digital one. The large viewfinder offers
on its creation and its importance to your art
a bigger window, and I feel more connected
career? I witnessed three executed bodies in
and absorbed by the image that appears on the
the eighties; these corpses were covered with
glass. I don’t have a specific reason for not using
white paper sheets and had open eyes with
digital, besides it being expensive. I will keep
a gaze I haven’t been able to erase from my
using films as long as they exist.
memory since then. So I used the photographic medium to wipe out these phantoms, forcing
Any instances when you have wished you had
myself to be convinced of their non-existence.
a 35mm camera to capture a decisive moment?
But I failed, and kept imagining them constantly.
No, I have never wished this. I am a person who
This work has proved to me that the medium is
photographs twenty images a year. I do research
not credible anymore, as it used to be, since
beforehand on my main subject, look for it and
it’s not revealing the reality to my own eyes.
then photograph it. I don’t look for decisive moments; I am more focused on longer time
Another project using the urban landscape
lapses, rather than seconds.
to reflect your own identity and searching for what it seems your origins are, is the
The images are hauntingly silent and cold, devoid of people, almost apocalyptic, yet wonderful to look at with rich details and perfect composition.
Your work reminds me of the masters from
In Between. The images are hauntingly
the Dusseldorf School of Photography. Do
silent and cold, devoid of people, almost
you see their influence on your work? When I
apocalyptic, yet wonderful to look at with
started using the camera there was no internet,
rich details and perfect composition. Any
was a complete shock for me seeing the real
no books or any other references of influential
inside thoughts to share on this?
‘Homeland’, which didn’t correspond to the one
photographic schools. I had only my father, who
This work represents the disappointment of
I imagined. So in this series, I used the snow as a
constructed my perception and showed me how
the image of Homeland, an image that has
covering factor, which hides the disappointment
to look at things through the viewfinder. I am very
been constructed in us since our childhood. An
from the viewer or visitor, and makes it look
symmetrical in my lines, but that doesn’t mean
imaginary land supported by historical narratives,
white and clear.
Dusseldorf School influences me, this is more a
and inherited images from one generation
Many of your projects have a strong
to another. When I first visited as an adult, it
typological element to them, this is more
Background (2013), Duratran print, 180 x 227 cm Photographic project commissioned by the Abraaj Group Art Prize
evident in your most recent series, Preserving Place: Portraiture
Growing up in a family where photography is no stranger, how did
Studios in the Middle East published in a beautiful book. Are you
this impact your practice as a contemporary artist? The impact on me
looking in a nostalgic way at a disappearing past, and what were
was enormous. I consider my fatherâ€™s photo lab as my academy, where I
the challenges you have faced to create this series?
studied everything about photography and life as well. But coming to the
The project called Background was photographed in six different cities
contemporary aspect of it, I refer to this experience in every aspect of my
in the Middle East. I documented more than 300 images of studio
work from travelling, to attending exhibitions, everything.
backdrops, and my main interest was focusing on the disappearance of this kind of photography, which was widely spread in the Middle East,
Hrair Sarkissian (b. 1973, Damascus, Syria) uses photography to engage the
since the medium reached the region. And it was also a cultural and
viewer in readings of what is visible and what is not, re-evaluating larger
social gesture, going to the studio and being photographed in front of
historical, religious or socio-political narratives. Sarkissian has exhibited
different scenes, dreamy and inaccessible landscapes. The challenge I
internationally in both group and solo shows including the Tate Modern
faced is that the idea of backdrops has almost disappeared in studios.
(London); New Museum (New York); Darat Al Funun (Amman); Mori Art
Digital ones can be added in at a later stage behind every photo, and
Museum (Tokyo); SALT Beyoglu (Istanbul); Thessaloniki Biennial; Sharjah
these manipulated backgrounds are overly exaggerated and exceed
Biennial; Istanbul Biennial; Asia Pacific Triennial (Brisbane) among many
our imagination and the reality we are living in now.
others. In 2013 the artist won the Abraaj Group Art Prize.
Background (2013), Duratran print, 180 x 227 cm Photographic project commissioned by the Abraaj Group Art Prize
â€˜Background marks the eclipse of a tradition of studio portraiture integral to the twentieth century history and development of photography in the Middle East by documenting one of its central artefacts: the studio backdrop. Hrair Sarkissian photographed hundreds of examples he found in studios across six Middle Eastern cities - Alexandria, Amman, Beirut, Byblos, Cairo and Istanbul - finally selecting one from and for each one. Large-scale, backlit and hung unframed, like the backdrops themselves, these photographs both monumentalise and eulogise their subject. Without the distraction of a sitter in the foreground, our focus shifts to the backdrop itself, to the tools and spaces historically used for studio portraiture. But the spaces are empty and the backdrops appear disused, like ruins or relics of a tradition that has finally run its course, the absent sitter introducing a melancholy that radiates from the emptiness.â€™ - Murtaza Vali
Background (2013), Duratran print, 180 x 227 cm Photographic project commissioned by the Abraaj Group Art Prize
Previous page and current page from the series In Between (2007)
In Between (2007)
Execution Squares (2008)
Execution Squares (2008)
PUBLIC ART Images - Courtesy of the Artist and Maraya Art Centre. Photography by Orlando V. Thompson II. Writer - Sara Raza, independent curator and writer.
Wafaa Bilal: The Hierarchy of Being Experiencing Ibn Al-Haytham’s Camera Obscura from the inside. Art, architecture, public space and time are part
After two years living statelessly in Kuwait and Saudi
of an evolving process that is constantly refining
Arabia, Bilal immigrated to the US and retrained as
itself to meet the demands of technological
an artist at the University of New Mexico and the
advancement, fast-track globalisation and
School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he
also taught, before moving onto NYU.
We reside in an age where mobile technology,
Throughout his artistic practice the issue of Iraq is
fast speed broadband internet, Wi-Fi, and
always at its core, despite now residing permanently
Bluetooth allow connectivity to take place in an
in the United States. Subsequently, as a reference
instant with the touch of a button, enabling hand
to the location of home and culture, the inspiration
and eye coordination to work simultaneously
behind The Hierarchy of Being is two Iraqi scientists
and information, along with images, to be
from the golden era of Islam. The 10th - 11th century
inventor of the camera obscura Ibn Al-Haytham and 12th century Al-Jazari, who developed engineering
Art and architecture are inextricably part of this lived
practices for mechanical devices.
experience, where everything exists in motion. As
The sculpture explores perception and mobility and draws from historical Islamic sciences as well as his own past experiences.
a contemporary artist, Iraqi-American Wafaa Bilal’s
Both figures are celebrated polymaths and their
main line of inquiry has been an exploration into
astounding contribution to modern day science was
which permanent architecture is not able to do and
the relationship between the body and mechanical
adapted by Bilal in order to experience a new way
therefore responds to the shifting terrain of global
motion, a subject that links both movement and
of seeing and experiencing spatial form.
culture, which is neither fixed nor static.
The sculpture that Bilal has created probes the
The Hierarchy of Being serves to map movements
Bilal’s project, The Hierarchy of Being, is a portable
potential of the camera alongside architecture to
via an interactive process that involves the audience,
interactive sculpture, commissioned by Maraya Art
produce a modern day sculpture that re-creates
space and performance. When the camera obscura
Centre, Sharjah, explores his concerns as an artist
the function of a pinhole camera and adopts a
effect is performed, it illuminates the entire sculpture
and Assistant Professor at New York University’s
and projects the external landscape, thus, uniting
space to the built and unbuilt environment.
(NYU) Tisch School of Art’s Photography and
architecture with lived experience.
Imaging Department. The sculpture explores
The flexible nature of the sculpture means that it was
perception and mobility drawing from historical
designed to be easily dismantled and reassembled
As an artist Bilal seeks to explore through this project
Islamic sciences as well as his own past experiences.
in different public spaces with very minimal
how real movements can be mapped via an interactive
reconstruction needs. This intentional factor was
process. In this way Bilal connects architecture with
Bilal was born in Najaf, Iraq and forced to flee in
pre-determined to allow the public’s encounter with
cultural memory and the memorable experience of
1991 following Saddam Hussein’s bombardment.
the sculpture event to be performed in a way in
how architecture can adapt to the every day.
Hierarchy of Being (2013-14), sculpture
Hierarchy of Being (2013-14), sculpture
The objective & how it works: The Hierarchy of Being sculpture re-creates the camera obscura effect. Inside the sculpture there are 15 windows, each of which function via motorised irises. These irises have been programmed to operate by opening for 10 minutes then shutting for 15 minutes to allow the eyes to adjust to the darkness, after which images are projected from the Al Majaz Waterfront inside the space. These images do not appear how we normally receive them, they are upside down. This process occurs through the pinhole features within the sculpture and the entire inspiration based on Ibn Haythamâ€™s discovery of the first pinhole camera and Al Jazariâ€™s engineering practices for mechanical motion. Following this the irises will slowly begin to reopen over a 10 minute period, completing their 35 minute loop cycle.
Hierarchy of Being (2013-14), sculpture
ESSAY Images - Courtesy of The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. Writer - Mitra Abbaspour, curator and scholar.
Arrival of a Peculiar Art: Photography in the Ottoman Empire Photographic practice quickly spreads throughout the Arab World.
Submerged beneath a wash of aqua blue tint
in the technology of photography during its
that suspends Frenchman Girault de Prangey’s
early decades made its way into the Arab world
view of the Haram al-Sharif in a dream like
with traveling expeditions. In the Ottoman
space, one might forget today that this view
court the medium found patronage as a tool of
of the sacred site in Jerusalem would have also
governance, propaganda and documentation
been seen as having an unprecedented fidelity
of their empire. In 1863, Sultan Abdulaziz I
and documentary authority as one of the very
appointed the Abdullah Frères Studio as court
first photographs to ever record it.
photographers, making photography an official branch of the state. The Abdullah Studio
Photography’s invention was presented in the
was run by a trio of Armenian brothers, who
Ottoman Empire with a similar combination
maintained their position as representatives of
of scientific description and poetic fanfare as
the Sultan even under Abdulaziz’s successors.
reflected in the announcement of its patent and
Their studio was one of many located in
process. On October 28, 1839, just two months
Istanbul’s international district, offering portrait
after Daguerre’s discoveries, the newspaper
sittings to statesmen, foreign diplomats and
Takvim-I Vekayi, which published in Arabic,
those with business interests while also offering
Turkish and French, reported “a gentleman
souvenir views of the empire and its cultural
has concentrated his thoughts and realized a
sites to European tourists. Sultan Abdulhamid
peculiar art, which results in a curious mirror
II employed photographers within his court
Photography was linked to the Arab world the moment the French patent for the Daguerreotype was announced in 1839.
effect. A talented Frenchman, Daguerre, has
as well as learning the technique himself. The
in the Ottoman capital as diplomatic gifts, as
captured the reflected outlines of objects in
era of his rule, from 1876-1909, coincided with
well as through trade, photographers traveling
sunlight, using various artistic and scientific
political and economic strains on Ottoman
from Europe to document the monuments of
methods.” Since the moment of its invention,
lands and the fracturing and loss of provinces.
ancient Egypt and the Biblical sites in Palestine,
photography conveyed the desire of its
In this tenuous environment, Abdulhamid II
were responsible for bringing photographic
practitioners to both imagine and reflect their
used photography to survey his military corps,
technology to these provinces.
view of the world.
follow the visits of foreign dignitaries and
generally watch over the empire and its citizens. During the nineteenth century the Ottoman
In Jerusalem, photography took root in an Armenian convent, led by the interest and
Empire included most of the Easter n
Istanbul was the seat of political power for
practice of Patriarch Yessai Garabedian. Both
Mediterranean, where monuments of ancient
most of the Arab world, however, for European
oral and written histories of the Patriarch confirm
Egypt as well as the Biblical sites are located.
audiences, Palestine and Egypt held the
that before 1859 Garabedian attained sufficient
This made it a focus of European cultural
greatest draw as subjects of photography.
proficiency in photography to garner patronage.
interests and political strategies. Each advance
While cameras, manuals and equipment arrived
He then moved to Istanbul to improve his
Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey (French, 1804 - 1892) [The Northwestern area of the Haram al-Sharif, Jerusalem], about 1842 Daguerreotype, 8.9 x 23.5 cm
techniques. A trip in 1863 to Europe ensured that Garabedian learned
and other provinces. Therefore a history of photography in the Arab
the latest advances in technology and he maintained correspondence
world must acknowledge the multiethnic participation in photographic
throughout the following decades to keep up with ongoing advances. A
practice, as well as its Ottoman origins.
few photographs signed by Garabedian are important early documents of local practice, yet his significance was as a teacher during the Ottoman
Photography was linked to the Arab world the moment the French patent for
Empire. He instructed many young Armenians from various provinces.
the Daguerreotype was announced in 1839. It was promised that this new
His influence can be traced both directly and indirectly as Armenians
medium would be more precise than the monumental records made during
established the majority of photography studios in Istanbul as well
Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt. Taken as a call to action, photographers set out
as in the Arab provinces well into the twentieth century. Thus, the
for Egypt within months of the public description of photographic methods. These
history of photography in the Arab world is also a history of Armenian
photographers then often travelled to Biblical sites in the Sinai and Palestine,
photographers that includes a visual history of the ethnic and cultural
generating a voracious economy in Europe for such views of ‘the Orient.’ So, a
diversity of the empire.
history of photography in the Arab world was forged by an international economy for multiple and reproducible views of the region, views that reinforced Orientalist
The early adoption of photography by Ottoman Sultans and the Armenian
narratives already in circulation. Thus, this history is embedded within and directly
community offer only a brief glimpse into the introduction of photography
reflects cultural dynamics between Europe and the Arab world.
to the Arab world. This was parallel to the contemporaneous economy of photography in Europe, which similarly gained momentum through
Nuancing the history of photography in the Arab world using a variety of lenses
governmental patronage, the enthusiasm for photographic studios and the
enriches and expands our view of both photography and the Arab world. Part
motivations of Christian communities to “see” Palestine. Photography held
of photography’s vitality is the way that it transcends genres, serving as art, as
power as a medium that was simultaneously a “peculiar art” and a “curious
popular practice, as journalistic document and as an instrument of the state.
mirror” – or a visual paradox that transformed and transported views of
Considering how photography gave voice to intertwined and yet distinct Arab,
the world merely by reflecting them onto a coated copper or glass plate.
Armenian, European and Turkish narratives within the region offers a diversity to the history of this medium. This opens up the possibility to continue excavating
During the nineteenth century, photography in the Ottoman Empire thus
the layered contexts of a region with a history of photography as long and prolific
incorporates the history of photography in various areas of the Arab
as the technology itself.
world. The geo-political divisions of the empire responded to the great expansion of photography in the twentieth-century as well as political
and economic growth of Arab nations in the Maghreb, the Gulf States
Kitabevi, 1987), 20.
Engin Çizgen, Photography in the Ottoman Empire (Istanbul: Haset
REVIEWS Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Basak Senova curator and designer.
Jawad Al Malhi: A Life Left Waiting Artist captures scenes from Jerusalem’s Palestinian refugee camps, depicting with singular clarity the sense of dislocation, the futility of waiting and the precariousness of life. Jawad Al Malhi creates panoramic images
the daytime is confined. In one series, Al Malhi
of Jerusalem and while the work underlines
focused on a container that housed a large petrol
the intense overcrowdedness of the urban
tank that served as a gas station (petrol being
landscape, it also raises questions regarding
emblematic of the Middle East), exploring how
the social, economical, political, and, more
time unfolds and elapses for the station workers.
importantly, cultural processes governing urban development.
“The work highlights their isolation, their interaction with the street, power relationships,
“In this series of photographic and video works,
and control over the geography of the container,
an ongoing project launched in 2007, I explore
in which time appears monotonous, mundane,
the marginal space of Jerusalem’s Palestinian
and endless, while the control of space takes on
refugee camp. Working through the year, I
a new precedence,” he says.
documented the landscape transformations resulting from the necessity of accommodating
Al Malhi’s practice includes painting,
the growing refugee population. Photographed
photography, video and site-specific installations.
from the nearby settlement, the panoramic
He often explores marginalized communities and
images reveal the intensely accumulative
their relationship with their environment. His
topographies of the built environment that
current body of work, Measures of Uncertainty,
have become a testimony to dislocation,”
draws from observations of crowds in the Middle
explains Al Malhi.“The photographs, some of
East in between periods of transformation.
them also taken inside the camp, reveal narrow passageways and explore the legacy of waiting
Living and working in Jerusalem, Al Malhi
and the precariousness of daily life. While
has an MFA from the Winchester School of
panoramic views of Jerusalem have historically
Art and in 2013 was shortlisted for the Abraaj
been dominated by images of the Old City and
Group Art Prize and the Cartier Award by
its holy places, these images of the camp offer
the Frieze Foundation in 2009. His works are
an alternative scenario, one that testifies to a
held in private and public collections both
in Europe and in the Middle East, including the British Museum, London, and the Barjeel
Al Malhi is drawn to observe what happens during
Art Foundation, Sharjah. Al Malhi has been a
the waiting, and observed the camp day and night,
resident artist in several venues, including the
watching the daily life and relations unfolding in
Delfina Foundation in London (2010) and the
these spaces in which even the passage of light in
Townhouse Gallery in Cairo (2011).
While panoramic views of Jerusalem have historically been dominated by images of the Old City and its holy places, these images of the camp offer an alternative scenario
The Gas Station (2010), Transparency in light box
House No.197 (2007-2009), Digital print on Paper, 600 cm x 80 cm
Untitled (2010), Transparency in light box
PROFILE Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Aisha Mazin Stoby, curator and researcher.
Adel Quraishi: Portraits of The Guardians The story behind the epic and historical photographs of keepers of the chamber in Medina Background: The Prophet’s Mosque (Al-Masjid
the final generation of the Guardians, the oldest of
Al-Nabawi) in Medina includes the Prophet
whom is over 110 years of age.
Muhammad’s burial chamber. Ever since the 6th century Hijri / 11th century AD the keys to this holy
“I was aware of them as a boy,” Quraishi recalls, “In
site and the Mosque’s minbar have been kept
particular of the great authority in their dress. I was
by a group of eunuchs originally from Abyssinia
not aware though that they still existed, there was
known as the “Al Aghwat” which translates as the
no coverage of them in the media, and we thought
Guardians. At one time the Guardians totaled in the
they were extinct. I think the reclusive nature of their
thousands. They controlled access to the Turkish
community was a conscious decision made by the
sultan and his family, and during the lifetime of
Guardians themselves. It is part of their character.
the Prophet, they guarded the intimate area of his
Because the order to take the portraits came from the
household. There are now only five of these men
government to their Sheikh, they were very happy
During their tenure these last Guardians have seen
remaining, who live in recluse and spend their days
to do it. But most of them walked into the room,
major changes in Medina. They recall a time before
in a small room connected to the burial chamber
got dressed, sat for the photographs, and left. The
electricity when the entire mosque was lit with one
itself. Although they have an 800 year history, their
surprising thing was that they were not interested
lamp. During the holy month of Ramadan they
presence is ephemeral - they drink their coffee in
in documenting their story at all. They only agreed
recall there being only two lines of men present for
paper cups and break their fast with a piece of bread,
because they were asked. It was clear the Sheikh,
prayers, while today crowds spill past the expansions.
not leaving marks or keeping belongings there,
who received the request, was the alpha male of
With these vast changes and in their old age they
remaining transient in their role as keepers of the
the group and as they take their responsibilities and
have taken on fewer responsibilities. They open the
revered chamber. Though they are glad to meet
duties very seriously, he took this order from the
burial chamber for visits from heads of states and
and speak with anyone who visits them, they live
government as a professional obligation.”
dignitaries, but chief among their tasks, they maintain
modestly, and quietly, and without many dealings in the outside world.
They recall a time before electricity when the entire mosque was lit with one lamp
the burial chamber, and with greatest care take their Quraishi describes the large scale of the photographs
time to wash its floors with rosewater. In future it will
as fitting to the magnitude of his subjects. This
be left to the religious community to decide whom
In 2013, the Governor of Medina commissioned
monumentality of his photographs intimately
the next custodians of the key and chamber will be.
Saudi photographer Adel Quraishi to photograph
captures the emotions of his subjects, which are
the remaining Guardians for the exhibition Letters and
striking while being disarming. Quraishi explains, “As
Their leader, known as the Sheikh of the Aghawat,
Illumination held in Medina in 2014. Quraishi grew up
a photographer, I can connect to people more than
passed away since sitting for his portrait.
captivated by photography and subsequently studied
I connect to still life. In a very deep way there were
with Brazilian photographer Humberto de Silveira.
emotions not easily expressed, but I still felt it. You
Quraishi has an ongoing relationship with the
As the only person to have ever been permitted
feel at ease around them. They have very balanced
Guardians and prays by their side on his frequent
to photograph them, Quraishi’s photographs hold
personalities. There was light in the room – not my
visits to Medina, “Inshallah I will continue to be their
enormous historical significance as documentation.
own lighting, but there was something beyond that.
friend as long as God keeps them all alive – for me
Moreover it has been decided that these men will be
A beautiful energy.”
it is an honour and a pleasure.”
Imam Husain Zaino B, 300 x 203.6 cm
Nouri Mohammed Ahmed Ali (Shaikh of the Guardians) A, 300 x 202.2 cm Ahmed Masibo Saleh A, 300 x 202.2 cm
Saeed Adam Omar (Late Shaikh of the Guardians), A, 300 x 202.4 cm Abdullah Adam A, 300 x 202.4 cm
Ali Bodaya Ibrahim B, 300 x 203.6 cm
Ahmed Ali Yaseen B, 300 x 203.6 cm
MUSEUM Images - Courtesy of the British Museum. Writer - Venetia Porter, Assistant Keeper (curator) British Museum.
Arab photography at the British Museum Building institutional collections of Arab photography. Collecting contemporary Arab photography at the
engineers to mothers, from scientists to designers
of some years, he rediscovered the Kuwait of the
British Museum is relatively recent. Walid Raad’s
to pose for me as a statement of their existence
1980s. The two photographs illustrated here,
Already Been in a Lake of Fire was acquired for
and as an inspiration for other women.”4 In Fathi
from the K-files, part of a set of eight displayed
the 2006 exhibition Word into Art, which focussed
Hassan’s The Offering, fragments of text make
in Venice alongside the sculptures of Kuwaiti
on the work of Arab artists who use script and
up the vessel held in the outstretched hand.
artist Sami Mohammad of the Emirs of Kuwait,
text. Through the fictitious Atlas group, and its
In Hassan’s words this was “a conscious bid to
show Umm al-Ghazz, the artificial island in Kuwait
interlocutor Dr Fakhouri, Raad told the history
thank nature for cosmic time, the sky, earth, and
Bay built in the 1930s, and the empty swimming
of the Lebanese Civil War. This print from the
water.” Youssef Nabil’s The Yemeni Sailors of South
pool at Al-Arabi Club. As in much of his work,
book The Fakhuri files is chilling: makes of cars,
Shields, was originally commissioned as part of
Tarek himself is present in the photographs, an
as though in a sales catalogue, are accompanied
an exhibition on the Yemeni community of South
enigmatic figure clad in black.7 The last photograph
by handwritten descriptions of the contents of the
Shields – the oldest Muslim community in Britain.
illustrated here is a beautiful work from Moataz
devastating bombs that became such a feature
For Nabil the project was a profound experience:
Nasr’s Insecure series, 24 photographs made from
of the war.2
“I flew from Cairo to Newcastle, then went to
a 19th century photographic technique known
South Shields to meet them. I didn’t know exactly
as ‘sun print’ where the negative is transferred
The impetus for systematically collecting
how my encounter with them will turn out to be,
onto drawing paper treated with an emulsion
photographs as part of the British Museum mission
as we had never met before… I remember feeling
and exposed to the sun until the image begins
to acquire works on paper by Middle Eastern
that they all looked like kings to me, there was
to develop. Produced alongside a video work,
artists came from the Art Fund, an independent
something rare and unique in their presence. I
in each photograph the lyrical face of a man is
UK based grant-giving body. The Art Fund made
was so touched to get to meet and photograph
reflected in water.8
a joint donation to the British Museum and the
the remaining Yemeni sailors of South Shields.” 5
Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) to build a
Photography is a powerful tool in the hands of
representative collection of photographs by
Photographs by Arab artists acquired subsequently
Arab artists who find subtle ways to visually evoke
artists from across the region. The fruits of this
by the British Museum include the works of Yazan
a wide range of moving narratives.
collaboration were shown at the V&A in the 2012
Khalili and Hazem Harb, who each evoke narratives
exhibition Light from the Middle East, which
of the Palestinian struggle. Colour Correction
subsequently toured to Birmingham.
fills the Al-Amari refugee camp near Ramallah,
with brilliant colour,6 while in Beyond Memory Three of the works selected here are the result of
Harb has overlaid the ‘separation wall’ with lyrical
the Art Fund initiative. Manal Dowayan’s I am a
dream-like nostalgic images, people in boats,
Saudi citizen from her series The Choice was first
old photographs of Jerusalem from pre-1948, a
shown in Edge of Arabia, the ground breaking
brass band. Another history is explored by Kuwaiti-
exhibition of Saudi art shown in London in 2008.
Palestinian artist Tarek Al-Ghoussein, who was
About this series Dowayan wrote: “I invited women
chosen to represent Kuwait at the 55th Venice
who work in a variety of jobs in Saudi Arabia from
Biennale. Returning to Kuwait after an absence
1. Venetia Porter, Word into Art: Artists of the Modern Middle-East (London 2006) p.123. 2. The Truth Will Be Known When The Last Witness Is Dead: Documents in the Fakhouri file in the Atlas Group archive (Cologne 2004). 3. Marta Weiss (ed), Light from the Middle East (London 2012); The Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern at the V&A and the British Museum; True to Life? New Photography from the Middle East Birmingham City Art Gallery 7 June 2014 – 4 January 2015. http://www.artfund.org/ what-to-see/exhibitions/2014/06/07/true-to-life-new-photography-fromthe-middle-east-exhibition 4. Tina Gharavi, Last of the Dictionary Men: Stories from the South Shields Yemeni sailors (London 2013) 5. Anelys de Vet (ed) Subjective Atlas of Palestine (Rotterdam 2007) and http://edgeofarabia.com/artists/yazan-khalili. 6. Al-Issa, Nadia, ed. National Works, La Biennale di Venezia, exhibition guide (Kuwait 2013); Tarek Al-Ghoussein, Transfigurations, (London 2014); http://www.artkuwait.org/2013/06/opening-of-kuwaiti-pavilion-nationalartworks-at-55th-venice-biennale-of-art.html 7. Simon Njami and Moataz Nasr, The other side of the Mirror (Prato 2011). The British Museum has three prints from the series. 8. Other photographs by Arab artists in the collection of the British Museum can be found by searching in the collections online on the British Museum website http://www.britishmuseum.org/
Walid Raad, Notebook volume 38. Already Been in a Lake of Fire (Plates 63-64) (2003) Inkjet print, 111.8 x 198.8 cm. British Museum, 2007, 6033.1. (Brooke Sewell Permanent Fund).
Manal Dowayan, I am a Saudi Citizen (2005-2007), Gelatin silver print, 34.5 x 49.5 cm. British Museum 2009, 6042.2. (Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the British Museum and the V&A)
Fathi Hassan, The Offering (2007), Photograph. British Museum 2010,6033.3 (Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the British Museum and the V&A)
Previous pager, Yazan Khalili, Colour Correction (camp series) (2009), 63.0 x 104 cm. British Museum 2013,6023.1 (Gift of Charles Asprey) Hazem Harb, Beyond Memory (2012), Silver gelatin prints on archival paper, 70 x 100 cm. British Museum 2013,6042.1-3. (CaMMEA)
K files_473 (Kuwait Bay, at ‘Umm al Ghazz’). Photograph, C print (2013) 60 x 90 cm, (Gift of Rana Sadik and Samer Younis) Tarek Al-Ghoussein, K files_735; (Swimming pool at Al-Arabi club, Kuwait’). Photograph, C print (2013) 60 x 90 cm, (Gift of Rana Sadik and Samer Younis)
Moataz Nasr, Untitled III, Insecure series (2006), Sun print on archival paper. 72 x 106 cm. British Museum 2012,6036.3 (CaMMEA)
Youssef Nabil, The Yemeni Sailors of South Shields (2006), Hand-coloured gelatin silver prints, 39 x 27 cm. British Museum 2009, 6037.1 (Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the British Museum and the V&A)
REVIEWS Images - Courtesy of the artist and Taymour Grahne Gallery, New York. Writer - Lara Tabbara, writer and blogger.
Lamia Joreige: Recreating History Through Photography The imprint of intimate accounts from the Lebanese wars and their aftermath.
Lamia Joreige is a Lebanese artist whose talent
of time, Joreige animates the inanimate. Blurring
ranges from photography and multimedia
the line between life and death, she delves into the
installations to documentaries. She creates a
realm of the immaterial, her body transformed into
profound sense of engagement in stories of her
a frail and ghostlike figure.
home country, recreating Lebanese history from personal perspectives. Through photography,
Joreige says that the camera-less series became
she brings to life intimate accounts of the war,
a tribute to both Yves Klein’s Anthropometries
retold through the eyes and experiences of those
paintings and Andy Warhol’s iconic Sleep film.
who lived it. The series was shown in her solo-exhibition Records By combining archival documents with elements
for Uncertain Times, (Taymour Grahne Gallery in
of fiction, she investigates history and the course
New York), where Joreige presented several
of its narrative. She seeks inspiration from the
interconnected and ongoing projects, among her
relationship between individual accounts and
latest body of works: Under–Writing Beirut: Mathaf
collective memory. Rooting her practice in her
and Under–Writing Beirut: Nahr.
country’s experiences, she explores the diverse representations of the Lebanese wars and their
Under–Writing Beirut is a series of photographs and
aftermath, closely examining their effects on Beirut,
a video installation based on historical and personal
a city that is a foundation for her works.
locations throughout the Lebanese capital. The series combines time with existence, connecting
By documenting the movement of her body during the passage of time asleep, Joreige animates the inanimate.
In One Night of Sleep (2013) the artist created
records with fiction. Joreige includes a book and a
Nahr, Arabic for river, is the central subject of the
photograms that were taken over several months,
poster-like installation that names all of the works
video installation, which shows an abandoned river
in an attempt to capture the movement of her own
that were stolen from the National Museum of Beirut
in motion with narration in the voice of the artist.
body lying asleep. Joreige would sleep on various
during the war. The list is endless, and is a reminder
The urban river became a dumping site at the
types of the photographic paper, which she would
of the impossibility of creating a comprehensive
periphery of Beirut, symbolizing the coexistence
place on a wooden board under ceiling light. She
history. Mathaf, the Arabic term for museum, is the
of gentrification and human borders with natural
experimented with diverse light devices, different
first of the chapters of this ongoing project and
angles, with color and with varying exposures. She
focuses on Joreige’s neighbourhood in Beirut. The
also modifed her sleeping time until finally, the
area, which hosts the museum that opened its doors
The recreated history in Joreige’s work brings a
results appeared on the paper. The images became
in 1942, is located on what was once the dividing
profound statement of the impact of the wars in
imprints of a physical presence and a record of the
line between East and West Beirut, a landmark of
Lebanon. She further reminds the viewer of loss
unconscious unfolding of time. By documenting the
sectarian violence and a resonating symbol of the
and the impossibility of recapturing what has been
movement of her sleeping body over the passage
country’s torn unity.
taken from a place and culture.
Lamia Joreige, One Night of Sleep (2013), photograms on Ilford multigrade fiber paper, 180 x 95.2 cm
Lamia Joreige, One Night of Sleep (2013), photograms on Ilford multigrade fiber paper,180 x 95.2 cm
PROFILE Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Alexandra MacGilp, curator, writer and art historian.
Maitha Demithan: Addresses the Human Condition Layering scans to capture the essence of a moment.
Demithan’s work stems from a fascination with
with digital technology, Demithan’s works possess
capturing the physical appearance and personality,
the aura, to borrow Walter Benjamin’s notion, and
the essence, of her fellow human beings. She is
beauty inherent in early photographic portraiture.
continually seeking new ways to achieve this end. Demithan appropriates an A4 flatbed scanner
Demithan is not trying to clone her subjects,
to record the surface of figures and objects and
although they are scanned piece by piece and
then composes these multiple views to create her
reconstructed. The experience of her work is
poetic, layered images. She considers this process
antithetical to the images produced by a hospital
a method of painting with light and relishes the
MRI scanner or a 3D printer. Her powerful effort to
elements of time and control required by the
capture a subject’s presence reveals the person,
meticulous practice of digital scanning.
and illustrates how a pure recording of data could only fail. The composite images she creates are
The layers of construction and deconstruction as
mechanical records of her sitters that also capture
the work deepens and develops are a contrast
the emotion of the collaboration: the expression
to our prevailing Instagram culture of instant
on a person’s face, caught in the act of being
gratification. In using digital scanning, Demithan
reconstructs the eye’s activity in looking. Her
She playfully subverts the flatbed scanner’s prosaic function of duplicating documents by using it to produce richly hued portraits. compared to painting but her working method is time-intensive. Through scanning, she seeks to use
scanography technique emerged from her
Choosing her models from family and friends close to
light as a malleable substance, like paint. She has
dissatisfaction with photography and painting.
her, Demithan’s scanographies use light to document
now taken this a step further and begun to use
She playfully subverts the flatbed scanner’s prosaic
intense moments of encounter with the subject,
projections in her work, for increased luminosity.
function of duplicating documents by using it to
capturing the three-dimensional in a series of two-
produce richly hued portraits.
dimensional planes. Demithan continuously renews
Her performative portrait works suggest
her technique. After she mastered the scanning of
there is no one true identity but a multitude
The performative process of making the work is
her human subjects, she created new challenges
existing simultaneously, as the process of
of utmost significance to Demithan. It is partly
for herself, such as scanning water and live birds of
their construction is left visible. She captures
collaborative, a form of communication between
prey. She has recently started to make her process
a subject’s personality and appearance, whilst
subject and artist. Her work captures the animation
more apparent. She has moved away from using
acknowledging the impossibility of ever truly
of her subjects, from giggling children to elegant
Photoshop in her recent works, to a more hands-
women and dignified elders. She eliminates the
on technique involving a collage process of photo
binary distinction between vertical and horizontal,
transfers onto cloth, incorporating the texture and
Adapted — from catalogue essay for the
stillness and movement. She captures the fleeting
physicality of the material’s surface into the work.
exhibition Maitha Demithan: Mutajadid at
expression of a human face. Although she works
She prefers the spontaneity of working digitally,
Tashkeel, Dubai, 2014.
Mutajadid, Maitha (2013)
Mutajadid, Ummi (2013)
Mutajadid, Abbi (2013)
Previous pages, Hind Beljaflah (2012), 188 x 114 cm, Still Waters, (2012),207 x 135 cm To The Moon (2009), 180 x122 cm Ajyal (2012), 145 x 170 cm
Umy Elnoomi (2011), 190 x 145 cm
PROFILE Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Kevin Jones, arts writer.
Hind Mezaina: On her Changing Practice Photographing the present for the benefit of the future, capturing ‘old Dubai’ before it is forgotten. In your work you are like the living memory
some film in a Lomo LC-A in Dubai and then
of Dubai, capturing à la Atget the buildings
shipped it off to someone in Brazil, who shot
that surround us but may very soon vanish.
over your images. It seemed inspired by the
While Atget was somehow distant from the
Surrealist game cadavre exquis, exploring the
photographic subject, your Polaroid works seem
randomness of the creative act. Do you ever
to push the retro and, by extension, nostalgic
think back to this time in your career?
dimension. What are you thoughts?
Yes, you are talking about roll swap with fellow
With the recent Deira Polaroids series, I focused on
Lomographer, Bruna, which resulted in an
a specific part of Dubai. The idea was to create a
entire roll of multiple exposed photographs.
series of work and not date them when exhibited,
It was random, which was part of the appeal.
to see what reaction I would get from the visitors.
That was a time when I would shoot a lot, and
Many thought they were ‘found’ images or photos I
experimented with lots of films and cameras. The
took a long time ago. With Deira Polaroids I wanted
world of Lomography introduced me to a range of
to celebrate the present and say ‘old’ Dubai is still
experimenting like multiple exposure and cross-
here and still active like it’s always been. Having said
processing films, vivid and saturated colours which
that, changes are creeping into Deira, which makes
I was drawn to and influenced the aesthetics of
me wonder what will remain, what will disappear,
my work since then.
what will be added. You are currently an artist-in-residence as I recently read this sentence regarding Atget in an
part of the Art Dubai/Tashkeel AiR project
essay by David Campany: “Like Atget, Abbott and
culminating in a show during Art
Evans before him, Stephen Shore was interested in
Week 2015. What is guiding your thinking in
photographing the present for the benefit of the
producing work for this show?
future.” And that in essence is what I’ve been doing
I’m trying to respond to some of the recent
with my photography. With Dubai changing so
announcements of new developments intended
much and so quickly, I want to make sure I capture
for Deira, so in a way, a continuation of what I
‘old Dubai’ before it’s forgotten. It sounds ‘retro’ to
started last year with Deira Polaroids. I am
many now in the age of digital photography and
also thinking about the ‘image’ of Dubai, its
Instagram, but I’ve been shooting with film all my
representation to residents and tourists, the role
life and will continue for as long as film is available.
of heritage and asking whose heritage? Memory and anticipated memory, the layered history of
The first image I ever saw of yours was at the
the city are in this work. Will my work be about
very first Dubai-based Pecha Kucha in 2008.
documentation, preservation of memory, a
The project was a ‘roll swap’ whereby you shot
homage… or a combination of all three?
It sounds ‘retro’ to many now in the age of digital photography and Instagram, but I’ve been shooting with film all my life and will continue for as long as film is available.
Al Khazzan Park (2013)
Previous page: Deira (2014) (clockwise) Deira Polaroids, Clocktower Roundabout, Dubai Municipality, Hyatt Regency, Fish Roundabout, Intercon Radisson (2014)
PROFILE Images - Courtesy of Farah Al Qasimi and The Third Line. Writer - Danna Lorch, writer, editor and blogger.
Farah Al Qasimi: A Strange Landscape The photography frames home, as permanent and yet fragile.
Farah Al Qasimi suffers from a recurring nightmare
Following a year teaching photography at Dubai
that has come to her since she was young. In the
Higher College of Technology, the Project Space
dream, her family suddenly vanishes from their home
under the eaves at The Third Line gallery exhibited
and Farah is left alone, disoriented and tormented by
Farah Al Qasimi’s solo show, The World Is Sinking in
signs of their cryptic departure. Hung from The Moon,
2014. The walls were painted the colour of orange
her first solo show, presented at Dubai’s Downtown
sherbet and a large trompe l’oeil mimicked the
Pavilion, brought the nightmare to life in a series of
fake water features frequently found in Arabic
photographs exposing visitors to a filthy bathroom
restaurants. While previous work had sometimes
sink, a half eaten cake, a sadly deflating balloon and
flirted with Emirati identity, this show was firmly
other symbols of prosaic domesticity.
grounded in Dubai and came about as the result of long treks on foot through older parts of the
At the time Farah had just completed her
pedestrian unfriendly city.
undergraduate degree in Visual Arts at Yale and returned to the UAE looking for studio space
Images flirted with Dubai residents’ utopian
and a sense of belonging. Her unsettled mood
vision, while also noting how rapid development
was echoed in the work, which looked at the notion
aimed at achieving a succession of superlative
of home as permanent and yet strangely fragile.
after superlative, sometimes results in comical juxtapositions. Interestingly, while previous work had
Born in 1991, Farah grew up between Abu Dhabi and
hinted at human presence (a leg here, a foot there
the United States, and as the product of a childhood
and so on), here a full-fledged portrait was revealed
that straddled continents and cultures she probes at
for the first time. However straightforward the image
the notion of nostalgia in much of her photography.
appears at first, The Photographer is in fact a portrait
Her series, Sunset Circus was exhibited at Cuadro
with a twist as it captures the man who works behind
Art and attempted to visually capture the hazy,
the camera at a budget photography studio. The
pleasurable mood of American summer.
Photographer is in the business of helping those
However, rather than bordering on saccharine
who have migrated to Dubai to make it big and
Americana, the images were shrewd, retro, and
have their “Dubai success story portraits” shot to
sometimes even vaguely sarcastic—as in the case
send back to their home country.
of Skeleton Car, a photograph in which a sticker of a skull and cross bones winks nastily from the rear view
Currently, Farah Al Qasimi splits her time between
window of a hearse, a reminder that these sorts of
New York City and Dubai. Both she and her work
carefree summer memories inevitably come to a close.
defy labels and borders.
Her unsettled mood was echoed in the work, which looked at the notion of home as permanent and yet strangely fragile.
Landfill Flowers, Archival inkjet print, 69 x 54 cm
Astro Golf, Archival inkjet print, 69 x 86 cm
Fallen Gun, Archival inkjet print, 69 x 84 cm
Meat Shop, Archival inkjet print, 69 x 86 cm
Velvet Rope, Archival inkjet print, 69 x 84 cm
PORTFOLIOS Images - Courtesy of The Third Line and the artist.
Hassan Hajjaj “My Rockstars is a series that I started as a tribute to people whose paths have crossed my colourful backgrounds and who have in common, that the main drive of their lives is the passion of their crafts: from the Henna girls of Marrakech, to Gnawa Masters via British fashion designers. The keyword in the title is ‘My’ because these are not global superstars by any means, except in my eyes!” Two solo museum exhibitions launched this spring season feature Hassan Hajjaj’s work. The Newark Museum presents Hassan Hajjaj: My Rock Stars, including its recent acquisition of the video My Rock Stars Experimental, Volume 1, a related series of photographs, and an installation including objects from the museum’s African art collection. It is the artist’s largest solo exhibtion at an American museum to date. The Wexner Center for the Arts at the Ohio State University is also exhibiting Hajjaj’s My Rock Stars Experimental, Volume 1, in an immersive installation. The series & its accompanying video is in the LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art ) collection
My Rock Stars, Hindi Kahlo (2011) Metallic lambda print on 3mm dibond with wood & tomato cans frame, 133 X 94 cm
My Rock Stars, Jones (2011) Metallic lambda print on dibond with tyre painted frame, 99 x 73 cm
My Rock Stars, Amine B. (2011) Metallic lambda print on dibond with tyre painted frame, 109 x 84 cm
My Rock Stars, Zezo Tamsamani (2010) Metallic lambda print on dibond with wood & found objects frame, 136 x 93 cm
My Rock Stars, Caravane (2011) Metallic lambda print on dibond with wood & found objects frame, 136 x 93 cm
My Rock Stars, Hindi Zahra (2011) Metallic lambda print on dibond with wood & found objects frame, 133 x 94 cm
My Rock Stars, Aka Momo (2011) Metallic lambda print on dibond with wood & found objects frame, 133 x 94 cm
My Rock Stars, Meriem & Khadija Marmouche (2012) Metallic lambda print on dibond with wood & plastic mat frame, 136 x 101 cm
My Rock Stars, Joe Casely-Hayford (2012) Metallic lambda print on dibond with wood & plastic mat frame, 136 x 101 cm
PROFILE Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Akim Monet, gallerist and curator.
Maha Malluh: The Price of Progress Channeling the modern Saudi Arabian vibe with work which reflects some travesties in modern day travel.
The works in this series are primarily concerned
an agent of surveillance. Even our intimate
with security checks at airports terminals. As part
childhood memories are not protected from the
of the series Tradition and Modernity, Malluh
brutality of the gaze. What was once innocent
unveils the modern experience of screening
and charming begins to raise eyebrows.
for Saudi Arabians. Travelling becomes an act involving being probed, searched, having one’s
Our baggage containing personal possessions,
privacy invaded. Through a series of checkpoints
intimate trinkets is exposed to the public at
our baggage is screened, our passport photos
airports. Our precious things, well wrapped
scrutinized and our identity searched.
up, protected, and embraced as our personal memories of a distant past, are put under
Our age of modernity has catapulted us into a
the piercing gamma rays of airport screening
whirlwind when travelling. Angled from a specifically
systems. In other words the private sphere is
Saudi Arabian perspective, Malluh’s work exposes
X-rayed into the public arena. These private
the contrasting experiences that traditional modes
pieces are then metamorphosed into images on
of transport such as camels provided from today’s
the security screens to be categorized into ‘safe’
modern method of airplanes.
or ‘threat.’ Throughout this process, we are turned into passive subjects, having no power
The modern Saudi Arabian subject no longer enjoys
over this process of publicizing our possessions,
the freedom of travelling over wild and deserted sand
our memories and our vulnerabilities.
dunes, relatively unobstructed and unscrutinized. Individuals were previously unhindered by the ugly
Unfortunately, modernity, with its increasing
machinery of screening equipment and the probing
technological advancement, goes hand in hand
eyes of surveying bodies.
with screening. Yet this does not mean we cannot also use this to scan the discourses which have
Travelling becomes that which has us stripped
made this possible. Using photograms is one
to the very essence. Our spiritual core and
way of reclaiming and arranging our objects,
educational make-up are subject to being
speaking in ways not possible when screened by
processed using data storage systems. Even our
security officials. Their use is one way of talking
religious beliefs and educational background
back to power.
comes under scrutiny and may be turned into potential security threats. It seems that
Adapted – This article appears courtesy of Side
wherever we turn we are confronted with
by Side Gallery, Akim Monet, Berlin.
Even our intimate childhood memories are not protected from the brutality of the gaze. What was once innocent and charming begins to raise eyebrows.
Tradition & Modernity, Screened (2010) Photographic print Dibond mounted with Perspex on front, 122 x 156 cm
Tradition & Modernity, Barcoding (2010) Photographic print Dibond mounted with Perspex on front, 122 x 156 cm
Tradition & Modernity, Barcoding 2, (2010) Photographic print Dibond mounted with Perspex on front, 122 x 156 cm
X-Rayed 1, inkjet print on Epson paper, Dibond mounted and mounted with gloss Perspex on front, 70 x 93 cm
X-Rayed 2, inkjet print on Epson paper, Dibond mounted and mounted with gloss Perspex on front, 70x 100 cm
VIDEO Images - Courtesy of the Artist and Ayyam Gallery. Writer - Nat Muller, independent curator and critic.
Sadik Kwaish Alfraji: Ali’s Boat
Breaking through the darkness of a childhood’s dream. The Dutch-Iraqi multimedia artist Sadik Alfraji
explains: “Ali’s dream is my dream reversed.
explores what he describes as ‘the problem
He draws a boat to carry him away from his
of existence’ through drawings, paintings,
Iraq and I borrow his boat to take me back
video animations, art books, graphic art
to my Iraq […] as I am dreaming of my own
and installations. Ali’s Boat (2015) is Alfraji’s
childhood and borrowing tools given to me
latest stop-motion video animation. Using
by Ali, a child.” Both the artist’s and his young
a technique similar to the one he used in
nephew’s dreams are wishful journeys fraught
his monumental installation The House That
with obstacles and impossibilities, which is
My Father Built (2010), which premiered at
why the board game of snakes and ladders
the opening of Mathaf: the Arab Museum
functions as a returning visual and conceptual
of Modern and Contemporary Arab Art in
trope in the work. Ali’s Boat shows us that
Doha, the artist meticulously drew frame
even in our darkest hour we have our dreams
by frame, approximately 3000 of them, in
to cling on to.
charcoal. The animation is part of a larger
Though this project is deeply personal and rooted in the Iraqi context, it becomes a universal quest for hope.
body of work evoked by the theme of Ali’s
The shadowy protagonist who occupies
Boat, which is based on a drawing that the
Alfraji’s interdisciplinary works represents a
artist’s young nephew Ali gave him on a
black void, a filter that allows him to explore
family visit to Baghdad in 2009. Though this
the intricacies of navigating the precarious
project is deeply personal and rooted in the
nature of modern existence. By rendering his
Iraqi context, it becomes a universal quest
solitary figure as a charcoal-coloured silhouette
Netherlands in 2000. Alfraji’s work has exhibited
for hope. Alfraji’s distinct visual language is
and minimising the formal properties of his
in solo and group exhibitions in Brazil, Japan,
inspired by that of his young nephew, creating
compositions, Alfraji captures the expressed
Korea, Netherlands, Qatar, the USA and UAE.
an aesthetic that is both childlike and innocent.
movement and subtle inflections of the body
His work is also housed in numerous private
The plight of a young boy wishing to escape
in psychologically laden environments. The
and public collections including the National
the horrors of present-day Iraq is merged
artist often records his own narrative in black
Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad; The Art
with the artist’s own predicament as an exile,
and white depictions of his recurring character,
Center, Baghdad; National Gallery of Fine Arts
unable to return home.
particularly the loss, fragmentation and lapses
Amman; Shoman Foundation, Amman; Royal
in time that underline the experience of exile.
Association of Fine Arts, Amman; Novosibirsk
The slow-paced animation, accompanied by
State Art Museum, Russia; and the Cluj-
David Darling’s haunting and melancholic
Born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1960, Sadik Alfraji
Napoca Art Museum, Romania; Los Angeles
soundtrack, shows the upwardly turned
lives and works in Amersfoort, the Netherlands.
County Museum; and Museum of Fine Arts,
profile of a young boy, as if he were asleep
He received a Bachelor of Fine Art in Painting
Houston. Alfraji was named Artist of the Year
and dreaming. The boat that is supposed
and Plastic Art from the Academy of Fine
at the Esquire Middle East Awards in 2012.
to carry him away morphs into a bird, and
Arts, Baghdad in 1987 and a High Diploma in
A monograph on the artist was published by
then into a city that fully envelops him. Alfraji
Graphic Design from CHK Constantijn Huygens,
Schilt Publishing, Amsterdam in 2015.
Aliâ€™s Boat (2015), Stills from video animation
Aliâ€™s Boat (2015), Stills from video animation
Aliâ€™s Boat (2015), Stills from video animation
PREVIEW Writer - Cristiana de Marchi, curator, artist and critic.
Cristiana de Marchi: The Poetics of Absence A curatorial discussion of photography and the narratives of diasporas.
“[The] lament for a life left behind in a land that will
also in order to increase those same effects. We
forever be memory and myth, and the whispered
carry images in notebooks, wallets and suitcases
elegy that is the prayer of a poet possessed with the
(and during these last decades in telephones,
promise of a perfect land always yearned for, never
computers and other electronic devices) in
gained.” (Chittrovanu Mazumdar, Ancient Earth)
order to have a physical, “objective” reminder of places and individuals with high emotional
has catastrophic consequences for them in terms
To name a few artists dealing with these
of integration and tolerance in the new territories
themes, Youssef Nabil’s portraits go through this
The theme of travel is strictly connected to that of separation, of disruption and of the inevitability of making farewells.
they inhabit, including the recurrence of nostalgia
photographic progression, with their “patina”
a literary genre of ancient origin that is re-actualized
as a social epidemic.
and touch-ups. They formally refer to early
in contemporary literature and art.
Historically the Middle East is a land of migration:
relevance, whose memory we cannot allow to
millions of people have been subjugated to
fade or dissolve. Documentarism, photographic
the devastation of war, deportation and other
archives and artistic photography seem to share
forms of displacement. Diaspora is a common
a deep interest in collecting visual relics, although
word, claimed by millions of individuals from the
their treatment dramatically changes, beginning
region, who or whose ancestors have been either
with preservation, then moving through stages of
physically forced or otherwise induced to leave
re-elaboration and interpretation.
their countries for more secure horizons. Often this
photographic techniques, which were widely Absence is a literary topos in European culture
adopted in Egypt and in the Middle East in the
A third perspective is found in Mohammed
and civilisation. The theme of travel is strictly
late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Kazem’s photographic series My Neighbours.
connected to that of separation, of disruption and
Analogies with the mission embraced by archives
As conceptualized as a project, through the
of the inevitability making farewells. The reverse of
can be found in his thematic collection of portraits
portraiture of the physical presence of neighbours
these feelings is the attempt to neutralize or even
of celebrities from the performing arts and his
who have migrated to the UAE, Kazem will not
annihilate the evidence of severance through a
body of work is continuously growing while
only acknowledge a social phenomenon but will
series of stratagems. These strategies have been
exploring new ways to reactivate old photographic
also visualize the permanence of memory and the
perfected by voyagers, travellers and migrants over
attachment to one’s own traditions in a world of
the long history of humanity or, individually, during the course of one’s life experience.
rapid assimilation. From a radically different approach, Ancient Earth, a video work by Indian artist Chittrovanu Mazumdar,
This discussion is the preliminary concept for a show
Photography has a privileged position among
echoes themes of nostalgia and longing by visually
that will take place in Dubai in 2016. It anticipates
the expedients recently adopted to minimize the
translating the impossibility of returns, thus fully
its main sections through the work of three highly
effects of nostalgia and, as absurd as it might seem,
delving in the poetics of the nostos, the “Return”,
Youssef Nabil, You Never Left III (2010), hand coloured silver print, 50 x 75 cm Courtesy the artist and The Third Line
Nisreen Musferih, Rachid Youssef Abou Kharoub 1957 - 1978, at the home of Hasna Youssef Abou Kharoub, Burj as-Shamali (2008) Courtesy of Nisreen Musherfih / Yasmine Eid-Sabbagh
Mohammed Kazem, My Neighbours (2006), C-Prints, 70 x 50 cm Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde
PROFILE Images - Courtesy of the Artist. Writer - Madeline Yale Preston, curator and writer.
Steve Sabella: Creative Interpretation or Visual Deconstruction? Sabella moves beyond the surface of Bahrain to dismantle and reassemble his insights In the fourteenth century, the artistic practice of
raised in Jerusalem, Sabella has long since explored
preparing frescoes with a dark reddish-brown
themes of exile and outcast in his work—a fitting
earthy pigment began to emerge. Known as
background for locating existential relationships
sinopia, this method of under painting or sketch
between artistic output and a particular region.
It is no accident that sinopia is likewise the title
monuments and noteworthy points of interest—
and initial source of inspiration for artist and visual
Sabella moves beyond the surface of Bahrain to
researcher Steve Sabella’s commission for the
dismantle and reassemble his insights, building
Bahrain National Museum. Sinopia was part of the
associations between diverse variables to construct
group photography exhibition entitled Recreational
new realities. The four works appear almost painted
This work resembles shredded and restructured strips of wallpaper in an explosion of colors, rising and falling on a vertical plane
Purpose initiated by Camille Zakharia in 2014.
and question one’s perception of Bahrain as a
a seismographic reading set to a musical score, its
Yet the suffix ‘-opia’ is equally noteworthy in
location as well as presuppositions about the
staccato composition galvanizes diverse voices,
considering this body of work; its varied meanings
medium of photography itself.
translating dialogue into a rhythmic visual form.
creates the illusion of multi-dimensional, layered depth. Beneath a work’s finishing layer of paint and
As if he were a tourist making visual investigations,
gloss varnish lie accumulations of process and, if
Sabella observes Bahrain’s facades, skyline, and
it were possible to extract, the arrangement of
terrain with his camera. Unlike the traditional tourist
these deposits form diverse compositional and
photographs one might take on a holiday—ones
which visually attest to ‘being there’ by virtue of where one chooses to stand in relation to
include references to visual disorder or, by creative
The repetition of sound made visual is also evident
interpretation, visual deconstruction. While the
Bahrain is known for having one of the most vibrant
in Sabella’s image of Manama’s skyline. Perceiving
compositional subject matter for the four works
street art scenes. Layers of polarized views cover
a location’s imprint as it meets the sea and sky, the
in Sinopia varies greatly and its visual signatures
the city’s surfaces, with charged graffiti proliferated
work decodes and repeats fragments of information
appear disparate, messages of communication and
on the streets. Much of the politically galvanized
as if a register of sound. The Khoury Project set a
access remain constant.
street art was censored with new sheets of color
musical score to the work, breaking expectations of
deposited atop declarations for a changed reality.
photographic form. The compilation returns us to
During his residency, Sabella created four
These graffiti messages—in all their appearances—
the image of Bahrain, and how layered constructs
photographic abstract portraits that could be
are the visual materials for one of the images in
of a place that are visually entrenched in systems
described as deconstructed observations of a
Sabella’s Sinopia, which is the cover of the artist’s
of representation can unfold.
place. Having never before visited the Kingdom
recent monograph.* This work resembles shredded
of Bahrain, his knowledge of the country was limited
and restructured strips of wallpaper in an explosion
* Von Amelunxen, Hubertus. Steve Sabella:
to mediated, second-hand accounts. Born and
of colors, rising and falling on a vertical plane. Like
Photography 1997-2014. Berlin: Hatje Cantz.
Sinopia (2014), Lightjet print mounted on matte diasec 3.5 cm aluminum box edge, 54 x 70 cm
Previous page: Sinopia (2014), Lightjet print mounted on matte diasec 3.5 cm aluminum box edge, 180 x 270 cm Sinopia (2014), Lightjet print mounted on matte diasec 3.5 cm aluminum box edge, 31 x 100 cm
Sinopia (2014), Lightjet print mounted on matte diasec 3.5 cm aluminum box edge, 60 x 270 cm
ESSAY Writer - Woodman Taylor, art historian, curator and ethnomusicologist.
Tracing Performed Concepts: Creating an Archive UAE artists capturing their ephemeral, performative works in photographs
Hassan Sharif’s intense self-portrait, of himself
artist in real time, at a given time and place.
staring back at the photograph’s viewer,
Hassan Sharif’s first conceptual works were
poignantly captures one of the first moments
performative. To document his work, Sharif set
in the United Arab Emirate’s (UAE) innovative
up a camera to capture the performance as
Conceptual Art Movement. This photograph,
sequenced exposures. These individual exposures,
and a multiple-exposure at that, was taken in
as we see in his Jumping piece, were then framed
1981, when Sharif was studying art in London. In
in a sequence. When seen together, they gave
the two exposures, Sharif is caught in moments
a later viewer a sense of how the performance
of thought. The photograph also captures a
of Jumping was actually staged. From the initial
reflected rear view of someone looking out at
concept and its enactment, a second work was
the city from the balcony of their apartment
generated, which is photographic. What is left for
building. This intentional doubling, of the
posterity, the performance’s shadow captured on
thought or concept – here enacted by Sharif,
light-sensitive paper, is a photograph.
capturing the rear-view of someone viewing
Using photographs as the final visual record of
from their balcony, is an apt icon for the
a conceptual piece was a practice continued by
Photography is the only record, or trace, of the enactment of a concept performed by the artist in real time, at a given time and place.
conceptual art movement itself. As a meta-
Hassan Sharif’s student Mohammed Kazem. In
Third generation conceptual artist Ebtisam
photograph for the operation of conceptual
fact, the photographs from Mohammed’s 1994
Abdulaziz similarly uses a sequence of photographs
art, the photograph captures the formation of
performed piece titled Tongue that capture 36
to capture different choreographed moments in
a concept by it’s auteur as well as the concept’s
moments of his tongue’s intimate interaction
Women’s Circles. Viewed as a series of twenty
in, through and around a variety of objects
chromogenic prints, each print can be viewed
including scissors, may be a stronger work than the
separately, representing yet a different circular
As one of Hassan Sharif’s first photographs
performance itself. The photographs allow viewers
constraint put upon a woman’s life.
taken during the shift of his act practice into
to focus on unlikely configurations of tongue and
conceptualism while studying in London, this
object, which would have been experienced as
Although both Mohammed Kazem and
first archived moment of the new movement
mere seconds during the unfolding performance.
Ebtisam Abdulaziz have recently replaced still
is physically a photograph. This signals the
The photographic series lets us explore all the
photography with video recordings of their
prime importance of photography for the
different angled tongue gestures at once. We also
performative work, where every replaying
conceptual art movement in the UAE. Although
can go back to view it again and again, or even
recreates the originative performance, the
the movement was not about photography,
take and enlarge one specific choreographed act
original record for and final ‘artistic product’
photography is the only record, or trace, of
for an extended viewing, such as when Kazem’s
from performances of the early conceptual
the enactment of a concept performed by the
tongue explores scissors.
movement in the Emirates was a photograph.
with the performance of his concept - of
Hassan Sharif, Jumping No. 1 (1983), photo documentation of a performance in Dubai collage, photographs, ink and pencil on mounting board, 98 x 73.5 cm Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde
Hassan Sharif, London (1981), silver gelatin print
Mohammed Kazem, Tongue (1994), part of a series of 36, silver gelatin prints on mounting board, 10 x 11 cm each, overall 41.5 x 41.5 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde.
Ebtisam Abdulaziz, Womenâ€™s Circles (2011), digital prints mounted on aluminium Courtesy the artist and The Third Line Gallery.
REVIEWS Images - Courtesy of the artists. Writer - Janet Bellotto, artist, curator and educator.
ISEA2014: A Platform for New Media in the Gulf International artists converge, presenting new technologies The 20th edition of the International Symposium on
Noshokaty’s annual Media Art Workshop, Medrar
Electronic Art (ISEA2014) was a mammoth event,
for Contemporary Art’s Video Festival in Cairo, Wael
hosted in Dubai by Zayed University. With the over-
Shawky’s MASS Alexandria, and Ashkal Alwan’s
arching theme of “Location,” the 10-day happening
Video Works—a grant and screening platform - are
spread across the three Emirates of Sharjah, Dubai
examples of pioneering events. In the UAE galleries
and Abu Dhabi, consisted of an academic conference,
have recently showcased artists using new media,
exhibitions and performances highlighting
such as Adel Abidin, Ahmed Mattar, Larissa Sansour
intersections of art, science and technology.
and Wafaa Bilaal.
ISEA2014 was presented at time when art was
Ahmed Basiony’s 30 Days of Running in the Place,
humorous Dress Up interacted with participants in
proposed for Metros and discussions of art in public
exhibited at the Egyptian Pavilion in the 54th
a “head in the hole” installation projecting over
spaces are beginning to surface. ISEA2014 can be
International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale,
90 wacky clothing options, whereas Khaled Hafez
described as the largest artist-run and organized event
was a critical new media work that inspired discussions
animated his paintings in the video-animation project
ever held in the Emirates. This was made possible
at ISEA2014 on how the internet and other digital
Mirror Sonata in Four Kinetic Movements. Ancient
through collaborations between major universities
media are indispensable for efforts to illuminate and
Egyptian symbols, or hieroglyphs, are juxtaposed to
– the American University of Dubai, the American
advance public discourse on complex social themes
present images of war, ultimately portraying a melody
University in Sharjah and New York University Abu
and political systems.
of cultural associations.
actively contribute to the vibrant art scene in the UAE.
Collaborations of site-specific works at ISEA2014
Emerging Emirati artists explored ideas of location
Over 100 artists exhibited in 18 locations, from video
used local data and research to engage viewers.
through places and people. NYU Abu Dhabi featured
screenings to interactive installations.
The Institute of Unnecessary Research Meets The
the work of Khadija Fikri with the photographic series
Egyptian Bioart Club included Heba AlAziz, with the
42, which juxtaposes new and old photos of Dubai.
The expanded field of New Media art focuses on
group presenting a participatory workshop which
Maitha Demithan’s uses an A4 scanner to create
artwork created with new technologies—video,
developed a site-specific installation in Dubai’s Al
mulit-viewed portraits of friends and family. Hind Bin
computer graphics, interactive sensors, digital tools,
Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. W3FI, by Laleh
Demaithan’s Hafth Al’a-Almswadih Da’iman (always
computer animation, robotics, virtual and Internet
Mehran and Chris Coleman, had video projected
keep the negative clean) is a video object designed
forms, as well as those that cross-disciplines with
on icons of Dubai which also interacted with visitors.
by the artist to share a collection of repurposed family
science such as biotechnology. There is an array
Sama Alshaibi collaborated with Michael Fadel with
negatives. Ammar Al Attar’s Sibeel Water documents
of formats to which these artworks are realized,
Model of Motions, a sculpture, sound and video
water taps found in a variety of areas such as factories,
including installation, performance and computer
palaces and mosques.
ISEA2014 Exhibition Director Atteqa Ali juxtaposed
At this unique international meeting place, exchanges
In the Arab world, New Media that is slowly
a range of works from the MENASA region. Ahmed
between artists and plans for future collaboration
creeping into exhibition spaces and festivals has
AlShaer used gaming as a framework to look at current
became exponential, generating the potential for
facilitated connecting artists globally. Shady El
social issues, both in print and videos. Chadi Salama’s
multiple manifestations at future events.
ISEA2014 can be described as the largest artist-run and organized event ever held in the Emirates.
Dhabi – along with many local establishments who
Khadija Fikri, 42 Maktoum
Khaled Hafez, Mirror Sonata in Four Kinetic Movements (2014), is a multi-screen, site-specific video-animation project that incorporates the visual elements from the original paintings, which explore the ideas of cultural pride, the self as maker of past present and future, the self as creator, of melody and movement.
Hind Bin Demaithan, Hafth Al’a Almswadih Da’iman, Always Keep The Negative Clean (2014), Interactive Sculpture
Al Fadhil and Giovanni Dal Monte, Breathing Cairo (2014), Video Performance
INDUSTRY Writer - Hala Khayat, Head of Sales at Christie’s Dubai.
Hala Khayat: On Middle Eastern Photography Market and Collecting Advice and insight for those new to the game. To protect delicate photographs, the obvious
of them share pole position of the top 10 Middle
The history of photography in the Arab world is yet
precautions should be taken that might apply
Eastern photos sold at auction; Ahmed Mater from
to be written. There are very few, but great initiative
to any works on paper. Strong direct light is to
Saudi Arabia and Lara Baladi, a Lebanese - Egyptian.
looking into this area of archiving and restoring the
be avoided, but most photographs should be
history, such as the famous Arab Image Foundation.
stable and can be hung in domestic interiors
Ahmed’s work, Evolution of Man, was offered as
We advise our collectors to take a broad look at the
away from direct sunlight. It is probably worth
part of the Edge of Arabia charity section in April
history of photography, but ultimately follow their
investing in high-grade protective glass that can
2011 for an estimated $22,000-28,000 and sold
heart. It is in some ways safer to buy works with a longer
filter potentially harmful rays when getting works
for a record price of $98,500. Lara Baladi’s work,
market history, but there is considerable energy in the
framed. Archival materials should be used for
Sandouk El-Dounia, executed in 2001, established
contemporary market and it is challenging to follow
mounting. It should be hinged from the back,
the top price for any Middle Eastern photo when
one’s judgement with work of one’s own generation.
attached very softly with acid free tape on the
it sold in 2008 for $98,500. A unique work, it is a
The two categories are not mutually exclusive.
edges of the mounting. Not glued to the back.
collage of photographic colour prints that is, to date,
This will damage the work and the residue of the
the highest price paid for a Middle Eastern photo
Ultimately the image you choose must attract you and
glue will affect the surface over time. If in doubt,
by a female artist.
sustain your interest. It is worth reassuring yourself,
ask for the advice of a specialist or conservator.
if possible, that the image is well representative of Photographs are central to our contemporary
the photographer’s work. The more characteristic the
The international market for Arab Art photography is
visual culture, and indeed our collective sense
image, the more likely it is that it will maintain its value.
mainly dominated by two leading artists of the Arab
of history is significantly defined through this
Contemporary prints should be flawless. With
world. Youssef Nabil, an Egyptian, is inspired by the
medium. The field provides considerable variety,
earlier work it is important to see as much material
cinematic atmosphere of Cairo’s old glamorous days.
from fine and subtle vintage works of orientalist
as possible to establish points of reference.
His work captures the golden age of important stars
in the 19th or earlier 20th centuries capturing
There is no hard and fast rule about signatures. Some
in Egypt and the Arab world and has a signature style
our Middle Eastern culture, to large high impact
photographers sign, other don’t. You should expect a
with a dominant blue background and deep portraits
contemporary pieces produced today with
contemporary work, made for the collectors’ market,
that are hand painted over a gelatin print. The other
advanced technology tackling this medium.
to be signed and numbered with the full edition
is Lalla Essaydi, a Moroccan, who tackles orientalist
considering the series as well as the artist proofs.
subject matter in a contemporary setting, as she
In theory, since digital files and negatives exist any
Usually referred to by AP or EP. It is also important
builds the entire scenography of her images, from
number of prints might be made, but the same is not
to note the sizes a certain picture is printed in. Is
finding the location, to hiring the models, choosing
true in practice. The serious market in photographs is
it one size that the artist chose or does it exist in
their dresses, and applying hand painting, until the
a relatively young phenomenon. Before photographs
multiple sizes, which is not very advisable, because
final moment of capturing the image is perfect. She
became collectible commodities, a photographer
it will only dilute from the uniqueness of the image.
creates an everlasting theatrical atmosphere with
had little reason to make surplus prints and today
But with historic works ,expectations must be on a
her photographs. Of course other Middle Eastern
photographers with an eye to the market make
photographer by photographer basis, according to
artists do have an influence on the market and two
strictly controlled editions.
their individual practices.
Ahmed Mater, Evolution of Man (2010) Five lightboxes, each lightbox 59.4 x 79.2 cm
Lalla Essaydi, Bullets Revisited #3 (2012), Chromogenic Print mounted to Aluminum, 51 x 61, each, Tryptich, 152 x 61 inch
Youssef Nabil, Fifi Abdo (2000), Hand coloured silver gelatin print, 115 x 75cm
Lara Baladi, Sandouk El-Dounia (2001) collage of photographic colour prints, unique 225 x 320 cm
PHOTO FAIRS Images - Courtesy of the artists. Writer - Simon Bowcock, photographer and writer.
Arab Photography: The Time Has Come Growing global interest in exhibitions of photography from the Arab world.
“The overwhelming mood had been of surprise,
emerging all the time, such as Syrian Khaled Akil,
and a feeling of ‘it’s about time’ for Arab
one of FotoFest’s International Discoveries for 2015.
exhibitions and programs,” says the effervescent Fred Baldwin, co-founder of FotoFest, whose
Paris Photo, the world’s premier commercial
major 2014 Biennial in Houston was devoted
photography fair, is probably the litmus test of how
to Arab artists.
any region is faring on the global stage. And while November’s edition was still very much dominated
‘It’s about time’ could be the mantra for a wider
by American, Western European and Japanese
Western curatorial consensus which has coalesced
photography, practitioners from the Middle East were
around Arab photography in the past three years.
making a conspicuous impact. For starters, galleries
Aside from FotoFest, landmark group exhibitions
from North Africa to the Eastern Mediterranean and
dominated by Arab photographers have been
the Gulf took part, such as Tunisia’s Selma Feriani,
staged by London’s Victoria and Albert Museum,
Lebanon’s Galerie Tanit, Saudi Arabia’s Athr, and the
Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and Liverpool’s
UAE’s East Wing. Galleries from outside the region
Bluecoat. And it goes on: 2015’s major Middle
were also championing photographers from within
Eastern contemporary art jamborees at both
it: Paris gallery Imane Farès showed work by Halim
the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and at
Al-Karim, and Greece’s Kalfayan Gallery gave over
New York’s Armory Show are both showcasing
its entire booth to Hrair Sarkissian.
photography as a leading medium. Photography is continuing to play a larger role Having been relatively unknown outside the region
in art institutions worldwide; total photography
until recently, Arab photography is now quite the
auction sales are still steadily growing every year;
buzz, not least in Britain and America. The secret is
and while no hard data is available at the gallery
out, and the photographers tirelessly championed
level, major new fairs starting in 2015 such as Photo
by galleries and art fairs within the Middle East are
London and Photo Basel suggest a buoyant primary
being exhibited and talked about around the world.
Some of the region’s photographers are already operating at the very top global level, such as Lalla
Arab photography, with all its recent global and
Essaydi, who this year has her third solo show at
regional attention, suddenly finds itself incredibly
New York / Zurich’s Edwynn Houk, one of the world’s
well placed to take advantage of these increased
leading photography-specialist galleries. Others are
Paris Photo, the world’s premier commercial photography fair, is probably the litmus test of how any region is faring on the global stage.
Lalla Essaydi, Converging Territories no.3 (2004) Courtesy the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York Next pages: Halim Al-Karim, Illusion 8 and Illusion 9 (2013), Wet plate collodion on aluminium, Unique, 80 x 60 cm Courtesy of the artist and Imane FareĚ€s, Paris
REVIEW Image - Courtesy CRG Gallery, In Situ Fabienne Leclerc, The Third Line. Writer - Katy Orkisz, curator.
The Art of Connecting: Curated Road Trips, Broadcasting and Networks New York’s Armory show highlights artists from the Middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean. Geographical constellations and connecting
Nomadic project CULTURUNNERS, launched in
communities were the emphasis for the FOCUS
the Rothko chapel last year, has been touring
section of the New York’s Armory, 2015—Middle
the US in a Gulf Steam RV with a number of
East, North Africa and the Mediterranean (FOCUS:
artists. Parked up at Pier 94 during the fair, the
MENAM). Curated by Whitechapel Gallery’s Omar
vehicle functions as a mobile artist’s studio and
Kholief in collaboration with Edge of Arabia and
broadcasting platform. The wider mission is one of
Art Jameel, the project is an effective entry point
forming networks and exploring identities defined
for the artists into New York’s commercial art world.
by culture, nation and religion to connect the wider
The curated booths were presented in conjunction
US with MENAM communities.
with a selection of large scale site specific projects, connecting a broad range of artistic practices.
Launched at the Armory 2015, FREEWAY is an
Piers 92 and 94 are host to a careful selection of
online broadcast platform curated by Ava Ansari
galleries with a maximum of two exhibiting artists
and Stephen Stapleton. Saudi based artist Husam
for an in-depth focus on work that is as vibrant
Al-Sayed has been working with New York based
and innovative, as it is internationally relevant.
artists in Little Syria and Harlem to produce three films with music scores arranged by Iranian
Lawrence Abu Hamden’s tongue-in-cheek
performance artist and electronic composer Salar.
commission A Convention of Tiny Movements, includes carefully placed objects, an audio
Edge of Arabia’s curated presentation The New(er)
essay and 5000 packets of potato chips to be
Middle East works effectively across a number
distributed to fairgoers. Another artist using
of disciplines including video, installation and
playful tactics is Ahmed Mater in Cowboy Code
photography. In keeping with the surrounding
(Hadith) (2012), drawing parallels between
projects they are looking to spark conversations
the Islamic Hadith and Hollywood’s fictional
that challenge limiting views of Middle Eastern
Wild West cowboy code of conduct. Joana
art. Palestinian artist Yazan Khalili’s photographic
Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige’s poignant
project Regarding Distance is emotive yet concise
ephemeral photographic installation Circle
in its exploration of the scarred and fraught
of Confusion (1998) is composed of 3000
landscape where he grew up.
removable images containing the words ‘Beirut
The Armory Show Symposium 2015, The Way
Doesn’t Exist.’ Participants are encouraged to
Things Can Go, links overall themes through
rearrange and remove photographs as a way of
fascinating conversations and screenings with
being implicated in the perpetual mutation and
curators and artists such as Omar Kholief, Yael
movement of the city.
Bartana, Lamia Joreige and Lawrence Abu Hamden.
The curated booths are presented in conjunction with a selection of large scale site specific projects, connecting a broad range of artistic practices
Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, Circle of Confusion (1997-2015) 3000 Photographic prints stamped, numbered and glued on a miror 300 x 400 cm
RESIDENCIES Images - Courtesy of Ziad Antar. Writer - Nat Muller, independent curator and critic.
Aaron Cesar: The Delfina Foundation Nat Muller talks with Cesar to reveal details of residencies organized for artists since 2007 What kind of developments in artistic practices
Could you give examples of former residents
based practices from the Middle East beyond
using new media and technologies have you
using photography or new media in their work?
photojournalism. Major British museums have
witnessed over the course of the years?
What kind of projects have they developed
been collecting work from the region over the last
Delfina Foundation is a non-profit organization
while in-residence? Sherief Gaber, one of the
decade. The Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) and
dedicated to facilitating artistic exchange and
founding members of Mosireen, a non-profit media
the British Museum, for example, joined forces
experimentation through residencies, public
collective, used his time in residence to sift through
to acquire contemporary photography. Most of
programming and partnerships. For the first six
archives to begin a project to use audio to remap
this collection formed the exhibition Light from
years, our remit focused on geographic exchange
the city through spaces of protest and revolution.
the Middle East at the V&A in 2012; however,
with the Middle East, North Africa and eventually
most importantly has been how these works are
South Asia. We now focus on more thematic
Ziad Antar continued work on his Expired series in
now included in international exhibitions, rather
programmes that are international in scope and
London. The Lebanese artist has been using film
than regional ones.
centre on common artistic practices rather than
that expired in 1976 to document specific sites
geographic differences. To date, we have hosted
around the world. The visual outcomes play with
The Tate has consistently presented work by
over 100 artists, curators and writers from the
the aesthetics of the archive. The unpredictably
artists from the Middle East within its international
Arab region alone.
grainy texture of the images present their subjects
displays. Over the last six years, the museum
as ruins or perhaps even mirages that question how
established a Middle East & North Africa
we consume them in this media-saturated world.
acquisitions group with support from individual
Over the last seven years at Delfina Foundation, we’ve seen the emergence of new ways of thinking
patrons and collectors who hail from the region
about the notion of the archive, often through
Lebanese artist Raed Yassin and German curator
itself, as well as an International Photography
critical engagement with new media. From the
Beate Schüler produced one of the most engaging
acquisitions group which has also considered
re-appropriation of historic documents to the
uses of new media during our residency. As part
work by artists from the Middle East.
development of contemporary archives with user-
of our Politics of Food Programme, Raed and
generated images, artists have been grabbling
Beate devised a performance via WhatsApp that
We have been proud to see that several former
with and contesting the role of new technology
involved audience members interacting with them.
resident artists at Delfina Foundation have had
in cultural production.
What started as conversations about food, and
their work acquired by Tate and presented
particularly the sharing of images of food through
as part of its permanent collections. Lamia
Through archives and reclaiming the notion
social networking, became larger conversations
Joreige’s large-scale installation Objects of
and the power of the image, artists are creating
about human desire and consumption.
War and Hrair Sarkissian’s Execution Squares
alternative narratives within a historical continuum.
are just two examples.
This is incredibly important since the rich history of
Do you feel that the perception in the West/
art and culture in the Arab region is overlooked in
UK of art from the Middle East, especially lens-
I hope that organisations like Delfina Foundation
the West, as if contemporary culture and current
based practices, has changed over time? In the UK
become a good model for engaging with new
conflicts only define art from the region.
in particular, there is a greater appreciation of lens-
media practices from the Middle East.
Delfina Entrecanales (2011), founder of Delfina Foundation, from the Expired series 125 x 125 cm, black & white silver print photograph
London Eye (2012), from the Expired series, 125 x 125 cm black & white silver print photograph
Big Ben II (2012), from the Expired series, 125 x 125 cm, black & white silver print photograph
LIBRARY Writer - Janet Bellotto, artist, curator and educator.
Sourcing Arab Photography: The Collected Book Sourcing photographic images and information about them from around the world is easily accessible through the digital highway. Yet, there is a lot to love about the printed page and written texts that frame artworks within a book. Anthologies and catalogs about Arab photography and new media range in themes while bursting with colour. Sometimes the imagery is satirical, other times it can shatter when capturing raw catastrophes. As physical libraries may soon become the contemporary Cabinets of Curiosities, a group of books and catalogues about Arab artistsâ€™ photographic and new media work are a must for any serious archive.
Contemporary Art in the Middle East (Black Dog
documentary style, and in turn, represent the diversity
represented in the inaugural exhibition at the
Publishing, 2009) opens with essays by experts in
of artistic approaches in the Arab world. Over 30
United Arab Emirate’s pavilion in the 2009 Venice
the field: Nat Muller, Lindsey Moore, TJ Demos
artists’ images are juxtaposed with statements of their
Biennale, shows images from her series Familial,
and Suzanne Cotter. Although this book includes
practice. Rose Issa Projects consistently expand their
capturing the interiors of hotel rooms in the UAE.
a spectrum of mediums, artists are complimented
book-publishing program, stimulating prospects for
Shadia Alem’s photos from the series The supreme
with a text that frames each work. Muller raises issues
Ka’aba of God, 2011, is a photomontage of the
that can be applied to many books about art of the
consuming construction occurring in an important
Middle East and North Africa, “…the question of how,
Light from the Middle East: New Photography
in a region so stubbornly defiant in the face of rigid
(Steidl, 2012) by Marta Weiss accompanied the
territorial, religious, ethnic and cultural categorization,
exhibition of the same name at the Victoria and
Beyond the array of colour plates that seduce
one is to map, introduce or outline the state of affairs
Albert Museum (13 November 2012 – 7 April 2013).
with each page, four essays contextualize
of contemporary art.” This book does just that, with
Photographs from the collection of the V&A and
and provide food for thought. Adrian von
the juxtaposition of artists that include Faisal Samra,
the British Museum spans photographic processes
Roques On Art and Photography: A Situation
Yto Barrada, and Tarek Al Ghoussein.
that are striking, with artists who creatively explore
Report captures the response by Saudi artist
the image to narrate histories, investigate cultural
Abdulnassser Gharem of what photography
identities, and reflect on current political situations.
means to him: “Photography acts as a magic
There is always a bit of commotion when Saatchi Gallery presents something new and on the edge.
key to any cultural society. The medium is special
Unveiled: New Art from the Middle East (Booth-
One of the most recent exhibitions defining the
as it permits a complete freedom of speech, and
Clibborn, 2009), by Lisa Farjam and the Saatchi
current era of Arab photography is captured in
without any need of a translator the message is
Gallery, accompanied the celebrated exhibition.
FotoFest’s exhibition catalog View From Inside:
It is another companion book that investigates
Contemporary Arab Photography, Video and
installations, images, and more. It also addresses
Mixed Media Art (Schilt Publishing & Gallery,
Aside from reference-infused books, there are
social and political themes approached with humour.
2014) by Karin Adrian von Roques and Claude
many more catalogs and monographs on some
W. Sui. Again we see the usual suspects such
of the leading Arab artists, focusing on the range
However, one of the most sought after books was
as Nabil, Al Dowayan, Hadjithomas & Joreige,
of their practice. Often these artists’ photographs
produced when curators and editors Rose Issa and
and Hajjaj, with a total of 48 prominent artists.
reflect emotional and psychological strife that
Michket Krifa (Kehrer Verlag, 2011) brought together
The exhibition first held in Houston, Texas, was
surrounds much of the Middle East and North
a timely and compelling compilation of artists in
reconstituted as part of the Abu Dhabi Music and
Africa region, addressing identity politics, with
Arab Photography Now. The photographic works
Art Festival, showing a broad range of photo,
reflections on cultural traditions, within images
represented a range from portraiture to those in a
video, and mixed-media art. Lamya Gargash,
of mesmerizing beauty.
Contemporary Art in the Middle East By Nadine Monem Black Dog Publishing, 2009. 240 pages ISBN-13: 978-1906155568
Unveiled: New Art from the Middle East By Lisa Farjam and Saatchi Gallery Hardcover: 208 pages Booth-Clibborn, 2009. 240 pages. ISBN-13: 978-1861543134
Arab Photography Now Editors: Rose Issa and Michket Krifa Kehrer Verlag, 2012, 240 pages. ISBN-13: 978-3868281897
Light from the Middle East: New Photography By Marta Weiss Steidl, 2012. 144 pages ISBN-13: 978-3869305578
View From Inside: Contemporary Arab Photography, Video and Mixed Media Art By Karin Adrian von Roques and Claude W. Sui Schilt Publishing & Gallery, 2014. 340 pages ISBN-13:978-9053308257
WINDOW Images - Courtesy the artist. Writer - Sabrina DeTurk.
Ahmed El Shaer: The Game and Glitch is Green A regional and personal narrative at the 2015 Venice Biennale A significant collateral exhibition at 54 Venice
able to program twenty-five movements of a green
Biennale featuring Arab artists will be In the Eye of
“bug” which creates a film narrative highlighting
the Thunderstorm: Effervescent Practices from the
the color green. For El Shaer, this color has a
Arab World curated by Martina Corgnati and on view
particular resonance. He originally discovered the
at Zattere 417, Dorsoduro. The title and theme of
color through another early video game, in which
the exhibition reflect the complicated position often
a group fighting against the United States and
occupied by artists in the Arab world. Surrounded
China was represented in green. El Shaer began
by and engaged with contemporary politics and
to consider the choice of this color in relation to
culture, these artists often seek to produce work that
its frequent use in Middle Eastern visual culture,
maintains a certain objectivity in its ability to reflect
including in Egyptian shrines, Koranic descriptions
and comment on their countries as well as their own
of the garments of martyrs and lights indicating the
presence of mosques which dot the landscapes of Middle Eastern cities. In his reconfiguration of
Egyptian artist Ahmed El Shaer, who works in a
the ATARI game with its focus on the color green,
variety of media and frequently incorporates digital
El Shaer creates a more personal narrative that
technologies, is one of nine artists in the show. At
maintains a connection to his culture while also
the Biennale, El Shaer presents Green, a video
distancing itself from stereotypical representations.
installation using what the artist terms a “glitched”
By both inhabiting and commenting on the Middle
version of the ATARI video games popular in the
East while reflecting on the region’s role in the
1970s and 80s which the artist played when a child.
contemporary world, El Shaer’s practice reflects
By manipulating the game’s code El Shaer was
the overall theme of the exhibition.
In his reconfiguration of the ATARI game with its focus on the color green, El Shaer creates a more personal narrative that maintains a connection to his culture
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HAPPINESS FIFTH SEASON 2015 - 2016
Photography and New Media from the Arab world