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JOANA HADJITHOMAS & KHALIL JOREIGE 56th International Art Exhibition: All the World’s Futures Venice Biennale May 9 - November 22, 2015 t

Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige, Latent Images (Wonder Beirut Series), 1997-2007, Colour print with face mounting, 32 x 42 cm

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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

Library ................................................................152

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

Auction ................................................................136

Farah Al Qasimi ....................................................86

Christie’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

Design Channels

Print Consultant Pratheep Kumar

Production Mushtaq Ahmed Mukthar Hameed Nur Mohammed Sikder Machine Operators Zaid Ali Khan Zain Ulla Rafick Moklesh


Publication is part of Fujairah Media Free Zone Creative City Fujairah

Printed in Dubai Galadari Printing & Publishing LLC

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.

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.

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.

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 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,, ArtReview

and festivals internationally.

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.

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One, Wahed, Yi, Eins, Alpha, 4 (2012), C print, 50 x 50 cm

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Atman, 1 (2014), GiclĂŠe print, 110 x 110 cm

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Atman, 3 (2012), C print, 100 x 100 cm

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Atman, 2 (2014), GiclĂŠe print, 110 x 110 cm

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Atman, 12 (2014), GiclĂŠe print, 110 x 110 cm

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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.

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Untitled, For My Father (2015), 100 X 150 cm

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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.

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Untitled, For My Father (2015), 100 X 150 cm

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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 Jerusalem.

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Stenographer (2013)

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Stenographer (2013)

Stenographer (2013)

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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

personal attitude.

to another. When I first visited as an adult, it

typological element to them, this is more

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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 father’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.

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Background (2013), Duratran print, 180 x 227 cm Photographic project commissioned by the Abraaj Group Art Prize

‘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.’ - Murtaza Vali

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Background (2013), Duratran print, 180 x 227 cm Photographic project commissioned by the Abraaj Group Art Prize

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Previous page and current page from the series In Between (2007)

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In Between (2007)

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Execution Squares (2008)

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Execution Squares (2008)

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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

absorbed instantaneously.

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

rotary method.

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.

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Hierarchy of Being (2013-14), sculpture

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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 Haytham’s discovery of the first pinhole camera and Al Jazari’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.

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Hierarchy of Being (2013-14), sculpture

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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

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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

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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

different reality.”

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).

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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

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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.”

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Imam Husain Zaino B, 300 x 203.6 cm

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Nouri Mohammed Ahmed Ali (Shaikh of the Guardians) A, 300 x 202.2 cm Ahmed Masibo Saleh A, 300 x 202.2 cm

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Saeed Adam Omar (Late Shaikh of the Guardians), A, 300 x 202.4 cm Abdullah Adam A, 300 x 202.4 cm

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Ali Bodaya Ibrahim B, 300 x 203.6 cm

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Ahmed Ali Yaseen B, 300 x 203.6 cm

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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

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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. 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 6. Al-Issa, Nadia, ed. National Works, La Biennale di Venezia, exhibition guide (Kuwait 2013); Tarek Al-Ghoussein, Transfigurations, (London 2014); 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

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).

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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Moataz Nasr, Untitled III, Insecure series (2006), Sun print on archival paper. 72 x 106 cm. British Museum 2012,6036.3 (CaMMEA)

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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)

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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.

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Lamia Joreige, One Night of Sleep (2013), photograms on Ilford multigrade fiber paper, 180 x 95.2 cm

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Lamia Joreige, One Night of Sleep (2013), photograms on Ilford multigrade fiber paper,180 x 95.2 cm

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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-

representing them.

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.

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Mutajadid, Maitha (2013)

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Mutajadid, Ummi (2013)

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Mutajadid, Abbi (2013)

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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

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Umy Elnoomi (2011), 190 x 145 cm

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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?

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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)

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Previous page: Deira (2014) (clockwise) Deira Polaroids, Clocktower Roundabout, Dubai Municipality, Hyatt Regency, Fish Roundabout, Intercon Radisson (2014)

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Deira (2014)

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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.

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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

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Astro Golf, Archival inkjet print, 69 x 86 cm

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Fallen Gun, Archival inkjet print, 69 x 84 cm

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Meat Shop, Archival inkjet print, 69 x 86 cm

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Velvet Rope, Archival inkjet print, 69 x 84 cm

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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

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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

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My Rock Stars, Amine B. (2011) Metallic lambda print on dibond with tyre painted frame, 109 x 84 cm

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My Rock Stars, Zezo Tamsamani (2010) Metallic lambda print on dibond with wood & found objects frame, 136 x 93 cm

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My Rock Stars, Caravane (2011) Metallic lambda print on dibond with wood & found objects frame, 136 x 93 cm

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My Rock Stars, Hindi Zahra (2011) Metallic lambda print on dibond with wood & found objects frame, 133 x 94 cm

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My Rock Stars, Aka Momo (2011) Metallic lambda print on dibond with wood & found objects frame, 133 x 94 cm

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My Rock Stars, Meriem & Khadija Marmouche (2012) Metallic lambda print on dibond with wood & plastic mat frame, 136 x 101 cm

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My Rock Stars, Joe Casely-Hayford (2012) Metallic lambda print on dibond with wood & plastic mat frame, 136 x 101 cm

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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.

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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

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Tradition & Modernity, Barcoding (2010) Photographic print Dibond mounted with Perspex on front, 122 x 156 cm

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Tradition & Modernity, Barcoding 2, (2010) Photographic print Dibond mounted with Perspex on front, 122 x 156 cm

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X-Rayed 1, inkjet print on Epson paper, Dibond mounted and mounted with gloss Perspex on front, 70 x 93 cm

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X-Rayed 2, inkjet print on Epson paper, Dibond mounted and mounted with gloss Perspex on front, 70x 100 cm

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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.

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Ali’s Boat (2015), Stills from video animation

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Ali’s Boat (2015), Stills from video animation

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Ali’s Boat (2015), Stills from video animation

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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”,

representative artists.

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Youssef Nabil, You Never Left III (2010), hand coloured silver print, 50 x 75 cm Courtesy the artist and The Third Line

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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

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Mohammed Kazem, My Neighbours (2006), C-Prints, 70 x 50 cm Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde

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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

empirical meanings.

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.

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Sinopia (2014), Lightjet print mounted on matte diasec 3.5 cm aluminum box edge, 54 x 70 cm

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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

ultimate enactment.

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

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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

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Hassan Sharif, London (1981), silver gelatin print

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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.

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Ebtisam Abdulaziz, Women’s Circles (2011), digital prints mounted on aluminium Courtesy the artist and The Third Line Gallery.

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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

based platforms.

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Khadija Fikri, 42 Maktoum

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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.

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Hind Bin Demaithan, Hafth Al’a Almswadih Da’iman, Always Keep The Negative Clean (2014), Interactive Sculpture

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Al Fadhil and Giovanni Dal Monte, Breathing Cairo (2014), Video Performance

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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.

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Ahmed Mater, Evolution of Man (2010) Five lightboxes, each lightbox 59.4 x 79.2 cm

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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

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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.

photography market.

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


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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 Farès, Paris

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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.

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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

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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.

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Delfina Entrecanales (2011), founder of Delfina Foundation, from the Expired series 125 x 125 cm, black & white silver print photograph

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London Eye (2012), from the Expired series, 125 x 125 cm black & white silver print photograph

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Big Ben II (2012), from the Expired series, 125 x 125 cm, black & white silver print photograph

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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 artists’ photographic and new media work are a must for any serious archive.

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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

artbook enthusiasts.

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.

spiritual place.

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:

universally recognized.”

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

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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

social surroundings.

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.

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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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Photography and New Media from the Arab world

Tribe 00  

Photography and New Media from the Arab world