Tribe 04

Page 1

ISSUE 04/2016


ABRAAJ GROUP ART PRIZE 2017 Winning Artist Rana Begum Shortlisted Artists Sarah Abu Abdallah Doa Aly Raha Raissnia Guest Curator Omar Berrada Rana Begum's newly-commissioned work is included in a group exhibition—featuring all the artists, and curated by Omar Berrada Art Dubai March 15-18, 2017 Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai @AbraajArtPrize

CONTEMPORARY: 1x1 Gallery, Dubai · Ab/Anbar, Tehran · Ag Galerie, Tehran · Agial Art Gallery, Beirut · Aicon Gallery, New York · Albareh Art Gallery, Manama · Sabrina Amrani, Madrid · Artside Gallery, Seoul · Artwin Gallery, Moscow / Baku · Piero Atchugarry Gallery, Pueblo Garzón · Athr, Jeddah · Ayyam Gallery, Dubai / Beirut · Bäckerstrasse 4, Vienna · Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York · Galleri Brandstrup, Oslo · Martin Browne Contemporary, Sydney · Carbon 12, Dubai · Carlier | Gebauer, Berlin · Chatterjee & Lal, Mumbai · Galleria Continua, San Gimignano / Beijing / Les Moulins / Habana · D21 Proyectos de Arte, Santiago · Dastan's Basement, Tehran · East Wing, Dubai · Experimenter, Kolkata · Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde, Dubai · Galerie Imane Farès, Paris · Selma Feriani Gallery, Tunis / London · MLF | MarieLaure Fleisch, Rome / Brussels · GAGProjects, Adelaide · Galerist, Istanbul · Green Art Gallery, Dubai · Grosvenor Gallery, London · GVCC, Casablanca · Gypsum Gallery, Cairo · Leila Heller Gallery, New York / Dubai · Ikkan Art Gallery, Singapore · Inda Gallery, Budapest · Galerie Iragui, Moscow · Kalfayan Galleries, Athens / Thessaloniki · Khak Gallery, Tehran / Dubai · Galerie Dorothea van der Koelen, Mainz · Galerie Krinzinger, Vienna · Lawrie Shabibi, Dubai · In Situ - Fabienne Leclerc, Paris · Galerie Lelong, Paris / New York · Marlborough Gallery, New York / London / Barcelona / Madrid · Meem Gallery, Dubai · Kasia Michalski Gallery, Warsaw · Mind Set Art Center, Taipei · Victoria Miro, London · Mohsen Gallery, Tehran · NK Gallery, Antwerp · Galleria Franco Noero, Turin · O Gallery, Tehran · Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo / Singapore · Pace Art + Technology, Menlo Park · Pechersky Gallery, Moscow · Giorgo Persano, Turin · Plutschow Gallery, Zurich · Project ArtBeat, Tbilisi · Revolver Galeria, Lima · The Rooster Gallery, Vilnius · Galerie Janine Rubeiz, Beirut · Sanatorium, Istanbul · Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg / Beirut · Galerie Michael Sturm, Stuttgart · Sundaram Tagore, New York / Singapore / Hong Kong · Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris / Brussels · The Third Line, Dubai · Upstream Gallery, Amsterdam · Vermelho, Sao Paulo · Vigo Gallery, London · Waddington Custot, London · Zawyeh Gallery, Ramallah · Zidoun-Bossuyt, Luxembourg · Galeri Zilberman, Istanbul / Berlin MODERN: Agial Art Gallery (Beirut, Mustafa Al Hallaj) · ArtTalks | Egypt (Cairo, Mamdouh Ammar) · DAG Modern (New Delhi / Mumbai / New York, Biren De / GR Santosh) · Elmarsa (Tunis / Dubai, Abdelkader Guermaz / Aly Ben Salem) · Grosvenor Gallery (London, Sayed Haider Raza) · Hafez Gallery (Jeddah, Abdulhadi ElWeshahi / Mohammed Ghaleb Khater) · Jhaveri Contemporary (Mumbai, Zahoor ul Akhlaq / Anwar Jalal Shemza) · Françoise Livinec (Paris, Georges Hanna Sabbagh) · Gallery One (Ramallah, Sliman Mansour) · Perve Galeria (Lisbon, Manuel Figueira / Ernesto Shikhani) · Shahrivar Gallery (Tehran, Masoud Arabshahi / Abolghasem Saidi) · Shirin Gallery (Tehran / New York, Hadi Hazavei / Hooshang Pezeshknia) · Tafeta (London, Ben Osawe / Muraina Oyelami) · Le Violon Bleu (Tunis, Ammar Farhat / Zoubeir Turki) · Wadi Finan Art Gallery (Amman, Ahmad Nawash / Wijdan)

Madinat Jumeirah is home to Art Dubai.

ADVANCED MEDIA TRADING L.L.C. No. 409, 4th floor, Al Khaleej Center T: +971 4 352 9977 |

Our Representative Offices: KSA / RIYADH



This is X1D

Handmade in Sweden, the X1D combines Scandinavian sensibility with beautiful performance. Small enough to take anywhere, powerful enough to capture anything.

March 30–April 2, 2017 March 29: Vernissage

Pier 94 New York City

Premier Corporate Partner of AIPAD

Love - 98 X 98 X 98 cm

JANUARY 25 - FEBRUARY 28, 2017,

SUPPORTED BY: The Gate Village Bldg. 3, Level 2, Dubai International Financial Centre Tel. +971 (4) 323 0820 | Fax: +971 (4) 323 0821 |

Benji Boyadgian The Discord

8 March – 28 April 2017 Inspired by eroded ornamental tiles seen in “classical” buildings in Palestine, Benji Boyadgian’s exhibition The Discord dismantles the entangled layers and temporalities encompassing the story of those tiles. Through a painting process of repetition and mutation of the patterns, Boyadgian echoes the footprints that leaves traces on the surface alluding to Palestine as a place at a junction, subject to repeated trespassing throughout history.

Gallery Anadiel 20 Freres st., New Gate, Box 14644, Jerusalem T +970-599-782995 Email:

Al Ma’mal 8 Al Jawalida st. New Gate Old City, Jerusalem T +972-2-628-3457 Email:

Benji Boyadgian, part of the series The Whin, 2016, water color and pencil on paper, 80cm X 80cm



30 curated













starts at 7 pm for more information visit



Abdulrahman Gazzaz

Osama Al Saeed

Anhar Al Salem

Qamar Abdulmalik

Ansam Al Salem

Saeed Gamhawi

Aref Al Nami

Sarah Taibah

Arwa Al Neami

Soaad Jebreel

Hamoud Salem

Turki Gazzaz

Mohammed Alfaraj

Wid Ganwi

photo basel is an independend artfair and the trademark of photo basel GmbH.

Volkshaus Basel Rebgasse 12, 4058 Basel

during Art Basel week: June 14 – 18, 2017

© PutPut, #14 Popsicles, 2012. Courtesy Galerie Esther Woerdehoff, Paris

switzerland‘s first international art fair dedicated to photography

e welcome to th 3rd edition! 2016: same location asless than , Volkshaus Basels from er et 700 m ound. Art Basel fairgr ation: open for applic om photo-basel.c

Fully Booked

The UAE’s first exhibition & fair featuring individuals, groups, collectives, artists, designers, creatives, & publishers...

...producing and working in the mediums of printed matter, books, prints, magazines, publications, multiples, etcetera!


Hosted by Warehouse i-82 Alserkal Avenue #artweekdubai

Opening March 13, 2017 Fair Days March 13–18 Exhibition March 13-27 #fullybookedfair



Issue 04 / 2016

INDUSTRY................................. 20

Wafaa Bilal ………....................... 80

The Art of Nature ,IWPA, Safar

By: Ian Alden Russell

Poetics of Absence, Voyage Voyage

Tarek Al-Ghoussein ..................... 88

Unfolding, Once Upon A Time

By: Lila Nazemian

Photomed Liban, Tadafuq/Flow

Hadil Moufti ………..................... 94

Pattern Recognition, The Truth, Sifr

By: Rose Balston Rania Matar ………...................... 102


By: Sandra Williams

Live Demo ................................... 26

Carole Alfarah ….......................... 108

Raneen Bukhari

By: Maria Santoyo

Phantom Punch ........................... 28

Haya Alkhalifa .............................. 126

Suzy Sikorski

By: Sulaf Derawy Zakharia

Bouchra Khalili ............................ 30

Meriem Bouderbala .................... 132

Ossian Ward

By: Simon Njami

Moza Almatrooshi ....................... 34

Jaber Al Azmeh ........................... 138

Dr. Alexandra MacGilip

By: Rania Habib

Stillness and Stories ................... 36

Rula Halawani .............................. 144

Barbara Lounder

By: Laura Egerton

Sophia Al Maria ........................... 38

Wafa Hourani ............................... 156

Dr. Omar Kholeif

By: Rula Khoury



Larissa Sansour ………................. 44

Lateefa bint Maktoum ................. 116

By: Soren Lind

By: Janet Bellotto

Editor’s note Photographers are story tellers. In this issue the stories are varied, yet all originate from image based work that raise important cultural and even political issues. In this edition we time travel thru Palestine, revisit the past & experience the present through rebuilds of a landmark cinema & constructs of imagined refugee camps years from now. Larissa Sansour takes us way out there with a scifi tale of the future. It’s great to be back at Art Dubai from Photo LA. Our next stop is The Photography Show, organized by AIPAD in NYC, and we’ve partnered with PhotoBasel to release and exhibit the Talent issue of Tribe in June. This has been an amazing year for us, quickly growing into an established photography magazine. We look forward to all the exciting people and places that Tribe will take us to. Thank you

Alaa Edris ……….......................... 56 By: Dr. Woodman Taylor


Amani Al Shaali ………................. 62

Wael Shawky ................................ 150

By: Rajesh Punj

By: Abdellah Karroum

Supported By:

Amina Benbouchta ………........... 68 By: Dalia Hashim


Bashar Alhroub ………................. 74

Driving the Car ............................ 162

By: Bekriah Mawasi

By: Agial Art Gallery

f tribephotonewmedia d tribephotomag

Cover by: Larissa Sansour, In the Future They Ate from the Finest Porcelain 2 (Detail) (2016) Archival pigment print 100 x 200 cm

Media Partnerships:

Publisher Mubarik Jafery

Assistant Editor Woodman Taylor

Legal Consultant Fatimah Malik

Photo Editor Sueraya Shaheen

Copy Editor Dalia Hashim

Distribution Matthew Lombard

Associate Editor New Media Janet Bellotto

Business Devlopment Nanda Collins

Design Channels

Design Assistant Zia Paulachak Upendra Kumar Santosh Print Consultant Sivadas Menon Production Gopi Nathan

Pre Press Rana Kumar Print Supervisor Sreejesh Krishnan Printer Vimalan Muhammed Shah

Contact + 9714.421.0429 Printed in Dubai Printwell Printing Press (L.L.C.)

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.

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Writers Abdellah Karroum is the curator of Wael Shawky’s

she translates from/to Arabic, English and Hebrew,

Laura Egerton is a Dubai-based writer and curator.

solo exhibition at Fondazione Merz in Torino in 2016.

writes reviews and is involved in Mudam, a

She was one of the founding team behind Art Dubai

He is been the Founding Editor of Hors’champs

cooperative online project of rethinking translation,

where she ran education programmes, selected

Publishing since 1999 and the Founding Director of

especially of texts that discuss the image and its

art projects and was Curator of the Abraaj Group

L’Appartement 22 in Rabat since 2002. He has been


Art Prize for its first five years. Laura has worked

the Director of Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha since 2013.

for Lawrie Shabibi, Dubai, the Peggy Guggenheim Dalia Hashim is an independent non-fiction writer,

Collection, Venice and Christies Auction House,

editor and linguist, who is interested in the synergy

London and holds MAs in art history from

Dr. Alexandra MacGilp is a curator, writer and art

between sociocultural narratives, behaviour and

Cambridge University and the Courtauld Institute

historian from London. She studied curating at the

visual art. She holds a BA in Modern Languages

of Art. f lauralouiseegerton

Royal College of Art and undertook her Ph.D. at the

from University College London and an MSc in

University of Reading in collaboration with Tate Britain,

Culture and Society from The London School of

Lila Nazemian is US Projects Director at

writing on the development of the Tate’s Collection.

Economics. She currently works between Dubai

CULTURUNNERS. Previously the Curatorial and

She is interested in film, video, performance and

and London.

Special Projects Associate at Leila Heller Gallery

installation practices and archive materials. MacGilp is

f dalia__hashim

in New York, she received a BA in History from

currently Programmes Manager at the Contemporary Art Society, London. f alimacglip

Scripps College in California, and an MA in Near Ian Alden Russell is a contemporary art curator.

Eastern Studies from NYU in New York. She curated

Currently the Curator of Brown University’s David

the first show of contemporary Arab art in Iran at

Alia Al-Senussi is an active member of the

Winton Bell Gallery, he was previously Assistant

Tehran’s Mohsen Gallery in April 2016. f its_lila

contemporary art world, with a special focus on arts

Professor of Contemporary Art and Curatorial

and culture in the Middle East and promoting young

Practice at Koç University in Istanbul, Turkey. He

María Santoyo is a researcher and teacher

patronage of the arts. Alia is Chairman of the Tate

holds a PhD in History and Archaeology from

specialised in the history of photography and image

Young Patrons, founding International Co-Chair of

Trinity College Dublin, and currently lives in

analysis. She has a degree in art history from the

the Chinati Foundation Contemporaries Council

Providence, Rhode Island. d ianaldenrussell

Complutense University of Madrid and has fifteen

as well as a member of the Committee for the

f ianaldenrussell

years of experience working in the cultural sector,

Serpentine Gallery Future Contemporaries group.

as well as more then ten dedicated to the direction

Amongst Alia’s professional commitments, she is the

Janet Bellotto is an artist, educator, writer and

and management of Exhibition projects. She has

VIP Representative for the United Kingdom and the

curatorial initiator from Toronto, who splits her

been working independently since 2014. Lately, she

Middle East for Art Basel. Alia is currently studying

time teaching in Dubai as an Associate Professor

has been managing the Ragel Archive, a collection

towards her PhD in Politics at SOAS focusing on

and Associate Dean of the College of Arts and

of about 10,000 negatives from the late 19th and

cultural hegemony.

Creative Enterprises at Zayed University, UAE. She

early 20th centuries.

creates projects that promote cultural exchange Barbara Lounder is a visual artist from Nova Scotia,

through curating and writing, with a current

Dr. Omar Kholeif is a curator, writer, editor, platform

Canada. She has a BFA from Queens University in

focus on photography and new media art in the

initiator/organizer and sometime filmmaker

Kingston, Ontario, and an MFA from the Nova Scotia

MENA region and was Artistic Director for the

based in London and Chicago. A specialist in

College of Art and Design (NSCAD University), where

20th International Symposium on Electronic Art

modern and contemporary art, Kholeif is also a

she now teaches. Lounder’s work has been shown

(ISEA2014) held in Dubai. Sculpture/Installation is

scholar of contemporary artist films, video and

in galleries across Canada and internationally, and

central to her practice that also uses and expands

emerging technology, with a particular focus

she has also published writings on the work of other

with the mediums of photography, video, sound

on politics, narrative and geography in a global


and performance. Her work has been exhibited in

context. Kholeif is Manilow Senior Curator at the

a variety of collective, group and solo exhibitions

Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Kholeif

Bekriah Mawasi is a self-taught photographer,

internationally, including Beijing, Istanbul, New

has curated exhibitions, commissions and special

translator, linguist and art enthusiast. She lives in

York, Toronto and Venice.

projects internationally.

central Palestine. Her interests are multi-disciplinary—

d janetbellotto f janetbellotto

f everythingok

18 tribe

Ossian Ward is Head of Content at Lisson Gallery

March 2017, an eight-part Sky Arts series will be

which has been translated into several languages.

and a writer on contemporary art. Formerly the Visual

released, with Rose co-presenting Fake! The Great

Before turning to fiction, Lind wrote books on

Arts Editor for Time Out London, editor of ArtReview

Masterpiece Challenge alongside Giles Coren.

mind, language and understanding. In addition

and the V&A magazine, his book, titled Ways of

Rose has commentated for BBC Breakfast, Sky

to his literary production, he is also a visual artist,

Looking: How to Experience Contemporary Art, was

News, Al-Jazeera, and is Condé Nast Traveller

director and scriptwriter.

published by Laurence King in 2014. d OssianWard

London Art Expert. She holds an art history MA

Rajesh Punj is a London-based art critic and

from Edinburgh University.

Sulaf Derawy Zakharia is a Bahrain-based arts

f rosebalston

writer. Her work on contemporary Middle Eastern

correspondent, with an academic background in

art has been published in a number of print and

European and American art history and curating

Rula Khoury was born in Haifa. She is a curator, art

on-line publications including L’Egenda Golfe,

from Warwick University (UK), and Goldsmiths (UK)

historian and art critic. She received a Masters degree

Brownbook, NuktaArt,

respectively. With a specialist interest in South Asia

in art history from Haifa University (2011). Khoury was

and Artchronika.

and the Middle East, he is regularly commissioned

the artistic director of Khalil Sakakini Culture Center

by international publications including Harper’s

(2014). She was the curator of Manam and Mapping

Suzy Sikorski is currently a US Fulbright Student in

Bazaar Art Arabia, and Sculpture (Washington),

Procession at the Qalandiya International Biennale

Dubai, interviewing Emirati artists with a larger focus

and has interviewed Bill Viola and Subodh Gupta,

(2014). Currently Khoury lives New York City where

on 20th century Gulf art histories. She received her

among others.

she is pursuing a Masters degree in Writing and Art

undergraduate degree from Fordham University in

Criticism from the School of Visual Arts.

New York, completing her thesis on three generations

Raneen Bukhari grew in a business/art environment,

of Emirati artists. While living in Sharjah, Paris and New

with an artist as a mother and a businessman father.

Sandra Williams is Assistant Curator in the Art of

York she assisted galleries at regional art fairs and was

In 1990, her parents opened Desert Designs, and

the Middle East Department at the Los Angeles

involved in several curated projects. Currently based

today, she is fully engaged with the business. Bukhari

County Museum of Art. She completed her MA

in Dubai, she is a contributor for ArtAsiaPacific and

is the co-creator and curator of LOUDArt, a traveling

in art history at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York

Harper’s Bazaar Art Arabia.

exhibition on experimental art, and a co-founder of

University, where she worked on nineteenth-century

f mideastart_art

HunaArt, a platform for art education. Recently, she

Iranian photography. Dr. Woodman Taylor’s interdisciplinary scholarship

has been freelance curating at different locations.


Simon Njami is an independent lecturer, curator,

explicates performative practices of visual

and art critic, and a visual-arts consultant for

culture. He has published on a wide range of

Beirut-born Rania Habib is the Deputy Editor of

Cultures France, the French Ministry of Foreign

topics, from ritual uses of Buddhist icons to the

Architectural Digest ME, and has written extensively

Affairs’ cultural branch. He was also the Curator

poetics of visuality in Bollywood. Recent research

about the Middle Eastern art and design scene. She

of the 12th Edition of the Dak’Art Biennale (2016).

includes the articulation of conceptual art by both

obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from

He received an MA in art history and philosophy

Emirati and UAE resident artists. His essay and

Montreal’s Concordia University and has written

and a PhD in law and modern literature. Njami

installation Cycling the City was commissioned by

for various publications including Canvas, Harper’s

has curated numerous exhibitions of African art

the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority for the 2014

Bazaar Art Arabia, Brownbook, Selections, Alef, and

and photography, including Die Andere Reise/The

Sikka Art Fair. With a PhD from the University of

Rolling Stone Middle East.

Other Journey: Africa and the Diaspora and As

Chicago, he has taught at the University of Illinois

You Like It, the first African contemporary art fair in

as well as at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi.

Rose Balston is a freelance lecturer and guide, a TV

Johannesburg (2008). Njami is also co-founder and

After curating numerous exhibitions of South Asian

presenter and Founding Director of Art History UK,

editor-in-chief of the Paris based cultural magazine

and Islamic art at Harvard and Boston’s Museum

a boutique London-based cultural tours company.

Revue Noire.

of Fine Arts, Woodman now teaches art history

Operating between London and Dubai, Rose offers

and ethnomusicology at the American University

bespoke art history courses, lectures, tours and

Soren Lind (b. 1970) is a Danish author. He writes

in Dubai, where he chairs the Department of Visual

curated art events for corporates, networking

literary fiction and children’s books, most recently an

Communication and is founding convenor of the

groups, private member clubs and families. In

illustrated trilogy of philosophy books for children

AUD Visual Cultures Forum.

tribe 19


The Art of Nature With the support of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Festival 2017 presents a diverse visual arts programme during the months of March and April. The world premiere of The Art of Nature exhibition in partnership with the Environment Agency– Abu Dhabi takes place at Umm Al Emarat Park exhibition hall from 23rd March to 23rd April. The exhibition aims to explore the natural beauty, diversity and rich ecosystems of the Emirates; from the desert, sabkha and mountains to marine and terrestrial species as well as flora and fauna. The Art of Nature brings together the UAE’s leading contemporary practitioners who encounter diverse environments and reflect on the exceptional species and habitats unique to the UAE. Complementing the exhibition is an education programme for all ages under the patronage of H.H. Sheikha Shamsa Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan, which features commissioned artists Hazem Harb (leading a guided tour of the Mangrove National Park), Janet Bellotto, Hendrik Wahl, Michael Rice, Anjali Srinivasan, Roberto Lopardo and Azza Al Qubaisi (in conversation) and leading Emirati photographer Reem Saeed, who is leading a workshop. Younger visitors to the exhibition can also explore the country’s marine, land and plant life in a dedicated activities area featuring fascinating facts about the UAE’s wildlife and environment.

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Farah Salem Untitled 10 from the series Cornered (2015-6) Archival pigment print 90 x 60 cm. Courtesy of the artist

International Women Photographers Award, 2017 Edition

all across the world, with a focus on the Middle East. A staggering

The International Women Photographers Award (IWPA) is organised by Antidote Art

of its kind in the region, focusing only on women, both professional and

and Design in collaboration with the International Women Photographers Association

amateur. IWPA’s prize (travelling exhibition) offers these women a platform

and Alliance Française, Dubai.

to exhibit their work to a large audience in various cities around the

number of over 800 submissions from more than 70 countries around the world already marks the success of this Award. It is the first exhibition

world. IWPA has chosen the 8th March, which is International Women’s Brought to the Middle East by Antidote, and taking place for the first time in Dubai,

Day, for its event as it globally celebrates women, their individuality,

this unique exhibition will showcase photographs taken by women from

creativity and talent.

Moath Alofi The Last Tashahhud, Installation view of Safar exhibition, part of 21,39 Jeddah Arts (2017) duratran prints on lightboxes Courtesy of Saudi Art Council. Photo by: Majed Angawi.

launched 21,39 in 2014 to create a platform for local artists and institutions to gain visibility among local audiences, as well as to connect with the global art community. The 4th edition of 21,39 opens the 1st February 2017, with a featured exhibition and education forum curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath. The 2017 edition is conceived as both a public forum for creative experimentation, as well as a visual arts exhibition. Entitled safar, the multifaceted program explores the notion of travel and movement as a vehicle for learning and growth and features artworks, creative projects and new commissions by 17 Saudi artists. The theme takes its inspiration from the Arabic word for travel, safar, which itself is rooted in

Safar: 21,39, Jeddah

the word sāfer—a term that is used to describe things that are revealed, or unveiled. Bardaouil and Fellrath explained, ‘Rather than simply describing

Organised by the Saudi Art Council (chaired by HRH Princess Jawaher bint Majed

movement from one site to another, safar implies a process of discovery

bin Abdulaziz), 21,39 is an annual art initiative in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, whose

and exploration by which things are revealed to the traveler—added

aim is to foster Saudi Arabia’s thriving art community. Named for the geographic

knowledge of self, of others, of the places that were left behind and of

coordinates of the city of Jeddah (21.5433°N, 39.1728°E), the Saudi Art Council

the places that were arrived at.’

tribe 21


Afra Bin Dhaher, Dream Installation from the series Hymns to a Sleeper (2015) Video projection on window frames with soundtrack, 1.25 min looped, courtesy of the artist

Poetics of Absence: 1x1 Gallery, Dubai Poetics of Absence, curated by Cristiana de Marchi, shown at 1x1 Gallery in Alserkal Avenue (15th January-28th February 2017) explores disruption and fragmentation caused by absence and departures. It largely features photography and film installations, such as Nedim Kufi and Youssef Nabil, who individually play with removing figures in nearly identical images side-by-side. Other participants include Afra Bin Dhaher, Alia Lootah, Chittrovanu Mazumdar, John Clang, Lamia Joreige, Mohamad Said Baalbaki, Monika Weiss, Reza Aramesh, Tarek Al Ghoussein, Tomoko Hayashi and Wafaa Bilal. The show’s thoughtful exploration of absence and portrayal of people stranded across and through national borders is particularly apt given contemporary political events.

Ibi Ibrahim, Voyage Voyage 10 50 x 50 cm, Voyage Voyage 01 60 x 40 cm and Voyage Voyage 03 60 x 40 cm from the series Voyage Voyage (2017) Archival pigment prints Images courtesy of the artist

Voyage Voyage: Malja, Bahrain Voyage Voyage, a solo exhibition by Yemeni multimedia artist Ibi Ibrahim, showcases an assemblage of conceptual paintings, video, and photographs at Malja Bahrain. The title of the exhibition is a reference to what the artist calls ‘a journey to explore memory and identity’ through the three countries he visited and explored: Yemen, Lebanon and most Akram Zaataris, Endnote (2014) Video Still. Zaatari sitting side by side with Hashem El Madani at his studio Shehrazade, staring at a computer screen, while a spectacle of loud Lebanese music, colours and lights gradually unfolds behind them

Unfolding: Galerie Sfeir-Semler, Beirut

22 tribe

recently Bahrain. During his one month stay in Bahrain, the artist engaged with locals from various backgrounds, with the aim of exploring the diversity and uniqueness of the island. It wasn’t a surprise that he would make a few stops at the infamous 30+ year-old Bahraini fast-food chain: Jasmi’s.

Unfolding refers to Akram Zaatari’s original intervention in Saida’s old market in 2008,

Through his conversations and engagements, Ibrahim came to realise

when he identified photographs taken by Hashem El Madani, showing shop owners

that Jasmi’s was more than just a 24-hour fast-food destination in the

posing at the doors of their stores, in his hometown Saida. The work presented in

eyes of the residents of the island; it was a destination of memory;

this exhibition includes original prints, identical to those installed in Saida’s market

recalling birthdays, after-school meetups, late night hangouts... etc. The

and another set of the same shops as photographed by Zaatari today. Born in

photo installation displayed is a tribute to the simplicity of the landscape

Saida, Lebanon in 1966, Zaatari belongs to a generation of conceptual artists who

that continues to create memories and can often be a reference to a

grew up during the Lebanese Civil War.

contemporary identity of the islands simplicity and diversity.

Shadi Habib Allah, Video still from the series Daga’a (2015) courtesy the artist and Green Art Gallery, Dubai

Daga’a: Green Art Gallery, Dubai Green Art Gallery hosts the first presentation (15th January-7th Feburuary) in the

Born in Jerusalem, Palestine in 1977, Habib Allah received a BFA from Bezalel

region of Daga’a (18:53 min, 2015), a video work by Palestinian artist Shadi

Academy of Arts and Design in 2003 and an MFA from Columbia University

Habib Allah. Habib Allah embarks on an unlikely journey near gunpoint across

in 2010. His practice ranges from film, sculpture and drawing to installation.

the heavily militarised Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, led by a network of Bedouin

While each project defines its own terms based on research and physical

smugglers who navigate an unmapped terrain. The only signposts are the stories

engagement, a common thread is opening up suggestive modes of navigation

they share about the stakes of living, dying, and moving through this mysterious

across circulating networks of people, technologies, objects, images and

space. Anecdotes transition into directions and allegiances are blurred, as is

economy to examining ideas of use and value and the structures that hold

the state of the Bedouins, who remain unrecognised citizens of this no man’s

them in place. He was twice awarded 2nd Prize for the Young Artist Award

land. Their navigational tactics, a combination of discipline of movement and

from the A.M. Qattan Foundation, and has attended residencies at the Delfina

coordination developed by necessity to evade military patrols, mirrors the

Foundation, Cittadelarte, Fondazione Pistoletto in Biella, Italy and Gasworks in

militarised mentality of the Egyptian army. These desert outliers quietly continue

London, England. He was nominated for the Luma Award 2011 and was the

their lineage with the help of snakes.

2012 recipient of the Louis Comfort Tiffany Award.

Once Upon A Time/ Hadiqat Al Umma: Maraya Art Centre, Sharjah

Sadik Kwaish Alfraji from the series Once Upon A Time At Hadiqat Al Umma (2016) Animation frame drawing, Charcoal on Paper. 27 x 48 cm

shops, cinemas, theatres, restaurants, cafés and popular markets, making it the heart of the community’s social activities. The park was neglected over time and this project pulls

Maraya Art Centre’s upcoming solo exhibition,

from the artist’s vivid recollections of its plants

opening on the 4th March and running until the 6th

and fountains to evoke the nostalgia and

May 2017, features the works of renowned Iraqi

sentimentality of his childhood. This installation

artist Sadik Kwaish Alfraji, entitled Once Upon

will stir memories and emotions, conjuring up

A Time: Hadiqat Al Umma. The exhibition will

the landmark park that lives in the memory of

present a panoramic multimedia video installation

generations of Iraqis, incorporating imagery

and is curated by Laura Metzler and Dr. Alexandra

from the work of national icons Jawad Salim and


Faiq Hassan, which are found within the garden

In this exhibition, Alfraji revives his childhood

itself and are part of the core of Iraqi cultural

experience of Hadiqat Al Umma ‘The Nation’s

identity. The work has been commissioned by

Park,’ in Baghdad. Built in the 1930s, the public

the Barjeel Art Foundation and the exhibition is

space was surrounded by music and photography

also supported by Ayyam Gallery.

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Photomed Liban 2017, Beirut

participate in its yearly event. For the past six years, Photomed has been

The Photomed Liban 2017 festival takes place between the 18 January

showcasing and highlighting Mediterranean beauty. From documentary

and the 8th February and is curated by Guillaume de Sardes. It focuses

testimonials to pure artistic expression, photography is a way to register and

on four themes: Cinema (featuring Danielle Arbid, Richard Dumas, Alain

comprehend the world from several points of view. Beyond political, social,

Fleischer, Sergio Strizzi); The Poetry of Ruins (featuring Ferran Freixa,

and religious upheavals, the Mediterranean is, above all, a region full of life

Wassim Ghozlani, Nicole Herzog-Verrey); The City Of Beirut (featuring

and movement. In 2014, a Lebanese edition of Photomed was created by

George Awde, Giulio Rimondi, Lara Tabet, Bilal Tarabey), and The 70S (Marc

Serge Akl, Philippe Heullant, and Tony el Hage. It is similar to Photomed

Riboud, Christine Alaoui).

Festival, which every year brings together young talents and well-known

Founded in Sanary on the Var coast of France, Photomed has endeavored to

artists and photographers. Four years later, Photomed Liban is now a key

embrace its coastal roots by inviting artists from Mediterranean countries to

event for photography in Beirut and the Middle East.


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Below: Ali Chaaban This Too Shall Pass from the show Tadafuq (2017) Neon and metal 120 cm

Clockwise: Christine Alaoui from the series Blended. Bilal Tarabey from the series The Return. Wassim Ghozlani from the series Postcards from Tunisia


Tadafuq/Flow: Beydoun Exhibition Space, Jeddah

video, installation, textile art, ceramic, collage

Tadafuq contemporary Saudi art show in

and the experience of memory.

Jeddah is a collaboration between Banafsajeel,

The artists participating in Tadafuq include

Hafez Gallery, and Art Jameel hosted by

Abdulrahman Al Maghraby, Ahaad Al Amoudi,

Beydoun Exhibition Space. The group

Alaa Abdullah, Alaa Tarabzouni, Ali Al Hassan,

exhibition is co-curated by Noor Aldabbagh

Ali Cha’aban, Amro Mohammed, Awatif Al

and Qaswra Hafez and showcases emerging

Safwan, Ayman Yousri Daydban, Ayman Zedani,

and established artists from Saudi Arabia. 37

Donia AlShetairy, Eyad Maghazil, Fahad Al

artists individually interpret the idea of 'flow'

Gethami, Filwa Nazer, Ghada Da, Khalid Zahid,

through painting, sculpture, photography,

amongst others.

and others. Topics include migration, urban sprawl, dissemination of technology, spirituality

Inas Halabi, Video stills from the series Mnemosyne (2016) The title of the work is borrowed from the Titan goddess of memory and the ‘inventress of language and words’.

Pattern Recognition: The Mosaic Rooms, London Showcasing the best of emerging contemporary art from Palestine, The Mosaic Rooms presents new works by selected artists shortlisted for the A.M. Qattan Foundation’s prestigious Young Artist of the Year Award 2016. Five artists are featured in this exhibition: Inas Halabi, Somar Sallam, Majd Masri, Noor Abed and Ruba Salameh. The artists were challenged by curator Nat Muller to break loose from familiar representations of art created in the Palestinian context. They explored the notion of repetition and pattern to develop fresh approaches in their work. This exhibition is rooted in the artists’ individual experiences of Palestine, where geographies, histories and identities are fragmented. However, its themes—displacement, resistance and the blurring of truth—resonate in today’s wider world.

The Truth: Karim Gallery, Amman The selected artworks in the exhibition of the Iraqi artist Nizar Yahya come as the fruit of exhaustive

Nizar Yahya Seat 3 (Ecstasy) (2013) 14.6 x 11.5 cm

Hady Sy, Sifr from the series Sifr (2014) Archival pigment print 75.6 x 180 cm Zero from the series Sifr (2008) Archival pigment print 75.6 x 180 cm

creative efforts exerted throughout

Sifr: Saleh Barakat Gallery, Beirut

a period close to four years. Yahya’s

Sifr is a solo show by the multimedia artist Hady Sy that surveys the role of

works are inspired by a variety of

capital in society and politics. Taking place at Saleh Barakat Gallery, Beirut and

sources that establish the visual

coinciding with the 2017 edition of Photomed Liban, the exhibition covers the

perception this exhibition highlights,

ways in which capital shapes the world at large, and the art world in particular.

as it exposes the audience to

Through wordplay and pastiche, Sifr begins with local manifestations of a

different perspectives in treating

universal condition, and moves into their global reverberations. It traces how

the theme. In the first place, his

capital mediates intimate (often gendered) relationships, and even more

treatment employs photography

assertively, how it structures our very thoughts. His work gestures towards

with models next to it that are

the problem with the value-form itself.

supplemented with the preliminary

Hady Sy was born in Beirut in 1964. He is a multimedia artist, principally

research of the artwork

engaging in photography. He has a Bachelor’s degree from Beirut University

The above is an excerpt from a text

College and a Master’s degree from EFAP and the Sorbonne. He was the

in Arabic by Amar Dawod, an Iraqi

president of the Association of the Promotion of Photography (APP) in Paris

artist living and working in Sweden.

and New York, and is a member of La Maison des Artistes in Paris.

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REVIEW Images - Courtesy of Pharan Studio and Arwa Studio. Writer - Raneen Bukhari, curator.

Live Demo: No boundaries no audience No monopoly no circles no cliques, no names no galleries, full freedom Two days before the opening of Jeddah art week

Arif was looking for a gas station but to no avail.

and 21,39, Live Demo, a grassroots and artist-run

Near Mari’b, where oil was
first discovered in

art show opened at Pharan Studio, the first public

Yemen, he found explosive pomegranate coloured

event to occur at the studio owned by Ahmed

juice on top of barrels of oil as an alternative to

Mater and Arwa AlNeami. The concept was simple;

petrol stations. The work shows the different ways

first comes fun and second comes discussion.

that society resists the world's conflicts. Here,

The need existed to connect with each other and to create a conversation about the experience and experiments of artists, all the while, avoiding pressure, stress and boundaries. The hope is that this will propagate Mater’s and Alneami’s vision that artists must be the prime and only influence on their art, that the artist is the owner and decision maker. This is about encouraging creative critique and feedback by joining observers and art experimentation in one space, one in which to exercise creative muscles and truly experiment with art. The group show was curated by AlNeami and Raneen Bukhari, and out of 14 artists, two were photographers and one film maker. The first is Arif AlNomay, a Saudi-based Yemeni photographer born in 1970. This is his first experience showcasing his work. He started as a portrait photographer in Abha and has since 2010 been working in Ahmed Mater's studio in Jeddah. In 2016, he immersed himself in documenting Yemen's various lifestyles. The collection, called Pomegranate Colored Containers, was captured during a short trip to Yemen, through Al-Wadiah.

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Arif Alnomay, from the series Colored Juice Container (2016) 105 x 75 cm

Ansam Salem, video stills, from the series Our Steps are Counted and Limited (2016) 30 x 40 cm Ansam Salem wants to document her story; a story that is different than what most people think about Jeddah and about Saudi. Hers is a story of escape, exploration and of adventure

Mohammed AlFaraj, video stills, from Glimpses of Now (2017) video 30 mins long Glimpses of now is a work in progress. Ever-changing with every moment he experiences in his daily life

AlNomay explores a mix of socio-political stories of explosive pomegranate juice, which can be found along every street in Yemeni cities. Also exibiting is Ansam Salem, born in 1996. Ansam documents her daily life in Jeddah. Navigating the city through a life that she never lived before. Her series, Our Steps are Counted and Limited, shows a side of Jeddah unseen to most visitors or even citizens. Enjoying adventures with friends that she met through social media, she explores her surroundings with a freedom unfelt in the confines of family tradition. Another artist showing moving images is Mohammed AlFaraj. A film-maker recently back from an inspirational trip to Japan with Crossway Foundation, AlFaraj started filming interesting moments of his movements. Glimpses of Now is a work in constant progress, recording visually interesting scenes. The founder of Live Demo is Arwa AlNeami, and Raneen Bukhari co-curated the first iteration with her. Find them on @arwaastudio or @raneenbukhari and information on the movement on and @livedemo.

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REVIEW Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Suzy Sikorski.

Phantom Punch: Contemporary Art from Saudi Arabia Suzy Sikorski interviews Nouf Alhimiary The Saudi Artists’ US Tour comes to Lewiston,

Suzy Sikorski: Before arriving in Lewiston, what

Maine! Phantom Punch: Contemporary Art from

were your expectations?

Saudi Arabia brought 16 artists and two YouTube

Nouf Alhimiary: I really had no expectations other

collectives to Bates College, introducing them

than it being freezing cold. I looked up Lewiston

through lectures, performances, story-telling and

because I never heard about it before. Stephen

pop-up events. Phantom Punch refers to Muhammed

Stapleton (founder of Culturunners) and Danny

Ali’s 1965 boxing match with Sonny Liston that took

Danforth (curator of the exhibition) took us around

place in Lewiston, shocking the crowds through Ali’s

Lewiston, Auburn, and Portland. We also had the

unexpected lightning-fast knockout. Bringing back

opportunity to speak about our perspective in

this unexpected thrill to the local community, this

Danny’s anthropology class: myth, folklore and

show disbanded stereotypes of the Middle East

popular culture. It felt beautiful to witness the

during one of the most divisive periods in US history.

students’ openness to us, and our stories; as

Alhimiary’s series of photographs, The Desire to

(NA): No, not necessarily. My work deals with

Not Exist (2015) features three photos of a woman

representation, basically reclaiming my narrative

caught underneath the water’s surface, reaching

as a Saudi woman and a millennial, and taking

It felt beautiful to witness the student’s openness to us, and our stories; as well as listening to the questions they had about who we were, where we came from, and what our projects meant.

towards the light but forever caught within this

agency to define my reality as opposed to having

about the garments the girls are wearing—hijab

moment of silence and stillness. Further adding to

it defined for me by others (whether that other is

is a symbol of oppression in the West, the general

the performative role of fixed social narratives, the

the Western media, or men in my society). The

impression from a Western perspective, I found,

woman is not wearing a black abaya, but instead a

hijab is not just a religious symbol, it is also cultural.

was the association of hijab and drowning with

prayer garment. Re-appropriating texts taken from

Because I live in Saudi I have to wear a hijab,

oppression. However, there was the cultural aspect

Egyptian literary figure, Tawfiq Al Hakim cited in an

regardless of my religious beliefs.

of hijab that I found to be absent. In the image, the

well as listening to the questions they had about One of the featured artists is Nouf Alhimiary,

who we were, where we came from and what our

an experimental photographer and visual

projects meant.

communications designer that uses her background in English literature and linguistics to explore identity

(SS): The Desire to Not Exist deals with women

politics and gender issues from a feminist perspective.

drowning. Does this touch upon the stereotype that Saudi woman do not have a voice?

article from an online youth journal, Alhimiary paints

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girl is wearing a prayer garment, which signifies

these women’s faces with Arabic words ‘no’ and

The Desire to not exist – Drowning is the most

vulnerability and openness to the divine, being

‘walks on water and does not drown,’ shifting the

perfect form of isolation. In my opinion, as a

able to tell those students about those additional

focus of these signs of refusal to the female context.

motif, drowning captures an integral struggle in

layers of meaning that they were never exposed

I had the chance to interview artist Alhimiary as she

the human condition that is universal to all of us.

to allowed me to represent a part of my herstory

travelled to the US for the first time during the show.

In Danny’s class, I was asked a lot of questions

that told something about who I am.

Untitled (1,2,3) from the series The Desire to Not Exist (2015) Archival pigment print

(SS): So, this is more of a personal battle with yourself—whether you are in Saudi or in the West? (NA): It’s personal and universal at the same time, I suppose. I got asked an interesting question—one of the American students asked me: if I was speaking about universals such as isolation, alienation and vulnerability, then why not use outfits that are easy to relate to? To me, that was really important to address; what is easy to relate to? Does it have to look westernised to be relatable? I think we hold ourselves accountable when we confront these questions, ‘why can’t I relate to people dressed differently to me?’ (SS): What was the best platform for you to exhibit your work? (NA): The internet is my main platform. It allows me to reach audiences that I can never reach through exhibits and within the walls of galleries. However, it is an honor to be able to take your art across borders to a such a liberal, diverse and beautiful campus as Bates College. Spearheaded by the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, this multifaceted program of exhibitions and education initiatives was launched in Houston, Texas, in June 2016. To date, the exhibitions have attracted over 15,000 visitors across four cities, offering community focused public programming, including seven artists’ performances, fifteen artists’ talks and lectures, and curator-led tours for over thirty local universities and schools. Confirmed locations in 2017 include Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Detroit, Washington D.C. and New York City.

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REVIEW Images - Courtesy of the artist and Lisson Gallery . Writer - Ossian Ward.

Bouchra Khalili: Mapping Without Borders Take a journey through oral history and the revolutionary past “We are all Creole,”1 says the artist of Moroccan-

long periods of time. Progressively, they became

political pasts, all being home at one time to

French heritage, who has recently based herself

narrators of their own stories. It was also a process

an international independence or resistance

between Paris, Oslo and Berlin. Bouchra Khaili is a

of empowerment.”

movement. One hotel hosted a Black Panther

quiet but forcefully spoken artist, whose powerful

Party delegation in 1969—Eldridge Cleaver

messages belie a subtle and complex delivery,

Another film describes the near impossibility of

himself came to Algiers after being exiled from

through film, photography and language. Her

a man in Ramallah travelling to see his lover in

the US. Other shots show the headquarters of

best known piece—dealing, as much of her work

Jerusalem: ‘He is not a refugee,’ says Khalili, ‘but

the Portuguese National Liberation Front or

does, with forced migration and the often unseen

someone who can’t visit his girlfriend 14 kilometres

other emancipatory groups from South Africa,

itineraries of people—is The Mapping Journey

away.’ As he talks off camera, his hand scrawls

Mozambique, Eritrea, Angola, Palestine, and even

Project (2008-11), which has itself been on a world

movements across a map of the West Bank—one

the Canary Islands (each had its own acronym:

tour since it was shown at the 10 Sharjah Biennial

that Khalili could not source from a bookshop like

the ANC, the FLSC, the PAIGC and so on).

in 2011, most recently being seen at MoMA in

the others, but that she finally procured from ‘a

‘Every image is like a pastiche of an architectural

New York in 2016 and at the Lisson Gallery in

group of Palestinian cartographers I got to know,

photographic style: very objective, very distant,

London, in 2017.

who were collaborating with the United Nations

but each is a complete paradox—they are

to update a map of Gaza. This one is from August

colonial buildings built under French occupation

2009 and of course it has changed since then.’

with Orientalist carpets and frescos, as well as


The eight-screen installation deals with eight individual trips that take in diverse locations all

Chinese-inspired furniture. All the photos show

over Europe, the Middle East and North Africa,

As in this episode (Mapping Journey #3), there are

entrances, again to articulate an in-between time

often spanning periods of many years. One man

further layers of romance and human storytelling

and place in history and also a sort of ghost story.’

tells of his torturous and stalled attempts to find

to complicate the seeming insanity of such forced,

work and refuge—in Alicante, Girona, Bologna,

protracted and often illegal journeys, depicted

Khalili’s forthcoming work for Documenta in Athens

Milan, Breda and Utrecht—before returning

in an accompanying suite of prints, entitled The

and Kassel may see her tread a similar path, but

circuitously through many of these places, only

Constellations Series (2011). These deep blue

it is only ever a reflection of the immemorial

to end up back in his hometown of Beni-Mellal

fields transform each Mapping Journey into an

movement of people and ideologies, rather than

in Morocco, where he had begun his journey

abstract night sky with stopping-off points as

a reaction to events in the news. “Many of these

with just 7 euros in his pocket. “The basis of

stars, stripping away geographical borders rather

projects existed before I was an artist and result

our relationship was our conversations. The fact

than reinforcing them. “The work is not about

from my own experience of being a teenager in

that Moroccan Arabic is my mother tongue—

migration, but rather about the consequences

Casablanca. It started very clearly in 1991 with

and that it is quite similar to Tunisian or Algerian

of restrictive conceptions of nation states and

the Shengen Agreement, when Europeans could

or Middle Eastern dialects—made it easier, but

colonial history.”

finally travel almost without any document or

it was mostly about patience and listening for 1 All quotes taken from a conversation between Bouchra Khalili and Emma Gifford-Mead at Lisson Gallery, 28th, January, 2017.

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passport—it became almost a no-borders area A newer, but no less expansive body of work,

for them—but for us it was the opposite. We knew

Foreign Office (2015) includes photographs of

that people were crossing the Straits of Gibraltar

abandoned Algerian interiors with important

illegally. These are stories I have known forever.”

clockwise: Headquarters of the representa (2015) C-Print 60 x 75 cm, Headquarters of the MPLA deleg (2015) C-Print 75 x 100 cm Headquarters of ANC representa (2015) C-Print 75 x 60 cm, Headquarters of the FPLN representa (2015) C-Print 80 x 100 cm Grand Hotel Victoria, Algiers (2015) C-Print 80 x 60 cm

The way the photographs are laid out relates loosely to the geographical positioning of the locations within the city of Algiers. Some small adjustments have been made for the gallery space, but that is the intention. The work that is hung on its own is the only organisation that is still active in Algiers, and so it is singled out slightly.

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clockwise: Cinema El Hillal, Ex-Triomphe (2015) C-Print 80 x 100 cm, Hôtel El Djazair (2015) C-Print 80 x 100 cm Aéro-Habitat, Telemly (2015) C-Print 80 x 100 cm, Cinema El Hillal, Ex-Triomphe (2015) C-Print 60 x 80 cm Hôtel El Safir (2015) C-Print 100 x 125 cm, Hôtel El Safir (2015) C-Print 80 x 100 cm Headquarters of the DFLP deleg (2015) C-Print 80 x 100 cm

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REVIEW Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Dr. Alexandra MacGilp, curator and art historian.

Moza Almatrooshi: Markings II Dr. Alexandra MacGlip interviews Moza Almatrooshi

Alexandra MacGlip (AM): Where were these

printed in a small format (210 x 279 mm) and placed

photographs taken?

at eye level in the exhibition.

Moza Almatrooshi (MA): These photographs were taken on my route up Mount Jais, in Ras Al

AM: I like the contrast between the hand-built

Khaimah, UAE, which takes you up towards the

wall that feels like it could have been there for

highest mountain peak in the country.

centuries and the minimalism of the brutalist concrete road block. Both are like screens we can

AM: What exactly are we looking at in these

project onto, or interlocutors in a conversation.

What I have observed so far though, is how

images? There seems to be a dialogue set up

What is the purpose of the hand-built wall? Do you

people in the UAE have become so familiar with

between the found and constructed elements?

know why it was constructed? What conclusions

these marks that are layering the land, they fade

MA: On my way up the mountain range I kept

can you draw about human’s relationship with the

into the background, they’re not seen as alien.

stopping to collect images of marks that have

landscape in the UAE from this project?

That’s concerning to me, because it could be

been placed by humans, and questioning their

MA: The built wall, which in reality is a small room

that we’ve become somewhat desensitised to

functionality and why they’d been made to look

structure, still remains a mystery that I tried to

change and don’t have a clear idea of when to

a certain way: why are the waste bins blue? Why

dissect by having conversations about it with many

slow down or stop.

are some of the road blocks yellow? Why are

people. One of the conversations suggested that

they all placed arbitrarily? These were some of

the wall could be a memorial, and I like the idea

AM: These photographs were made in response

the questions that came up whilst going up the

of that, as it presents an almost opposing point

to an invitation to participate in the Santa Cruz


of view to the image of the road block.

Biennale in Bolivia. Could you tell me about the

Out of around 50 images that were taken on this

The built room has more romantic tones; it

MA: Actually, these photographs were taken as

trip only two were chosen because they present a

suggests time, care, and possibly seclusion in

part of my ongoing research, which is informed by

dialogue between the different ways that humans

nature by entering the room, whilst the road

my practice, as I am constantly driving out towards

stamp their mark in these areas, whilst disregarding

block is an object made to keep you in line and

the desert and mountains to observe changes that

the intense presence of nature. For instance, the

at a distance.

are happening in these areas. Then I would employ

context in which they were made and shown?

road blocks were serving more as guides to which

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a medium that responded to certain thoughts or

way is up the mountain, as if the winding paths

I don’t think this trip up Mount Jais has provided

weren’t significant enough.

any conclusions, it actually prompted more

conditions that I would notice.

questions, and that was what the curator Mo

The Blue Hour exhibition in the Santa Cruz Biennale,

The way the images have been composed and

Reda saw in these photographs. They’re more

curated by Mo Reda, was a call for artists from the

centred are similar to how you would face someone

like curious observations, which is a continuous

Middle East to explore concepts of borders. The way

in a conversational stance. That is why they were

habit in my work.

Markings II approached this was by observing how

[Brick Wall] Object 1, from the series Markings II — Facets of Mt. Jais (2016) Archival pigment print, 21 x 29.7 cm [Concrete Wall] Object 2, from the series Markings II — Facets of Mt. Jais (2016) Archival pigment print, 21 x 29.7 cm

we place objects in locations that have been claimed,

further, I became more interested in the behavioural

imperative to my development as an artist as they

and how much liberty is exercised in such interventions.

aspects of why people do such things, and then arrived

have given me the space to seek critique and have

at the notion of irreversibility, which I’m working on

been able to deliver it so generously and relentlessly.

AM: The physical form of the landscape of the UAE

portraying through a series of videos (that don’t involve

often appears in your work. What is your relationship

the flag). I decided to move away from the image of the

AM: You work embraces elements of performance,

with the desert and mountains of the UAE?

flag as it is so symbolic and can be easily misconstrued

sculpture and photography—is the medium you

MA: In my constant trips to the desert and mountains I

and not communicate the right message.

are working in important to you or is it a means to an end?

choose to take the position of a bystander; by observing and reflecting on changes that I spot on each trip. This

AM: Are there any artists who have had an impact on

MA: My choice of medium goes through a process

obsession to document change stems out of a sense of

your work and thinking processes?

of careful selection as to what outcome serves the

personal loss, which sent me on an obsessive journey

MA: Artists who I’ve been exposed to in the UAE have

concept best. I would label the research as the core

to try and figure out ways of entrapping memories.

had the most influence on me and my work. People

foundation of my current practice, and the media serve

In doing so, I worked with sculpture, performance,

like Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, Mohammed Kazem,

as chapters in each finding that I stop at.

installation, writing, drawing and photography.

as well as artists from my generation, such as Hadeyeh Badri, Mays Albeik, and Reem Falaknaz.

AM: An Emirati flag appears at the top of one of the

AM: What are you working on at the moment? MA: I am currently working on portraying the notion

images. You are currently working on a new project

AM: You recently participated in the AiR Dubai and

of irreversibility in a video installation. I have been

around the use of the national flag in the landscape,

SEAF programmes. How did you find the experience

given the opportunity to respond to Mohammed

could you talk about this work and what inspired it?

of being part of these close-knit but temporary

Kazem’s practice, for an exhibition called Is Old Gold?

Are you interested in discussing national identity in

communities? Did it alter your working methods?

which will open at DUCTAC, Dubai in February 2017.

your practice?

MA: I wouldn’t call these communities temporary as

I observed Kazem’s work that has performance in it,

MA: In my latest project, I have been observing the

they yielded such strong bonds with the curators, the

such as Photographs with a Flag (1997) and Scratches

different ways that people have placed the nation’s flag

faculty, and most importantly my peers. We constantly

on Paper (2015). Including gestures of performance

around the mountains, and mainly focused on flags

connect like one does with one’s own family, and discuss

in my work has been a constant aim, and I’m using

painted on mountain surfaces. Upon researching this

our life and work with each other. They have been

his methods as a reference.

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REVIEW Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Barbara Lounder, visual artist.

Stillness and Stories: The films of Raghed Charabaty Melding fiction and sociopolitical history Everyone knows that stories are simplifications. To

details that are the most-loved in any story. As we

tell a story is to select. Only in this way can a story

know too well, those familiar spaces and narratives

be given a form and so be preserved. If you tell a

of daily life can be ruptured in an instant of violence.

story about somebody you love, a curious thing happens. The storyteller is like a dressmaker cutting

For Charabaty, Alia is a reconciliation with the

a pattern out of cloth. You cut from the cloth as fully

memories of his parents’ generation, and with his

and intelligently as possible. Inevitably there are

own identity as an Arab. Alia was narrated by his

narrow strips and awkward triangles which cannot

father, Naji Charabaty, and #Deema features the

be used—which have no place in the form of the

poetry of his mother, Sana Jumayel. In #Deema,

story. Suddenly you realize it is those strips, those

reconciliation weaves two narratives together; the

useless remnants, which you love most. Because the

tragic love story of the characters Deema and Nidal,

heart wants to retain all.

displaced from their homeland, and the unfolding

From John Berger, Go Ask the Time, Granta

of the Arab Spring. #Deema is striking in its use

Magazine, Spring 1985

of saturated colour, often isolated against dark

of still life and portrait traditions in painting and

I shall collect your precious tears inside a perfume

photography; movement is economical, often slow,


using nuances of light and shadow to depict private

And on cold mornings

moments that crescendo into societal calamity. Alia,

Wipe my eyelids with them

It is through the sensitive and intelligent integration of new, and established, modes of visual language that Charabaty brings important stories to life.

a 5-minute film by Charabaty, recounts the April

Hoping that their salt will take me to your beaches

new, and established, modes of visual language that

13, 1975, ‘bus massacre’ in Ain el-Rummaneh (an

Where our dreams, like waves

Charabaty brings important stories to life.

event regarded as the beginning of the civil war

Rock back and forth …

in Lebanon), through the memory of an elderly

Sana Jumayel, from #Deema

backgrounds. The lighting is warm, with details Raghed Charabaty’s award-winning short films have

rendered in amber tones, drawing the viewer in.

an aesthetic sensibility recalling the conventions

man. The eponymous (and fictional) protagonist,

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Originally from Dahr El Sawan, Lebanon, Raghed (Ray) Charabaty came to Canada in 2012. He

represented as one of the 27 to die in the attack,

Charabaty’s third film, Yasmine, is in progress at

completed a BFA with a Major in Film at the Nova

is a symbol of pre-war Lebanon, and a memory

the time of writing. It promises to introduce us

Scotia College of Art and Design in 2016, having

of a lost love. Alia’s face is a chiaroscuro portrait,

to new visual and narrative tools in Charabaty’s

produced two highly acclaimed short films about his

silently meeting our gaze. This contrasts with longer

filmmaking toolbox, some borrowed from the

homeland. Alia (2015) and #Deema (2016) soon to

shots of her with companions on the bus. Like a

genres of animation, horror movies and thrillers. It

be accompanied by a third film, Yasmine (2017). See

genre painting, the scene is alive with animated

will also include shots made in ‘cloud tanks’, which and for

conviviality. The attire, belongings and food recall

were used to great effect in Alia and #Deema. It is

more information about the work of this promising

Berger’s reference to ‘useless remnants,’ everyday

through the sensitive and intelligent integration of

new filmmaker.

04_Alia Still from the film Alia (2015) These stills are from the sequences that Charabaty made in a cloud tank. With this technique, the slowly unfurling plumes of saturated colour create images that are simultaneously beautiful and terrifying, representing the awful moment of explosion

01_Alia Still from the film Alia (2015) In this shot, the fictional character of Alia (played by Armita Kordouni) is on the bus, and in conversation with her friend Rose (played by Mahtab Roohafza). She slowly turns her head to meet the gaze of the viewer. This portrait is lit from the side and above, creating darker tones and dramatic shadows around Alia’s face. This portrait is held for a moment, imprinting Alia’s face in our memories. 02_Alia Still from the film Alia (2015) This scene on the bus shows the passengers engaged in everyday activities such as animated conversation, eating, and watching the passing scenery through the windows. As with a genre painting, it celebrates the ordinary details of human interaction, some of them charming and funny. This is sharply contrasted with the explosion that follows.

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PROFILE Images - Courtesy of the artist and The Third Line, Dubai. Writer - Dr. Omar Kholeif, curator and editor.

Sophia Al Maria: Everything Must Go An essay by Omar Kholeif The Gruen Transfer is the starting point for much of

day they gonna make a movie about me!’ I would

the work that anchors Sophia Al Maria’s, Everything

dance, as I hustled and hurtled around Heraa Mall

Must Go. Devised by Victor Gruen, the Austrian-

in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia with my Sudanese and

born architect, who was also known as America’s

Pakistani friends wearing GAP because we thought

mall-maker, Gruen premised the experience of the

it elevated us to a kind of effendi class of being.

American shopping mall around a simple concept: spatially and temporally dislocate your audience;

Sophia Al Maria’s lifelong work, in turn, has been

suspend them, so that they may only find solace

about creating a vocabulary for my generation, for

in the fruits of capitalism. Buying becomes the

those of us who grew up spread like Philadelphia

new form of activism; window-shopping is not

cheese across two polarised cultures, singing

an option. The food court is there for re-fuelling.

Mariah and Whitney as we wandered the perfumed

MSG-laced delights masquerading as authentic

counters of mega department stores. Al Maria

culinary cuisines from the East are appropriated by

articulated this in her writings on Gulf Futurism

western brand chains and spooned into the mouths

and in her memoir, The Girl Who Fell To Earth

of hyperactive teenagers. At other times, tiny

(2012), but with her latest body of work, anchored

elevator music pervades one’s consciousness—that

by Black Friday and the Litany (2016), Al Maria

saccharine flavour from the American movies such

has done something that is even bolder: she has

as Pretty Woman (1990) or Fast Times at Ridgemont

decided to take on the culture of consumption and

High (1982) or even Dawn of the Dead (1979).

to investigate the act of purchasing as the ultimate 21st century religious rite.

In the Gulf States, architectural modernism

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In the main gallery, shopping carts explode with consumables including a new iteration of

emerged in the form of the shopping mall; these

In the main film Black Friday, a large vertical screen

Al Maria’s multichannel video installation The

spaces became a prevailing cultural import that

envelops us with an image of two escalators that

Litany (2016). Nearly a hundred mobile phones

emirates like Dubai would become known for.

echo the Twin Towers. These lead to a windowless

play individual videos that let out high-pitched

The success of the shopping mall was not only

mall lit as if by hellfire: is this a real or digital

squeals as the language of advertising and war

because these were fossil fuel rich countries that

expanse? A mall or a temple? Here, the icons of

patter their screens. The technology used is all

had citizens with disposable incomes, but as in

western shopping malls are fused with Islamic-

recycled. An attempt to reclaim what is so quickly

post-war America—this was a new type of collective

tinged Italianate architectural motifs. A sermon

metabolised and rendered worthless. Indeed,

public space.

voiced by actor Sam Neill evokes an Old Testament

the metabolism of technological consumption

prophet of doom. The central marble bay within

can be seen as a euphemism for the accelerated

For those of us growing up in the Gulf, myself

the heart of the mall looks like a mausoleum. A

modernity that has occurred in the Gulf States

included, the Mall became a site of a proposed

menacing soundtrack overtakes us, quaking the

since the 1970s. Lining the walls of the space

utopia: a way to simulate a fantasy of a western

viewer with its apocalyptic bassline. We can no

like a hyper-saturated wainscoting are the prints

lifestyle. Every step taken was Technicolor, ‘one

longer breathe.

that make up the series ‘EVERYTHING MUST

Detail of The Litany (2016) Sand, glitter, glass, smartphones, computer screens, tablet computers, USB cables with multichannel looped digital video, colour and Black and white, sound; durations variable

GO’. Here emblazoned on demolished buildings and satellite maps are words and hybrid phrases lifted from political playbooks and cosmetic adjectives. These are the magic words that give the ‘BEAUTY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX’ its power and the viewer is invited to rearrange them into newly poetic phrases such as ‘CASHFLOW EXFOLIANT’, ‘POST-TRUTH PLUMPER’ and ‘DIRTY BALM.’ What does Sophia Al Maria suggest that we do with this juxtaposition? My take-away: Use culture as a weapon, just like it is using you. Al Maria reminds us of our agency; that spaces of art are ones for critical parody. Before long, everything will go, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t find

A mall or a temple? Here, the icons of western shopping malls are fused with Islamic-tinged Italianate architectural motifs. A sermon voiced by actor Sam Neill evokes an Old Testament prophet of doom.

ways to map, chart and scream our way along the path we’d like to take. Dr. Omar Kholeif, Everything Must Go, 2017, essay written for the exhibition EVERYTHING MUST GO, 2017 by Sophia Al Maria at The Third Line, Dubai.

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Aerosol from the series Everything Must Go (2017) Digital print 24 x 42 cm

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Incendiary from the series Everything Must Go (2017) Digital print 24 x 42 cm

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Attack from the series Everything Must Go (2017) Digital print 24 x 42 cm Aesthetic Taser from the series Everything Must Go (2017) Digital print 24 x 42 cm

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PROFILE Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Soren Lind, author, visual artist and film director.

Larissa Sansour: Archaeology Projects Narrative resistance and a history yet to come In her most recent body of works, Palestinian

tableware will interfere with current versions of

they hold represent the archaeological artefacts

artist Larissa Sansour merges science fiction,

history. By implementing a myth of its own, the

in absentia.

archaeology and Middle Eastern politics to

group’s work becomes a historical intervention—

examine the impact of myth and fiction on fact,

de facto creating a nation.

history and national identity. Spanning across film,

The installation lends a familiar, yet destructive shape to the idea of instrumentalised archaeology

sculpture, performance and installation, these

As the film progresses, the narrative and visuals

as a new form of warfare—while referencing the

works are all inspired by the instrumentalised

alternate between the theoretical and the

form of a Fabergé egg and hence discretely

archaeology taking place in Israel/Palestine. In

personal. The resistance leader’s deceased twin

alluding to the notion of contemporary political

the absence of a real peace process, archaeology

sister makes a crucial appearance as the story

artworks as suspended between the reality they

has become a method for settling land disputes,

takes the viewer deeper and deeper into the

are influenced by and their own status as luxury

and the discipline has lost its innocence as a sub-

resistance leader’s subconscious.


are used in support of nationalist narratives

Archaeology in Absentia

The installation also reverses the natural relation

establishing the idea of historical entitlement.

In the Future They Ate from the Finest Porcelain

between archaeological artefact and museum.

branch of historical studies. Unearthed artefacts

started as an idea for a performance. The intention

Instead of showcasing archaeological artefacts

In the Future They Ate from the Finest Porcelain

was to carry out multiple deposits across Israel/

belonging to the past, the museums will be

The centrepiece is a 29-minute science fiction

Palestine and to facilitate a historical revision at

showing artefacts yet to be unearthed and hence

short entitled In the Future They Ate from the

some point in the future when the artefacts were

display references to a history yet to come.

Finest Porcelain. Combining live motion and CGI,

unearthed. The sculpture and performance piece

the film takes the form of a fictional video essay.

Archaeology in Absentia revisits this original idea,

Revisionist Production Line

A voice-over based on an interview between a

thus turning the fiction of the film into fact.

The final piece in Sansour’s archaeology

psychiatrist and the female leader of a group

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series is a large rubber, steel and porcelain

that resists through their narratives reveals her

In a real-life performance, 15 deposits of porcelain

installation entitled Revisionist Production Line.

philosophy. As long as myth is established,

carrying the iconic keffiyeh pattern were buried

The installation takes the idea of a narrative

implemented and widely disseminated, it will

across Israel/Palestine—in places such as

supported by archaeological evidence one step

never be hampered by its truth value. The longer

Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Ramallah, Acre, Haifa,

further. Instead of relying on artefacts already in

a myth persists, the more likely it is to assume

Jericho, Jaffa, Nazareth and the Dead Sea. A series

the ground, Sansour suggests that manufacturing

the form of fact and documentary.

of black and white photos document the locations.

and planting archaeological evidence for future

The coordinates of each deposit, longitude and

unearthing might be the most reliable approach

The narrative resistance group makes

latitude, are engraved on 15 discs, each fitted

to establishing a favourable counter-narrative.

underground deposits of porcelain—for future

inside a 20 cm bronze munition replica modelled

Revisionist Production Line embodies this idea by

archaeologists to excavate. Their aim is to

on a Cold War Russian nuclear bomb. With the

portraying a mass-production unit manufacturing

influence history and support future claims to

porcelain itself absent from the installation, the

porcelain for future entombment in the Palestinian

their vanishing lands. Once unearthed, this

Fabergé-like bomb shells and the references


In the Future They Ate from the Finest Porcelain (2016) film still 29’

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In the Future They Ate from the Finest Porcelain 3 (2016) Archival pigment print 100 x 200 cm

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In the Future They Ate from the Finest Porcelain 1 (2016) Archival pigment print 100 x 200 cm

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In the Future They Ate from the Finest Porcelain 2 (2016) Archival pigment print 100 x 200 cm

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Black and white images: Archaeology in Absentia, performance still, Archival pigment print 30 x 40 cm

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Sculptures: Archaeology in Absentia bronze/steel 20 cm Installation: Revisionist Production Line (2016) installation steel/rubber/porcelain 365 x 80 x 40 cm

Larissa Sansour merges science fiction, archaeology and Middle Eastern politics to examine the impact of myth and fiction on fact, history and national identity. Spanning across film, sculpture, performance and installation

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PROFILE Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Dr. Woodman Taylor, art historian and ethnomusicologist.

Alaa Edris: Imagining Futures Hybrid photographs envision an alternative future What will the future of the UAE look like? Rather than

differences between them, which we do see when

reproducing slick photographs of the shiny steel and

comparing the current urbanscapes of Sharjah, Dubai

glass skyscrapers that normally broadcast the hyper

and Abu Dhabi. Scrutinising the series, there seem to

dynamic of extreme development in the Emirates,

be some visual cues as to which emirate she envisions

Alaa Edris uses her skills as a multimedia artist to

in specific photographs. Could the curvatious building

create hybrid photographs that insert her vision of

harking back to a 1980s rounded modernism, with a

what an alternative future might look like. Starting

circular helicopter landing pad atop, signal Sharjah,

with a photograph of undeveloped landscape from

where all new buildings require a crowning helicopter

each of the seven emirates, Edris then grafts into the

pad? Metal girdings inserted within a mountain scape

photograph an image of a hypothetical building which

would be her vision of mountainous Fujairah. Can we

she has herself configured by combining architectural

see Dubai in the monumental housing project, which

elements from a number of appropriated sources.

is axially led to by a highway, a prototypical Sheikh

Her architectural insertions are at times sleek modern,

Zayed Road? This search to visually express a sort of

and at others image seemingly constructivist or even

essence for each emirate mirrors Edris’s earlier project

curvatious and colourfully post-modern architecture.

where she created morphed faces of jinns to represent

As an Emirati growing up in an increasingly

In her State series, Edris’s imagined urbanscapes

the different ‘souls’ of each emirate.1

cosmopolitan country, for Alaa Edris negotiating

hover over the original natural landscapes as they

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Her architectural insertions are at times sleek modern and others imagine seemingly constructivist or even curvatious and colourfully post-modern.

an identity that combines different aspects of

existed before the momentous itihad, or union, in

Yet there is a playful, even humorous, whimsy to

contemporary culture is a lived reality. Having

1971, setting up an uncomfortable uncanny. These

the way Edris creates her kaleidoscopic imagery.

specialised in electronic media for her Fine Arts

imagined buildings do not combine organically

As theorised by Homi Bhabha, we see her

degree, in addition to photography, Edris’s projects

with the sites they are intended to inhabit. If these

negotiating an identity for each emirate through

have also included work in video and sound. As a

buildings are allowed to take root, or be built, they

the exercise of creating a hybrid out of different,

Salama bint Hamdan Emerging Artist Fellow, she

will visually swear with their surroundings.

if not disparate, architectural and landscape

recently had the opportunity to work with mentors

elements. In her photographs, Edris exposes the

from the Rhode Island School of Design, developing

Edris’s State series also visually comment on and

act of hybridisation, which generates new forms

new aspects to her artistic practice.

critique the ways in which the ever-developing

in the globalised post-colonial world.2 Through

cityscapes in the UAE are randomly determined.

her practice, Edris herself becomes the agent


She creatively appropriates the role of a city planner

engineering these inventive re-combinations that

1 - For Alaa Edris’s Seven Jinnat of the Trucial States

as well as the Beaux-Arts schema of symmetrical

cross national boundaries. It is this sort of creative

series see the exhibition catalog The Other & Me:

elevations, divided equally along a prominent axis for

dynamic, combined with an imaging technique

International Photography Exhibition (Sharjah:

her imagined re-visioning. Yet, as any good architect,

that superimposes what is imagined over a

Directorate of Art, 2014), pp. 114-119.

she does generate variations of her hybrid styles for

photograph of a real landscape that keeps viewers

2 - For a discussion of various photopraphers’

each of the seven emirates that constitute the UAE.

of Edris’s photographs continuing to imagine what

work expressing hybridity see W. Taylor, Exposing

In this way, she allows for visual and architectural

the future might look like.

Affectivity in Photography, in Ibid., p. 33.

State 01 from the series States (2016) Archival pigment print 120 x 80 cm

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Previous page: State 03 from the series States (2016) Archival pigment print 120 x 80 cm Below: State 04 from the series States (2016) Archival pigment print 120 x 80 cm

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State 05 from the series States (2016) Archival pigment print 120 x 80 cm

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PROFILE Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Rajesh Punj, art critic.

Amani Al Shaali: Digital Drama Negotiating ruin and reward Born and based in Ajman, Amani Al Shaali came to

and reward of their lives. And instead of seeing

photography at thirteen, when the camera captured

photography as an opportunity to capture reality

her curiosity. Grounded by an absorbing culture and

and to represent it as real, Al Shaali appears to want

brilliant climate, Al Shaali has acquired an eye for

to use the photograph as the basis for a new set

seeing everything anew by creating a fanciful world

of fables, in a county and continent enriched by a

in which the figure appears to have been affected

history of cultural preservation, while allowing the

by a landscape that serves as the image’s aesthetic

image to become a more substantial situation as

skin. Critically, it is rewarding to watch the young

a story. Such bravery sets Al Shaali apart as both

photographer’s works unfold, as though a series

photographer and storyteller.

of animated stills. She creates a narrative for a new kind of photography, in which the individual is as

Examples of heightened drama in her works lie

much antagonised as s/he is animated by natural

in images such as In the Mourning (2016). An

elements. Al Shaali’s playfulness comes from her

incredibly affecting work in which the central figure

imaginative use of digital collage to conjure up

appears to be retreating from the world by resting

scenes of heightened drama.

on a makeshift bed of horizontal tree trunks that

Concentrating on Al Shaali’s series Snuffed Hope;

as an impenetrable wall. In We Waited Too Long

Rekindled and Tribulations of a Depressive, one

(2016), possibly the most striking of all of the works,

comes to understand how she uses imagery to

a figure is bent double on a bench with a slither of

navigate her way through the purpose and process

leaves pressed into her as though a dagger driven

of picture making. She creates a situation that

into her back, whilst her hair becomes entangled

could easily double as the stage set for a piece

into the earth, as though the protracting roots of

of modern theatre or a seminal scene from a film.

a tree, a scene explained by Al Shaali as ‘waiting

One begins to see in Al Shaali’s fanciful images

in the place we desperately wanted to get away

a plot that requires the ability to look outside of

from.’ These are images that highlight the loneliness

Creating a fanciful world in which the figure appears to have been affected by a landscape that serves as the images aesthetic skin.

the frame, beyond the captured moment and into

of the individual, as s/he surrenders and eventually

all fall within the theme of her digital drama. We see

an unfolding fiction of her making. Such qualities

succumbs to the landscape.

more of this in Blue Skies are Calling (2016), where

enhance the dominant background, which rises up

successfully demonstrate the artist’s ability to

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a lone figure is thrust back and forth in a contoured

use imagery and digital collage to create visually

By fashioning an image that reads as a melancholic

pose, as though ready to leap into the open skies

impressive chronicles of the lives of her individuals.

song, Al Shaali emphatically creates a scene of

that are just beyond her reach; and Letters to the

figures at their most vulnerable, perhaps a critique

Dead (2016), in which the central character sits at

Al Shaali’s strengths lie in her will to communicate

of a growing emotional condition in our generation.

the edge of the harbour wall facing the open ocean.

a cannon of ideas that deal in the sensibilities

This idea is further enhanced by Al Shaali’s use of

Al Shaali’s photographs read as choreographed

of young women who are negotiating the ruin

turbulent clouds, deserts and open oceans, which

scenes that penetrate us deeply.

Blue Skies Are Calling from the series Snuffed Hope; Rekindled (2015) Photography and digital manipulation 90 x 90 cm Better days and blue skies await her. She’s comfortable in her darkness but the sweet whispers of the wind and the chirping of the birds will awaken her curiosity to seek the light.

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We Waited Too Long from the series Tribulations of a Depressive (2015) Photography and digital manipulation 90 x 90 cm Patience is a virtue, but also a curse. We wait for that one person to come and rescue us but they never show. We still wait, and grow roots in the place we desperately wanted to get away from.

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In The Mourning from the series Tribulations of a Depressive (2015) Photography and digital manipulation 90 x 90 cm Mornings are associated with rebirth and new beginnings, but her mornings are filled with mourning. She grieves alone, in a world she created in her own mind, away from everyone and everything.

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Letters To The Dead from the series Snuffed Hope; Rekindled (2015) Photography and Digital Manipulation 90 x 90 cm Maybe I can reach out to you now that you’ve found peace. I talk to you as if you’re still with me. You live in my heart now.

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Across The Abyss from the series Snuffed Hope; Rekindled (2014) Photography and Digital Manipulation 90 x 90 cm We carry on, even when the road ahead isn’t clear and even when it’s scary, we persevere.

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PROFILE Images - Courtesy of the artist and the Sabrina Amrani Gallery. Writer - Dalia Hashim, editor and linguist.

Amina Benbouchta: Chrysalis An affective understanding of the female voice through silence and empty spaces She is not there, the woman you see in the frame.

The deeply personal Chrysalis—which Benbouchta

The absentee’s existence and identity hinge

Sitting or standing, masked or hidden by a rug

dedicates to her lonely six-year-old self—is a

ironically on the banal objects in her remit—

or her hair, the puppet-person is always isolated,

staged attempt to fill a void; putting one thing in

things that also depend on her for purpose. She

ambiguous and composite, invoking the loneliness

place of another.

can use only what is readily available in a confined

of generations of Middle Eastern women entrenched

space both to act and to act out. Try as she may

in their invisibility in public life and its harsh division

Benbouchta describes the nexus between the

to transgress, her will is limited and relegated to

of space. This is Amina Benbouchta’s deliberate

objects, the environment and the figure in her

the brush, the cushion, the heart and so on. The

way ‘to name and shame the status of women.’ Like

work as a ‘poetry of chance.’ The intentionally

struggle in this ideological field may be that even

many feminists, she believes that the female voice

inoffensive and aesthetically pleasing images

in a realm of possibilities, our heroine remains

truly finds the space to exist in absence, silence

allow even the most cryptic messages to emerge

a stereotype.

and obscure empty spaces—hence our imagined

from a steady and subtle reading. To impose

protagonist: the absentee.

a logical and algorithmic—or ‘masculine,’ as

Yet ‘my art aims at giving visibility to what is invisible,’

she puts it—framework is radically to miss the

Benbouchta says. In the presence of duality,

That is why Benbouchta’s series Chrysalis is both

point. To extract meaning, you have to read

seeing the positive possibilities depends on your

whimsical and uncanny. The figure you see is not

the in-between, what is not said. It is affect

perspective. That fiery, almost manic, red hair and the

an individual, but a compendium of ‘characters

rather than logic that will help us to decipher

wild bush may hark back to the hysterical Freudian

that are easily identifiable by their attributes,’ she

Benbouchta’s symbolic language and to bear

woman. But they are also a tribute to women fleeing

explains. Meet her avatars: a set of archetypes of the

witness to the social control and false myths of

a male-oriented psychoanalytical reading of their

female experience ‘that evoke a puppet on a string

beauty that ensnare the woman in her daily life.

lives. We are reminded that ‘the female voice flows

obeying the puppet master.’ This series conjures

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in spite of the devices used to contain it. The idea of

up the different stages of a woman’s life, but it is

The awkward crinoline-prison that hems in the

a moving metamorphosis, a fluid change of states,

also meant to work like a game of Tarot. Just like in

figure consumes all her faculties. The viewer is

is a metaphor of hope, of the constant possibilities

the visceral Tarot, we are encouraged to ask, ‘what

denied the intimate engagement with her that

of evolution. Movement is hope.’

does each of them stand for? Why are the characters

we crave. To look into her eyes and to sustain

hidden and faceless?’

dialogue, person-to-person, is impossible.

Chrysalis speaks of the universal condition of women;

Perhaps the choice to hide her in plain sight is

but it also speaks for all individuals suffering under

Certain objects reappear as tropes in Benbouchta’s

Benbouchta’s way of subverting the act of looking

patriarchal control, anywhere and at any time. The

art, becoming familiar like the characters seen on

itself—to drive us to understand the menace of our

gallery of faceless characters presents the viewer

Tarot cards: the Hermit, the Lovers, the Empress and

own gaze on the female body. ‘From your reaction,

with a variety and so the points of identification

so on. A few years ago, she also realised this running

I can tell that I have touched something that I

are abundant.

theme; but recognised, too, that the oversimplified

wanted to touch,’ retorts Benbouchta. Bemused

symbols of domestic life in her work—the corsets,

by the heuristic artistry at work here, I recall the

The hard outer case that encloses the chrysalis

tables, chairs and beds—were continually devoid

black mask and bear trap, and feel the puppet

is only temporary. When the butterfly finally

of a human presence.

master’s tug on my own skin.

emerges, she flies.

Chrysallis VI from the series Chrysallis (2015) Archival pigment print 22.5 x 15.5 cm

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Chrysallis I,II,II, IV from the series Chrysallis (2015) Archival pigment print 22.5 x 15.5 cm

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Chrysallis V, from the series Chrysallis (2015) Archival pigment print 22.5 x 15.5 cm

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Chrysallis VII from the series Chrysallis (2015) Archival pigment print 22.5 x15.5 cm

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Chrysallis IX, from the series Chrysallis (2015) Archival pigment print 22.5 x 15.5 cm

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PROFILE Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Bekriah Mawasi, photographer, linguist and art enthusiast.

Bashar Alhroub: Here & Now Blending into the surroundings In his photographic series Here & Now (2010),

recognises the Palestinian landscape through the

Bashar Alhroub plays the role of himself as a figure

reflection of the olive trees and the orchard behind

whose head is boxed in a cube made of, seemingly,

the cube; and hereby questions the mythical

five plain mirrors. Although all of them were

representation of this historic tree which is common

photographed at daytime while taking advantage

in the Mediterranean. Survival and a sense of security

of the approximate intensity of light, each one of

are depicted here.

these photographs occurs in a different spot. The title of the series refers to time, the very moment of

A anxiety and distress are expressed bluntly in the

witnessing each position and each reflection while

photographs, showing medium close-up portraits

the camera shutters. At the same time, it refers to

of the figure as if he were covering his face with

place, the actual presence on this spot, this land,

different masks: We see him containing a monument

this city, this continent.

in a public space as a soldier leaning on a rifle; we see him absorbing a red traffic lamp; we see him

The photographs show landscapes interrupted by

‘staring at’ construction metals; and we see him

a character whose head sinks into blackness (the

reflecting mountains. Thus, raising the questions:

unseen side of the mirror) and unheard soliloquies,

Is he trying to embody the visibility granted to the

sometimes on the verge of invisibility as he blends in

monument in an open space? Is he about to make a

with the surroundings: his head suddenly transforms

decision or to give instructions? Is he constructing an

weapon once shattered; and its numerous pieces

into crispy leaves. Using a mirrored cube, the artist

identity and asserting his right for self-determination?

create multiple images.

suggests a variety of possibilities. The viewer is

And where is he headed? Could it be beyond these

rarely exposed to the multi-faced character, who

mountains? What will happen when he reaches the

One can claim the photographs taken in nature

is destined to reflect upon the surroundings.

borders that shaped historical Palestine into its

show harmony although the figure lies down on

Alhroub says that the series ‘deals with personal

current state as an archipelago?

the earth surrounded by ephemeral greenery or

vulnerability and an experience of existential anxiety

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Is he trying to embody the visibility granted to the monument in an open space? Is he about to make a decision or to give instructions?

earthy surfaces whose colours change periodically.

strongly associated with issues such as religion,

Unknowingly, Lacan’s Looking-Glass Phase is

The placement of the mirrorhead and the challenge

nationalism, conflict and identity construction. It

presented here as a tool rather than an experience.

it presents to the eye while fragmenting the scene,

looks for meaning not in the individual sign but in

The viewer cannot read any expressions in the

by an incidental rectangle-shaped mirror image,

the context of exile and fragmentation.’

faceless mirrors as they are not available. The

forms a collage. The choice to stretch out the

mirror is usually an encounter with the self where

body on the earth highlights an inevitable sense

As the reflections on the mirror vary, it is simpler for

subjectivity emerges and can easily break. In

of belonging and invites contemplation. We never

the viewer to divide them into two categories: The

Alhroub’s series, the mirror is the encounter with

see the reflection of the endless sky; yet we see

reflections from the homeland, and the reflections

the surroundings that trap him, and which, can easily

limited frames instead. My imagination forces me

of neutral foreign scenery and brick architecture

break. He suggests through the mirror motif the

to think; What if we saw the figure in motion? I

that come into sight elsewhere. One unavoidably

implicit threat on his existence. A mirror is a vicious

imagine it to be chaotic.

2# from the series Here & Now (2010) Archival pigment print 80 x 53 cm

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1# from the series Here & Now (2010) Archival pigment print 80 x 53 cm

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12,9,11,7# from the series Here & Now (2010) Archival pigment print 80 x 53 cm Next page: 5# from the series Here & Now (2010) Archival pigment print 80 x 53 cm

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PROFILE Images - Courtesy of the artist and Driscoll Babcock Galleries. Writer - Ian Alden Russell, contemporary art curator.

Wafaa Bilal: The Ashes Series Provocateur confronts destruction through construction photography Known for provocative, performative and

In 2004, the death of both his father and brother

innovative artwork often using technology and

amidst the mounting civilian casualties of the

new media, Wafaa Bilal has cultivated a reputation

war transformed feelings of displacement into

for interrogating the aesthetics of conflict and

nostalgia not just for a place but also for people.

tension, directly confronting the social, political

Between 2003 and 2013, The Ashes Series became

and ethical dilemmas of the modern world. As

for Bilal more than a conceptual project or an

counterpoint, the photographs in The Ashes Series

artwork. It was a refuge and meditative space for

are still—almost serene. A chair stands persistently

processing his emotions, grounding his thoughts

amidst rubble; a bed remains unmade; a pillow

and supporting his provocative performance and

rests on a blanket of dust and debris: photographs

installation works. He confronted viewers pointedly

of models constructed by the artist based on

in such pieces as Domestic Tension (2007)—a

mass-syndicated images of the destruction of

durational performance in which he lived for 30

Iraq in the aftermath of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

days in a Chicago gallery with a paintball gun

Removing the human figures from the source

connected to a computer allowing remote viewers

images, Bilal scattered 21 grams of human ashes

to log in and shoot him — to shoot an Iraqi.²

throughout the sets—proverbial dust, suspended mid-air by the camera, that will never settle.

Over time, the repeated use, reuse, appropriation, and eventual decontextualisation of war

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The Ashes Series is Bilal’s decade-long effort to counter the desensitisation and the decontextualisation of mass media images of the devastation of the wars in Iraq.

The Ashes Series is Bilal’s decade-long

photography became a central concern in Bilal’s

effort to counter the desensitisation and

The Ashes Series. Photojournalists’ work such

decontextualisation of mass media images of

as al Salaam Palace, April 9, 2003 by Robert

the devastation of the wars in Iraq. In 2003, the

Nickelsberg—the source for Bilal’s Chair, from

US and UK declared war and invaded Iraq only

The Ashes Series—reveal the subjectivity and

months before Bilal received his MFA from the

aesthetic effects of embedded war photography. In

School of the Art Institute of Chicago. As an

Nickelsberg’s image, a single, ornate chair stands,

Iraqi-American artist who had been a refugee

nearly intact, amidst a ruinous room—a tantalising

of the previous war in Iraq (1990-91), he worked

dissonance between the chair’s decorative

sublime. In the artist’s words, ‘the terrain of my

to reconcile his image-making with the ensuing

elements and the harsh texture of the rubble

childhood became a sprawling set for the modern

flood of images of ruins post-invasion. ’In

that surrounds. These images are appropriated

aestheticisation of warfare.’³ While specific to Iraq

studying [these images], I began to rebuild them,

and reused, increasingly removed from the

in terms of source material, The Ashes Series

as an attempt to bridge the emotional distance

pillage—repeated so often that comprehension

addresses a universal and urgent condition: the

and return home when the idea of home and a

of the violence that created them is overtaken

numbing effect of mass media and our increasing

return to it is no longer possible.’¹

by the aesthetic appreciation of ruins and the

apathy and desensitisation to images of war.

Chair from the The Ashes Series (2003-2013) Archival pigment print 101.6 x 127 cm

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Dark Palace from the The Ashes Series (2003-2013) Archival pigment print 101.6 x 127 cm

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Piano from the The Ashes Series (2003-2013) Archival pigment print 101.6 x 127 cm

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Hospital from the The Ashes Series (2003-2013) Archival pigment print 101.6 x 127 cm

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Al-Mutanabbi Street from the The Ashes Series (2003-2013) Archival pigment print 101.6 x 127 cm

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Pool from the The Ashes Series (2003-2013) Archival pigment print 101.6 x 127 cm

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PROFILE Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Lila Nazemian, projects director at Culturunners.

Tarek Al-Ghoussein: Documenting Altered Landscapes Identified within the annals of contemporary photography As photography has become the medium of choice

of a Man-Altered Landscape’ from 1975 at

for many established and up-and-coming artists in

the International Museum of Photography in

the Middle East, it is vital to identify and explore

Rochester. This show, which since has been

the work of the region’s trailblazing photographers.

restaged multiple times throughout institutions

Tarek Al-Ghoussein is a Palestinian-Kuwaiti

in the U.S., reflected a monumental moment

renowned for his performative photography, which

in the development of American landscape

often incorporates self-portraiture and explores

photography (even though the German couple

themes of identity through the landscape. He is no

Bernd and Hilla Becher were also included)

stranger to success; having been part of numerous

that permanently influenced the medium on an

prestigious collections including the Guggenheim,

international scale. Epitomised by artists such as

New York, the Smithsonian, Washington D.C.

Lewis Baltz, Stephen Shore and Robert Adams,

and the British Museum, London. He has also

the artists of this movement were not interested

participated in multiple Sharjah Biennials and

in showcasing traditional representations of

represented Kuwait at the 2013 Venice Biennale.

untouched wilderness; but instead, featured a radical new perspective of what landscape could

These accolades are to be expected from an artist

be: deceptively simple industrial scenes or even

with such a reputable pedigree. Al-Ghoussein

ubiquitous suburbia in an effort to reveal the

completed his undergraduate degree at NYU

traces of Man on the natural world.

where he studied fine art photography. He

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I attempt to explore the boundaries between self, portraiture, documentary and constructed imagery.

then went on to receive his master’s degree in

Many of the formal tenants of this movement

‘in my work, I attempt to explore the boundaries

photography from the University of New Mexico

can be found throughout Al-Ghoussein’s work,

between self, portraiture, documentary and

where he worked with the likes of Patrick Nagatani,

albeit within a Middle Eastern visual landscape

constructed imagery.’ Even without traditionally

whose creative approach focuses on cinematic

featuring stark deserts, sprawling construction sites

featuring traces of people, the movement is

narratives, and Thomas Barrow, infamous for his

and most recently, buildings both decaying and

ultimately about self-representation and identity

‘Cancellation Series,’ in which he carved Xs on

reconstructed. While Al-Ghoussein is best known

through the vessel of ‘place.’ Al-Ghoussein’s work

black and white negatives of seemingly objective

for interjecting his own figure into photographs,

furthers these explorations, between the ‘place’

and banal landscape images in an era where it was

his work is perhaps too often reduced to self-

of the body (the stereotype of a Palestinian/Arab),

taboo to tamper with negatives. Al-Ghoussein has

portraiture with an ode to the Palestinian cause;

and the ‘place’ of the architecture (the altered

been most influenced by the work of the New

‘people have often been very two-dimensional in

landscape), each of which transform to connote

Topographics from the 1970s.

the reading of the work, simply basing it on if my

a specific identity. Ultimately, Al-Ghoussein’s work

figure was in it or not,’ says Al-Ghoussein. In fact,

is political because of the way he chooses both to

The New Topographics refers to the

the work is more complex and self-portraiture is

represent himself and the locations in which he

groundbreaking exhibition, curated by William

merely a tool he uses in an attempt to expand the

photographs. The work is a historical record, not

Jenkins, ‘New Topographics: Photographs

tropes of the New Topographics’ style. He explains,

of events or permanence, but of context.

K Files_831 from the series K Files (2013-2014) Archival pigment print 90 x 135 cm

In what is the latest testament to his legacy, Al-Ghoussein’s most recent K Files

resides within the greater canon of photography and which will undoubtedly find

and Al Sawaber feature in a solo exhibition at the Nevada Art Museum’s ‘Altered

its place within the annals of art history. As a professor for twelve years at the

Landscapes Gallery’ in Reno. The title of the museum gallery is no coincidence;

American University of Sharjah and now at the New York University Abu Dhabi, his

and in fact the Museum’s largest focus collection pertains to the New Topographics

influence as an educator has shaped a new generation of prominent contemporary

movement and its contemporary manifestations. ‘The Nevada Art Museum has

photographers such as Lamia Gargash, Hala Al Aini and Hadya Bedri. Through

shown many of the photographers from that movement, and the gallery space

both his artistic and educational careers, he continues to pass down his vast

where I am showing has a very rich history as well. I have spent so many years in

knowledge and comprehensive training to his students, heralding a new age for

the U.S. and my photographic education is essentially very US-centric. For all those

photography in the Middle East.

reasons, it means a lot to me to be showing in that space,’ describes Al-Ghoussein. Tarek Al-Ghoussein lives and works in Abu Dhabi. He currently has a solo exhibition He stands out from other artists working in this medium throughout the Middle

at the Nevada Art Musuem in Reno. Al-Ghoussein was recently featured in the

East in part because his practice is grounded in and reveals an awareness of

2016 Qalandiya International Biennial and he will be exhibiting work in the 2017

photographic language from the History of Photography. He makes work that

Fotografica Bogota Biennial in Colombia.

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K Files_025 from the series K Files (2013-2014) Archival pigment print 90 x 135 cm

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K Files_323 and K Files_934 from the series K Files (2013-2014) Archival pigment print 90 x 135 cm

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K Files_117 from the series K Files (2013-2014) Archival pigment print 90 x 135 cm

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K Files_403 from the series K Files (2013-2014) Archival pigment print 90 x 135 cm

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PROFILE Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Rose Balston, lecturer, TV presenter and art historian.

Hadil Moufti: Photocollage and Fantasy Explore a magical world that underlines core themes of humanity Enter Hadil Moufti’s studio in Bastakiya Dubai, and you

haired boy alone on his own planet, exploring new

are like Alice entering Wonderland. Here, the artist

worlds and searching for friends. As the daughter of

painstakingly cuts out delicate printed photographs

a peripatetic Saudi Arabian diplomat, she clearly can

of cockroaches, children, goldfish, cows and oryxs,

relate to such themes.

human folly this piece is far

Hadil cuts, pondering what these characters will go

Moufti once found her 11-year-old niece Maryam,

on to represent. Fast-forward to the finished piece,

on the brink of puberty, dressing up as a woman

from miserable. Bubbling

and the viewer enters an enchanting, surreal world

with red curlers and lipstick. The subsequent photo

where Hadil’s toil subsides to magic, subtly laced with

of this memorable face, seen thousands of times in

profound human issues.

Hadil’s oeuvre, is blasted across the surface of Maryam

some pieces no bigger than a fingernail. Meditatively,

as though caught in the same twister that Dorothy

humour and ironic absurdity skip happily alongside the Babelian tragedy.

Moufti the miniaturist? Only a few years ago, she

from the Wizard of Oz experienced in Kansas. Like

would fling oil paint around the canvas using her

Dorothy, Maryam undergoes dramatic change; a new

Moufti now works on her mandala series, which

hands, the back of the brush and heavy impasto, her

identity is being formed and childhood fades. Adding

began with the elevation of the cockroach. Close to

energy splattered thrillingly across the work.

her characteristic touch of humour, Moufti echoes

seventy times, she laboriously cut the printed image,

her niece’s pursuit and playfully dresses up the face,

making sure that every hair on every roach-leg was

This radical change from a liberal, virtuosic use of oil

adding a bindi here and extra rollers there, as though

clearly defined (surely the shoe-maker’s elves visit

to contained intense work with photo collage begins

Maryam were the template of a paper doll.

Hadil’s studio at night-time?). On her paper she

with a tree in Regent’s Park London, in the Autumn

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Despite undertones of

created a geometric pattern of cockroaches worthy

of 2010. Yet the leaves on this tree were not curling

The archaic stories of The Tower of Babel and Noah’s

of an ancient Persian carpet. Initially paradoxical,

their brown faces to winter—they more reflected the

Ark fascinate the artist. One quirky piece combines

we then remember this seemingly insignificant

blossom of a Kyoto cherry tree during the first April

both. Noah’s Ark is built, yet where are the animals?

creature was once given sacred status by the ancient

flush. The poignant juxtaposition between rebirth

The only creature within is the mundane goldfish. And

Egyptians. Mythology creeps to the surface and

and death captivated Moufti; and the photos she

look: the fish are swimming backwards against the

Hadil reminds us that all things on this precious

took started to appear in collage form within her oil

flow of the Ark! They don’t want this haven of security

planet should be celebrated. For light relief, her vast

paintings. Soon, rich fleshy oils lost their importance,

and prefer—of course—to be back in the flood water.

pink pig mandala makes you laugh in the crazy joy of

and the controlled pencil, paper and photographic

To make the ridiculous situation worse, like Jack’s

it all. Well over 100 pigs—the lucky ones winged—

collages became her protagonists.

catastrophic beanstalk, a fantastical architectural

snuffle ever inwards towards the central core. If ever

hotch-potch grows out of the Ark. Representing one

there was a firework of pigs, this would be it; the

Stories, ancient and modern, are the key cradles

of Moufti’s many Tower of Babels, it totters towards

perfect remedy for a grey day.

within which Moufti’s imagery take form. Le Petite

collapse and destruction. Despite its undertones of

Prince and its themes of migration, separation and

human folly, this piece is far from miserable. Bubbling

Like Alice waking from Wonderland, you leave

loneliness is hugely important to her. The triptych

humour and ironic absurdity skip happily alongside

Moufti’s studio feeling enriched, humbled, amused.

Oryxes on Asteroids remind us of that little blond-

the Babelian tragedy.

In short, a great adventure.

Mandala with Pigs from the series Mandalas (2016) Mixed media on paper 121.5 x 121.5 cm

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Babel (Before & After) (2016) Mixed media on paper diptych each panel 60 x 90 cm

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Babel (Before & After) (2016) Mixed media on paper diptych each panel 60 x 90 cm

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Previous Page: Swine Diaspora from the series Tales from Other Lands (2015) Mixed media on canvas, diptych each panel 122 x 152 cm Animal Mandalas from the series Mandalas (2016) Mixed media on paper each 30 x 30 cm, 2 of 5 panels

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Animal Mandalas from the series Mandalas (2016) Mixed media on paper, each 30 x 30 cm 2 of 5 panels

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PROFILE Images - Images courtesy of the artist and Galerie Janine Rubeiz, Beirut and EastWing Gallery, Dubai. Writer - Sandra Williams, assistant curator, LACMA.

Rania Matar: A Girl and Her Room On growing up and growing old Sandra Williams (SW): How did the series A Girl

anything she wishes to. Even a girl growing up

and Her Room develop?

in a refugee camp, who doesn’t have her own

Rania Matar (RM): My daughter was fifteen and

bedroom, is going through the same transitions.

I found it fascinating how she was transforming

It was touching for me that she would find small

right before my eyes. I started photographing

areas of her space to personalise and make hers,

her with her friends and realised they seemed

even if it is a closet. It makes you human, in a way,

to be performing for each other, so I decided to

to want to create your own habitat, especially when

photograph each girl by herself. Coincidentally,

the outside world can be a scary place.

the first two were in their bedrooms and I thought, ‘This is my project!’ I started photographing young

SW: How did the sessions unfold?

women in the Boston area where I live and I realised

RM: I knew that I wouldn’t use the first images. They

that twenty-five years earlier, I was exactly one of

were like a warm-up for breaking the ice. I’d put the

those girls, living in a different country, a different

camera down, they’d slouch or start playing with

culture and a different time, but that I was just the

their hair, and all of a sudden I’m seeing a different

same, trying to navigate those complicated years

person from what they were consciously giving

and finding my identity, so I decided to include

me. It was like pressing the ‘reset’ button. I would

young women from the Middle East as well in this

then say, ‘Can you hold that?’ and I would start

project. The work became more personal to me but

photographing again. Slowly, the session became

also more interesting because it was about teenage

more collaborative and more intimate. I wanted

girls in both cultures, and about the universality of

the girls to feel well-represented. In one of them—

growing up, despite individual experiences. Being

Shannon—I thought I was done photographing

from both cultures myself, it was important for me

her and she asked ‘Do you mind if we do some

RM: Yes, and I think I didn’t realise that until after

to focus on our common humanity, especially in the

with clothes that I made myself?’ It was like a gift

the fact. When I’m photographing people I’m out

current political climate that seems to emphasise

she gave me because the picture happened after

of the way and it’s one hundred percent about

our differences

I thought we were done. I love when they feel like

them. However, at some point, I owned up to the

they are truly part of the process.

fact that my work is on many levels personal and

SW: What do the bedrooms reveal about

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It makes you human, in a way, to want to create your own habitat, especially when the outside world can be a scary place.

autobiographical, and that it is following my life

this moment of transition from girlhood to

SW: Several of your other series focus on young

and my own identity as a woman, a mother but also


women and there seems to be a dialogue between

my identity as a Lebanese/Palestinian/American. It

RM: The project is about space and the girl, and the

all of them: in one series you see a girl alone; then

became important for me to include women and

organic relationship between them. At that age, the

in another you see her with her mother; and in

girls in both cultures and focus on our universality

bedroom is the cocoon, the one space the young

another one you realise she is a refugee. It gives

and our common humanity. But maybe it’s just

woman can control, and where she can explore

a fuller narrative to the portraits. And the work

natural and art has to be personal and reflect one’s

her developing identity and surround herself with

also seems to be about your identity.

own experiences.

Reem, Doha Lebanon from the series A Girl and Her Room (2010) Archival pigment print 86.5 x 122 cm

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Amal Shatila, Palestinian Refugee Camp, Beirut, Lebanon from the series A Girl and Her Room (2010) Archival pigment print 86.5 x 122 cm

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Christilla, Rabieh Lebanon from the series A Girl and Her Room (2010) Archival pigment print 86.5 x 122 cm

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Siena, Brookline Massachusetts from the series A Girl and Her Room (2009) Archival pigment print 86.5 x 122 cm

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Bisan, Bethlehem from the series A Girl and Her Room (2009) Archival pigment print 86.5 x 122 cm

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PROFILE Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - María Santoyo, photography curator.

Carole Alfarah: Fringing States of War Printing lost memories and projecting silent deaths The exhibition Wa Habibi by Syrian artist Carole

However, they do not show the usual archetypes

Alfarah presents a selection of images she took from

found in war reporting. Confrontation, causes,

2012 to 2015 on multiple trips to the country which

factions, weapons, violence and exile have been left

she was forced to leave behind. None of them show

out intentionally.

the different factions, weapons, violence or exile.

From the beginning, she focused her interests on

behind by battles, the voiceless survivors, the silent

the fringes of society in order to raise awareness

death, the places: our homes, streets and cities…

about silenced topics and give a voice to the most

Our present has been injured and our past destroyed.

disadvantaged people. The war forced Alfarah

Because of the huge loss caused by the conflict in

This is why I have been documenting daily life throughout the war, including the marks left behind by battles, the voiceless survivors, the silent death, the places: our homes, streets and cities…

and her family to leave Syria in 2012. They took up

Syria, I decided to preserve and protect what I have

happen to us. It could be here. The images emerge

residence in Barcelona, although Alfarah is currently

witnessed, to store it safely within a project in the form

out of confusion, from the buzz in the victims’ ears.

based in Madrid. She received a grant from EFTI

of a printed memory, the memory of a historically

They dig into the rubble and reach up in search of

(International center of Photography and Cinema),

shameful event that must stay alive in our minds

another person’s face. Others are the only lifesaver to

where she obtained a Master’s in Contemporary

forever. This exhibition invites the public to identify

reach for, bonds with them the only option for survival.

Photography. Alfarah is now working on an ongoing

with the experiences of the men and women who

The artist turns her eyes away from the war and looks

multimedia project titled Starting Anew, which tells

were forced to survive and lose a war they never

exclusively at the human condition upset in times of

individual stories of Syrian refugees’ new lives in

chose to fight.’

conflict, withstanding silently and tenaciously. Her

Nor do they attempt to explain the conflict’s causes

In the exhibition, Alfarah provided her own testimony:

or take any political position. With an extraordinary

‘Since I left my homeland, I have returned several times

sensitivity and deep respect towards those around

because I had been hired to do so by printed media

her, she simply shows to what degree the human

and international non-governmental organisations,

condition is upset by war.

until my last trip in October 2015. On each visit to Syria, I saw how my country’s face gradually changed

Alfarah was born in Damascus in 1981, and in 2008

until I wasn’t even able to recognise it anymore. That

she began her career as a documentary photographer

was the most difficult feeling for me to accept. I am a

and visual storyteller, not a common profession

photographer, though; and my camera is my only tool.

among women in Syrian society.

It is my voice. This is why I have been documenting daily life throughout the war, including the marks left

European countries.

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photographs speak to us about everyday subsistence Ultimately, Alfarah has become a witness to the

in a stunted urban landscape, about holding onto

The photographs were brought together in an

breakdown of a land that she loves, one which she

privacy and dignity in homes whose walls have

exhibition Wa Habibi, and exhibited at Casa Árabe

can hardly recognise anymore. Her photographs

crumbled. They also display hope and the potential

in Madrid. They were taken during the conflict that

convey a reality at once familiar and impossible to

for beauty, as when nature opens up new paths in

has besieged Alfarah’s homeland since March 2011.

come to terms with: We could be them. This could

seemingly annihilated landscapes.

Carole.Alfarah003 from the series Wa Habibi 120 x 180 cm

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My Beloved Broken Home, Syria 2012 to 2015 The book: is cometic, and can be opened from right to left if reading Arabic or from left to right when reading the English text. The images: represent a collective and personal memory of Syria during wartime, a printed memory that shows the traces left by war in people´s lives in their urban places, homes, city and land. The cover: is chosen to be similar to the Damascene brocade textile, as a metaphor for Syria before the war, with its beauty, glory, rich history and heritage. The paper: chosen is recycled, to fit in with the destruction and death caused by the war.

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Previous Page: 002 from the series Wa Habibi 120 x 180 cm 001, 006 and 007 were published in a photo book titled My Beloved Broken Home that was part of the exhibition as well Next page: 005 was seen as an installation in cloth: 3 units of transparent cloth, printing on fabric 320 x 214 cm

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IN CONVERSATION Images - Courtesy of the artist and Tashkeel. Writer - Janet Bellotto, artist, educator and curator.

Lateefa bint Maktoum: Chapters Patience and growth into motherhood in a changing environment Lateefa bint Maktoum has been developing

pace—especially as I have been so independent all

photographic montages of unreal, almost seamless,

of my life. Motherhood slows you down, but in the

fantastical landscapes over the last 10 years. Her

best way possible. It makes you pay attention to

artistic pursuits have made a reverberating impact

every detail; your senses are heightened because

within the community just when the cultural and

they need to be as you become the nurturer and

creative boom in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)

the protector of this tiny human.

was beginning. Founding Tashkeel in 2008, she continued her own practice while exhibiting

Developing the pieces started with drawing and

internationally, including the 54th International

writing down the key words of each important

Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennal. In her work

milestone and transition, from marriage to pregnancy,

she expresses a deep interest in reflecting women

birth and the start of the journey of raising a child.

and examining the transformations occurring in

There were struggles that I was trying to describe

contemporary. Through the digital darkroom she

as well as peaceful moments of growth and maturity

orchestrates narratives with painterly effects—

of the spirit.

flowers, trees, birds, water, desert—using composite images to tell a story that captures the present yet

JB: In developing your work, how do you see the

includes a concern for the fragile environment or

relationship with other artists or photographers?

potential of losing cultural traditions. New Chapter

LbM: A relationship with artists, designers and

is Lateefa bint Maktoum’s first solo exhibition in

writers is very important. It is critical to have

Dubai. Janet Bellotto interviews Maktoum about

discussions that advance and challenge you as an

her process and current body of work.

artist. This is why Tashkeel is so important to me;

LbM: I needed to change my process as Photoshop

everyday I can learn something from the members,

was starting to get too easy for me. Also, having a

Janet Bellotto (JB): New Chapter is your first solo

whether it is a new technique or learning from

baby meant that I could not afford to spend eight

exhibition in Dubai. Can you describe your artistic

how others view your work. A fleeting comment

hours a day in front of a computer. The challenge was

process when developing this new work?

to some can be the match that lights the flame

in asking myself ‘how do I keep the same dream-like

Lateefa bint Maktoum (LbM): This body of work

of inspiration, or that can dim it. This is why it is

quality of work but make it faster so I can spend time

was extremely challenging to put together, as the

important to choose whom we share our work with

with my son?’ I wanted to challenge myself to see

subject matter is so close to me. There is a strong

and whether the work is ready to be seen in order

what would happen if I constructed everything in

personal story, yet when an artist is honest with their

to be understood.

front of the camera rather than on a laptop. It was

story, other people can relate to it. I felt the need to

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I wanted to challenge myself to see what would happen if I constructed everything in front of the camera rather than from a laptop.

extremely freeing to be able to physically move

make these pieces to make sense of my own story

JB: In previous work you used digital manipulation/

every single piece that was in front of the lens. It

and my own transition into motherhood. It’s a difficult

photo montage, here, there is a further element of

was exactly like staging in the theatre. There is one

process to have another person relying on me is a

staging the frame, a theatricality about the image.

chance to show the audience what’s there. In this

big responsibility and a big shift in my day-to-day

How do you see this shift in your process?

case, it is one click of the camera.

Clarity (2017) Archival pigment print 92 x 122.6 cm

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Sustaining Identity (2015) Archival pigment print 26.75 x 37.5 cm

JB: Your work has been described as ‘otherworldly.’

identity at the time, the struggle of being a mother

LbM: There are a few key things in the image

There is a dream-like quality in your photographs.

and the simultaneous struggle of balancing life and

Patience. The floral wallpaper which is mimicked

How do you see this idea in your work?

having my own business and hobbies. It took time

in the fabric I am wearing, is a symbol that the

LbM: One of the pieces that could be described as

to find my role in each and to identify with it again

woman is the one who makes a house a home. It

‘otherworldly’ is Clarity, which is a photograph of me

because motherhood—especially in the beginning—

is her identity that intertwines with the space and

walking across the water in a green area that seems

is a shock and is all consuming. It is like having a

makes it warm and ‘her own’. The hanging clocks

to be a forest. When viewers first see this piece, they

constant mirror facing your soul, which makes you

in the photograph and the installation mark the

think it has been taken in Europe, but when looked

question everything. Having a child is sustaining our

present time, which symbolises how we experience

at a little closer, it is clear that I am facing palm trees

own identity; our DNA is in other human being. S/

patience—it is something to be lived in the now, it is

and that the location is actually an oasis in the middle

he exists and has her/his own character; yet s/he is

not something you experience in the past or in the

of the desert. I try and bring an element of the unreal

also a part of you. This journey is about growth and

future. The clock that I am holding covers the area

within the real; in this way viewers second-guess what

change, which I am sure will influence my artistic

from my chin down to my hips—I cling to it while

they are actually witnessing and ask: ‘Is it real or not?’

journey in the coming years.

listening to its sounds; I am protecting it as it gives

JB: New Chapter resonates about change and time.

JB: Time is also more prevalent in some of the

born, there is a thought of his/her existence; then

In this body of work, you focus on personal change

works. In Patience we see you standing in the centre

s/he is born in your heart; and finally s/he physically

in relation to motherhood. Can you expand on

of a room clutching a square clock, surrounded by

grows inside of you.

this? At the same time ‘identity’ is another line

a plethora of hanging alarm clocks. An installation

that can be drawn throughout your work—such as

mimicking the space in this photograph becomes

In the installation, the viewer is allowed to be playful

in Sustaining Identity. Is there a relationship here

almost the pinnacle of the exhibition. As you walk

with the piece; it is their stage, however they see fit

also with growth and change?

through the space, the sound of the ticking clocks

to interact with it. It was interesting to me to observe

LbM: When becoming a mother, it is common for

further emphasises the recurrent theme of the

people’s interactions. Some were scared to enter it

others to identify you as a mother before identifying

preciousness of time in the work. Can you tell

and others were not.

you by your profession or hobbies. When I had my

us more about the symbols in this self-portrait,

son, I had no help at first. It was just me taking care

Patience? And how does the interaction with the

JB: Transition is another element in your work, such

of him most of the time; and his father would help

viewer differ in the case of the installation; are you

as in the earlier pieces Everchanging Landscape and

me out when I needed it. I questioned my own

interested in some exchange of experience?

Observers of Change 3. In exploring the transition

me stress. It describes pregnancy. Before a child is

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Family (2016) Digital collage on archival paper 92 x 145 cm Abu Dhabi Festival 2016 Commission. The commissioned artwork is part of the ADMAF Art Collection. Courtesy of the artist © ADMAF

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into motherhood that occurs throughout the

JB: We further see transition as the changing

LbM: Flowers in this body of work are a symbol of

exhibition, can you tell us about the photograph

landscape in your works. Family seems to bring

life and how it is all a cycle. Flowers have seasons;

Transition-the location, the strands of flowers,

back some icons found in earlier photographed

they bloom, they fall off their trees and they die.

etc.? A connection can be seen here, as in the

landscapes. What do you aim to reveal or discuss

The tree then grows more flowers and the cycle

clock, whose hands move with the progression

with this focus on the changing environment?

continues. This is how life is; we all have our cycle

of time.

LbM: The piece Family shows me, my husband

and our time on earth before being buried under it.

LbM: Transition is a piece that describes the first

and my son standing by the window looking out

The cycle of life to me is an important reminder to

few months of motherhood. Most mothers—

at the horizon, which shows my great-grandfather’s

observe, to address, to make an impact while living

especially if they are breastfeeding their children—

house on the right, new Dubai on the left and

and to leave positive traces behind. Perhaps it is

will understand and relate to this. A mother at that

construction cranes in the middle, which when seen

because I have experienced so many family deaths

time is the only source of nourishment that a child

on the horizon are almost above us. The cranes

that I understand how precious the time of bloom is.

has; it does not eat or drink anything other than

are a symbol of constructing a new city and a new

its mother’s milk. It needs constant attention and,

family. Elements from the past intertwine within

JB: Are you interested in further exploring this

most importantly, a timely routine to get it into

elements of the present, which symbolise that we

theme? Or is it potentially also a point of transition

good eating and sleeping habits. The circular area

do not leave our history behind. No matter how

in your work?

is like a dugout hole under construction; you see

much our country develops, we are still connected

LbM: Motherhood will have a lifelong impact. I

me holding my baby—who is quite content resting

to our history and tribal roots.

am not yet sure if I will explore it further in the near

on my shoulder, fast asleep—with one hand, while

JB:Flowers, although not in all the photographs

future or if it will become another subject matter that

I struggle to be able to pull myself out of that hole

of New Chapter, reappear in your work. In some

haunts me long enough for me to follow those trails

without disturbing him, using only a delicate rope

cases, they are also exaggerated, again being

of thought. When I make art I make work based on

made from jasmine flowers, which can easily break

more ‘dream-like.’ Are the flowers specific to the

what most consumes my mind at the time. I will let

if I’m not careful. This piece describes the constant

location, or an important reoccurring element

my thoughts direct me to what comes next.

struggle of finding balance and trying to pull myself

that you use? Perhaps you can also describe their

JB: As your practice has developed both as an

out of stressful situations without disrupting my son.

presence in your photograph Growth.

artist and professional—with the establishment of

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Elements from the past intertwine within elements of the present, which symbolise that we do not leave our history behind. No matter how much our country develops, we are still connected to our history and tribal roots. Tashkeel—how have you experienced or seen

whether it is through graffiti murals or sculpture

so huge that when I was done with those pieces,

the impact of photography in art practice in

or painting. What is beautiful is that now, there

I had to stop and question what I was making

the UAE?

are more opportunities outside of university to

and why and how I could improve. Even though

LbM: Photography is what really pushed the

explore one’s artistic voice, from programmes at

I stopped creating for some time after the 2011

creative movement in the UAE, especially with

Tashkeel, like the Critical Practice Programme,

Venice Biennale, it helped me re-address my own

social networking websites like Flickr (at the

or the Tanween Design Programme, which gives

work and after a while, I found the courage to

time it was launched), which made everyone

artists and designers the opportunity to work

create again… and here we are today discussing

want to have a camera, take pictures and

without the pressures of academia and to listen

the new shift in my work!

experience life more deeply and vividly because

to their own voice and instincts when making art.

of their photography. Suddenly, everyone

At the same time, they are challenged by their

JB: Is there one image in the exhibition that

wanted to experiment, which allowed young

peers to make cohesive and thought-out work.

resonates with you the most and what you are aiming to explore.

photographers to open doors to photography

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prizes and exhibitions. But with the change and

JB: Your work has been exhibited internationally,

LbM: If I had to choose one image, it would be

shift in technology and social networking being

in such places as the Institut du Monde Arabe and

Patience. It is the one most people will relate

more on apps, people shifted to taking more

also at the UAE’s pavilion at the Venice Biennale

to whether male or female. Having patience is

photographs using their phone cameras, which

in 2011, as a UAE representative. Did these

difficult; yet we all have to experience it in some

changed the amount of people constantly taking

opportunities impact your process and practice?

form. It is what makes you develop and grow as

pictures with their camera. Phones were faster

LbM: The opportunity that I think affected me the

a human being, what makes you rush or feel okay

and gave people fair quality to play with. Looking

most was exhibiting at the Venice Biennale, which

about waiting. It sums up the whole exhibition. To

back, I always say flickr was the catalyst that got

is where the art world literally meets. It was difficult

have patience we need time, and time is what we

people to love photography, but now many are

to think ‘what next.’ I stopped creating after that,

all transition through while we are on this earth. It

exploring different ways to speak in artistic forms,

because that opportunity for me at the time was

is what we do with it that makes all the difference.

Growth (2017) Archival pigment print 92 x 122.6 cm

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Patience (2017) Archival pigment print 92 x 122.6 cm

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PROFILE Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Sulaf Derawy Zakharia.

Haya AlKhalifa: Disappearing Transforming the documentary photograph into art The photo is sparse. A single Arabic word is graffitied

equipment, distant skylines silhouetted in a dust haze

in blue and white on an unpainted cinderblock wall.

are made all the more alienating by the conspicuous

‫ )شموخ‬denotes a grace or grandeur

absence of people or any other sign of life. AlKhalifa

Shumookh (

inherent in being tall. Over the top of the wall, the fronds of younger date palms struggle to be seen. Towering over them is the dead trunk of the tallest palm, its greenery long fallen. The message is acutely poignant, the irony inescapable. Another photo captures the remnants of a decrepit gate that once opened into private farmland. Today, the gate would stand almost impotent were it not for the weeds and dry shrubbery supporting its feeble presence and blocking access to the dying land beyond it. An ongoing project, now in its third year, Disappearing is comprised of two separate yet interrelated threads. The first is photographer Haya AlKhalifa’s effort to document the slow and painful loss of her country’s lavish palm groves from which Bahrain once derived its reputation as the ‘land of a million date palms.’ A palpable sadness permeates this veritable memento mori of palm trees and a sense of warmth is conveyed by the yellow light that bathes the trees in most of the images. In contrast, the second thread is a documentation of the urbanisation that is replacing the natural farmland. Tinged with cold blue, the photos capture a process of synthetic creation from which the photographer is clearly distancing herself. Abandoned playgrounds, piles of rocks excavated to make way for construction, building sites and

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responsibility, her work neatly fits into Derrick Price’s

It is the combination of the two series into a single body of work that creates the compelling narrative that pushes the series out of the realm of a mere recording of facts.

definition of what he calls the paradigmatic form

a plain representation of the facts would allow. The

of documentary photography that began to take

tenderness with which she treats the dying trees

shape in the 1930s.2

contrasts strikingly with the almost post-apocalyptic

herself refers to these bleak landscapes as dystopian. AlKhalifa describes her work as documentary. To the extent that her images are untouched save for occasional cropping, they conform to one of the central principles of the documentary aesthetic, maintaining veracity and genuineness1. That the photographs capture her subject matter within a framework that puts it forth in a way that builds a case for reform, change and greater civic and corporate

feel of her photographs of construction and However, Disappearing pushes gratingly against

cityscapes. AlKhalifa has transformed Disappearing

the boundaries of documentary representation. As

into an act of self-expression, which according to

AlKhalifa faithfully records the demise of palms and

photographer, theorist and critic Allan Sekula is what

the tandem encroachment of urbanisation, it can be

transforms documentary photography into art.

argued that the work is, as she claims, documentary. It is the combination of the two series into a single

‘Documentary is thought to be art when it transcends

body of work that creates the compelling narrative

its reference to the world, when the work can be

that pushes the series out of the realm of a mere

regarded, first and foremost, as an act of self-

recording of facts.

expression on the part of the artist.’3

Disappearing does more than tell the story of how

AlKhalifa’s work is being exhibited at the Shaikh

nature is sacrificed in the name of ‘development.’

Ebrahim 15/15 show, which is being held at fifteen

AlKhalifa’s photographs, taken together, are

different locations throughout Muharraq and

imbued with far more meaning and emotion than

Manama, until the 15th March.

1-Price, Derrick & Wells, Liz (1996) Thinking about Photography: Debates, historically and now. 2-Price, Derrick (1996) Surveyors and Surveyed.

3-Sekula, Allan (1978) Dismantling Modernism, Reinventing Documentary (Notes on the Politics of Representation).

Untitled from the series Disappearing (2016) Memento 63.5 digital installation

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Previous page: Untitled from the series Disappearing (2016) 500 x 400 cm fabric print mounted on a light box Below: Untitled from the series Disappearing (2016) Memento 63.5 digital installation

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All Untitled from the series Disappearing (2016) Memento 63.5 digital installation

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PROFILE Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Simon Njami, curator, lecturer and art critic.

Meriem Bouderbala: A Fathomless Enigma, Shared Exoticism A Fathomless Enigma

dimensions, reduced simultaneously to her essential appearance: breasts, sexual organs, legs.

Suddenly we are transported into the world of the Thousand and One Nights. Fantastical creatures, half -human, half-divine contemplate us and play with our

The Orientalist allusion, distant and ironic is present in the dance of the seven

perception. Through diffraction and kaleidoscope, the bodies are presented

veils, complete with jewels, belts, pearls, gestures, as the artist reproduces

only to be unrecognizable. Meriem Bouderbala does not make the same error

all the artefacts of seduction and transforms her characters into irresistible

as Narcissus as she is aware that all reflections are untruthful, as the reflection

Sirens. A phantasm thousands of years old, refined by its clear refusal to be

does not belong to us. As Lacan says, it is subject to the appreciation and

objectified, reborn as a kind of elusive sphinx whose invisible secret is only

the interpretation of others. In this false mirror Bouderbala reveals to us the

revealed to those who have solved inscrutable enigmas. Once again, we have

truth of a humanity divided between interior and exterior. The Thousand and

to struggle against the manipulation imposed by our senses.

One Nights, we think, as we observe these women, always the same woman, djinn and houri in an improbable paradise. The woman is of exaggerated

Using Prose Poetry, Meriem Bouderbala illustrates her origins, art and inspiration.

Text by Simon Njami, for the photography series Bedouinas.

intellectual in the opposition, he fought for Tunisia’s

transparent-like gazes of one at another, the false


transparency to oneself. This illusion and dream of transparency that modernity has shattered.

My grandfather, of Corsican origin, was a customs inspector at Gabes as were many Blackfoots. He and

Only flashes arise, juxtaposed with violence,

Shared Exoticism

my grandmother hid Tunisian Jews to protect them

confused echoes of the atrocities of colonisation,

My name is Meriem Bouderbala.

from Nazi raids during the Second World War.

the uprooting, the current violence within these countries confronted with the modern world,

On my father’s side:

My mother met my father in Tunis, they married and

glittering fragments of a dreamed-up orient: these

My great grandmother, a Circassian, was

then I was born.

images that skew the quest for transparency and

kidnapped by Arab pirates and sold to the Bey

I have used the contemporary medium to make an

possibility of order.

of Tunis, who offered her to my great grandfather,

impossible transcription of my bearings, which were

general of his army.

exclusively Arab.

Between exoticism and sharing, the impossible

curtailment of the foreigner. Exoticism is the gaze

My grandfather became a French national, left for

The gaze, being a prisoner of historical, psychological

of the other at a culture, one that is necessarily

Morocco and enjoyed the prizes of colonisation.

and sociological frameworks, can only every be

foreign; art is a shared dupery in the face of the

He returned to Tunisia a rich man just before the

blurred, endlessly reflecting the shimmering, uncertain


Independence, to become a Tunisian citizen.

surfaces of false transparency. My work is an abyss, a

succession of ephemeral suspensions, harmonising

I make of my core, of its altered and disturbed

My father was born French and did his military service

the individual gaze with the gaze of the other: Me,

photographic appearance, an ephemeral scene

in the French army. As my grandfather had become a

seeing Westerners looking at the Maghreb, me being

of tragedy that has no origin, nor end.

Tunisian national, my father studied in Paris, returned

both one who looks and the one who is looked at.

to Tunis, got married, and I was born.

Art, for me, exists in this borrowed time between the

The revolution closes in on itself and the realm of

gaze of one and the gaze of the other.

possibilities is shattered, we must go elsewhere.

My great grandfather was a Blackfoot who settled in

Transparency: art exists in an in-between state, inside

By Meriem Bouderbala. Translated from the French

Tunisia since the beginning of the protectorate. As an

the uncertain realm of transparent-like exchanges, the

by Dalia Hashim and Imogen Gemikonakli.

On my mother’s side:

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Psykédélik 1, from the series Psykédélik (2013) Silver prints on diasec 170 x 120 cm

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Bedouinas 12, from the series BĂŠdouinas (2009) Silver prints on diasec 160 x 120 cm

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Bedouinas 9, from the series BĂŠdouinas (2009) Silver prints on diasec 160 x 120 cm

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Vertigo 3 from the series Vertigo (2011) Silver prints on diasec 180 x 120 cm

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Vertigo 2 from the series Vertigo (2011) Silver prints on diasec 180 x 120 cm

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PROFILE Images - Courtesy of the artist and Green Art Gallery, Dubai. Writer - Rania Habib, editor.

Jaber Al Azmeh: Lines in The Sand When the desert is a refuge and the lens a tool for understanding The work of a photographer is akin to a birthing process for Jaber Al Azmeh. The Doha-based Syrian artist is romanticising his craft with this comparison, one that has allowed him to gain some perspective on highly emotional situations. A case in point is his last solo show at Dubai’s Green Art Gallery, Border-Lines, held between May-June 2016, which deliberately and thoughtfully explored the roots and legacy of war—though this was not initially Al Azmeh’s plan. Quite the contrary, in fact. While his previous bodies of work, such as Wounds (2012) and Ba’ath (2014), were a direct reaction to the conflict in Syria, Border-Lines was born out of his need to distance himself from the horrors that continue to grip his home country. The photographer fled his home and studio five years ago and relocated 30 kilometres outside of the capital Damascus, on a plot of land in the countryside. ‘I don’t like cities,’ he says, referring to the exhibition’s focus on desert scenes. ‘I love quietness, I love nature, and in Doha, nature is embodied through the desert. I fell in love with it instantly.’ His photographs began as visual experimentations; purely aesthetic ones at that. Al Azmeh was consciously keeping at bay the political overtones of his previous works. And so he focused on the tyre tracks that led him, and countless others, to the wide expanse of the desert—the place where he sought refuge. Out of these shots was born the first theme of the exhibition, Survival. ‘Perhaps my subconscious was trying to reveal something,’ says Al Azmeh. ‘Eventually, when I looked at the images of the tyre tracks, I realised that I was photographing people moving—the way Syrians and other refugees were fleeing by sea, by road, any way for survival, with no idea where they were going.’ Then came Nationalism, the series of photos that referenced refugees stuck—and humiliated—at borders. ‘I cannot understand the concept

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of people fleeing massacres yet being

with his imagery: stark, Orwellian,

told they cannot cross a certain line once

minimalistic photographs printed on

they get to safety,’ Al Azmeh says. ‘This

cotton rag fine art archival paper depict

is the kind of nationalistic thinking that

surveillance cameras, oil barrels, a row

I am not a fan of.’ Madness reflected

of buses, a rusted billboard devoid of a

the photographer’s incomprehension

message, border patrols, tunnels and the

of a ‘crazy’ situation, and Soaring his

purgatorial vastness of the desert. This

moments of clarity and positivity amid

aerial perspective on what Al Azmeh felt

the ugliness of war.

was a Syrian issue became an outlet for a universal reality, one that leaves the artist

All the images in the exhibition have one

saying ‘enough.’ He says: ‘Those lines are

thing in common; a line—a compositional

a way to say, ‘enough of this madness’, or

aspect that partitions dream and reality,

if you want to be more positive, they are

conscious and subconscious. Al Azmeh

the lines of the horizon, one that holds a

questions the roots and legacy of war

better future.’

Top: Madness 1,2 and 3 from the series Border-Lines (2015) Archival pigment print 100 x 150 cm Bottom two images: Madness 4 and 5 from the series Border-Lines (2015) Archival pigment print 26 x 40 cm

Perhaps my subconscious was trying to reveal something. Eventually, when I looked at the images of the tyre tracks, I realised that I was photographing people moving.

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All from the series Border-Lines (2015) Archival pigment print, left to right Top: Soaring 2, 60 x 90 cm Centre: Soaring 1, 26 x 40 cm - Soaring 4, 3, 5, 60 x 90 cm - Soaring 7, 26 x 40 cm Bottom: Soaring 6, 26 x 40 cm

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All from the series Border-Lines (2015) Archival pigment print, left to right Top: Survival 10, 26 x 40 cm - Survival 6, 60 x 90 cm Centre: Survival 5, 7,12, 60 x 90 cm Bottom: Survival 8, 9, 26 x 40 cm

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PROFILE Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Laura Egerton, curator.

Rula Halawani: The Bride is Beautiful, But She is Married to Another Man A foundation in three chapters The element of time is always worth investigating in

have to go through daily on film, which itself had been

the photographic output of Rula Halawani. There is

through the same X-ray treatment. After numerous

an acute directness and immediacy in the way she

journeys, the film was finally destroyed—it seemed

captures a moment, perhaps a skill left over from

nothing remained at all until she looked more

her decade-long work as a photo-journalist and yet

closely. After scanning and adjusting the negatives

what remains is something that feels part of history.

in Photoshop, she uncovered ghostly images of

Her life and work are defined by her experience of

the barricaded walkways and cages, they came up

living in occupied East Jerusalem. Halawani’s latest

in a bluish coloration and she intentionally left the

series, commissioned by the Sharjah Art Foundation

perforation marks intact. The artist explains: ‘The

is made up of three distinct chapters that together

checkpoint began to epitomise the way Palestinian

effectively tell the Palestinian story.

people are confined and trapped in small places with no freedom of movement under the occupation.’

The title references a historical passage from two

They tell an anonymous story of a nation under siege.

Rabbis who visited Palestine in the late 19 century, th

recognising that the land was inhabited by a

What the artist experienced at the checkpoints,

flourishing society.

however, were personal stories. She asked individuals if she could photograph them, creating the second

‘I feel in this project I did what I really wanted to

part of the series. ‘These ten images symbolise

achieve in photography.’ says the artist. ‘Photography

the whole population, says Halawani. They are

is a whole world by itself, you can do so much with

Palestinians, that’s it.’ Each taken in front of the same

it.’ Her practice is driven by experimentation: she was

old, stone wall, the facial expressions and poses

originally a mathematics student. A project often ends

captured in these portraits are mesmerising. They

up vastly different from her original intention, but that

are incredibly moving representations of humanity.

is the beauty of it: ‘I don’t photograph with my eyes, I photograph with my heart, intuitively.’

Their power is even stronger when seen alongside the final works in the series. Shot as if seen on television

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Inspired by stories of incidents involving X-ray

screens, the artist selected 28 images from the Matson

machines at Israeli checkpoints, the photographer

Photography collection depicting Palestine pre-

decided to illustrate the effect that going through an

occupation, between 1900-1947. Initially intending

X-ray has on a person. Spending time at checkpoints

to photograph scenes of occupied Palestine as they

throughout occupied Palestine, she took photographs

appeared on news bulletins in the UAE and France

of the enclosures and machines that many Palestinians

while a recipient of the Production Programme at the

A project often ends up vastly different from her original intention, but that is the beauty of it

X-rayed photos (2016) Archival pigment print 68 x 180 cm

Sharjah Art Foundation and on residency

industry. It is also heartbreaking to compare

at the Camargo Foundation last year,

it to the two earlier parts in the series, which

Halawani changed her mind and decided

represent where Palestine is now.

to use archival photographs instead. The final selection edits out pictures of

Much of the effectiveness of Halawani’s

massacres, the occupation, diaspora

work comes from her decision to use black

and instead focuses on ‘pictures of the

and white photography for contemporary

beautiful life, how it was, how people were

shots. The way she manipulates and often

living before occupation.’ It is fascinating

damages negatives and the images she

to see the sophistication of life as it once

creates in shooting with old cameras are

was: the standard of hospitals, schools,

part of what makes her artwork unique

transportation, culture, agriculture and

and timeless.

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Portraits (2016) Archival pigment print 80 x 100 cm

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TV (2016) Archival pigment print 30.6 x 45 cm

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STUDIO VISIT Images - Courtesy of the artist, Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha and Sfeir-Semler Gallery Beirut and Hamburg. Writer - Abdellah Karroum, Director of Mathaf.

Wael Shawky: Art, Anthropology, Culture and Storyboards Offering an analysis of human history Wael Shawky is a visual artist inspired by literature

to understand more by making this work. Reading

and storytelling. The best time to visit him at his

a text does not make me understand the situation,

studio is at night, when he is working on developing

but transforming it into this experience allows me to

storyboards, drawing, painting and sometimes writing.

learn something very different. It’s not only an artistic

On recent regular visits to his studio in the Fire Station

approach, I think it has something to do with, let’s say,

in Doha to discuss ways of displaying his work for

offering an analysis of human history,’ Shawky says

an upcoming exhibition, we spent most of the time

in our conversations in the studio.

talking about politics, history, music and literature. He often continued to work on paintings when talking

His most well known works are probably Al Araba

about the stories that inspired him, such as those in

Al Madfuna (2010-2016), using Egyptian writer

most important of which is probably Michelangelo

the writings of historical, modern and contemporary

Mohamed Mostagab’s novels and Cabaret Crusades

Pistolletto when Shawky was in residency at his

writers Amin Maalouf, Mohamed Mostagab and

(2011-2015), inspired by Lebanese author Amin

Citta del Arte.

Abdul Rahman Munif; and those of his childhood

Maalouf’s Crusades Through Arab Eyes. Both series

in Mecca; and from explorations of Upper Egypt,

are composed as a trilogy of films and a series of

Shawky is an artist with a sense of turning his art and

which have given him an acute awareness of real and

drawings, sculptures and installations. The last thirty

research into opportunities to share and teach. He

metaphysical worlds.

minutes of his most recent film Al Araba Al Madfuna

created Mass Alexandria in Egypt, where he hired a

III uses inverted images, provoking contradictory

generation of younger artists and creatives interested

On finishing his studies in art in 2000 at Pennsylvania

reactions from audiences who prefer comfortable

in art and filmmaking. It quickly became a model

University, he went back to Alexandria–where he had

images even when talking about social drama.

where the artist also edits his videos. He is currently

originally studied Fine Arts at Alexandria University

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He is the kind of active reader who can connect the present world to the histories and stories of the past.

extensively traveling in the Gulf region, as he is working

in the 1990s–and began a continuous exchange

One of the most successful and prolific artists of his

on a new major project still in the research stage, in a

working between East and West. He is part of the

generation, Shawky is able to deliver several major

studio provided by Qatar Museums, in Doha. There,

Generation 00 that emerged in the 2000s, with strong

museum shows in the same year. His exhibitions at

he enlisted a group of young researchers interested in

works immediately approaching political, social and

MoMA-PS1 and at Mathaf in 2015 were the most

the recent history of the region to think about today’s

historical topics, in the context of major shifts in North

visible to-date, and less than one year later, large

world through the lenses of art, anthropology, culture

Africa and West Asian countries.

scale shows are dedicated to his work by Kunsthaus

and politics. While the fictional worlds of Shawky’s

Bregenz, Castello di Rivoli, and Fondazione Merz.

films seem far behind in competing with the reality

Shawky’s approach looks at history and its different

Qatar Museums acquired the entire series of

of war and other violent conflicts present in his works,

narratives; but he also uses literature and storytelling.

Cabaret Crusades and Al Araba Al Madfuna films

his invention of a spectacular artistic vocabulary allows

He is the kind of active reader who can connect the

after commissioning the third part of each project.

him to communicate in ways that are not explicit, but

present world to the histories and stories of the past.

He has also participated in international exhibition

diversely imaginative. Not violent, but intensely strong.

His work points towards historical and fictional topics

on all continents including Venice Bienniale (2003)

but it also connects us to present conflicts in the world.

at the Arsenal, Marrakech (2009), Sidney (2014).

This text is following a studio visit in Doha, where

‘History is extremely important today. It is my intention

He collaborated with major international artist, the

Wael is currently based.

The Path to Cairo from the series Cabaret Crusades (2012) HD video, color, sound, 60.53 minutes. Video still Courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut and Hamburg The Horror Show File from the series Cabaret Crusades (2010) HD video, color, sound, 31.49 minutes. Video still Courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut and Hamburg The Secrets of Karbalaa from the series Cabaret Crusades (2014) Single channel HD-video, colour, sound, c. 120 minutes. Video still Courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut and Hamburg

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Al Araba Al Madfuna I (2012) HD video, b/w, sound, 21.21 minutes. Video still Courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery Beirut and Hamburg

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Al Araba Al Madfuna III (2016) Still from 4k video, colour, sound, 25 minutes Courtesy of Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha

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Al Araba Al Madfuna III (2016) Still from 4k video, colour, sound, 25 minutes Courtesy of Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha

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PROFILE Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Rula Khoury, art historian, critic and curator.

Wafa Hourani: The Spirit of Buildings Installation and memories ‘I like the word believe. In general, when one says ‘I

startlingly the word ‘Expelled’ is spoken in a man’s

know,’ one doesn’t know, one believes.’

voice, interrupting this peaceful melody.


With his installation, Cinema Dunia, Wafa Hourani

This striking music and the voices are a mystery to

has built an environment that is symbolic of the

us. We walk around the installation searching for

changing face of the city of Ramallah and showed the

some video that might synchronise with the music

importance of new media, including photography

and sounds we are hearing. We discover that the

and cinema. Hourani arrived at his artistic practice

video’s source is inside the miniature cinema hall,

through earlier forays into filmmaking. He has

needing to peek inside in order to watch. A real

become well known for sculptural works that he calls

movie is screened and small figures watch this video

Future Cities, and a series of projects called Qalandia

montage edited from the Palestinian Cinema Archive

2047-2067-2087. These works confront the social,

and combined with footage from the installation

political, and economic realities of Palestinian life.

itself. We discover surprising movements and artifacts in the installation. Posters of imaginary films

Detailed scaled models combine photography

hang on the walls, recalling a history of Palestinian

and sculpture dealing with the everyday life in a

cinema that never took place. Cars pass by in the

Palestinian camp. It is located near one of the main

streets. Twisted humour is present in the form of a

large checkpoints that controls the entrance into

toy lion standing on one of the rooftops. When we

and movement from Ramallah.

wander around we find a world apart from our own surrounding the cinema, a make-believe Palestinian

Hourani’s work, Cinema Dunia (2012), similar to


Future Cities in the spirit of building miniatures, deals with the recreation of the first cinema built in

The installation replicates a precise miniature reality,

Street, one of the busiest and most beautiful streets

Ramallah, in the 1950s. The model is installed in a

projecting the image of the installation back inside

in Ramallah. There was a public green garden at

dim and isolated room. A long yearning soundtrack

the work itself. The installation is assumed to be

the end of the street and an ice cream shop called

from the interior of a miniature model of a cinema

more genial than the subject that Hourani represents,

Rukab, famous for its pistachio and mastic flavors

hall waves out of the sculpture through its open

with his miniature sculptures and everyday scenes.

(still open today). It was not until after the 1967

windows. The soundtrack, a journey filled with

It both provokes and questions Palestinian society

war against the Israeli Occupation that people lost

different tones of music and dialogue, soft rock

and the environment in which we live.

interest in the cinema. Israeli taxes forced Cinema

music—the kind that sucks you into longing—shifting

Dunia to go out of business in 1984, and by the end

into the sad sounds of violins, merging with the

Cinema Dunia was the first of three movie houses

of the 1980s, when the first intifada started, all the

sound of wind and soft piano. Then suddenly and

in Ramallah. It was built by the Massayef Ramallah

cinemas were shut down by the Palestinian Solidarity

Company and opened its doors in 1944, four years

Movement for the safety of the people. Fourteen

before the Nakba in 1948. It was located on Rukab

years later, the owner decided to demolish it and

1 - Marcel Duchamp, Duchamp du signe, Paris, Flammarion, 1975, p. 185.

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The installation Cinema Dunia is an attempt to document an alternative Palestine, one which lives in people’s minds; it is an attempt to recreate by force a motherland, in contrast to the harsh visible reality.

Cinema Dunia

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Al Masjed Al Wased

use the land for parking. Cinema Dunia became Dunia

an illusion in which the boundaries between fact and

Their absence all along this period is depicted through

Parking for eight years; and is now a commercial tower

fiction, real and artificial, actual and virtual reality become

their illusionary presence in this installation. Would the

called Dunia Trade Centre. Various shops and fast food

much more engaged and blurred, presenting illusion

people of Ramallah have had more hope now if Cinema

places, such as KFC and Pizza Hut, stand in the place

as self-reflection. Hourani believes that the secrets are

Dunia still existed? How would it be configured in their

of this once iconic movie house.

more powerful than the images; and that the image is


disappearing in hyper reality. Hourani, explains the intentions of his installation: ‘In

Often, personal Palestinian narratives blur the borders

order for the content to be more accessible to the

Hourani explains, ‘if art can carry part of the collective

between reality, dreams and illusions. The installation

public and in order for it to involve them more, I have

memory and some of the responsibilities of a nation,

Cinema Dunia is an attempt to document an alternative

created a dark scene full of imaginary layers that can

I think that in order to make an atmospheric artwork,

Palestine, one which lives in people’s minds; it is an

take the place of the public in the exhibition so that

an illusionary scene, there has to be a minimum of reality

attempt to recreate by force a motherland, in contrast

they can experience more closely the social and political

in it.’ This message is communicated within the fanciful

to the harsh visible reality.

complexities in Palestine.’ Engaging with the installation,

space of the installation and the video montage that

exploring it, and wandering around it allows the viewer

Hourani produces, which serves to question the essence

There is a difference between imagining a thing and

to discover the layers upon layers of complexity inherent

of loss for the Palestinian people, becoming a secret

believing in its existence—between supposition and

to the subject of Cinema Dunia.

buried in their memories. Rukab street’s, Cinema Dunia’s

submission to absolute truth. In the latter case, the

and the social collective’s meetingpoint changed with

narrative is not only conjured up by the mind, but is

This installation addresses the issue of urban development

the daily life under occupation. The cinema, whose role

believed to exist in reality. Belief is thus the mental

in Ramallah. Hourani makes art as a model, producing

is to document the lost image of Palestine is now lost.

state or function of cognising reality; and it makes all

life within it with a dynamic of hide and seek. In general,

By shutting down the cinemas, they have also done

the difference in providing certainty and conviction to

to copy something of the original structures is to create

away with the motivation to produce Palestinian films.

a people who have long lost theirs.

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Qalandia 2087 Mixed media installation in 6 parts with sound, variable size, 2009Â

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Installation view: Panorama from Qalandia Project, 2014, mixed media, 24.5 x 50 x 7 in. Courtesy of the artist. Image courtesy of Weatherspoon Art Museum/ UNCG, 2015.

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FESTIVAL Images - Courtesy of the artist and Agial Art Gallery.

Driving the Car. For the participation of Photomed Liban 2017, Agial Art Gallery selected a series by Clara Abi Nader titled Driving the Car (2010-11).

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The series follows people driving their cars around their city, capturing fleeting

of a second to throw my curious eye, attracted by a hand, a face, a light, which

moments of the everyday in traffic. As the artist sees it: “there are days when

make my heart beat very hard; and then my brain commands me to go hunting.

driving is a liberation [to her], a relief…Drive around, until the roundabout or the

To hunt, yes. Imagination, memory. "Where are you going?" I want to tell them,

bridge, open windows, arms dangling, before it is time to go back to reality”.

"who are you?". There is this tiny tension, am I intruding? Do I let go of an

It's only a second or two, when one of us passes the other and I have a thousandth

almost perfect encounter? No... definitely not "...

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