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ISSUE 03/2016


Under the Patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces

Abu Dhabi Art welcomes the world’s most innovative galleries to its multi-disciplinary art fair, public talks and events programme, presenting iconic pieces by internationally renowned artists and unique artworks by emerging talent. AB43 CONTEMPORARY | Acquavella Galleries | Agial Art Gallery | Aicon Gallery | ATHR | Ayyam Gallery | Charlie James Gallery | Cuadro Fine Art Gallery | Custot Gallery | Elmarsa | Galerie Brigitte Schenk | Galerie GP & N Vallois | Galerie Janine Rubeiz | Galerie Krinzinger | Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac | GALLERIA CONTINUA | Gallery One | Gazelli Art House | Giorgio Persano | Hanart TZ Gallery | Horrach Moya | Hunar Gallery | Lawrie Shabibi | Le Violon Bleu | Leehwaik Gallery | Leila Heller Gallery | Lisson Gallery | October Gallery | Park Ryu Sook Gallery | Paul Stolper Gallery | Salwa Zeidan Gallery | Sean Kelly Gallery | Sfeir-Semler Gallery | Shirin Gallery | The Park Gallery | The Third Line | Hafez Gallery - Bidaya

*Gallery list is correct at time of publishing, visit the website abudhabiart.ae for up to date information.


SEPTEMBER 2 2— DECEMBER 31, 2016

AI WEIWEI JAMIE ALLEN ARAM BARTHOLL TAY S I R B AT N I J I WAFA A BIL AL LIU BOLIN JONAH BRUCKER-COHEN H E AT H E R D E W E Y- H A G B O R G MICHAEL JOAQUIN GREY MONIRA AL QADIRI E VAN ROTH PHILLIP STEARNS SIEBREN VERSTEEG ADDIE WAGENKNECHT KENNY WONG

NYUAD Ar t Galler y NYU Abu Dhabi Saadiyat Island Tel. +971 2 628 8000 nyuad.ar tgaller y@nyu.edu www.nyuad-ar tgaller y.org

Image: Addie Wagenknecht, XXXX.XXX, 2014 Cour tesy bitforms galler y, New York


Photo Fair 22–25 sept 2016

Festival 16–25 sept 2016

photo: 2016 © Christto & Andrew


MIA medium the tribe 24,5x33.indd 1

04/11/16 10:44


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

Volkshaus Basel Rebgasse 12, 4058 Basel photo-basel.com

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 n! io 3rd edit 2016: same location asless than , el as Volkshaus B s from 700 meter und. rt A Basel fairgro ation: open for applic om l.c photo-base


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Contents

Issue 03 / 2016

PORTFOLIO

INDUSTRY..................................110

Camille Zakharia ……….............. 16

UNSEEN Photo Fair

By: Barbara Lounder

The Blue Hour Qalandiya International

PROFILES

Symbolic Cities

Shaweesh ………......................... 32

Clashing Realities

By: Madeline Yale Preston

The Sovereign Art Prize

Arwa Al Neami ………................ 36

Two Suns in a Sunset

By: Miriam Lloyd-Evans

When Art Becomes Liberty

Editor’s note Hello – There is a lot of love going around in regards to art photography and we

Estabrak Al Ansari ………........... 46

have been in the middle of it all. From the beginning, an objective of Tribe has been to make it an global magazine, and one of the ways we have been doing this is through participating in international photo fairs. Most recently at Unseen Photo

By: Flounder Lee

REVIEW

Ziad Antar ………........................ 52

Al Haraka Baraka .........................114

By: Cristiana de Marchi

Kevin Jones

Toufic Beyhum ………................. 58

Imperfect Chronology .................120

By: Carl Gough

Sophie Kazan

Raeda Saadeh ……….................. 68

Sha’abi .........................................126

By: Juliet Cestar

Janet Bellotto

fair in Amsterdam, the curiosity at our booth was mind-blowing. We are officially part of the Photo-Basel circle, a new fair devoted to photography in Switzerland during Art Basel coming up in June. Tribe is full of story tales and photo series from the Arab world, many seen from the inside, creating a platform for photographers and artists to present many alternative narratives, different than what is constantly

Rashed Al Shashai ………........... 76

shown on the media from the region. We see cities, from the past,

By: Maryam Ganjineh

present, tinted & imagined.

Jassim Al Awadhi ………............. 82 By: Woodman Taylor

In this issue of tribe, we wanted to show what images can do, and what

Mohammed Al-Kouh ….............. 90

you can do with an image. Camille Zacharia, cuts his world apart and puts

By: Rana Sadik

it back together again, Ziad Antar shoots with out a lens in his series After

Khaled Akil ………....................... 104

Images, and Raeda Saadeh photographs her magical performances.

By: Rosemary Irons

Michelle Woodward tackles Orientalism (and digs deep with another historical essay), while Jassim Al Awadhi shoots with a forensic eye.

ESSAY

Shaweesh adds and Arwa Al Neami does not. Artists share their stories,

Orientalism in Nineteenth-Century

experiences, outlooks, ideas and concepts of their world: At work, at

Photography................................ 62

play. Themes of salvation, identity, abandonment are through out the

By: Michelle L. Woodward

pages. We have Pokeman & selfies. Plus, undercover and underwater

Mohammed Al Shammarey .........96

photographs, amongst mountains, walls & wishes.

By: Lulu M. Al-Sabah

The excitement of what is coming next is what drives us, every issue we are excited about discovering new artists, and looking forward to sharing them.

Cover by: Camille Zakharia, Spring 3, from the series Spring

f tribephotonewmedia d tribephotomag www.tribephotonewmedia.com

(Detail) (2014) 101.6 x 50.8 cm

Publisher Mubarik Jafery

Assistant Editor Woodman Taylor

Legal Consultant Fatimah Malik

Design Assistant Zia Paulachak

Pre Press Rana Kumar

Photo Editor Sueraya Shaheen

Copy Editor Sarah Neate Laura Metzler

Distribution Mstthew Lombard Damien Murray

Print Consultant Sivadas Menon

Print Supervisor Sreejesh Krishnan Nayeem Uddin

Business Devlopment Nanda Collins

Design Channels

Associate Editor New Media Janet Bellotto

Production Gopi Nathan

Printer Vimalan Muhammed Shah

Contact editorial@ink.com sales@ink.com + 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. 7.05.16.9.3.4.5683.968

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Mario Marino, Surma Girl, Ethiopia 2011

DEDICATED FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHY GALLERY AND MUSEUM QUALITY PRINTING

DIFC Dubai - UAE - Gate Village - Bldg 02 - P.O.BOX 506697 - Tel: +971 4 323 1210 - info@theemptyquarter.com - www.theemptyquarter.com


Writers Barbara Lounder is a visual artist living in Dartmouth,

worked as a scriptwriter in London, but has since

He has published on a wide range of topics, from

Nova Scotia. She has a BFA from Queen’s University

returned to his roots in South Africa. d @goyzilla

ritual uses of Buddhist icons to the poetics of

in Kingston, Ontario, and an MFA from the Nova

visuality in Bollywood. Recent research includes

Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD), where

Michelle L. Woodward is photo editor of Middle

the articulation of conceptual art by both Emirati

she now teaches. Lounder’s work has been shown

East Report magazine, editor of Jadaliyya e-zine’s

and UAE resident artists. His essay and installation

in galleries across Canada and internationally, and

Photography page; and a freelance researcher and

Cycling the City was commissioned by the Dubai

she has also published writings on the work of other

writer. She received a Master of Science degree in

Culture and Arts Authority for the 2014 Sikka Art

artists. www.barbaralounder.ca

Comparative Media Studies from the Massachusetts

Fair. With a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago,

Institute of Technology. She has published essays

he has taught at the University of Illinois as well

Madeline Yale Preston is a photography specialist,

on photojournalism and Ottoman photography,

as at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. After

independent curator and writer based in London

taught courses in photography, and worked as a

curating numerous exhibitions of South Asian and

and Dubai. Her doctoral dissertation at Chelsea

press photographer. www.mwoodward.com

Islamic art at Harvard and Boston’s Museum of

College of Art and Design, University of the Arts

Fine Arts, Woodman now teaches art history and

London explores contemporary photography in the

Juliet Cestar is a London-based writer on

ethnomusicology at the American University in

Middle East. www.madelinepreston.com

contemporary Middle Eastern art with an MA

Dubai, where he chairs the Department of Visual

in Anthropology of Art. She has recently been

Communication and is founding convenor of the

Cristiana de Marchi is an Italian/Lebanese artist,

working with Rose Issa on the publication Signs

AUD Visual Cultures Forum.

curator and poet who lives and works between

of our Times: From Calligraphy to Calligraffiti ,

Dubai and Beirut. She holds a Masters of Arts with

2016 (Merrell).

first class honours from the Università degli Studi

Rula Khoury was born in Haifa. She is a curator, art historian and art critic. She received a Masters

di Torino, Italy. She conducts personal artistic and

Maryam Ganjineh is an art specialist and writer

degree in art history from Haifa University (2011).

literary research besides publishing articles and

based in Dubai. The ex-management consultant

Khoury was the artistic director of Khalil Sakakini

essays in catalogues and magazines devoted to

turned her passion for writing and art into a career

Culture Center (2014). She was the curator of

contemporary art. www.cristianademarchi.com

managing one of Ayyam Gallery’s locations in

Manam and Mapping Procession at the Qalandiya

d zoebilbeit f xiana11

Dubai. Her upcoming independent efforts focus

International Biennale (2014). Currently Khoury lives

on highlighting emerging contemporary Iranian

New York City where she is pursuing a Masters

Carl Gough was born in Durban, South Africa. His

artists through curatorial projects with galleries

degree in Writing and Art Criticism from the School

career as a copywriter started at Leo Burnett, Dubai

and instantiations in the region.

of Visual Arts.

and he has been churning out words ever since.

d maryamganjineh f maryamganjineh Lulu M. Al-Sabah is the former Director of the

His travels in the Middle East kindled his deep interest in the region, resulting in a co-directed

Woodman Taylor’s interdisciplinary scholarship

Middle East at Phillips de Pury & Company. In 2008

documentary on the Bedouin of Petra. He has

explicates performative practices of visual culture.

she curated an exhibition on modern artists from

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the Middle East at the Saatchi gallery in London.

time between the UK and the UAE and writes for

Contemporani 11 and Bewegterwind.

Al-Sabah launched JAMM, an art-consultancy

magazines and journals about Arab and European

www.photoflounder.com f photoflounder

firm, in 2009 and hosted the first contemporary

art and literature. www.sophiekazan.blogspot.com Rosemary Irons is a freelance writer with a focus on

art auction in Kuwait in 2010. She hosted further art auctions in Kuwait in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Janet Bellotto is an artist, educator, writer and

the visual arts scene and community engagement in

Since 2010, JAMM hosted exhibitions in London,

curatorial initiator from Toronto, who splits her

the Middle East. Having lived in Dubai for 8 years,

Kuwait and Dubai. She established a permanent

time teaching in Dubai as an Associate Professor

she has travelled extensively throughout the region

exhibition space in Dubai in 2012. JAMM offers a

and Associate Dean of the College of Arts and

and now manages a Philanthropic Foundation,

comprehensive art-management and consultancy

Creative Enterprises at Zayed University, UAE. She

fostering arts and educational programmes,

service to private and corporate clients and deals

creates projects that promote cultural exchange

serving underprivileged communities throughout

predominantly with new and existing art collection

through curating and writing, with a current

the geographical region of MENA and South Asia.

management, commissioning of artworks,

focus on photography and new media art in the

Rosemary has worked for Art Dubai, Agial Gallery

exhibitions and contemporary art auctions. In

MENA region. Sculpture/Installation is central

Beirut and various community arts initiatives. She is

2015, Al-Sabah became a key member of a

to her practice that also uses and expands with

currently pursuing her M.A. in Development Studies

political campaign that aims to abolish a law that

the mediums of photography, video, sound and

at Massey University, New Zealand.

discriminates against women in Kuwait and similar

performance. Her work has been exhibited in a

laws across the GCC.

variety of collective, group, and solo exhibitions

Rana Sadik is the managing partner of S,C&Y

www.jamm-art.com f jammartgallery

internationally, including Beijing, New York,

consultancy for strategic planning of cultural

Toronto and Venice. Bellotto was Artistic Director

projects and is the director of MinRASY

New York-born and Paris-bred, independent

for the 20th International Symposium on Electronic

PROJECTS, which are projects that are conceived

arts writer Kevin Jones has lived in the Middle

Art (ISEA2014) held in Dubai with the theme of

and produced mainly for public spaces. She sits

East for the past 10 years. Currently the UAE

location. www.janetbellotto.com

on the Strategic advisory panel for the Delfina

Desk Editor for ArtAsiaPacific, he contributes to

d janetbellotto f janetbellotto

Foundation.

Asia and FlashArt International. Regionally, his

Flounder Lee is an artist, curator and an educator,

Miriam Lloyd-Evans is an Art Historian and is

writing has been published in Canvas, Harper’s

Assistant Professor of Studio Art at American

currently Lead Curator, International Engagement

Bazaar Art Arabia, Bidoun, Brownbook and The

University in Dubai. He received his BFA from the

Team (Middle East) at The British Museum.

National. www.vinkejones.com

University of Florida and his MFA from Cal State

Before this she worked as Head of Exhibitions

Long Beach, both in studio art and photography.

and Publications at Edge of Arabia. She holds

Sophie Kazan graduated in Art History from

He has curated many exhibitions such as Double

degrees from the Courtauld Institute of Art and

Oxford University and the School of Oriental and

Vision, Mapable, and TPS Reports and exhibited

Leeds University and has worked with Tate Modern

African Studies, in London. Kazan divides her

in numerous exhibitions including Barcelona Art

and the Fitzwilliam Museum.

The Art Newspaper, Artforum.com, ArtReview

d vinkejones

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PORTFOLIO Images - Courtesy of the artist and Cuadro Gallery. Writer - Barbara Lounder, artist and educator.

Camille Zakharia: The World of Collage Visual geometries of home and displacement Since its very origin, collage has appeared as an art

Central to collage as an intervention in meaning

of crisis that has entertained a deep relationship

is the use of juxtaposition in putting things back

with traumas and violations. There is something

together. Unlikely and unsettling collisions can bring

basic in collage, something almost guttural and

poetry, wit and critique, also introducing new formal

visceral that immediately connects it with rupture

approaches to shape, ornament and pattern. Zakharia

and intervention. It is this sense of urgency that

explores this within his unique narrative language. In

ricochets all through the twentieth century, with

his 1998 work The Day Sulaf Landed for example,

collage and its symbolic collisions resurfacing

the female subject is shown in an aerial view against

almost systematically at every new resurgence

an ornate carpet, with elements from a Canadian

of collective panic and social change. That’s why

winter streetscape forming the horizon. Just as the

collage has gathered a new momentum in the first

cultural and spatial perspectives are multiple, the view

decade of this century.1

moves back and forth between proximity, the distant landscape, domestic interior and snowy streetscape,

In his beautiful and compelling collage works, artist

in a loose story of home, displacement, the intimate

Camille Zakharia systematically takes his world

and the unsettled.

apart, and then carefully puts it back together. He

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In his beautiful and compelling collage works, artist Camille Zakharia systematically takes his world apart, and then carefully puts it back together.

does this metaphorically, of course, by manipulating

Collage came into existence during the Modern

images, colours and geometric patterns taken from

and Post Modern eras of Western capitalism, mass

photographs he makes of friends, family members,

production and global communication. Its power to

domestic interiors and landscapes.

critique consumer culture is seen in Kurt Schwitters’

mirrorings, half-drops and other two-dimensional

Merz works, and in photomontages by contemporary

repeat structures create complex visual surfaces.

The word collage is both a verb and a noun, and has

artists such as Martha Rosler. Collage practices today

These become metaphors for the dizzying cultural

its roots in the French colle, meaning glue (or coller,

include digital tools and media, often relying on

and social shifts we now experience, the tumultuous

to glue). Before gluing, however, come the acts of

ubiquitous images that can be downloaded from the

upheavals of global politics, and Zakharia’s own

finding the elements to be cut out, and excising

internet, appropriated and altered at will. Zakharia is

multifaceted identity. In these geometric, thoughtful

them. Collage begins with rupture; from Pablo

precise and discerning in his approach. His collages

works, there is a celebration of pattern, texture and

Picasso and Georges Braque cutting up chair caning,

reassemble his own images in the service of a

colour, and of the quiet labour required in making

newspapers and playbills for their collages of 1912,

sophisticated, reworked language of pattern and

things by hand. These qualities temper the essential

to the subversive Dada photomontages of Hannah

order. This abstract approach is apparent in earlier

violence that underlies collage as a twenty-first

Höch and Raoul Hausmann a few years later. For

works such as Out Then from 1992, where fragments

century “art of crisis”, embodying a more enduring

decades now, Zakharia has employed his camera to

cut from airmail envelopes wordlessly communicate

quality of harmony.

chronicle his life as a Lebanese-born, peripatetic artist

themes of distance and disrupted communication.

and engineer, and it is these personal images that are

In Zakharia’s most recent and highly abstract works,

1 P.12, It’s Not the Glue that Makes the Collage, by Massimiliano Gioni

the raw material for excisions and recombinations.

such as Shifting Boundaries 4, 6 and 9, gridded

, in Collage: The Unmonumental Picture, The New Museum, NYC, 2007


The Day Sulaf Landed (1998) Photocollage on paper, 101.6 x 76.2 cm

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Top: The Awad Family, from the series Elusive Homelands (1999 - 2000) Photocollage on paper, 76.2 x 55.6 cm Bottom: The Peltekian Family Elusive Homelands (1999 - 2000) Photocollage on paper, 76.2 x 55.6 cm

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Albert Hajj, from the series Elusive Homelands (1999 - 2000) Photocollage on paper, 55.6 x 76.2 cm

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Spring 3, from the series Spring (2014) Photocollage on paper, 101.6 x 50.8 cm

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And shake the trunk of palm tree towards you it will let fall fresh ripe dates upon you, from the series Spring (2014) Photocollage on paper, 76.6 x 101.6 cm

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Spring 2, from the series Spring (2014) Photocollage on paper, 101.6 x 50.8 cm

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c/o detail (2013) Photocollage on paper, 558.8 x 152.4 cm. Collection National Museum of Bahrain

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Cultivate Your Garden (detail) (1998) Photocollage on paper, 533.4 x 101.6 cm

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Cultivate Your Garden (detail) (1998) Photocollage on paper, 533.4 x 101.6 cm

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Out Then 2003, from the series Out Then (2013) Photocollage on paper, 152.4 x 152.4 cm

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Out Then 1992, from the series Out Then (2013) Photocollage on paper, 152.4cm x 152.4 cm

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Muharraq I, from the series Stories from the Alley (1998) Photomontage -Â Archival Pigment Print, 35.6 x 45.7 cm

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Self Portrait Muharraq, from the series Stories from the Alley (1998) Photomontage - Archival pigment Print, 45.7 x 35.6 cm

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PROFILE Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Madeline Yale Preston, curator and photography specialist.

Shaweesh: Superheroes Pop-history from a galaxy not too far away Arab sociopolitical history and cult classic icons

nation-ness and their tangled, complex assertions

such as Yoda are central to Saudi artist Shaweesh’s

of power over time. This juxtaposition is a starting

Superheroes series. Humorous and satirical, the series

point to consider how brands that have historically

merges pop culture with established visual documents

been nation-specific are increasingly transnational

that reference particular historical moments, such

by means of capitalist-driven consumerism (e.g.

as Palestinian refugees fleeing occupation in the

McDonaldization turned on its head). Al Baik in Iwo

1940s, and Emir Faisal’s delegation at the Paris Peace

Jima personifies our enthusiasm for and fascination

Conference after WWI. Shaweesh’s comic re-writes of

with modern day franchises of global proportions,

these significant events, captured in black and white,

and it commentates on our visually saturated

are arrestingly cinematic reinventions of the real.

consumer society.

The Pulitzer Prize winning photograph by AP reporter

In United Nations (2013), one can imagine the Jedi

Humorous and satirical, Superheroes merges pop culture with established visual documents that reference particular historical moments.

Joe Rosenthal of American soldiers mounting their

Master Yoda counseling a young Prince Faisal,

Sarah Attar. He now employs various media, including

flag on the island of Iwo Jima is one of the most

then Deputy Minister of Defense of the Kingdom

photography, in his practice. Social media has

emblematic and disputed images of WWII. Widely

of Saudi Arabia (KSA), as if to say: “Do. Or do not.

become integral to his research on pop culture and

circulated, it immediately helped to change the psyche

There is no try...” in his customary backwards-speak.

to public engagement with his work. With nearly 100k

of the American public as well as that of its allies. The

This famous line from The Empire Strikes Back, in

Instagram followers, Shaweesh explains that online

image signified triumph, lauded its subjects as war

which Yoda encourages Luke to commit himself

platforms enable people to, “comment, share, and

heroes, and had a profound effect on winning the war.

completely, seems a fitting dialogue for the actual

‘Like’ the work I do—but also provide criticism. You

It could be argued that the symbolic event was in part

event represented in the appropriated image. In 1945,

can’t create this type of dialogue on the streets”.

made from the photograph, rather than the reverse.

50 nations signed the United Nations Security Charter

The image was perhaps less about the moment of

to “save succeeding generations from the scourge

For various reasons, it might have been challenging

victory—the fighting on Iwo Jima raged on for several

of war.” With Yoda’s presence, Shaweesh transforms

to publicly engage in such discourse within KSA in

more days—as it was about staking a territorial claim.

the narrative, re-performing history through a pop-

the recent past. Yet, KSA is now one of the most

culture allegorical lens. It is possible to envision the

connected in the world; it has the highest YouTube

In Al-Baik, Iwo Jima (2013) Shaweesh disturbs this

soon-to-be King Faisal, whose name has become

usage per capita and amongst the highest Twitter

iconic image’s narrative by replacing the American

synonymous with the country’s modernization (which

usage rates. Youth demographics are having a

flag with the logo from the Saudi fast-food restaurant

was contentious amongst many religious leaders),

transformative effect on its society (more than 70%

chain Al Baik. While Rosenthal’s image served as

acting as a surrogate Luke, internally guided by the

of the population is under the age of 30), helping

an imaginative construction of a historical event,

Jedi Master’s moral clarity.

to produce an artistic and cultural boom of global

Shaweesh’s insertion of Al Baik into the composition

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reverberation. Work by Shaweesh, who is affiliated

encourages a complex reconsideration of meaning.

The origin of Shaweesh’s artistic practice is in

with collectives Edge of Arabia and Studio Gharem,

The absence of the American flag is made evident

performance and street art; he first gained public

challenges canons of knowledge, activating new

by the Saudi chain’s logo—both representations of

recognition with his graffiti depicting KSA Olympian

dialogue about where reality meets perception.


United Nations from the series Superheroes (2013) Photoetching on paper, 49.5 x 39.7 cm

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Captain America from the series Superheroes (2013) Photoetching on paper, 49.5 x 47.3 cm

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Al-Baik, Iwo Jima from the series Superheroes (2013) Photoetching on paper, 49.5 x 47.3 cm

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PROFILE Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Miriam Lloyd-Evans, art historian and curator.

Arwa Al Neami: Undercover Archivist Documenting a culture through unconventional means Gaudy red, blue and yellow bumper cars whirl

Many people have told her they find it humorous

around the polished floor, lit by flashing bulbs and

but discomforting. It is a bold, vibrant series by an

accompanied by the muffled giggles of women

emerging artist who admits, “my enjoyment made

as they run onto the track and await the bell that

me forget all my fears, even to the point where I

signals their turn. On other rides, large pieces of

would forget I was carrying a camera.”

heavy material hang in front of the seat handrails

In the beginning I was very afraid, but my enjoyment made me forget all my fears even to the point where I would forget I was carrying a camera.

in order to protect women’s modesty when gravity

Born to a traditional family on the King Khalid Airbase

takes hold. The scene takes place at the mahrajan

in Saudi Arabia’s deep south, Al Neami is self-taught.

(funfair) in Abha, a conservative city in southern Saudi

According to her, opportunities for women to learn

Arabia. The photograph series, entitled Never Never

photography in Abha are almost non-existent. This

Land by Arwa Al Neami, documents the fairground

work does not conform to art-world stereotypes

that takes place here during Eid al-Fitr. Shot entirely

about Arab or female artists—there is no unveiling

from a camera inside her abaya, using both still

here, no myth that she inadvertently reinforces.

photography and moving film, the images present

Rather, she documents little-known aspects of

Muhammad’s (PBUH) declaration that this area of

a powerful and original insight into leisure activities

her culture through photography, which for her

the Mosque, known as al-Rawda al-Sharifa (the

in Saudi Arabia—an aspect of the country that the

represents “the simplest and most honest form of

Honourable Garden) was ‘one of the gardens of

media rarely has access to.

displaying information and sending a message.”

Paradise’ (Hadith al-Bukhari, 1196). When people pray there, it is as if they are praying in Paradise.

The striking body of work is loaded with

She is part of an artistic scene that boasts

contradictions: the fun and frivolous nature of the fair

internationally acclaimed artists, many of whom use

Originally painted in the 18th Century at the behest

is contrasted with the restrictive set of rules women

satire, parody and full-on belly-laugh comedy as a

of Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II, the cupolas were

face. Signs at the fair state that the management

powerful tool for blurring lines, pushing boundaries

recently restored. In the first ever photographic

‘Strictly forbids lifting your abaya… or screaming

and challenging societal norms in the Kingdom.

recording of these domes, Al Neami returned 30

while on the ride. Offenders will be removed.’ This

Her husband, Ahmed Mater, is one of the country’s

times over a month, during female visiting hours.

perhaps influenced the title of Never Never Land

leading contemporary artists, and a co-founder

which is both poignant and comical; a location of fun

of the Edge of Arabia collective. His current work

Al Neami is currently working with the Arab Fund

and fantasy, but in some ways a fictional one. The

records the (de)construction taking place in Makkah,

for Arts and Culture in Beirut and her work will be

irony here that in Saudi Arabia women are forbidden

using footage filmed by migrant workers inside

included in an exhibition organised by them in New

from driving motorcars surely cannot be missed.

building sites.

York later this year. She continues with the Never

Asked why she chose fairground rides, Al Neami

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Never Land Project, working from Jeddah in her

answers, “I wanted to convey the same feelings I

Another project by Al Neami, A Piece of Paradise,

and Mater’s think tank and creative space the Pharan

had during my visit … for the viewer to experience

documents the 177 ornately inscribed cupolas in

Studio. She also is planning an audience-participatory

how these women enjoy themselves, despite the red

the ceiling of the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina.

performance in which a theme park in a Western city

tape.” The reaction to the work has been bittersweet.

The series’ name was inspired by the Prophet

will be transformed into an Abha-style funfair.


Untitled, from the series Never Never Land (2014-2016)

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Previous page and below: Untitled from the series Never Never Land (2014-2016)

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Untitled, from the series Never Never Land (2014-2016) Sign reads ‘Bumper cars (ladies)’

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Piece of Paradise 01 (2014)

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Piece of Paradise 02 (2014)

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PROFILE Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Flounder Lee, artist, educator and curator.

Estabrak Al Ansari: Poetry, Beauty and Power A catalyst for thought and an instrument for change Like others of her generation, Estabrak Al Ansari is a

mythology. Similar themes run through another of

mix of cultures. She is Iraqi, but born in Iran in 1986.

her Live.Projection.Painting works, Jin and Motion.

She then moved to London at age 5. She now has a studio on the beach in Oman. Like her background,

These performances are ethereal. They are at times

her work is also a chimeric mix of influences and

frenetic and intense, at times calming and soothing.

subject matter. Her media is split between lens-based

As the performers, who often include the artist

work and painting. These media come together in

herself, use their hands to paint large white swaths

a unique way in her Live.Projection.Painting works.

onto the clear plastic, more of the projected images and videos appear. In regards to the technique,

I often find myself in the sea, contemplating projects and the next steps forward in my life.

In Estabrak’s striking photographic series Omanis

Estabrak states she has “come to realize that it is a

Under Water, a strange scene evolves. The title

process of painting a film to life, live. Reality, space

gives much away, but doesn’t allow for the surreal,

and time are questioned via the physical layering

heartfelt speech. The poem continues, with music

beautiful serenity of headless people taken from

of images.” In one of the collaborative works, a

throughout. It is a story about social injustice. The

under the waves. Mufuddel shows two people riding

performer appears in the projection, then physically

poem is evocative and moving:

a bike, submerged to their shoulders. Laila, which

cuts through the plastic screen to become part of

means night in Arabic, shows someone floating on

the work, painting herself instead of the screen.

the surface, with bits of marine plants throughout

Do not negate your women. There is more to feminism than her physical appearance, you may wish to talk

the water that look like stars. Like her subjects, “I

As to her migration story, she states, “Coming from

about Simon De Beauvoir, bell hooks and Angela

often find myself in the sea, contemplating projects

a refugee background, from a country that has been

Davis than poetry, the spoken word that predates

and the next steps forward in my life.”

through so much turmoil and having daily dialogues

the written word oral tradition, art and storytelling.

about safety especially in regards to family back in Live.Projection.Painting is a multidisciplinary process

our homeland, it can never escape me where I or

In all of these projects, there is poetry, beauty, and

created by Estabrak, Athena Anastasiou, and Emily

my family are from.”

power. Estabrak Al Ansari deals with representation

Campbell-Burdette while they were collaborating

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and status, tackling subjects like female warriors and

in London. Since 2014, Estabrak has continued solo

In one of her video works, Estabrak brings a poem

social justice with compelling images. One of the

work on the series. The most recent incarnation was

by Anthony Anaxagorou to life. In The Master’s

projects she is currently working on is a short film

made for the 2016 Marrakech Biennale. It is “a piece

Revenge, the poet’s powerful spoken narration

about the refugees at sea. She continues to make

about the continuous complexities that come with

starts over a seemingly still frame, a black and white

work because “I had the opportunity of education,

women of war, women with natural strength and

image of a crying woman’s face. The tear gently

free health care and safe living. An opportunity

courage.” Tales of the Mother Tongue: Part 01 is

reverses track, then the whole video zooms out

unfortunately not offered to so many people globally

a story of female Berber warriors. These warriors

gradually but steadily on a Shakespearean setting.

today. I feel for that reason a lot of what I do or the

do not appear in history books, but they survive in

The scene is multi-cultural and intense. People

collaborations I work with are through/about projects

folktales. This theme reflects Estabrak’s interest in

from seemingly different time frames move about,

that may somehow be a catalyst for thought and an

the underrepresented, not to mention feminism and

the crying woman is now giving a monologue or

instrument for change.”


Mufuddel (‘privileged’ in Arabic) from the series Omanis Under Water (2015) 63 x 54 cm

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Aisha (‘one who is alive’ in Arabic) from the series Omanis Under Water (2015) 82 x 66.5 cm

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Badr (‘moon’ in Arabic) from the series Omanis Under Water (2014-15) 82 x 66.5 cm

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From the series Tales of the Mother tongue Tales of the Mother tongue: Part 01 film still (2016) Tales of the Mother tongue: Part 01 performance still (2016)

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PROFILE Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Cristiana de Marchi, curator, artist and critic.

Ziad Antar: The Unexposed Archive Questioning the photographic medium in itself and its capacities to produce material What is a good image? Today when we try to develop

and performing the very act implied by the object is

How do you face, “document,” interpret and/or

the technology that surrounds taking an image, what

altered, therefore making it impossible to produce

represent the ultimate reduction of all layers to one?

we are trying to make is a good image, an image

the result one would expect from the “introduction.”

that translates the reality of what we see before us.1

You intentionally create a lack in the basis for a

ZA: The element of humour is constantly present as

successful outcome. Can you elaborate on this and

well as the hasard de la pellicule (the unpredictability

One of photography’s primary characters is

explain your process, (as the “un-achieved” result

of the film), which introduces the human element,

undeniably that of documentation. The medium

is obviously intentional and carefully prepared?).

and minimizes the reality of geography. After Images

is widely employed in creating archives of

implicitly questions the idea of geography, by simple

reality and in fixing instants for future memory.

Ziad Antar (ZA): My work questions the medium

means of displacement. The Middle East is the cradle

Ziad Antar’s practice—mostly his photographic

in itself: its capacities to produce material. That’s

of monotheistic religions and a battlefield since time

series, with an extension to his video works—is

why I use the most basic medium, I deprive it from

in memorial to take possession of the Holy Land.

at the utmost opposite from this perspective as it

any sophistication, or you can say any effort: one

What if, following Kamal Salibi’s theory, the Holy

operates within a margin of temporality that does

shot, fixed layout, no montage, non existent camera

Land was somewhere else? Elements of uncertainty

not conjure memories, or at least not in a palpable,

movement for videos and one camera, one shot

and absurdity emerge from the simple fact of even

recognizable way.

for photography. I do double these constraints

posing the question.

with some outer alterations: expired films, lens-less After Images, his last photographic series recently

camera, maybe to have the minimum control over

CDM: Your technical approach to photography

exhibited in Beirut, rather than corroborating or

the outcome of my artwork. In fact I draw back for

results mostly in images that look aged, as if time

otherwise infringing the theory it originates from,3

the hazard to take action and produce, because the

had produced its effects already, and you were

it once again questions the very nature of the

hazard is human and humorous, and it cannot be

anticipating, almost forcing them. The images are

photographic medium. By using a lens-less camera

the result of research but of an experience. So I go

pervaded with a feeling of recovery, as if you were

to capture “reality,” he creates fading images that

against what the industry proposes in a medium, to

creating photographs that could have been rescued

evade the realm of expectation and faithfulness.

question the way a work is produced and delivered.

from loss, thus establishing a parallel with memory

I do not put the un-archived as a premise and build

and its quest for salvation. Can you tell me more

my work on it.

about the integration, if ever, of memory in your

2

Cristiana de Marchi (CDM): After Images seems to share elements of investigation, which are also present in some of your videos, and especially La

CDM: The element addressed as Les Temporalités

Marche Turque. In both works, the tool for executing

Historiques (historical temporalities), which recurs in

1 - Anthony Downey, “An Aesthetics of Expiration: Ziad Antar in Conversation with Anthony Downey,” Ibraaz, 2 May 2012. 2 - After Images (curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist, co-curated by Manal Khader), Beirut Exhibition Center, Beirut (March 1st – 22nd 2016). 3 - This project is inspired by the work of Lebanese historian Kamal Salibi on the origins of the Bible, which he claims to be in the Arabian Peninsula, and in particular in the region of Asir. Ziad Antar has repeatedly visited the region where, rather than documenting the evidence of the places, he has developed a complex discourse around light and colours, reality and illusion.

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work and the reasons behind your creation of an almost fictional archive?

some of your projects, implies an idea of plurality, and

ZA: The idea is built into the medium. Looking at

stratification. The word archaeology often returns,

the medium as an end in itself, I came to discover

as a suggested approach to the multiple layers

that it carries the ideas way before delivering the

composing the actual reality. What is your position

product. For example, when you use an expired film

towards the repetitive pattern witnessed by history,

from 1973 that has out lived floods, fires and wars,

meaning the circumstance that history repeats itself?

all the history of a photo studio and a community,


Baalbek no lens. From the series, After Images, Stories from the mountains of Asir (2010-2016)

The project revolves around the very nature of light: its permanence, its intrinsic unifying quality. of a region is already in it. The act of archiving is already

ZA: The No Lens Images of After Images propose,

CDM: This is the first time you have worked with a

played. Even when those films are still virgin, their point

and do not document. While a document is firm

writer, and your photographs are in conversation with

of view is half-way made. This is the unexposed archive.

in showing a truth, those images did not deliver

a text. What is the element unifying the poetry with

My intervention completes this un-archival process.

any fact. We are facing images that are une image-

the images?

proposition (an image-proposition), they take part CDM: An excerpt from the text introducing the show

in the research process.

reads: “After Images is neither about documenting

ZA: The poetry by Yahya Amqassim has a peculiar character as it is written in a Koranic style, meaning, as

nor about proving Salibi’s theories right or wrong.

The narrations in the poems in After Images do

an emanation of God. A similar quality can be perceived

Instead, this work looks into the nature of the myth

not recount what is in front of the camera, or what

in my images, where the main aspect is the light. In

as a possible historical narrative, and advocates

was before the camera. They do not document the

fact, as the project was developing, it became clear

the impossibility of documenting such narratives.”

visual, but they are another medium that has the

that things were gathering around light. The project

Compared to previous projects, where you have

same questioning and parallel research. In this

revolves around the very nature of light: its permanence,

declared to be anti-narrative and anti-documentaristic,

project, the act of proving is impossible. Finally,

its intrinsic unifying quality. For this reason, I have

it looks like you are now incorporating both aspects

I always escape narration because it limits the

included images of the Tour Eiffel and of Lebanese

and examining the possibility of confronting narration.

experimental work, unless it is in the practice of

landscapes. The light is common, it is not the priority

Can you elaborate on the role of documentation and

the artist to integrate a story, a narration...(as an)

or the exclusivity of a specific place or context, nor can

narration in your practice at large?

artist/novelist...

it be appropriated by any ideology.

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From the series, After Images, Stories from the mountains of Asir (2010-2016)

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From the series, After Images, Stories from the mountains of Asir (2010-2016)

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From the series, After Images, Stories from the mountains of Asir (2010-2016)

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From the series, After Images, Stories from the mountains of Asir (2010-2016)

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PROFILE Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Carl Gough, director and writer.

Toufic Beyhum: Burqa Man is earth’s most successful predator Toufic Beyhum vividly remembers the first time

For this project he decided to switch things up.

he saw a falcon. He was still a child, standing in

“My inspiration for the falcon hood shoot was

the lobby of a hotel, when he saw a man walk

the portraits of Sheikhs you see in most hotels

from the lift with a hooded falcon on his arm. “He

in the Gulf. Very staged and dramatically-lit. I

asked reception to deliver raw meat to his room.”

had to perform my shoot in a studio to achieve

It’s fair to say the encounter left an indelible mark

the same results.”

on Beyhum. First, however, he had to figure out how to get “That scene sparked my interest in falcons, which

the masks made, and it was while living in the

eventually became an obsession with falcon

UK that he found a way to bring his idea to life.

hoods, also known as burqas,” says Beyhum, a

His research into the strange world of leather

Lebanese-born, London-raised photographer-

art led to him commissioning three craftsmen

slash-advertising creative director. “For centuries

to create human-sized falcon hoods.

the hoods have been a source of Arabic pride,

The sightless eyes, the colourful feathers standing erect, the square-shouldered pride of the wearer all suggest a hidden sub-culture, yet to be discovered, or even created.

and the extravagant designs are so beautiful, so

Before a stitch was sewn, though, Beyhum and

intricate, I’ve often wondered what they would

his artists had to study every aspect of hood

look like if worn by humans. So I had some made.”

design.

Beyhum has had an international career in

Hoods are used to keep raptors calm. Their eyes

advertising, having worked in New York,

are covered to prevent them from reacting to

The results are beautiful, strong and unsettling.

Dubai, Berlin and London. But his true love is

potential prey. The effect is that the birds are

Looking at the portraits, it is no surprise the masks

photography, where his natural style is reportage.

rested and alert when the falconer removes the

were created by leather fetishists. The sightless

He has an uncanny knack for catching people

hood for hunting.

eyes, the colourful feathers standing erect, the

in all their un-posed glory. One simply has to

square-shouldered pride of the wearer all suggest

flick through his book Emotions in Motion, the

Hood designs have developed over the

a hidden sub-culture, yet to be discovered, or

result of a two-year-long project photographing

centuries based on available materials and

even created.

commuters on Berlin’s U-Bahn, to get an idea of

cultural traditions. Arabic, British, Indian and

his ability to capture moments of candor from

Kazakh are just some of the styles available, and

There are metaphors to be found in these portraits.

subjects who are completely unaware they are

each is unique. But it is the Arabs who initiated

Metaphors about vanity, over-indulgence, perhaps

being photographed.

and perfected this particular art.

even blindness to the political and personal issues

He is also co-director of an insightful documentary

“Arabs are very proud of their falconry heritage.

on the Bedouin of Petra called After Tomorrow: a

And, in a way, it’s this pride which I’m studying

But let’s not lead the interpretation. What do

film that illustrates this skill even further.

with my portraits.”

you think?

facing the modern Arab.

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Untitled, from the series Burqa (2016)

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Untitled, from the series Burqa (2016)

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Untitled, from the series Burqa (2016)

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ESSAY Images - Courtesy of Norbert Schiller Collection / www.photorientalist.org Writer - Michelle L. Woodward, photo editor and freelance researcher

Orientalism in Nineteenth-Century Photography What is Orientalist photography? The term “Orientalist” is often used to describe photography of the Middle East, particularly those images produced in the nineteenth-century. Although the word Orientalist at one time referred to a scholar of the “Orient,” it is now used almost exclusively to refer to a particular system of representation that creates a false distinction between a supposedly tradition-bound “Orient” and a modernizing “West.” Orientalist photography depicts the Middle East as exotic, erotic, and mysterious; constrained by religious beliefs; and as unable or unwilling to progress and change without outside, specifically European, interference. Orientalist photography recycles familiar stereotypes and clichés in order to create a fictional world that matches the preconceived notions of the audience and assures them of their superiority. Edward Said’s influential 1978 book Orientalism generated this new meaning of the word Orientalist. Said’s argument traces how Europe manufactured an imaginary Orient through literary works and the social sciences that was intertwined and complicit with imperial, colonial ambitions in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Many scholars expanded upon Said’s insights in order to analyze art, photography, and architecture. Initially the concept of Said’s Orientalism was used in the field of photography to uncover, and critique, the fictitious stereotypes and demeaning tropes present in much European photography of the Middle East.1 Research on photography of the

1 - For examples, see Malek Alloula, The Colonial Harem, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press 1986, and Sarah Graham-Brown, Images of Women: The Portrayal of Women in Photography of the Middle East, 1860 1950, New York: Columbia University Press 1988.

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Left: Figure 1 - Orientalist cliché of a dancer posing with musicians in Egypt, circa 1880. Unknown photographer. Below: Figure 2 - Mount Horeb and St. Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, circa 1860. Photo by Francis Frith.


Left: Figure 3 - Studio portrait, Alexandria, Egypt, circa 1890. Photo by G. Lassave. Below: Figure 4 - Street life on Place Bresson, Algiers. Circa 1880. Photo by Alexandre Leroux.

Middle East has deepened over the past few decades to include more histories of

and local photographers alike. Regardless of the photographer’s national origin or

indigenous photographers and a wider range of categories of photography, while still

identity, the photography they produced was influenced by the tastes of their intended

demonstrating how Orientalism is a useful critical concept. 2 Some scholars have also

audience or clientele, among other factors. Whether they were local or foreign,

looked within the Middle East for counter-responses, resistances, and engagements

photographers were susceptible to the pressures of the market and most produced

with the European Orientalist vision.3 The discussion continues to expand as scholars

stock Orientalist fare for tourists, as well as other types of work.

investigate photographic practices in specific historical, social, and territorial contexts with various degrees of engagement with the concept of Orientalism.

Nineteenth-century photographic activity in the Middle East spanned a wide range of different genres, as it did in other parts of the world. There are the well-known fictional

The visual conventions of late nineteenth-century photographs of the Middle

Orientalist clichés, often created in the studio, such as erotic harem scenes and models

East varied widely depending on audience and purpose. A brief analysis of street

posed as traditional musicians, craftsmen, or merchants (figure 1) and landscape scenes

photographs created by the Sébah family commercial studio in Istanbul will be

meant to evoke Biblical stories or reinforce stereotypes of an undeveloped society. In

compared in this essay to the work of the prolific Bonfils family studio located in

addition there are photographs of historical monuments, artifacts, and archeological

Beirut. The focus here is on how these two long-standing studios chose to photograph

sites (figure 2); professional studio portraits of individuals and families (figure 3); early

people in public places such as markets, streets, mosques, and baths in the period

documentary and street photography (figure 4); and propaganda images such as those

1870 - 1900. Looking closely at this portion of two studios’ work it is possible to

depicting modernization commissioned by the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II. Other

discern different approaches. It appears that the Bonfils work was generally unable

genres such as commercial, advertising, medical, industrial, amateur, scientific, and

to transcend popular European stereotypes of the “Orient” while the Sébah family

news photography were also part of the late nineteenth-century visual world but are

developed a mode of representation that presented a detailed view of local Ottoman

not well represented in the archives and thus less well-studied.

society without resorting to the clichés of Orientalism. In this way I wish to show how Orientalism is a useful lens to use for analyzing photography of this period, but

Generally speaking, late nineteenth-century photography worldwide may at first

that not all products of commercial photography studios can be labeled Orientalist.

appear to have a uniformity of style, an easily recognized look. There are certainly

It’s important to note that Orientalist clichés and tropes were used by both Western

characteristics of photographs made in this period that are broadly consistent, such as the sharp focus and minute detail provided by the use of large glass plate

2 - For example see the work of Engin Özendes and Bahattin Öztuncay on the history of Ottoman photographers. Important scholarship on nineteenth-century photography in the Middle East is being produced by Nancy Micklewright, Edhem Eldem, Ahmet Ersoy, Zeynep Çelik, Stephen Sheehi, and Ali Behdad, among others. 3 - See the work of Ahmet Ersoy and the book Camera Ottomana: Photography and Modernity in the Ottoman Empire, 1840 - 1914, edited by Zeynep Çelik and Edhem Eldem, 2015: Koç University Publications.

negatives. There was also a widespread interest in cataloging people according to ethnic group or occupation as well as commonalties in the use of studio backdrops, props, and poses. However, a deeper study of photographic practices shows that the meaning and use of common conventions varied across national boundaries as well as within them.

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Left: Figure 5 - A view of Istanbul, probably from the Galata Tower, with the Galata area in foreground, the Golden Horn and Topkapı palace behind, circa 1890. Unknown photographer. Below: Figure 7 - “Femmes musulmanes Syriennes, Costume de ville” (Syrian Muslim women in city dress), circa 1880. Photo by Bonfils. Next page: Figure 8 - Interior of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, circa 1890. Photo by Sébah & Joaillier.

Photography and European desires The desire by Europe to document the Middle East in photographs existed from the first unveiling of the photographic process. In his August 1839 public announcement in Paris of Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre’s invention of the daguerreotype, French scientist and politician François Arago described the great future potential of this new process with the following example: How archeology is going to benefit from this new process! It would require twenty years and legions of draftsmen to copy the millions and millions of hieroglyphics covering just the outside of the great monuments of Thebes, Memphis, Karnak, etc. A single man can accomplish this same enormous task with the daguerreotype.4 The nineteenth century’s passion for cataloging, collecting, and explaining the world in scientific, empirical terms manifested in the formation of new disciplines such as anthropology and sociology, new theories like Darwin’s evolution, as well as in the ways society used the new technology of photography. The photograph’s ability to record more life-like detail than any other process led to its use as a tool for accumulating visual surveys of urban space, historical monuments, colonial possessions, and people categorized as ethnic or occupational “types.” The Middle East was soon subject to these visual surveys of landscape, architecture, and people. An early example is the work of Egyptian engineer Muhammad Sadiq Bey (1832 - 1902) who was the first to photograph Mecca and Medina in 1861 during the course of a cartographic expedition. By the time Daguerre’s photographic process was announced in Paris as a new invention, European popular interest in the Middle East had already been firmly established. Middle Eastern motifs had been appropriated for use in clothing fashions, literature, music, furniture, drawings and paintings since the sixteenth century. As soon as photographers developed ways to photograph outside their own backyards they immediately headed to Egypt, Palestine, and Istanbul. The earliest photographers to travel from Europe to the Middle East did not photograph for commercial purposes, but were primarily wealthy tourists or explorers of archeological ruins (often for government sponsors) such as Maxime Du Camp, traveling with Gustave Flaubert, and Auguste Salzmann. By the late 1850s the wet collodion process of making glass 4 - Gisèle Freund, Photography and Society, Boston: David R. Godine 1980.

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negatives allowed for the creation of multiple, more affordable prints for broader distribution. From the 1860s, photographers like Francis Frith and Félix Bonfils quickly found commercial success with a European public fascinated by the “East” as well as with tourists travelling in the region seeking mementos to take home. Early in photographic history, indigenous photographers opened commercial photography studios. These included Pascal Sébah (later Sébah and Joaillier) in Istanbul and Cairo, Garabed Krikorian in Jerusalem, Abdullah Fréres and Vasilaki Kargopoulo in Istanbul,


and many others. At the same time, numerous European photographers established

In this time of rapid modernization, photography was seen as another advanced

studios in the major cities of the region. Some of the more famous European studio

technological tool that could benefit the Ottoman Empire. The sultans encouraged the

photographers include Maison Bonfils in Beirut, Antonio Beato in Luxor, Zangaki brothers

use of photography from its beginnings, but it was Sultan Abdul Hamid II (1876 - 1909)

in Port Said, Guillaume Berggren in Istanbul, Antoin Sevruguin in Tehran, and Lehnert

who is considered its greatest supporter. Abdul Hamid seems to have understood

and Landrock in Tunis and Cairo.

the persuasive and propaganda value of photography and, in the early 1890s, he commissioned the production of fifty-one albums depicting the modernization of the

Relations between the Ottoman Empire and Europe

Ottoman Empire through photographs of architecture, educational institutions, students

In the late nineteenth century, the Ottoman Empire still governed a large area of the

in European dress (including many girls), military arsenals, hospitals, factories, and

Middle East. Although people in the region interacted with many European social

docks, among other subjects. In commissioning the photographs for the albums, the

forces, not all were subject to Western colonial rule. When photography was officially

sultan remarked that “Most of the photographs taken [by European photographers]

revealed, in 1839, Europe had economic and political interests in the Middle East. Just

for sale in Europe vilify and mock Our Well-Protected Domains. It is imperative that

the year before photography’s historic debut the Ottoman Empire had signed the

the photographs to be taken in this instance do not insult Islamic peoples by showing

Anglo-Ottoman Convention, the first of several treaties that opened up the Ottoman

them in a vulgar and demeaning light.”6 After being exhibited at the World’s Colombian

provinces to European merchants, giving them unprecedented access to markets. Since

Exposition in Chicago in 1893, sets of the albums were donated to the United States

the eighteenth century the Ottoman sultans had been implementing reforms, based on

Library of Congress and the British Museum as evidence of Ottoman progress. It is not

European models, in military, educational, technological, and scientific fields. Inspired

clear, however, if these albums were actually viewed by anyone in the receiving countries,

by Eugène Hausmann’s rebuilding of Paris in the late nineteenth century, architectural

and thus their diplomatic effectiveness has been called into question.7

and urban planning efforts had begun to transform Istanbul. Commercial photography studios Socially, Istanbul had been an ethnically diverse city since the Byzantine era when foreign

Commercial photography studios produced most of the images labeled now as

colonies settled for purposes of trade. After various treaties with Europe gave preferential

Orientalist. They were often run by permanent residents in the Ottoman Empire who

treatment to European merchants in the mid-nineteenth century, the population of

established long-lasting local studios, unlike those photographers who traveled in the

5

foreign residents grew and, by 1885, they made up almost fifteen percent of Istanbul.

Middle East for a short period and then returned to Europe with their negatives. The

The districts of the city which had the highest concentration of foreigners were Péra and

Frenchman Félix Bonfils, for example, established a family-run studio after moving

Galata (figure 5). It was in Péra, on the Grande Rue de Péra, where most photographers

to Beirut in 1867. His subjects included all the usual themes from Egypt, Palestine,

had their studios. This main street featured up-to-date European-style shops, restaurants,

Syria, and Greece: monuments, landscapes (often titled with Biblical references), and

cafes, theaters, department stores, hotels, and apartment buildings. Foreign tourists as well as the local elite, including members of the Ottoman court, frequented the district. 5 - The census of 1885 quoted in Zeynep Çelik, The Remaking of Istanbul: Portrait of an Ottoman City in the Nineteenth Century, Berkeley: University of California Press 1986.

6 - Quoted in Selim Deringil, The Well-Protected Domains: Ideology and the Legitimation of Power in the Ottoman Empire 1876 - 1909, London: I.B. Tauris 1998, 156. 7 - Edhem Eldem, “Powerful Images: The Dissemination and Impact of Photography in the Ottoman Empire, 1870 - 1914,” Camera Ottomana: Photography and Modernity in the Ottoman Empire 1840 - 1914, Istanbul: Koç University Publications 2015, 114.

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Left: Figure 9 - Shoe makers’ market, circa 1890. Photo by Sébah & Joaillier. Next page: Figure 10 - Staged studio scene of a bread seller, circa 1865. Photo by F. Meissner, Alexandria, Egypt.

people classified according to type (figure 7). Many studios photographed people

with his French partner Polycarpe Joaillier to provide photographs of neatly arranged

as recognizable types posed and costumed as if engaged in traditional and timeless

rows of school children across the empire to add to Abdul Hamid’s albums, which

activities, such as brewing coffee, selling produce, praying, or playing musical instruments.

depicted Ottoman modernization. They also documented the antiquities in the

Certain Bonfils studio shots of types have been shown to be falsely labeled, with the

archeology museum in Istanbul.

same model posing as a rabbi in one photo and a cotton carder in another.8 Scholars have found that the use of models was a common practice among studios.

Most uniquely, the Sébah studio produced documentary-style photos taken in city streets and inside markets and mosques with what appear to be actual residents

What makes a large portion of the Bonfils family’s work Orientalist was their explicit effort

or pedestrians, often sitting or standing as if posed for a portrait. These are not

to capture what they imagined was a timeless, unchanging Middle East on the verge of

models and they are not pretending to be working or wielding excessive props to

disruption by an external, imported modernity. By selectively and deliberately choosing

signify their identity as types. In this period the arrangement and posing of people

only particular elements from the surrounding environment to include in the picture, such

for a photograph was deliberately decided by the photographer due to slow shutter

as rural landscapes, traditional clothing, and props that suggest pre-modern occupations,

speeds and large, heavy camera equipment that required a tripod. But beyond the

they strove to meet their, and other Europeans’, expectations and interests. Adrien Bonfils,

necessary basic arranging and directions to keep still, many photographs of public

wrote that “Before that happens, before Progress has completed its destructive work,

places by the Sébah studio seem to depict people as modern-day individuals,

before this present - which is still the past - has disappeared forever, we have tried, so

gazing confidently at the camera as they pose in their usual environments, rather

to speak, to fix and immobilize it in a series of photographic views.” The Bonfils family

than as Orientalist types.11

9

was not interested in illustrating present-day realities, but preferred to recreate for the camera what they saw as the region’s “pristine character and special cachet.”10 This

The Sébah studio was certainly not the only one to create documentary-style images

desire can be seen in their posed photographs of lone water-sellers, carpet merchants,

reflecting daily life in the Middle East. However, their well-composed and technically

tinsmiths, and other occupational and ethnic types, as well as in their deliberate focus

accomplished images provide a useful example of a different type of photography that

on the traditional, rural, and Biblical, to the exclusion of all indications of modernity.

co-existed with the Orientalist genre. The Sébah studio took many photographs of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, a place well-known to tourists. In this example, Sébah arranged

Studios owned by indigenous photographers also produced Orientalist work. Pascal

merchants to appear lined up in front of their shops (figure 8). The composition of this

Sébah, whose parents were Syrian Catholic and Armenian, established a studio in Istanbul

and other similar photographs locates the subjects in their social context (figure 9).

in 1857, later expanding his work to Cairo. His studio produced views of monuments,

By intentionally angling the camera so that it captures the length of the street, Sébah

city streets, landscapes, and family portraits, as well as the usual Orientalist material

shows how the market is structured with shops that sell fabric or clothing clustered in

such as staged scenes of ethnic types and women posing seductively. Pascal Sébah’s

the same area. He also dismisses stereotypes about his subjects by showing that not

son, Jean, who took over the Istanbul studio after his father’s death, was commissioned

11- For an expanded discussion of the work of the Sébah studio, and that of the Bonfils studio, see Michelle L. Woodward, “Between orientalist clichés and images of modernization: Photographic practice in the late Ottoman era,” in History of Photography, 27:4 (Winter 2003).

8 Perez, Focus East: Early Photography in the Near East (1839 - 1885), 141. 9 Carney E.S. Gavin, The Image of the East: Nineteenth-Century Near Eastern Photographs by Bonfils, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press 1982, 1. 10 Ibid.

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the same time depict places and peoples that tourists were curious about -- such as markets, merchants, bath houses, and mosques -- indicate a perspective that does not fit comfortably into the Orientalist mode. As Zeynep Çelik noted in the context of Ottoman representations in the late nineteenthcentury world fairs, while “many Muslim nations accepted European supremacy and attempted to remodel their institutions according to Western precedents, they were also searching for cultural identity under the strong impact of European paradigms.” She goes on to suggest that “European paradigms were not simplistically appropriated; they were often filtered through a corrective process, which reshaped them according to self-visions and aspirations.”13 Similarly, the Sébah family’s photographic studio may have creatively adapted some European conventions, such as photographs of occupational types to suit their “self-visions” as a society with its own illustrious history, which was modernizing from within and not simply adopting European models. Timothy Mitchell’s book Colonising Egypt explains how the colonizing process undertaken all fabric merchants dress alike. Additionally, the photo reveals the variety of men and

by Britain in Egypt was designed to impose order on what was seen as a system without

boys present in this social space. These visual revelations may seem trivial, but they

structure. Mitchell reproduces a Bonfils photograph of the al-Azhar mosque in Cairo as

are quite different from the impressions given by a more typical nineteenth-century

an example of European descriptions of what they saw as the disorder prevailing in this

image of types that carry Orientalist implications of the Middle East as a place outside

teaching-mosque. Bonfils’ outdoor scenes (and those of many other photographers) often

of time (figure 10). In those staged studio photos of occupational types, individual or

give an impression of disorder and decay, which had the potential to validate European

social details are consciously omitted. Backgrounds are painted and assembled like

intervention in the Middle East. The Sébah style described above counters the prevailing

stage sets and thus reveal nothing about the individuals or about the city fabric. In

image of disorder with an image of a non-western, locally-produced order and structure.

this style of photograph, the focus is on the body and the symbolic props or postures

In many of their street portraits, order and structure are emphasized through people’s

displayed, which reinforce stereotypes known to Europeans. In contrast, Sébah’s

dress and attentive and composed demeanor, but also in the architecture of buildings

portrait style emphasizes a group of individuals and their connections to a larger

and the organization of shops.

society, exposing a complex and subtle interaction and thus eluding easy stereotyping. While much nineteenth-century photography of the Middle East portrayed the region Between Orientalism and Modernity

in an Orientalist manner, not all photography of the Middle East is Orientalist. A closer

A portion of the Sébah family’s photographic output made use of conventional Orientalist

examination of a portion of the Sébah studio’s work in contrast with another prominent

clichés prevalent at the time in depictions of the Middle East, prompting some writers

studio, that of Bonfils, provides an example of a different mode of depicting the Ottoman

to label their work as Orientalist.12 However, upon close examination, some of their

Empire. In particular Sébah’s street portraits, which emphasize order and authenticity in

work also reveals a vision of the Ottoman Empire that is different from the typical

everyday life, indicate a perspective that does not conform to Orientalist clichés and

Orientalist genre. In particular, their portraits of everyday people in public settings,

suggest that there are myriad and divergent factors that influenced local photographic

which emphasize order and modernity within indigenous historical structures and at

practices beyond that of European imperial power and Orientalist preconceptions.

12 - For one example see Engin Özendes, From Sébah & Joaillier to Foto Sébah: Orientalism in Photography, Istanbul: Yapi Kredi Publications 1999.

13 - Çelik, Displaying the Orient: Architecture of Islam at 19th Century World’s Fairs, Berkeley: University of California Press 1992, 10-11.

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PROFILE Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Juliet Cestar, writer on contemporary Middle Eastern art.

Raeda Saadeh: Off the Wall Making art from the inside out She has vacuumed the desert (Vacuum, 2007),

JC: Why do you value the opinion of these women

worn a bridal gown created out of a cow’s skin and

so much? How do they react to your art?

intestines (Stomach, 2000) and encased her foot in a

RS: The feeling comes through. They have never

large block of concrete (Untitled, 2003). More recently

been exposed to performance art or exhibitions but

she has been collecting wishes around the world for

they may say ‘yes that’s like what happened to me’

her latest performance piece (The Tree of Wishes,

and then I’m happy with it. I’m talking about more

2013-present).

of a feeling, as a woman, seeing how other normal

time as though I wanted to make things and draw

JC: You studied in New York for a year as part of your

I feel my body is part of my work – as if I am the object and the material. It’s important for me to show the young generation, especially the girls, that we have to continue.

things. At school we never studied art but I started

MFA. Were you ever tempted to move away from

have been made in spite of, or perhaps because of,

making things to show to my family. When I was

Jerusalem and immerse yourself in a place where it

censorship and other difficulties. Can you relate to

older, I saw ‘galleries’ in magazines. I knew then that

is easier to make art with fewer restrictions?

this with your own work?

I wanted to study art, to see more art. I moved to

RS: I never wanted to stay in New York. I like to travel,

Jerusalem and began to study at the Bazelel Academy

but not to move. Jerusalem is like my breath. It is

RS: I think there’s a big difference between those

of Arts and Design, where I now teach.

important politically for me to stay in Jerusalem. It

making art from the outside and those who are

would be easier to move, but here it’s my fight. I’m

making art from the inside. Because I’m doing all

women connect to my art. In her artworks, as in her daily life as a Palestinian with an Israeli passport, the woman Raeda Saadeh

JC: How and why did you start using your own body

represents lives in a world that attacks her values,

in your artworks?

her love, and her spirit on a daily basis. However, as

RS: I feel my body is part of my work—as if I am

I found in our recent interview, she looks towards her

the object and the material. I started doing this by

future with a determined smile.

chance at the university when they asked us to create a sculptural work for a class I was taking. I felt as though

Juliet Cestar (JC): You grew up in a village in northern

my body was the sculpture and the object. Before

Palestine, the youngest of nine children. How and

this I didn’t know anything about performance art or

why did you decide to become an artist?

body art, but my feeling took me this way.

Raeda Saadeh (RS): When I was a child, I felt all the

JC: Did you, and do you still have any role models

here. I’m living in such a difficult situation but I’m still

my work from the inside, for example my recent Wall

or inspiration for your work?

continuing with my art. It’s important for me to show

Series, when I talk about the wall, the separating wall,

RS: There are no artists in my family, but my mother

the young generation, especially the girls, that we

I’m living this daily—it’s my life. I did this also with

always was, and still is, the first person I talk to and

have to continue.

my Fairy Tales series. I can see it all—the woman,

show my work to. Also, I like to talk to the old women

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the politics. But not just something I can see, it’s

from my village, who are not connected to art or

JC: As we have seen in Iran, some of the best films,

something I can do. I can’t talk about something I’m

performance, to see their reaction to my work.

such as those by filmmakers like Abbas Kiarostami

not a part of. I can’t talk about something I can’t feel.


Vacuum (2007) Video installation

JC: So you agree with the artist Bill Viola who once said

place. I also made a small model of the wall and I put it

because then the work will die. I want to keep the wishes

in an interview that ‘Living within the frame is living within

on my face, like the wall is cutting my face.

secret, between the wishers and the work.

else it’s not honest.’ 1

JC: What are your plans for the immediate future? What

I want this work to travel all around the whole world, to

RS: I think I already answered that. Because for me art is

are you working on at the moment?

collect as many wishes as I can from all different countries.

first coming from a feeling.

RS: I have been travelling with my performance piece The

Until now, I have made this work in eight countries and

the experience. Art has to be a part of one’s daily life or

Tree of Wishes, where I’m wearing a huge white dress,

soon I will take it to the Uzbekistan Biennale. I participated

JC: Can you tell me about your recent Wall series?

which is 60 metres around. The idea is that when people

in the Biennale in Tunisia (2013) and I got 7000 wishes,

RS: I made these photographs by the separating wall

come to me while I’m wearing the dress, they take a piece

and from Ramallah I got 3000 wishes. I also made it in

[Israel’s separation barrier]. In one work there is an angel,

of coloured fabric, write their wishes on it and then throw it

Australia, France and Norway.

with one wing stuck in the wall and one wing free, and

at my dress. So at the end of the performance I collect all

1

in another work I am trying to move the wall to another

the wishes and take them home, but I don’t open them,

Contemporary Art, June, 1990.

Interview with Bill Viola by Michael Nash, Journal of

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Angel, from the series Wall (2013) Digital C-print on paper, 120 x 100 cm

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Moving the Wall, from the series Wall (2013) Digital C-print on paper, 120 x 100 cm

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Ladder, from the series Wall (2013) Digital C-print on paper, 90 x 120 cm

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The Tree of Wishes (2013-present) Performance with wedding dress and coloured fabric

So at the end of the performance I collect all the wishes and take them home, but I don’t open them, because then the work will die. I want to keep the wishes secret, between the wishers and the work.

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PROFILE Images - Courtesy of the artist and Ayyam Gallery. Writer - Maryam Ganjineh, independent art consultant and contributor.

Rashed Al Shashai: A Generation’s Salvation The story and formation of a young community’s identity Rashed Al Shashai’s emotional and personal

the repercussions of the attack which had made

connection to the 1979 Grand Mosque seizure

society much more repressed. With Salvation he

in Makkah is the main narrative shaping his series

defies extremism, its violence and direct influence

of work Salvation. His grandfather was one of

on the communities and society of Saudi Arabia

many men present at the mosque at the time

in the years since the seizure, while also looking

of the attack. A lean man, by climbing out of

ahead to the future.

a window shaped as a geometric star—often used in Islamic architecture—he escaped death.

His deliberate use of an uninhabited village sets

Almost 40 years later, his resonating story and

the tone for a state of ruin and abandonment that

near death experience became the inspiration for

is felt by his generation. In a trio of photographs,

Rashed’s conceptual vision, to create a sequence

Rashed captures the impossible escape from

of photographs and installation artworks telling

the village as a symbolic gesture of suffocation.

the story of how these events shaped his own

The artist uses a star-shaped cutout in a fence

generation’s upbringing.

looking outside the village as his only way to seek freedom. In each image, he redefines paths

After many years of hearing his grandfather’s

of escape, and its impossible pursuit through a

accounts of the incident, Rashed tells the story

constant change of background imagery. However,

of a village close to Makkah named Mandasa

the placement of the star is a symbolic window

Rashed. He was determined to depict the life

for his own escape, and for what he hopes to be

of a once thriving community surrounded by

his generation’s salvation obtained through the

mountains, and used as a strategic point for

power of confident and independent thinking in

combat during the incident. The project that

the face of religious suppression.

began almost four years ago, in 2012, as

His deliberate use of the uninhabited village sets the tone for a state of ruin and abandonment. Rashed’s Salvation series portrays the personal relationship of his grandfather’s stories in Makkah

documentary coverage of Mandasa morphed

In a powerful photograph, captured at 4 am, Rashed

and Mandasa, and also conveys a more universal

into a body of work that narrates a generation’s

positioned himself on high ground facing Mandasa.

message of his generation’s voice advocating

cultural and social struggles.

His goal was to not only have a full frame of the

freedom and salvation.

village from a distance but to also visually tell the

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Through his lens Rashed utilized the natural

story of its darkness and despair: ‘It’s absolutely dark

The series focuses on the personal, social, cultural

environment surrounding the village of Mandasa

in the village at night. Where there is no light there

and environmental limitations imposed on the

as a backdrop for his investigative and critical

is no life,’ he said about the photograph The City

youth and the artist, while also exploring their

journey showcasing symbolic connections with

from Behind the Mountain. With this image he also

ability to overcome these barriers. With every

the aftermath of the 1979 Grand Mosque seizure.

captures the contrasting light passing through the

photograph, the light’s fluid flowing movement

Born in 1977 in Al Baha and raised in Makkah,

neighboring city, highlighting life beyond Mandasa,

signifies confidence through which redemption

Rashed exemplifies his generation living through

implying hope beyond isolation.

can be achieved.


The City from Behind the Mountain, Archival Pigment Print (2016) 140 x 210 cm

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Previous Page: From the Skylight, Archival Pigment Print (2016) 80 x 120 cm The Impossible Escape 1, Archival Pigment Print (2016) 80 x 120 cm

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The Impossible Escape 2, Archival Pigment Print (2016) 80 x 120 cm

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

Jassim Al Awadhi: Akkash The remains that reflect For Emirati photographer Jassim Al Awadhi, the act

with Hassan, Jassim recounts that since they both felt

of taking a photograph is informed by the cultural

that their art was not understood by contemporary

nuances of how photography is conceptualized, as

society, Sharif suggested that they should “die for

well as what status is given to an actual photograph

two hundred years, and afterwards be resurrected

within Emirati culture. As he eloquently explains,

to finally find people who actually understand and

in Emirati culture a photograph is called akkash,

appreciate our art.” Jassim then went on to found

which means a ‘reflection.’ This is in stark contrast to

a succession of photography societies based on

other parts of the Arab world, where a photograph

the collaborative model set up by Hassan at the

is called a tasawir and linked to the word surat,

Fine Arts Society. After establishing a Photography

which translates as an image. Hence photography

Club in Sharjah, Jassim founded the Dar Ibn al

as image was often historically condemned in the

Haitham Photography Club in Dubai’s Al Fahidi

Arab world because of the banning of imagery,

Historical Neighbourhood, and also the Abu

particularly of people, within the religious world of

Dhabi International Association of Photography.

Islam. As Jassim recounts “In the 1980’s photography

In addition, he has been a leading judge in the

was not accepted and almost considered haram

most prominent of the nearly thirty photography

(forbidden)… but with the introduction of digital

competitions in the UAE, from helping establish

photography in the 2000s, this attitude disappeared.”

the Fujairah Photography Award, to being head

By considering photographs mere ‘reflections’ of

of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Photography

reality, Emirati culture was rarely conflicted by the

Competition and, most recently, the lead juror for

It is not only the physical remains that he is after, he is most interested in having his photographs reflect the energies of those that inhabited these spaces.

status of photography as an art. In many ways, this

the Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum

Art Studio in Deira. Seeing his uncle’s photographs

may explain why photography is not only widely

International Photography Award (HIPA). Last year

and cameras while growing up incubated Jassim’s

accepted by Emiratis, their passion for photography

Jassim was selected to curate the UAE section of

early interest in photography. He ultimately decided

is expressed in the number of photographic societies

the inaugural Dubai Photo Exhibition.

to study photography in the United States, receiving

and multiple annual photography competitions held throughout the individual Emirates.

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a BFA from the University of Dayton and later a In his photographic practice, Jassim traces his

Masters from Nottingham University. When returning

passion for photography to his own family’s early

to the UAE, in addition to his professional practice,

Amazingly, Jassim has been an active participant in

involvement with establishing photography as a

Jassim began teaching photography in the College

most photographic societies and photo competitions

profession in Dubai. His uncle learned photography

of Fine Arts at the University of Sharjah.

within this short, yet extremely dense history of

in the 1930s, while studying English and math in

Emirati photography. As an early member of the

India. When identity papers were instituted by the

In his professional practice, Jassim has been the lead

Fine Arts Society in Sharjah, Jassim often discussed

British to regulate travel in the Gulf, Sheikh Saeed

forensic photographer for the Dubai Police for 30

the role of photography with the late Hassan Sharif,

appointed him as the official photographer for Dubai.

years. As a crime scene photographer, Jassim always

the UAE’s avant garde artist who promoted artistic

This new demand for ‘passport’ photos gave Jassim’s

needed his photography to play the role of a witness,

activity throughout the Emirates. In one discussion

uncle the commercial impetus to set up Al Awadhi

to record in every detail, often of horrific events,


Abandoned restaurant from the 70’s on the way to Hatta (2013)

what might later be used as evidence in a courtroom. As Jassim recounts “seeing

in the desert. In his details of these ruins, Jassim artistically frames the remains that

and then photographing the crime scene, at first I used to get sick for days…but you

reflect the lost presence of people who lived there. As he excitedly explains, it is

have to record even the most disturbing details, because afterwards the entire site is

not only the physical remains that he is after, he is most interested in having his

wiped clean by the police.” This interest in capturing physical details of disruption or

photographs reflect the energies of those that inhabited these spaces. “Energy that

evidence of dramatic changes, informs the aesthetics of Jassim’s photographic practice,

I believe in, that does not dissipate, that must [still] be there, energy of the people

where a single detail can generate a larger, and sometimes uncomfortable, narrative.

that lived there, [the energy] of their style of living and love of life, their depressions, it’s all there.” It is these energies, cued by evidence captured in his photographs,

Jassim’s work as a forensic photographer also informs his artistic practice. For many

which give Jassim’s photographs an electricity, tripping our own imagination to

years, on his Fridays away from work, Jassim searches out abandoned villages and

narratives of who and what was present in these fragmented yet still emotive

settlements, where the forces of cultural change and modernization left ruins strewn

spaces. Though based on a stark modernist approach to simply frame whatever

with evidence of previous human habitation and presence. Describing his focus on

you find, it is Jassim’s aesthetic of trying also to capture the reflections of humanity

telling details, Jassim says, “When I look at my image, it (the telling detail) is there,

evidenced in details from previously inhabited spaces which give his photographs

you need to dig for it.” His photographing ruins began with the exploration of the

an uncomfortable, avant-garde edge—evoking a human presence which is unseen

buildings in deserted Al Hamra. Currently he also seeks out abandoned settlements

but felt viscerally by viewers.

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Previous page: Abandoned Mosque on the way to Masafi (2011) House in an old village in Fujairah (2015)

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Farm in Sharjah (2010)

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Wall papered room in Sharjah (2010)

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PROFILE Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Rana Sadik.

Mohammed Al-Kouh: Tomorrow’s Past Ideating Cities and Heritage On talking to Mohammed Al-Kouh, or even scrolling through his social media posts, it becomes clear that he has an acute awareness of “souls”. A self-taught Kuwaiti artist, navigating the changing identity of his home country, Al-Kouh layers negatives and then develops his image, playing with the cultural belief that photography steals souls. He sees this theft as a preservatory act in the fight against the continual tide of drowning histories rather than as a hiding or a loss. He is extraordinarily neat, habitually tidy in appearance, meticulous in his studio, his archives are in order and his storage facility has everything carefully placed. There is the impression of walking into a movie studio

Al-Kouh believes that by photographing his subjects he is preserving them, fighting a tide of drowning histories.

set from an era well before his time. This is an era

Al-Kouh places himself in the midst of larger heritage

that he is almost preoccupied with, looking for values

debates that have manifested themselves in two

that appear to have existed because of the privacy

conferences that took place within weeks of each other

that was granted. He believes that the soul of this

in Kuwait. The first was Urban and Modern Heritage

moment has not been used up. He is in search of an

in the Arab States (1-3 December, 2015) which was

icon, or perhaps a hero, something that his own soul

organized by UNESCO to discuss the integration

is yearning for.

of conservation and heritage training into urban planning in the Middle East. It was then followed by

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Rather than looking for this icon in portraiture, his hand-

Legitimating Tradition (17-20 December, 2016), which

coloured photographs from the series Tomorrow’s

discusses the concept of legitimacy within a global

Past toy with reality. The images depict buildings and

context, including questions regarding authenticity,

structures, once visible emblems of the Golden Era in

tradition and environment crafting. Like the scholars

Kuwait that have since begun disappearing from the

participating in these conversations, Al-Kouh grapples

landscape. His use of colour, rather than adding realism

for an identity devoid of the oil curse, far removed

to the prints, becomes an interpretive tool, blushing

from the Iraq invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Just as the

the strong modernist architectural forms with delicate

technique he uses and the pigments he has to scour

pastels that reflect their vulnerability in the face of

to find is painstaking, there is a contemporary culture,

progress. His titles express an inherent disappointment,

a chronic newness, an identity evolution, that he must

evoking the eventualities looming for the landmarks;

be resisting. Identity is an ever-changing heritage, there

Till we meet in Heaven, Tomorrow’s past, The End.

is no end to it, there is no finality nor absolutes in it.


Elhelalya, from the series Tomorrow’s Past

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Cinema Granada, from the series Tomorrow’s Past

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Ahmadi Drive in Cinema, from the series Tomorrow’s Past

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Dome of the Stars, from the series Tomorrow’s Past

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The Church, from the series Tomorrow’s Past

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ESSAY Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Lulu M. Al-Sabah, art consultant.

Mohammed Al Shammarey: Selfie, Nail, Black and White An era of mythology and insanity Born in Baghdad in 1962, Iraqi artist Mohammed Al

to remember those years,” he says, “I also served

Shammarey is reluctant to think or talk about Iraq’s

during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait [1990-1991]. It

distant past, specifically of the late 1960s and 1970s

was mandatory. I walked for 10 days from Um Qasr

when the infant Ba’th regime was working towards

to Baghdad… the colonel who ruled over our division

building a modern Arab nation. The fast-growing

was an understanding man… he gave us materials

economy brought stability and prosperity, in part due

to draw with and let me play music. He had studied

to the nationalization of the British Iraq Petroleum

in Italy so he was quite open-minded. He helped

Company. The country’s progressive and vibrant civil

me a lot.” Al Shammarey chiseled patterns in wood

society set an example for many Arabs outside its

to cope with the trauma of war; in fact, he found it

borders. This period preceded the increasing tyranny

nearly impossible not to reference war in his artistic

of the Ba’th regime whereby they brutally crushed

practices because war is what he had lived.

any organized oppositional party. It also preceded the decades of war and chaos that ensued.

From 1991 until 2003, the combined effect of government policies and the economic sanctions

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Al Shammarey chiseled patterns in wood to cope with the trauma of war; in fact, he found it nearly impossible not to reference war in his artistic practices because war is what he had lived.

Pressed to remember, Al Shammarey says, “I spent

imposed by the UN Security Council led to

the 1970s in Iraq with my guitar. I often practiced up

widespread poverty and malnutrition, resulting in

to 15 hours a day.” Al Shammarey played classic

the deaths of half a million Iraqi children. The artist

guitar for the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra,

was living in Baghdad during this time, exhibiting

In 2006, Nada Shabout, an art historian and a

which hosted concerts internationally. When he

his paintings and multi-media artworks from his

professor of Art History at the University of Texas,

applied to the Academy of Fine Arts in Baghdad

private atelier (1988, 1991 and 1999). He held his

curated the first museum-level exhibition devoted

he was rejected because he was not a member of

first solo exhibition at the French Cultural Center

to contemporary Iraqi art in the United States. It was

the Ba’th party. He became a member simply to

in Baghdad in 1998 and had other solo exhibitions

entitled Dafatir, Contemporary Iraqi Book Art (Dafatir

enter the Academy but was then informed that

in Jordan. Al Shammarey decided to leave Iraq

is the Arabic word for ‘notebooks’) and included

there were no available spaces. As he explains,

for good when he heard of the upcoming US

small-scale works in various book formats by three

“I did not care about being a part of a political

invasion. For him, this represented “the final

different generations of artists. Al Shammarey was

party, I was just a teenager into the Beatles and

straw.” The artist says, “I went to Jordan in 2003.

among the seventeen Iraqi artists included. A year

other kinds of music… then I studied biology and

I was helped by the royal family of Jordan to reside

later, an American group visited the artist at his studio

nutrition but I did not complete my degree. I got

there. Otherwise I would not have been able to

in Amman. Among the group was Jim Harper, the

tired of using a microscope.”

cross the border.” He created a life and an artist’s

owner of the Station Museum of Contemporary

studio in Amman, Jordan, where he still spends

Art in Texas. Impressed by Al Shammarey’s video

The Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) marked the end

most of his time. “I haven’t given up the idea of

art, he invited the artist to participate in the second

of Iraq’s golden era. Al Shammarey served eight

going back to Iraq but when I feel homesick, I

museum-level exhibition devoted to Contemporary

long years in that war, serving by force like every

feel homesick for Jordan. I don’t know why but I

Iraqi art in the United States, providing him with

other able bodied Iraqi at the time. “I don’t want

consider Jordan my home.”

a camera man and an assistant in order to create


Selfie, Archival Pigment Print, 112 x 137 cm

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Nevertheless, these exiled artists have gone on to create new artworks that not only reflect the pain but also the collective creative imagination of the Iraqi people. new work for the show. The exhibition, entitled Iraqi Art

chess, with seated men in traditional Arab attire replacing

Sayyab (1926-1964), one of the greatest poets in Arabic

in Exile, opened in 2008 and travelled to various cities.

the usual chess pieces, which was exhibited at the Houston

literature. In this series, the artist placed his paintings

It included works by Dia Azzawi, Shakir Hassan Al Said,

Center for Photography. Chess games are a recurrent

outside to be altered unpredictably by rainfall. He then

Ali Taleb Al Kayali, Jannane Al-Ani, Mahmoud Al-Obaidi

theme in Al Shammarey’s work because, as he explains,

digitalized and reduced the images on a computer, adding

and Rafa Al-Nasiri among others.

“People in my country feel like they are the victims of

Arabic calligraphy by hand and using ink jet printing to

a major conspiracy. Or a ‘game’ managed by both the

produce the final works. After being shown at the Juniata

A powerful statement was released by Alan Schniger, chief

deposed regime and the Americans… personally, I am

College Museum of Art in Pennsylvania, his Rain Song

curator of the exhibition, and James Harithas, Director of

not a big believer in conspiracy theories because I just

series were shown in Kuwait where the poet the works

the Station Museum of Contemporary Art, which stated:

cannot trust the ability of any human project to carry on

were inspired by had died.

for half a century… But I just ask my friends to think with Let us take serious notice of the fact that Baghdad was until

me and try to analyze the implications of the unfathomable

The artist’s more recent photographic series depicts a

recently one of the great cultural centers of the Near East.

and persistent political problems in my country – political

man in traditional Arab attire multiplied profusely and

The arts have flourished there for seven thousand years.

problems that have been lingering like heavy boulders

turning in different directions. To understand these works,

As a result of the U.S. war and occupation, the culture of

on the people’s chests ¬– in the day and age of freedom

one has to view the Digital Revolution video created by

Iraq has been severely damaged, if not virtually destroyed.

and human rights. People are not stupid but they need a

Al Shammarey in 2015. It begins with a band of pixels

The National Museum has been looted, the National

helping hand to guide them towards more wisdom. And

that expands across the screen and eventually one sees

Library has been burned, the Museum of Modern Art

if they look like they are mythological, not to say crazy, it

an Arab man, dressed in a bisht, dishdasha, ghatra and

has been pillaged, and the universities and schools have

is simply because no one has helped them to abandon

Iqal (traditional, formal attire) multiplied and moving in all

been destroyed or ruined along with the book stores, art

the era of mythology and insanity towards the space of

directions. There is no space in between the convulsing,

galleries and artists’ studios. Artists, poets, film makers,

freedom, democracy and development.”

swaying men with their faces unseen turning around and

intellectuals, and professors have had their lives threatened

around in every which way. Initially the swirling men are

and have been forced out of the country. Many of them

Al Shammarey’s work encompasses painting, silk-screen

seen through a blood red filter, which eventually turns to

have lost their life’s work. Nevertheless, these exiled artists

printing, sculpture, video, photography and book art.

black and white. In analyzing the video, Sinan Antoon, an

have gone on to create new artworks that not only reflect

Lately, he finds himself sitting in front of a computer for

associate Professor of pre-Modern and Modern Arabic

the pain but also the collective creative imagination of

15 hours a day. According to the artist, “the concept

literature and contemporary Arab culture and politics

the Iraqi people.

comes before the material. Now artists are expected to

at New York University, states, “In the last few years the

work much faster than before. For speed, you need to

Arab world has been stormed by revolutions and counter-

Thanks to the assistance of Jim Harper, Al Shammarey

use new media.” His work is often inspired by literature

revolutions. These revolutions sparked great hopes initially

moved to Houston, Texas in 2008 where he studied video

and poetry from the Arab world. In 2010, Al Shammarey

as they toppled dictatorial regimes, but they were dashed

editing and taught himself photography. He created a

created a series entitled Rain Song, which was inspired by

and have been replaced with melancholy as civil and

large-scale photographic work that resembles a game of

a poem of the same name by the Iraqi poet Badr Shakir al

sectarian wars and military regimes decimate the region

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Nail (left and right) Archival Pigment Print, 112 x 137 cm

and revolutions are hijacked by powerful regional forces. Shammarey’s provocative

50s to have a relationship with a woman in her 20s, which he refers to as Barbie.

visual text explores the critical role of technology in the production of political and social

For this piece, which is still in progress, he created a pretend life in which he himself

truth. It highlights the permeable borders between reality and illusion and asks: can

lives with Barbie, utilizing all the toys and furniture from the Mattel Barbie brand. He

revolutions be fabricated?” Al Shammarey believes that the Arab Spring was doomed

intends to exhibit this work at the Anya Tish Gallery in Houston, which represents

from the start because it lacked a clear direction. Without a concise game plan, it was

him. Al Shammarey is proud to be part of their roster because the gallery provides

easy for the so-called revolutions to be taken over by more powerful forces.

a conduit for artists who address pertinent social and environmental issues.

Islam is a powerful force in the region and the division between the Sunnis and

Seeing all that he has seen, Al Shammarey is not one to suffer fools nor does

Shiites within Islam today is alarming to say the least. Al Shammarey does not recall

he exhibit an ounce of sentimentality. He feels that it is extremely unfortunate

this to be the case in the time that he was growing up. In fact, he was in his 30s

that for many corrupt souls, “Islam is good business.” The artist sees no end to

when he found out that his own mother was from the Shiites of Saudi Arabia. As he

the wars because with wars come the war profiteers. What then is the role of an

says, “I had no idea because it was not important.” The artist has worked on various

artist? For him, “Art is like poetry; it is like music… the image is still effective. Take

projects, some of which would be deemed too controversial to be shown in the

for example that image of the young naked girl running towards the camera. It

Middle East. One such project investigates the idea of paradise according to Islam

changed the [US] public’s opinion of the Vietnam War.” Al Shammarey still plays

in the perception of others. As the artist explains, “As soon as I came to the US, it

his guitar in a blues bar in Houston. His music is now a hobby while he devotes

became clear that for a lot of the people here, if you are Muslim, a good Muslim

himself to his art. In reviewing the body of work by Al Shammarey, it brings to

[man] of course, then when you die and go to Heaven, there are 70 virgins waiting

mind a quote by the poet Rainer Maria Rilke: “Surely all art is the result of one’s

for you. It seemed that was all they knew of Islam.” The artist uses humor in such

having been in danger, of having gone through an experience all the way to the

works, which may be taken offensively in some parts of the world. Al Shammarey

end, to where no one can go any further.” Mohammed Al Shammarey’s life and

is currently working on a project that questions the desire of divorced men in their

art are a testament to that.

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Selfie Archival Pigment Print, 112 x 137 cm

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Selfie, Archival Pigment Print, 112 x 137 cm

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White, Archival Pigment Print, 112 x 137 cm

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Black and White, Archival Pigment Print, 112 x 137 cm

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PROFILE Images - Courtesy of AFP/Khaled Akil. Writer - Rosemary Irons.

Khaled Akil: Pokemon Go in Syria - Part I Augmented reality reimagined on the war-torn streets of Aleppo  When photographer Khaled Akil’s latest

“In my usual artistic practice, I prefer to give time

“Much of my previous work deals with controversial

project Pokemon Go in Syria caught the attention

to my work, technique-wise. It’s a process that I

problems within our Middle Eastern society, and such

of Al Jazeera News, the public looked up from

enjoy. I’m not saying that my Pokemon series

topics can be difficult to swallow for some people.

their smart phones and paid attention. The images

isn’t as meaningful as my fine art-photography. It

But I think that’s the duty of art: to open doors to

are without a doubt compelling: The curious

could be that Pokemon Go in Syria is profoundly

these types of discussions. People will view my work,

juxtaposition of Pikachu sitting forlorn in the

important. Not necessarily now, but for the future.

and while they might not always understand what’s

foreground, a scene of destruction behind him;

Decades from now, this work will be an archive, a

going on, the image should provoke them to ask

a Charizard stands ready for combat alongside a

documentation of what’s happening in this historical

questions, to start a dialogue. Pokemon Go is easier;

band of armed Al-Nusra troops; a Crawdaunt crawls

moment. And right now it’s the augmented reality

it’s for the masses. It doesn’t need any context or

from a broken pipe as young boys play in a murky

trend and the war in Syria flooding our media feeds.

further explanation. And if everyone understands my

pool of sewer water; a Vaporeon escorts a boy

This work is simply a portrait of our time”.

message, then that’s what I want. That’s the end goal.”

A graduate of Law and Political Science from Beirut

When asked about Part 2, Akil states “The fact that

Arab University, Akil’s work has an undeniable

people are talking about my Pokemon series, well

The familiar scenes of devastation in Syria are made

humanitarian focus, which stems from his legal

its motivation, let me say: I’ll continue to produce

all the more unsettling when contrasted with the

pedigree. His lineage includes the likes of Abd

more of this type of work for certain. I labelled

cute and colourful characters of the Pokemon Go

al-Rahman al-Kawakibi, a prominent intellectual

the series Part I simply because it’s a very brief

craze. The digital collage series went viral overnight;

of the late 19th century who published works

statement. I needed to publish it quickly, to get my

it was an eerie and uncomfortable message, and

on Islamic identity and Pan-Arabism openly

message out there. But it’s not enough. There are

one the media couldn’t ignore.

criticising the Ottoman Empire. While Akil’s

so many ideas in my mind… Part II will follow soon.”

wheeling his bike down a residential street in ruins, as if the creature were his chaperone.

father is an established artist in Syria, it is in fact

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Reflecting on the acclaim he’s received due to

his late maternal grandfather, a renowned judge

Khaled Akil (b. 1986, Aleppo) is currently living

the Pokemon series, Akil states “Artwise, it’s not

in his time, to whom he attributes his passion

and working in Istanbul while many of his family

difficult to do what I did. The work itself is simply a

for photography. “I owe my whole career to the

members remain in Syria. He has exhibited his work

statement. But then art is not necessarily to create

first Zenit camera I received from him as a gift

internationally, in both solo and group exhibits,

work that is technically sophisticated or something

on my 16th birthday, and to the long hours we

including the Lahd Gallery (London); West Branch

that requires great talent. There are those who

spent exploring the universe of photography

Gallery (Stowe, Vermont); FotoFest (Houston, Texas);

make art in half an hour, while for others it can

and many other fields. Owing to him, I chose to

Art in Exile Festival (Washington, D.C.); Tajallyat

take months, even years. Ultimately it’s the idea

study law, and then also owing to him, I chose

Gallery (Beirut); Mustafa Ali Art Foundation

behind the work that’s important, not the number

not to practice it”. With this, Akil’s photography

(Damascus); Karma Art Gallery (Aleppo); Sarmad

of hours spent in the studio. This series serves as

inevitably developed into a visual commentary on

Gallery (Aleppo); Chalabi Art Gallery (Istanbul); and

a reminder to the world that the war in Syria is still

the contemporary Arab world, addressing many

the collection of the Barjeel Art Foundation (Sharjah).

ongoing, despite the latest popular distraction in

of the complex sociopolitical issues he observed

He hopes to return to his home in Aleppo when

mainstream media.

during his daily life in Aleppo.

the war is over.


5, from the series Pokemon Go In Syria - Part 1

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3, from the series Pokemon Go In Syria - Part 1

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4, from the series Pokemon Go In Syria - Part 1

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2, from the series Pokemon Go In Syria - Part 1

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INDUSTRY

Outdoor exhibition: Christto & Andrew, from the series The Politics of Sport (2016) by © Bert-Jan Kramers

is why we promote our premieres: works that have never been shown in a gallery, institution or art fair. This year we will have over 80 artists launching their new, unseen work! Art photography evolving, New Media, and the future of the fair: Photography is changing rapidly. New techniques can bring about innovation, but also change the way in which people engage with photography in their daily lives. Think about how we act in front of the camera; how does this effect portraiture?

UNSEEN Photo Fair: Amsterdam

The different directions of photography are presented at Unseen. We like to create

Unseen is an annual international photography fair and festival based in

through a variety of interactive initiatives.

awareness among our visitors of the many different directions of photography

Amsterdam. Insights on the fair with Rixt Hulshoff Pol, Director of Unseen: I think the future looks bright for niche fairs like Unseen. I would consider it a huge The secret behind the success of Unseen and the significance of the name:

opportunity to have an annual platform which incorporates many different events

Innovation is a major driving force behind Unseen, so we allow room for artists

in one, where you can discover the most recent developments and connect with

and their galleries to take risks. Unseen started in 2012 as an annual international

so many different people from various backgrounds and disciplines.

photography fair and festival based in Amsterdam. It focuses on new or ‘unseen’

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photography, highlighting the most recent developments, by presenting unseen

Some words of wisdom regarding the industry:

work by emerging talent and new work by established artists. I think Unseen’s

All you need is an open mind. Be curious and you will be rewarded. Curiosity

success is rooted in the following combinations: fair and festival, a meeting and

and an open mind will help you to discover new art, new artists and new

a market place and finally a focus on both the local and global. As a fair, Unseen

perspectives. Collecting photography can be an enormous adventure. Just learn

welcomes 53 galleries from across the globe and connects leading figures

to trust your instincts, ask questions when you are confused and delve into the

in the industry with artists, curators, collectors and photography enthusiasts,

depths of the works you encounter. Of course it is interesting to hear an artist

encourageing the exchange of artistic expression, ideas and dialogue. As a

speak about their work or talk to an expert, but a lot of the works at Unseen are

festival, Unseen invites visitors to be challenged, inspired and excited by an

new to everyone, so nobody has all the answers. Engaging in conversations will

extensive program which unites many of the city’s leading institutions, galleries,

help everybody to gradually gain insights into the works on display. Photography

artists and initiatives. The result is to engage with photography in unexpected

is serious business, but never forget to enjoy it as much as possible!

ways. At the end of the day, people visit Unseen to make new discoveries, which

www.unseenamsterdam.com


The Blue Hour: Centro Cultural de Santa Cruz in Bolivia

Adel Abidin. Memorial. 2009. Three channel video installation. Duration 00’02’56 min (loop). Courtesy Lawrie Shabibi and the artist

The Blue Hour exhibition presents the works of 15 emerging and established artists from

Blue Hour is organized within the context of the overall theme of

the Middle East. With The Blue Hour, curator Mo Reda presents a discourse in which art

the Biennale, and seeks to present a unique point within the history

from the Middle East, while remaining aware of its location of origin and all its nuances,

of contemporary art in the Middle East. The title of the exhibition

is also free of preconceptions and expectations in an effort to seem more “authentic.”

refers to a particular point during the day in which one cannot clearly

Participating artists include Adel Abidin, Amani Al Thuwaini, Areej Kaoud, Ayaz Rauf,

tell - neither by perception nor instinct - whether the day is turning to

Cristiana de Marchi, Farah Salem, H. M. Abu Ftaim, Hasan Hujairi, Larissa Sansour,

night, or whether it is the night that is ending by the arrival of a new

Mohammed Kazem, Moza Almatrooshi, Sadik Kwaish Alfraji, Seema Rao, Walid Al Wawi

dawn. The factual passage of time becomes deceptive to the mind

and Youssef Nabil.

by the limitations of one’s own sensorial perceptions. Held at the Centro Cultural de Santa Cruz in Bolivia between 12 September and

Blue Hour is part of the XX International Biennial of Visual Arts of Santa Cruz de Lasierra,

30 October 2016, Blue Hour is the first exhibition in Latin America

Bolivia. The Biennale’s overal theme is ‘limitrofe’, which stands for bordering or neighboring,

to exhibit works by emerging and established contemporary artists

and explores political boundaries and other forms of boundaries.

from the Middle East.

Qalandiya International: 3rd edition Qalandiya International (QI) is a collaborative contemporary art event that takes place every two years.‘This Sea is Mine’ contemplates the subject of return and refuge for Palestine and the region through a comprehensive program of exhibitions, performances, film screenings, tours and workshops, featuring over 100 Palestinian and international artists. This year’s edition brings together 16 art and cultural organizations as partners, who have joined forces to organize a comprehensive program of events both within and beyond Palestine: Haifa, Beirut, Gaza, Amman, London, Jerusalem, Ramallah and Bethlehem. Partner organizations participating in ‘This Sea is Mine’: A. M. Qattan Foundation, Al Hoash – Palestinian Art Court, Al Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art, Arab Culture Association, Dar Al Kalima, Dar El Nimer, Darat Al Funun, Eltiqa Group, International Academy of Art – Palestine, Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center, MinRASY Projects, Palestine Regeneration Group (PART), Ramallah Municipality, RIWAQ – Center for Architectural Conservation, Shababek for Contemporary Art, and The Palestinian Museum. www.qalandiyainternational.org Top: Recipe To Make Plain M&Ms, MinRASY PROJECTS (2016), Bottom: Consumed I, MinRASY PROJECTS (2016), From the exhibition /Tilted/

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Lamia Maria Abillama, #Untitled, from the series Clashing Realities (2006-2016)

Ahned Mater, Artificial Light (2012)

Symbolic Cities: Freer / Sackler, Washington DC

Clashing Realities: Galerie Tanit, Beirut

Symbolic Cities: The Work of Ahmed Mater is featured

his visual and aural journeys observing economic and

Lamia Maria Abillama’s ‘Clashing Realities’ attempts to

at the Freer / Sackler Gallery (Smithsonian Institution,

urban change in Saudi Arabia. The exhibition, the first

portray the breakdown of the lives of a range of Lebanese

Washington DC) 19 March to 18 September, 2016.

in the United States solely dedicated to Mater, also

women. Abillama asks them to wear military uniforms and

Born in 1979 in southern Saudi Arabia and trained

debuts new works based on his extensive research

attempts to show the extent to which Lebanon’s civil society

as a medical doctor, Mater has been a practicing

on Riyadh’s development.

has been affected by decades of brutality, in the context

artist since the early 1990s, creating works that offer

of a chaotic country plagued by years of war. Within the

an unparalleled perspective on contemporary Saudi

Organized by the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, in

work-in-progress series she, without siding with anyone,

Arabia. Now based in Jeddah, Mater has focused

collaboration with Culturunners, in partnership with

photographs Lebanese politicians in an unusual and daring

primarily on photography and video since 2010.

Art Jameel. Generous exhibition support is provided

light, and reveals the photographer’s acute interest in

From abandoned desert cities to the extraordinary

by Faisal Tamer and Sara Alireza; the Barjeel Art

people, and the obsessions, fantasies and events that shape

transformation of Mecca, Symbolic Cities presents

Foundation, Sharjah; and Jerome and Ellen Stern.

them. www.galerietanit.com

The Sovereign Art Prize: MENA Edition

Alfred Tarazi, LEFT/RIGHT: Scheme for a temporary memorial

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The Sovereign Art Prize inaugural theme of this

Mr Tarazi said: “I refer to this work as my

first MENA edition, Hope Takes Flight received

crazy, beautiful impossible blueprint and that

over 200 nominations and was reduced to the

is precisely what it stands for. This 1.5 by 10

top 30 finalists. The Grand Prize was awarded

meter mixed media on paper depicts the

to Alfred Tarazi of Lebanon with LEFT/RIGHT:

tenuous act of commemorating the dead in a

Scheme for a temporary memorial — a work

country still living in a state of protracted civil

on paper mixing digital printing, cyanotype and

war. It is fuelled by the task of remembrance

various inking methods, all contributing to create

and the hope of forgiveness and reconciliation.

a blueprint for a memorial dedicated to the

To have this work rewarded in Dubai where

victims of the Lebanese Civil War. Born in Beirut

I first launched this project ten years ago

in 1980, Tarazi’s entire body of work, ranging

enforces the belief that I will one day see it

across painting, photography, drawing, digital

through and Lebanon will have a memorial

collage, sculpture and installation, revolves

commemorating all those who have been

around complex historical investigations into the

killed in the convulsive cycles of violence.

ultimate event horizon of the Lebanese Civil War.

www.sovereignartfoundation.com


Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige, Remembering the Light, 2016. Two HD videos, 8 minutes. Coproduction: Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah. © Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige. Galerie In Situ — fabienne leclerc.

Two Suns in a Sunset looks at major projects of their artistic and film output from the late 1990s to the present day, and presents two new works, including ISMYRNA, a film co-produced with the Jeu de Paume and the Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah. The Jeu de Paume’s exhibition explores their particular relationship with the image and with narrative, while revealing the different approaches and strategies they have used, as well as the different narratives and investigations that they have immersed themselves in. The relationship between the image and the various media the artists use raises

Two Suns in a Sunset: Jeu de Paume, Paris and Haus der Kunst, Munich

questions about representation in the face of the endless flow of often spectacular

The Lebanese film-makers and artists Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige

the state of things that exist invisibly, but which can become visible at any time,”

interweave thematic, conceptual and formal links through photographs, video

explain the artists. Their artworks and their films also develop different strategies:

installations, fictional films and documentaries. The works are curated in the

evocation, the increasing scarcity and even elimination of the image, the creation

exhibition Two Suns in a Sunset by Hoor Al-Qasimi (Sharjah Art Foundation), José

of new icons, and an exploration of narration and document.

images that surround and structure us. Their works have attempted to show what exists without being immediately visible. They have thus worked a great deal on representations of latency to create their art and their film work. “Latency is

Miguel G. Cortés (Institut Valencià d’Art Modern), Marta Gili (Jeu de Paume) and Anna Schneider (Haus der Kunst Munich). The exhibition was first held at Jeu de

Many of their films and installations involve the participation of the viewer, creating

Paume, Paris, and travelled to Haus der Kunst, Munich.

an encounter that stimulates a desire to think, to feel, to be moved, and to develop a critical relationship to the image. Their works reflect the complexity of situations,

Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige’s work is constructed around the production

shifting the gaze and exploring both the fragmentation of the present-day world

of types of knowledge, the rewriting of history, construction of imaginaries, and also

and contemporary issues surrounding the image. Recently, they explored a totally

around contemporary modes of narration. They draw on their experience of their

forgotten Lebanese spatial project, and developed an interest in the virtuality

own country while going beyond its frontiers. The investigative process they adopt,

of the internet through swindles, spam and scams. They question the belief

together with their exploration of geographical and personal territory, endows their

and the imaginary realms of corruption, embodying an alternative history of the

work with a particular aesthetic.

contemporary world.

When Art Becomes Liberty: The Egyptian Surrealists, Palace of Arts in Cairo In collaboration with the Fine Arts sector of the Ministry

The exhibition will focus on the history and evolution

of Culture in Egypt and the American University in Cairo

of the Egyptian Surrealists group, and their complex

(AUC), Sharjah Art Foundation has organized a major

relationship with their western counterpart; especially the

traveling exhibition entitled When Art Becomes Liberty:

French Surrealists. The exhibition documents a pivotal

The Egyptian Surrealists (1938-1965) at the Palace of

chapter of modernism in Egypt that spans from the late

Arts in Cairo, Egypt on September 28, 2016 through

1930s to the early 1960s, and highlights the multifaceted

October 28, 2016. It will travel to other venues soon to be

aspects of modernity and its global interconnectedness in

announced, before it concludes in Sharjah Art Foundation

the 20th century.

Boula Henein, Georges Henein

spaces in 2018.The exhibition shows the works of the Egyptian Surrealists and their lasting legacy in Egypt,

More than 150 works have been brought together

and in the international circles of Surrealists, highlighting

including substantial loans from important Egyptian public

the multifaceted aspects of modernity and its global

& private collections. Curated by Hoor Al Qasimi, Sharjah

interconnectedness in the 20th century. Its lasting legacy

Art Foundation Director; Dr Salah M. Hassan, Goldwin

provides a glimpse of the complex and nuanced story of

Smith Professor & Director, Institute for Comparative

artistic and literary modernisms as they are staged and

Modernities, Cornell University; Ehab Ellaban, Ufuq

performed outside the West.

Gallery, Cairo; & Nagla Samir, American University in Cairo.

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REVIEW Images - Courtsey of U.A.E. Unlimited Arab Exploration Writer - Kevin Jones, independent arts writer.

Al Haraka Baraka: In Movement There is Blessing An exhibition commissioned by U.A.E. Unlimited Arab Exploration at Maraya Art Centre, Sharjah, UAE As the world grapples with waves of migrants and

August Sander-like cataloguing of the Pakistani,

the resulting refugee crisis, a sharp-spirited non-profit

Indian and Arab expat doctors, grocers and sundry

art space in Sharjah, in the United Arab Emirates

professionals who peopled his childhood, while

(UAE), has curated a thoughtful show on immigration

tinged with personal memories, stems from a gesture

from the vantage point of a nation with more than

to preserve, to archive. Ricocheting off the artist’s

75 resident nationalities. Al Haraka Baraka, literally

recent Reverse Photos project, in which he archived

translated as “in movement there is blessing,”

the work of photography studios set up in the late

examines foreign populations settled in a land in

1960s and 1970s, the series evokes deeper issues like

perpetual flux. The UAE, forever in the throes of

the tensions of home vs. the lingering ‘back home,’

unbridled urbanisation, a veritable welcome mat for

and identity as a function of one’s profession in a land

globalisation, has been a melting pot of South Asian,

where an expat’s residency is largely dependent on

African, Arab and Western expatriates for generations.

his or her economic productivity.

This state of migratory affairs provides ample fodder for a show that interrogates themes such as the tug of

The draw of the UAE as a site of itinerant labour is

nostalgia; the importance of the archive; futurism; and

evident in Emirati photographer Reem Falaknaz’s

the eruption of debatable, marketing-driven values

video Ana Anqushu (2016). On the surface, this is

(e.g. the ubiquitous “happiness index”).

a moving portrait of an Afghan master craftsman

Municipality’s #happydubai site, she reduces them, in

who engraves Islamic patterns at the Dubai-based

one powerful critical swoop, to mere coloured pixels.

All of the participating artists live in the UAE; most

“cultural” park, amusingly called Global Village (yet

are Emirati. Lens-based works constitute about half

innocent of all hints of Marshall McLuhan). The sense

The standout work in the show is undoubtedly Sharjah-

of the show, with sculpture and installation rounding

of precarity coursing through the story seems neatly

born Palestinian Walid Al Wawi’s deeply personal and

it out. Curated by Maraya mainstay Dr. Alexandra

offset by Falaknaz’s masterly means of documenting it.

complex three-act performance/video work—The

Delfina Foundation/Dubai Culture/Tashkeel Artists

Other works have more of a critical edge, like

increasingly insightful performance artist currently

in Residency (AiR) programme in 2012, the show feels

Emirati Alaa Edris’ States (2016)—futuristic hybrids

pursuing an MFA at Central Saint Martins College

intimate without falling into the trap of idealism. The

of pre-UAE-unification structures with metastasizing

of Art in London, Al Wawi has cut to the quick of the

selected artists live the fallout of flux and migration

skyscraper architecture—and writer/artist Hind

Middle Eastern identity throughout his practice. Here,

from the inside out, yet the resulting works eschew

Mezaina’s stinging The Colour of Happy (2016).

he weaves together a stark universe of disorientation,

both easy nostalgia and bland nationalist self-

Pre-dating the appointment of a UAE Minister of

memory-charged objects and mundane gestures.

congratulation for being ‘inclusive.’

Happiness (news that made the artist chuckle),

Restrained yet rich, Al Wawi’s work is emblematic of

MacGilp, a veteran of the four-tiered Art Dubai/

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Al Haraka Baraka, literally translated as “in movement there is blessing,” examines foreign populations settled in a land in perpetual flux.

Alien, The Rationalisation, The Land (all 2016). An

Mezaina’s work fathoms the hollowness of our

the unique artistic language he has been cultivating

Emirati photographer Ammar Al Attar’s He Who

marketing-driven obsession with measuring urban

in the rather fertile ground—if Al Haraka Baraka is

Possesses a Skill Will Never Go Hungry (2016), an

happiness. Abstracting images uploaded to Dubai

any indication—of the UAE arts scene.


Ammar Al Attar, He Who Possesses a Skill Will Never Go Hungry (2016) Photograph, 40 x 60 cm Subhy Al Khattab – Al Quds Bakery Owner – in the UAE since 1967 We call him Uncle Subhy. He opened his bakery in Ajman in the 1970s as a portacabin bakery. Now he has a complete building with multiple machines and operates 24-hours a day to produce bread for other grocery stores and even hypermarkets. We would go to his bakery and buy fresh bread when we were children and I remember the hot bread with za’atar on top of it ready at 8pm every day. The smell of fresh baked bread was always coming out of his bakery.

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Reem Falaknaz, Ghulam Mohammed sitting outside the Afghan pavillion at Global Village, engraving on a samovar (2016) Photograph, Dimensions Variable For four to five months a year, Ghulam Mohammed Hanafi Andalib comes from Afghanistan to Dubai for work. He is offered a stage at Global Village, where he preforms his craft. At his assigned setting, for hours, every day, Ghulam sits and engraves poems on copper. War came to his town, and he couldn’t complete his education, but he pursued his love for literature and Islamic arts, and began training as a coppersmith.

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Hind Mezaina The colour of happy 1. Early morning, 2. Late morning, 3. Afternoon 4. Late afternoon, 5. Dusk, 6. Night (2016) Digital print, 100 x 100 cm

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Alaa Edris, State 07 (2016) Digital Print, 120 x 80 cm

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Walid Al Wawi, Act Two: The Rationalisation (b) Hiding: the longest walk (2016) Video Still, 12:00 minutes

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REVIEW Images - Courtesy of Barjeel Art Foundation. Writer - Sophie Kazan.

Imperfect Chronology: Four-part exhibition The Barjeel Art Foundation Collection at the Whitechapel Gallery, London This year, the Whitechapel Gallery in London has

In Tongue, 1994, Mohammed Kazem explores

thinking of borders (both physical and conceptual) as a

played host to Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi’s Barjeel Art

the relationship between his body and the

uniform idea of discussion and debate amongst artists.

Foundation Collection with Imperfect Chronology.

environment, which is reminiscent of Hegel’s work

This four-part exhibition charts the last century

on self-consciousness, intuition and concept. In

Sophie Kazan (SK): There seems to be quite a

of Arab art and photography. In this trendy East

Kazem’s photographs he is both the subjective

subversive or anarchic thread running through the

London setting, the exhibition series has attracted a

and objective subject, looking and discovering the

final ‘Barjeel Art Foundation Part 4’ exhibition, in

lot of attention as it provides an introduction to the

world around him in his own terms and according

which “artists using various media artistically engage

diverse aesthetics and endless political and cultural

to his own presence.

with the cities where they either live or work.”

dichotomies of contemporary art from the Arab world. Co-founder of the Arab Image Foundation, Akram

(OK): I believe that the democratization of

From September 2015 to April 2016, the first

Zaatari presents a series of photographs he has

technologies from film and video to digital media

two successive shows, Debating Modernism I &

named Nadia Undressing in Twelve Poses, 1957, by

has enabled a whole new visual vocabulary and new

II looked at how Arab Modernism developed.

Armenian photographer Levon Boyadjian a.k.a Van

means of distribution that are especially interesting

Mapping the Contemporary I & II, which runs

Leo alongside a film that Zaatari has created, Her +

to consider in context with each other.

up until the end of December 2016, looks at

Him Van Leo (2001-2011). In the film Van Leo talks

contemporary Arab art and photography as Arab

about his life and photographic career juxtaposed

(SK): This is a formidable collection of Arab art. What

artists explore new ground, establishing themselves

between images of his photographs and a woman -

do you see as the future of Arab art collecting?

on the global contemporary art scene.

perhaps Nadia. Through Zaatari’s work, we are visually

Iconic examples of the work of internationally

engaged in the artist’s personal and cultural journey

(OK): I think that collectors will continue to

with its documentary feel and quiet intensity.

become much more sophisticated in their pursuits,

renowned Arab artists, photographers and film-

incorporating a broader range of media, telling a

makers such as Yto Barrada, Mohammed Kazem,

I caught up with the curator of the Imperfect

more fluent and fluid history of Arab art through

Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, Basim Magdy

Chronology series, Omar Kholeif, to ask him about

their private and public foundations and collections.

and Akram Zaatari provide a powerful, cultural frame

the two later exhibitions in particular. Mapping

for each other’s work.

the Contemporary seems to have a lot to do with

The Whitechapel Gallery has chosen a good time

personal identity and appearance or disappearance.

to stage the Imperfect Chronology exhibitions.

Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige’s photographic

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The exhibitions are not only retrospective, looking

series Faces, 2009, explores the romanticism or

Omar Kholeif (OK): Yes, the [first].. chapter is entitled

back at a century of art from a region so charged

deification of the young men who died as martyrs

Imperfect Chronology: Mapping the Contemporary

with meaning and politics. This ‘democratization

or fighters in the Lebanese Civil War. Set in more

Part I. It seeks to explore how artists from the Arab

of technologies’ in everyday life as in global

peaceful times, Moroccan artist Yto Barrada’s

world have considered the concept of territory as one

contemporary art, allows international collectors

photograph, Rue de la Liberte, 2000 ,shows a

that is amorphous and constantly shifting. I chose and

and viewers of Arab art alike to access and gain

moving solidarity and emotional exchange between

considered works that would speak to each other

a greater understanding of the diverse and multi-

two faceless men.

about this concept of space and time, specifically

layered subjects presented by these Arab artists.


Yto Barrada, b. 1971, Rue de la LibertĂŠ, Tangier (2000) Image courtesy of Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah

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Mohammed Kazem,Tongue (1994)

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Akram Zaatari, Her + Him (2001-2011) HD video, colour, sound 33 minutes

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Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige, Faces (2015)

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Basim Magdy, My Father Looks for an Honest City (2010) Super 8 film transferred to HD video, 5 min. 28 sec

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REVIEW Images - Courtesy of the artist and National Pavilion UAE La Biennale di Venezia. Writer - Janet Bellotto, artist, educator and curator.

Sha’abi: The Emirati National House at the Venice Biennale The house as seen in Reem Falaknaz’s documentation of neighbourhoods in Al Ain The United Arab Emirates has dedicated a

Both as part of the pavilion design and in the catalog

sha’abi house in the UAE. The “houses proved to

surprisingly beautiful exhibition to sha’abi (folk)

are the photographs by Emirati photographer

be highly adaptable by having a built-in capacity to

houses, modular housing designed in the 1970s

Reem Falaknaz. She entered into the various

reflect the culture and lifestyle of Emirati residents…”

to house an increasingly wealthy, but traditionally

neighbourhoods and homes of Al Ain and

and this is clearly captured through Falaknaz’s series

nomadic population, with no tradition of settled

documented the life in the sha’biyaat. The large-

of photographs.

housing. A series of simple rooms overlooking a

scale photographs structurally appear to form some

central courtyard, the sha’abi typology is presented

of the walls within the pavilion. These backlit images

Reporting From the Front, the 15th International

in all its permutations and uses: the modernist mass-

evoke the life within the sha’biyaa neighborhoods.

Architecture Exhibition, Venice, Italy, 28 May – 27

produced model has been adopted, transformed, and individualized.

November 2015. The photograph Fig. 15 described as “A sofa placed under the shade of palm trees in Al Maqam”1 echoes

Simply but effectively, the UAE National Pavilion

the history of outdoor living and expansion outside

manages to simultaneously: address a critical

of the house walls, which integrates into the natural

question for architects on the livability of their

environment in the neighbourhood. Used as two

creations, brilliantly and informatively educate on

adjoining walls in the exhibition suggest both life

the rapid transformation of the UAE, and contribute

inside and outside the house.

thoughtfully to the overall theme of this edition of the Venice Architecture Exhibition.

The exhibition serves to document and preserve the rapidly disappearing architecture form of the

Located in the Arsenal–Sale d’Armi the installation, curated by Yasser Elsheshtawy and his team, elegantly uses a combination of layout, photographic and historical records and architectural plans to tell the story of the role UAE’s sha’abi or popular modular houses have played in the short but almost miraculous history of the UAE. The design of the pavilion, where the visitor moves through small spaces, suggests the rooms in a sha’abi house. The exhibition was accompanied by the catalog Transformations: The Emirati National House edited by Yasser Elsheshtawy. The exhibit manages to both show how the sha’abi houses reflected changes in Emirati society and culture over 40 years, but also how an architectural form—the modular house—was adapted by residents to meet their needs and reflect their aspirations.

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Clockwise: Rawiya Al Suroor lives alone in her house in Al Maqam. Her eldest daughter, Fatima, has tried to convince her mother to move in with her but with no avail. “I will die in this house”, responds Rawiya. Fig. 15, A sofa placed under the shade of palm trees in Al Maqam”1 Seating area outside a house in Al Maqam. This set up is quite common in these neighborhoods allowing household members to site outside with their neighbors, drink tea and converse.

1. p.277. Elsheshtawy, Transformations: The Emirati National House, United Arab Emirates, National Pavilion United Arab Emirates la Biennale di Venezia.


PLACE AND UNITY

Works from The ADMAF Art Collection at Maraya Art Centre 31 October, 2016 - 31 January, 2017

Maraya Art Centre Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

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Artwork: Zeinab Al Hashemi, Coast Collision, 2016

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Photography and New Media from the Arab world

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