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 worldâ€™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 2â€” 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 email@example.com 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
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
Issue 03 / 2016
Camille Zakharia ……….............. 16
UNSEEN Photo Fair
By: Barbara Lounder
The Blue Hour Qalandiya International
Shaweesh ………......................... 32
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
Ziad Antar ………........................ 52
Al Haraka Baraka .........................114
By: Cristiana de Marchi
Toufic Beyhum ………................. 58
Imperfect Chronology .................120
By: Carl Gough
Raeda Saadeh ……….................. 68
By: Juliet Cestar
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.
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
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
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Copy Editor Sarah Neate Laura Metzler
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This catalog is created as a showcase of creative works within the region. Its aim is to create awareness of the arts. Please note that the information in this magazine, including all articles, and photographs, do not make any claims. Any information offered is expressly the opinion of the creator/author of that material. The content created by the authors, creators and works on these pages are subject to copyright law. The reproduction, editing, distribution and any kind of exploitation outside the limits of copyright require the written consent of the respective author or creator. 7.05.16.9.3.4.5683.968
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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
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
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
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
on the Strategic advisory panel for the Delfina
Desk Editor for ArtAsiaPacific, he contributes to
d janetbellotto f janetbellotto
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, Harperâ€™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.
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
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
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 LandedÂ (1998) Photocollage on paper, 101.6 x 76.2 cm
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
Albert Hajj, from the seriesÂ Elusive HomelandsÂ (1999 - 2000) Photocollage on paper, 55.6 x 76.2 cm
Spring 3, from the series Spring (2014) Photocollage on paper, 101.6 x 50.8 cm
And shake the trunk of palm tree towards you it will let fall fresh ripe dates upon you,Â from the series SpringÂ (2014) Photocollage on paper, 76.6 x 101.6 cm
Spring 2, from the series Spring (2014) Photocollage on paper, 101.6 x 50.8 cm
c/o detail (2013) Photocollage on paper, 558.8 x 152.4 cm. Collection National Museum of Bahrain
Cultivate Your Garden (detail) (1998) Photocollage on paper, 533.4 x 101.6 cm
Cultivate Your GardenÂ (detail) (1998) Photocollage on paper, 533.4 x 101.6 cm
Out Then 2003,Â from the series Out Then (2013) Photocollage on paper, 152.4 x 152.4 cm
Out Then 1992, from the seriesÂ Out Then (2013) Photocollage on paper, 152.4cm x 152.4 cm
Muharraq I, from the series Stories from the Alley (1998) Photomontage -Â Archival Pigment Print, 35.6 x 45.7 cm
Self Portrait Muharraq, from the seriesÂ Stories from the Alley (1998) Photomontage -Â Archival pigment Print, 45.7 x 35.6 cm
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.
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
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
Captain America from the series Superheroes (2013) Photoetching on paper, 49.5 x 47.3 cm
Al-Baik, Iwo Jima from the series Superheroes (2013) Photoetching on paper, 49.5 x 47.3 cm
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.
York later this year. She continues with the Never
Asked why she chose fairground rides, Al Neami
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)
Previous page and below: Untitled from the series Never Never Land (2014-2016)
Untitled, from the series Never Never Land (2014-2016) Sign reads â€˜Bumper cars (ladies)â€™
Piece of Paradise 01 (2014)
Piece of Paradise 02 (2014)
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
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 (â€˜privilegedâ€™ in Arabic) from the series Omanis Under Water (2015) 63 x 54 cm
Aisha (â€˜one who is aliveâ€™ in Arabic) from the series Omanis Under Water (2015) 82 x 66.5 cm
Badr (â€˜moonâ€™ in Arabic) from the series Omanis Under Water (2014-15) 82 x 66.5 cm
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)
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
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
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.
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-
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?
it be appropriated by any ideology.
From the series, After Images, Stories from the mountains of Asir (2010-2016)
From the series, After Images, Stories from the mountains of Asir (2010-2016)
From the series, After Images, Stories from the mountains of Asir (2010-2016)
From the series, After Images, Stories from the mountains of Asir (2010-2016)
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.”
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
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
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.”
facing the modern Arab.
Untitled, from the series Burqa (2016)
Untitled, from the series Burqa (2016)
Untitled, from the series Burqa (2016)
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
Angel, from the series Wall (2013) Digital C-print on paper, 120 x 100 cm
Moving the Wall, from the series Wall (2013) Digital C-print on paper, 120 x 100 cm
Ladder, from the series Wall (2013) Digital C-print on paper, 90 x 120 cm
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 donâ€™t open them, because then the work will die. I want to keep the wishes secret, between the wishers and the work.
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
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
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
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
The Impossible Escape 2, Archival Pigment Print (2016) 80 x 120 cm
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.
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.
Previous page: Abandoned Mosque on the way to Masafi (2011) House in an old village in Fujairah (2015)
Farm in Sharjah (2010)
Wall papered room in Sharjah (2010)
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
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 Tomorrowâ€™s Past
Cinema Granada, from the series Tomorrowâ€™s Past
Ahmadi Drive in Cinema, from the series Tomorrowâ€™s Past
Dome of the Stars, from the series Tomorrowâ€™s Past
The Church, from the series Tomorrowâ€™s Past
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
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
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
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.
Selfie Archival Pigment Print, 112 x 137 cm
Selfie, Archival Pigment Print, 112 x 137 cm
White, Archival Pigment Print, 112 x 137 cm
Black and White, Archival Pigment Print, 112 x 137 cm
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
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
during his daily life in Aleppo.
the war is over.
5, from the series Pokemon Go In Syria - Part 1
3, from the series Pokemon Go In Syria - Part 1
4, from the series Pokemon Go In Syria - Part 1
2, from the series Pokemon Go In Syria - Part 1
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’
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
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/
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.
The Sovereign Art Prize: MENA Edition
Alfred Tarazi, LEFT/RIGHT: Scheme for a temporary memorial
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.
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.
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.
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/
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.
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 couldnâ€™t complete his education, but he pursued his love for literature and Islamic arts, and began training as a coppersmith.
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
Alaa Edris, State 07 (2016) Digital Print, 120 x 80 cm
Walid Al Wawi, Act Two: The Rationalisation (b) Hiding: the longest walk (2016) Video Still, 12:00 minutes
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
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
Mohammed Kazem,Tongue (1994)
Akram Zaatari, Her + Him (2001-2011) HD video, colour, sound 33 minutes
Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige, Faces (2015)
Basim Magdy, My Father Looks for an Honest City (2010) Super 8 film transferred to HD video, 5 min. 28 sec
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-
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.
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
Artwork: Zeinab Al Hashemi, Coast Collision, 2016