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ISSUE 01/2015

Salar Ahmadian November 12 22 CONTEMPORARY ART PLATFORM KUWAIT info@jamm-art.com



Reality and fantasy interweave in a contemporary artist’s tapestry of Egypt

Generously sponsored by

On view through June 5, 2016 asia.si.edu/perspectives #larabaladi

Detail, Oum el Dounia, Lara Baladi (b. 1969, Beirut, Lebanon), 2000–2007, Wool and cotton. Courtesy the artist.

Lara Baladi


Issue 01 / 2015

Editor’s note



Soud Mani ............................................36

Ali Cherri: Dust and Other

There are so many people to thank for this issue of Tribe.

By: Amina Nasri


Our contributors wear many hats – they are writers, curators, academics, wizards,

By: Basak Senova

artists and photographers themselves, who enrich with their words and images,


share ideas and present new work.

Hassan Meer ........................................82


Aisha Mazin Stoby.

Raed Yassin & George

Tribe spans many genres of photography as diverse as those who practice them.

Awde at Shubbak ........................64

Photojournalism that crosses over from newsprint into gallery spaces, archive

By; Eckhard Thiemann

photos from earlier eras, to experiments and imagery from mobile phones. The


artists include the purists who still use analog and those who manipulate digital

Tarek at the Roundabout and Men in the Sun Unplified ...................130


By: Ala Younis.

Dismaland ..................................140

photographs. In Project Space, we invite Lulu al Sabah, a self-proclaimed lover of photography,

By: Thuraya Chanine ESSAY

to curate a selection from photographers whose work she has long admired, four

The Rock is Still Rolling .........................54


artists who, she says, “portray different aspects of human experience and whose

By: Nicola Gray

Ahmed Mater:

body of work are consistent with their artistic vision.”

100 Found Objects ....................104 PROFILES

Although we always remember November as Paris Photo month, this year the city

By: Anabelle de Gersigny.

of light shines brighter with the very first Arab Photo Bienniale, initiated by the

Tanya Habjouqai ...................................14 By: Madeline Yale Preston


Institute du Monde Arabe alongside the Maison Europeenne de la Photographie,

Emy Kat.................................................22

Vantage: Layers of Meaning ........44

with many Parisian galleries showcasing photography from the Arab world. Also this

By: Danna Lorch

By: Gabrielle Officer

month, we will attend the Nuqat Creative Conference in Kuwait as media partners.

Ammar Al Attar ....................................30

Sara Naim .....................................90

By: Alexandra MacGilp

By: Laura Egerton,

The imagery in this issue is stunning. From photographs that capture harsh realities to hand-tinted surreal dream sequences; from historic photographs in

Laura Boushnak ....................................48 By: Kriti Bajaj


Lebanese archives to exotic sugar routes; from sharing water at a sibeel to new

Basim Magdy .......................................78

Zamaaan ....................................122

media computer game art.

By Dalya Islam

Veronica Houk.

From the Atlas Mountains to Dismaland, from classrooms in Yemen and the

Fayçal Baghriche ..................................94 By: Lara Tabbara and Woodman Taylor


pleasure of picnics in occupied places, to old Jeddah and roadways through Tunisia;

Aya Haidar ..........................................100

Safina Radio Project.................. 126

from women’s spirituality in Bahrain and weddings in Oman to construction in

By: Rania Jaber.

Wafaa Bilal and Sara Raza – an extract

Mecca. With art in public spaces,we are transported from interventions in urban

By: Anabelle de Gersigny.

downtown to the deserts of Kuwait.

Zineb Sedira: Sugar Routes ..................70


Enjoy the ride.

By: Yasmina Reggad

The best of times,

Youssef Nabil: A Portfolio Review........112

the worst of times.......................130

By: Saira Ansari.

By: Joobin Bekhrad






Publisher Mubarik Jafery

Assistant Editor Woodman Taylor

Design Assistant Zia Paulachak

Production Gopi Nathan

Photo Editor Sueraya Shaheen

Copy Editor Sarah Neute

Legal Consultant Fatimah Malik

Pre Press Sanath Shenoy

Assistant Editor New Media Janet Bellotto

Design Channels

Print Consultant Sivadas Menon

Print Supervisor Sreejesh Krishnan

Contact editorial@ink.com sales@ink.com

Publication is part of Fujairah Media Free Zone Creative City Fujairah

Printed in Dubai Printwell Printing press (L.L.C.)

This catalog is created as a showcase of creative works within the region. Its aim is to create awareness of the arts. Please note that the information in this magazine, including all articles, and photographs, do not make any claims. Any information offered is expressly the opinion of the creator/author of that material. The content created by the authors, creators and works on these pages are subject to copyright law. The reproduction, editing, distribution and any kind of exploitation outside the limits of copyright require the written consent of the respective author or creator.

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Ten years ago, construction on the Burj Khalifa reached the tower’s 50th floor. In 2016, Art Dubai celebrates its tenth edition. (Photo courtesy of Emaar)

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Writers Aisha Mazin Stoby is an independent curator and

manager for North African artists, working between

Danna Lorch is a Dubai-based writer and editor

researcher. Most recently she curated The Spirit of

Paris and Tunis. Nasri founded the first platform

focusing on contemporary art and culture from

the Union, an exhibition of Emirati photography and

dedicated to Tunisian contemporary art. www.art-

the Middle East. She is a staff writer for ArtSlant,

archives at the New York Public Library in December

tunis.com, Twitter @ArtTunis

holds a graduate degree from Harvard University

2014; Oman et La Mer, an exhibition on Omani

in Middle Eastern Studies, and regularly

trade histories at the Musée National de la Marine in

Anabelle de Gersigny works at Tashkeel, a non-

contributes essays to gallery publications. Recent

Paris in January 2014; and Salon Oman Nour at the

profit studio site in Dubai, focused on residency and

writing has appeared in Harper’s Bazaar Art,

Leighton House Museum as part of London’s Nour

critical practice programming. De Gersigny previously

Contemporary Practices, Canvas, The National,

Festival in November 2013. Prior to this she has

worked for TCA Abu Dhabi on the Guggenheim

VOGUE (India) and elsewhere. www.dannawrites.

been based in curatorial departments of museums

Abu Dhabi, Louvre Abu Dhabi and Zayed National

com, Instagram@DannaWrites

in New York and Oman, and was a member of

Museum projects. De Gersigny was the founder and

the planning team for Oman National Museum.

director of the Tram Depot. She has curated numerous

Eckhard Thiemann is artistic director of Shubbak,

Instagram @aishastoby

art and design exhibitions and is a freelance writer

London’s largest festival of contemporary Arab

and editor. Most recently de Gersigny founded the

culture. He is Programming Associate – Dance

Ala Younis is a research-based artist and curator.

Safina Radio Project. Twitter@fat_nancy, Instagram

for The Lowry. He was a producer for the

She curated “National Works”; Kuwait’s first

@fn_nd, www.f-n-n-d.com

London 2012 Festival, curated the Liverpool

national pavilion at Venice Biennale (2013), “Index

Arabic Arts Festival (2011), OUTSPOKEN – New

of Tensional and Unintentional Love of Land” at

Basak Senova is a curator and designer. She

Performance From Arab Artists (2010) and African

New Museum (2014), “Museum of Manufactured

received MFA in Graphic Design and Ph.D. in Art,

Crossroads (2009).www.shubbak.co.uk Instagram

Response to Absence” (2012-ongoing), and “Out

Design and Architecture at Bilkent University. She


of Place” (2011) at Tate Modern and Darat al-Funun.

has been writing on art, technology and media,

She is co-founder of publishing initiative ‘Kayfa ta’,

initiating and developing projects and curating

Gabrielle Officer obtained a B.A. in Spanish and

and on the advisory board of Berlinale’s Forum

exhibitions since 1995. Senova is the editor of

Politics in Bath, UK and has moved frequently

Expanded. Instagram @AlaYounis

art-ist 6, Kontrol Online Magazine, among other

abroad including to Spain and China. Based in

publications. In 2015, she curated the Pavilion

Bahrain, she has a passion for painting and writing

Alexandra MacGilp is a curator, writer and art

of Republic of Macedonia at the 56th Venice

and has previously contributed to Gulf-based

historian from London. MacGlip is Curator at the

Biennale and was curator of the 4th Biennial Land

arts and culture publications such as l’Agenda

Maraya Art Centre in Sharjah. She studied curating

Art Mongolia 360°. Instagram @basaksenova, www.

as a writer and translator. Combining her interest

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


for painting and urban life, she specializes in

at the University of Reading in collaboration with

representing urban environments in a realist style

Tate Britain, writing on the development of the

Dalya Islam was Senior Specialist in Islamic and

Tate’s Collection. She is interested in film, video,

Middle Eastern Art and Director of the Middle East

performance and installation practices and archive

department at Sotheby’s in London until 2010,

Joobin Bekhrad, an award-winning writer, is

materials. She is the co-founder and editor of

when she left to establish the art advisory service

the founder and Editor of REORIENT. He has

Artvehicle.com. www.artvehicle.com Instagram

Madder Red. Dalya is well known for launching

contributed to such publications as The Cairo


the pivotal London based auctions of Modern and

Review of Global Affairs, Christie’s, Encyclopaedia

Contemporary Arab and Iranian art. She is highly

Iranica, Harper’s Bazaar Art Arabia, Canvas, and

Amina Nasri is an independent curator and

regarded in her field and continues to contribute to

Songlines, and is the author of a new translation

entrepreneur in creative industries. Born and raised

art publications and educational and philanthropic

of Omar Khayyam’s poems from Persian into

in Tunisia, she moved to Paris where she graduated

programs in the arts, as well as curate high quality

English as well as an upcoming novella. www.

from Ecole Polytechnique. She is a curator and

art exhibitions. www.madder-red.com

reorientmag.com Instagram @reorientmag

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using acrylic paint.

Kriti Bajaj is a New Delhi-based writer and editor

Institute du Monde Arabe in Paris. Her previous

Instagram @sairaansari_ Twitter @SairaAnsariPK

with an interest in photography and visual media.

experience includes working at the International


She was previously the managing editor of Art Radar,

Herald Tribune in Paris. She obtained her MA degree

an online publication on contemporary visual art

from Birkbeck College, University of London. Lulu

Yasmina Reggard is an independent curator

in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Her academic

M. Al-Sabah launched JAMM, an art-consultancy

and writer based in London who works between

background is in anthropology and literature. She

firm, in 2009. www.jamm-art.com

London and Algiers. She holds an M.A. in Middle

has also worked with the UNESCO Parsi Zoroastrian

Ages History from the Sorbonne University and

Project and founded and edited the online arts and

Madeline Yale Preston is a photography specialist,

is presently Programme Curator at aria (artist

culture publication Bricolage Magazine. Twitter

independent curator and writer based in London

residency in algiers) and was Exhibition and Projects

@_kritibajaj, Instagram @kritibajaj21

and Dubai. Her doctoral dissertation at Chelsea

Manager at Delfina Foundation. Reggad has been

College of Art and Design, University of the Arts

appointed as curator for Art Dubai Projects 2016.

Lara Tabbara is a Lebanese New Yorker, raised in

London explores contemporary photography in

Instagram @yasreggard

Geneva, Switzerland, and a graduate from New York

the Middle East. Veronica Houk is a student at New York University

University, with a B.A. in Journalism and Art History. She is pursuing an M.A. at Christie’s Education in

Nicola Gray is an artist, editor and all round “art

Abu Dhabi who will receive her B.A. in literature and

Modern and Contemporary Art and Its Market.

worker”, normally based in the UK. She has been

art history in May 2016. She has written numerous

Tabbara is a free-lance writer for galleries in the

collaborating with Palestinian artists and cultural

articles for The Gazelle Newspaper, VegNews

Middle East, including Art on 56th in Beirut, and

organizations since 2002 on residencies, exhibitions,

Magazine, and Electra Street Literary Arts Journal

founder of the blog Art And The City that documents

writing and publishing projects.

and worked at galleries and auction houses in the

the New York art scene. www.artandnewyorkcity.com

UAE, US, and Switzerland. She lives in New York Rania Jaber is a UK-based researcher interested

and Abu Dhabi. Instagram @vh089

Laura Egerton is a freelance arts manager, writer

in art, language, gender, and translation. She is

and curator based in Dubai. She was one of

currently working on a Ph.D. thesis entitled ‘Artists

Woodman Taylor’s interdisciplinary scholarship

the founding team behind Art Dubai where she

as Translators: Lebanese Women Artists in Diasporic

explicating performative practices of visual

established education programs, art projects and

Places.’ Instagram @readingnin

culture addresses a wide range of topics, from

was Curator of the Abraaj Group Art Prize for its

ritual uses of Buddhist icons to the poetics of

first five years. She holds M.A.s in art history from

Saira Ansari is a researcher and a writer who

visuality in Bollywood. Recent research includes

Cambridge University and the Courtauld Institute of

currently is the Director of Communications at

the articulation of conceptual art by both Emirati

Art, London. Instagram@lauralouiseegerton Twitter

The Third Line (Dubai), as well as the art editor

and UAE resident artists. His essay and installation


for Papercuts, a South Asian literary journal. She

Cycling the City was commissioned by the Dubai

is also a LBF Research Fellow, working on archival

Culture and Arts Authority for the 2014 Sikka Art

Lulu M. Al-Sabah is the former Director for the

material of Pakistani Modernist Zubeida Agha, in

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

Middle East at Phillips de Pury & Company. She

conjunction with the Asia Art Archive. Ansari has

he has taught at the University of Illinois as well

previously worked as a consultant for Christie’s

contributed to various art and culture publications

as at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. After

International. Ms. Al-Sabah frequently contributed

including journals across Pakistan, India, UAE

curating numerous exhibitions of South Asian and

to a number of internationally magazine dedicated

and Brazil. Her curatorial projects include The

Islamic art at Harvard and Boston’s Museum of

to art and culture in the Middle East. She authored

importance of staying quiet (Yallay gallery, Hong

Fine Arts, Woodman now teaches art history and

a special issue of Eastern Art Report on ‘Art and

Kong, 2014), a collaborative project with Umer Butt

ethnomusicology at the American University in

Artists in Kuwait.’ She has spoken at Art Basel and

(Grey Noise, Dubai), which presented minimal art

Dubai, where he chairs the Department of Visual

Art Dubai. In 2006 she co-organized an exhibition

from the 1950s to the present, featuring prominent

Communication and is founding convener of the

of paintings by Kuwaiti women artists, held at the

practitioners from Pakistan and its diaspora.

AUD Visual Cultures Forum.

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

Tanya Habjouqa: Occupied Pleasures The fringes of Palestinian representations Living with fear of the “terrible that has already

of the five founders of the all-female documentary

happened,” to creatively borrow from German

photography collective Rawiya (“she who tells a

philosopher Martin Heidegger, is arguably what

story” in Arabic), Habjouqa exhibited images from

the Palestinian population residing in the Occupied

the series in the traveling exhibition with the same

Palestinian Territories (oPt) has endured for

name organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

generations. While the “terrible” that Heidegger

With the help of a Kickstarter campaign and support

referred to was the atomic bomb, the idea can be

from FotoEvidence, Habjouqa published Occupied

applied here as the cumulative reality of what seems

Pleasures in November 2015.

Mainstream media depictions of Palestinians as

scene snatched from a Bollywood film. He said to

violent or traumatized are simplified and overarching.

Habjouqa, “no matter what this occupation does

In recent years, narratives about the oPt have

to us or takes, we will always find a way to live and

expanded to include those that deconstruct and

love.” It is these acts of agency that Habjouqa

Occupied Pleasures offers deepened, anthropological accounts of life across the oPt – humorous and sometimes even satirical recordings of Palestinians’ everyday existence, ironically set within obstinately turbulent surroundings.

eschew such clichés of the contested region and its

translates visually throughout the series – nuanced

black humour. In Habjouqa’s book, scholar Nasser

people. One noteworthy project is Tanya Habjouqa’s

statements of how Palestinians navigate their social

Isleem recounts the Palestinian proverb, “A distress

Occupied Pleasures, which offers deepened,

environments within militarized systems of control.

makes you laugh and a distress makes you cry.”

humorous and sometimes even satirical recordings

Pain and pleasure are often opposite sides of the

The visualization of – and desire for – comic

of Palestinians’ everyday existence, ironically

same coin; each of Habjouqa’s images contains such

relief in the oPt is personal for Habjouqa. The

set within obstinately turbulent surroundings.

a paradox. The yogi from Zaatara village practices

Jordanian-born photojournalist, who also carries

to be a relentlessly intractable struggle for power and land. In recent decades, partitioning, intifadas, the

The series stemmed from her interview in 2009 with

Hamas takeover of Gaza, the Israel-Gaza ground war

the bridegroom featured in the wedding photograph

and the Israeli-offensive “Operation Protective Edge”

affixed to the rust-colored stucco wall. Having

in 2014 have marred the region. When quietness falls

fallen in love with his Jordanian bride on Skype,

upon the oPt, the silence is often regarded as fleeting.

the bridegroom snuck her through the tunnels to Egypt, embracing her in what he describes as a

anthropological accounts of life across the oPt—

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what she calls “inner resistance” amidst a forbidden

a US passport, resides in East Jerusalem with her

A veteran photojournalist whose work has appeared

landscape of Israeli-controlled Roman ruins. Near

Palestinian husband and their two children. Occupied

in international publications such as Al Jazeera, The

the Qalandia checkpoint in the West Bank, a young

Pleasures thus contains an added layer of precious

New York Times, Le Monde, and The Washington

man smokes a cigarette in his car with his sacrificial

intimacy. It is evident she has intentionally slowed

Post, Habjouqa embarked on Occupied Pleasures in

Eid sheep sardonically named “Morsi,” the walled

down the photojournalistic process to develop

2009. She developed it in parallel with her ongoing

backdrop laden with political graffiti. A boy from

relationships with her subjects. The project’s title

photojournalistic work through 2014. A Magnum

Hebron swims in Ein Farha, and Gazans enjoy

seems to describe Habjouqa’s own association with

Foundation Emergency Grant in 2013 empowered

an amusement ride; the Israeli Nature and Parks

her adopted home – one in which she constantly

Habjouqa to expand the project, and the series

Authority occupy both sites. Such juxtapositions

finds ways to both acknowledge and subvert adverse

recently received a World Press Photo Award. One

could be described as expressions of Palestinians’

limitations amidst her contemplations of pleasure.

Occupied Pleasures. (2013)

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My Rock Stars, Jones (2011) Metallic lambda print on dibond with tyre painted frame, 99 x 73 cm

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

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Previous page: Occupied Pleasures (2009) Occupied Pleasures (2013)

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Occupied Pleasures (2013)

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Occupied Pleasures (2013)

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Occupied Pleasures (2013)

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PROFILES Images - Courtesy of the artist and ATHR Gallery. Writer - Danna Lorch, writer and editor.

Emy Kat: The Everlasting Now A poetic encounter with the Hejaz heritage It is clear that Emy Kat believes in the soul. His

document the past through poetic storytelling, but

Everlasting Now series captures the voices and

also call for a resuscitation of Saudi heritage before

narratives of crumbling and abandoned family homes

it is too late.

in the historic neighbourhood of Old Jeddah—a majlis with an ornate throne and an audience of empty,

The story of Old Jeddah is relayed using a multi-

splintering chairs, a furtive blue hallway leading to

layered approach. Spaces was shot in large format

bedrooms cooled by wind towers, and even the

photographs that reconstruct a typical Hejaz home.

detail of a doorbell buzzer which has been broken

Using macro photography techniques often employed

from repeated use.

to document homicide cases, Intricacies captures easily overlooked details such as a child’s amputated

Kat was born on the outskirts of Jeddah in an era

action figure lying in the dust. Finally, Mental Spaces

that predated big box stores, when inhabitants

relies on a unique digital collage technique to merge

congregated by necessity around Old Jeddah’s

various rooms and thresholds to create an immersive

outdoor markets to do their shopping. He is nostalgic:

experience for the viewer.

“You would not believe how vibrant it was. It was a big adventure. I would take my bicycle without my

The Jeddah-based Athr Gallery has exhibited Kat’s

parents’ permission and explore.” At seven he was

project in stages (the last of which is set to open in Old

sent to boarding school in Beirut, went on to study at

Jeddah later this year) out of a shared desire to spread

Brooks Institute of Photography and ultimately settled

the work’s social message over time, well beyond the

near the Bastille in the 11th arrondissement in Paris,

contemporary gallery’s white walls. Kat explains, “We

where he still maintains a studio.

don’t just want restoration; we need deep cultural development. For example, there are vast areas in

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When Kat returned to Saudi Arabia as an adult and a

the Old City that have fallen apart and now look like

father, he was bereaved to discover Old Jeddah was

a war zone, with just a few walls left standing. Maybe

not at all as he remembered. He says, “if you looked

those walls could be incorporated into a contemporary

at certain areas of the neighborhood you might think

art museum.” One example is the Saudi Art Council’s

there was an earthquake. In reality, the buildings fell

restoration of a rubat—a small home traditionally within

due to age, neglect, or even arson.” He spent three

walking distance of a family villa in which a widow or

years circling the streets and alleyways with a camera,

needy family is given shelter and sustenance—which,

opening doors, leaning in doorways, getting to know

once complete, will be used as a creative art and

the immigrants who now occupy the spaces, while

educational space. Work from The Everlasting Now is

often risking his own safety to climb rotting stairs to

featured in the first biennale of photography from the

get the right shot. The resulting visual essays not only

21st century Arab world in Paris.

The Everlasting Now - Part 1, King A Z Majless

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The Everlasting Now - Part 1, Indoors

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The Everlasting Now - Part 1, One Legged Toy

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Previous page: The Everlasting Now - Part 2, Bedroom The Everlasting Now - Part 2, Rubat

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The Everlasting Now - Part 2, Love Story II

The most difficult thing in this project was to capture the soul of a space and aligne abandonment, neglect and beauty in equal proportions

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PROFILES Images - Courtesy of the artist and Cuadro Fine Art Gallery. Writer - Alexandra MacGilp, curator and art historian.

Ammar Al Attar: Sibeel Water A culture of sharing The inspiration behind Ammar Al Attar’s Sibeel

using the fountains and get a glimpse into their

Water project was an article he came across in the

lives. Today’s fountains have improved since the

National Geographic about the problem of water

ones Al Attar remembers from his childhood,

scarcity in the Gulf region. It sparked his idea to

which used to give him electric shocks. They now

document the charity water fountains he passed

provide passersby with filtered water.

on a daily basis, which range from simple steel boxes to ornamental, mosaic-covered ones. In

In Sharjah, fountain designs that reference Islamic

Arabic Sibeel means something left by the road

architectural traditions are popular. Sibeel Water

for all passersby to share. Al Attar was interested in

1, recently shown at All the World’s A Mosque in

the idea that water is scarce but is given freely to

Tunis, documents the first mosaic tile fountain,

people: “The Sibeel Water project is an illustration

which was located in the Heart of Sharjah but

of giving something that is scarce in our region,

has now been relocated. Al Attar spoke to

and this is deeply rooted in our values, that we are

the engineer who installed it and learned that

giving something that is limited.” In local Bedouin

it was constructed from individual small tiles

and Islamic traditions guests should always be

imported from Morocco. Importing the tiles

offered hospitality in the form of dates, coffee,

turned out to be too expensive so the next

water and food. What is limited should be shared.

mosaic fountains were made from large tiles painted to look like mosaics, as in Sibeel Water

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Al Attar began the Sibeel Water project during

4, in the Maraya Art Centre collection. When

his AiR Dubai residency in 2013. He decided to

you look at these photographs of tiled fountains

document in photographs all the various styles of

you do not immediately notice the taps. For Al

charity fountains he came across in different sites,

Attar this is symbolic; if you concentrate then

from mosques to markets. For the AiR Dubai Open

you see the culture, the important things, not

Studios he exhibited a large grid of all the smaller

just the surface pattern. In his wider practice he

photographs he had taken. Alongside these were

is interested in capturing on film that which we

three time-lapse videos he made of fountain sites:

don’t see or are losing. He works in series and has

in Bur Dubai, by a mosque in Sharjah, and a bench

documented prayer rooms in public buildings as

with taps outside a large house in Um Al-Quwain.

well as demolition orders spray-painted onto the

The latter has limited opening times to allow the

sides of buildings. In his current project Reverse

owner to refill his tanks, as it was so widely used

Moments, he is creating a fascinating archive

by people filling up large jars. The cameras’ four

of UAE photography studios, some of which

hours of footage was condensed to two minutes

have been here since the 1960s that are now

allowing viewers to experience the flow of people

threatened by changing technology.

Sibeel Water 1

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Sibeel Water 8 (2013), Water Cooler Set of 4, 50 x 50 cm each Following Page: Sibeel Water 7

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PROJECT SPACE Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Amina Nasri, curator.

Soud Mani: Mobile Art Project Transforming photography through mobile devices Souad Mani is a multimedia visual artist and

she uses a tablet or smart phone, her artwork

photographer. Soud plays with the notion of

remains connected to her and to her followers,

professional versus Internet fame, discovering


both sides of the story through her work. Her work is a result of a research process in which technical

Why use mobile devices?

experimentation and art theory meet. She uses

Souad has thought for a long time about how

multiple mediums to produce and showcase

photography as an art can develop and adapt in a

her art, from installation to video, web-art and

growing digital world. Cellphones are an easy and

photography. She uses social media and mobile

light camera to carry. It is physically connected to

devices to disseminate her art widely.

the artist, moving, attached to his or her body and marking his or her path within the world. Second,

Mobile Art Project is a project Soud started

a cellphones also connect the artist instantly with

in 2008, when she was traveling around the

others. Finally, applications display and share

country on professional duties. She decided

artwork globally in an instant, making it easier for

to experiment and do research on movement.

Souad to stay connected to her virtual audience.

Her subjects were people and landscapes,

Applications in essence are a virtual workshop,

with her being a nomadic observer. She uses

book, or gallery that appeals to the masses and

camera-phones as her medium as opposed to

is a platform for artists. Capturing reality becomes

conventional cameras. She uses social media

ever more fluent and rapid. A mobile phone is

techniques, photography is in the middle of a

outlets such as Instagram or Pinterest as virtual

transformed into a one stop platform for shooting,

mutation process. It is no more a photographers’

galleries, to gain a following and reach a large

editing, featuring and sharing images.

prerogative. Any artist, whatever his medium

audience that would never enter an art gallery.

of choice, can use mobile devices to produce Is it more about the journey or the destination in

photos. Photography is no longer a luxury of the

Why work on Mobility?

the Mobile Art Project?

happy few. This makes us ask questions about a

Movement is not only a subject to shoot but

As long as the generative process of her art

photographer’s position in society.

also a creation process that allows multiplicity,

continues, nothing can stop Souad’s journey.

reproduction and movement. Because Soud is

Her artistic process is traceable as we follow

Internet and social media are taking control

shooting on a connected device, she can take

her creative journey. Instagram gives the time

of our lives today. They can manipulate public

many pictures and multiply them by featuring them

and geographical data of each of her works the

opinion, repulse reactions, and make us question

on social media instantly. This allows her followers

moment they are posted.

the boundary between public and private lives.

to share them as well. Mobile photography started

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A mobile phone has become a one stop place for shooting, editing, featuring and sharing images.

Juxtaposed imagery and captured movement from

with her weekly journey from Sousse, where

What is the future of photography?

Soud Mani’s cellphone blur these boundaries of

she lives, to Gafsa where she works. Whether

Because of the unlimited multiplicity of digital

everyday life.

De dĂŠrive en dĂŠrive Gafsa (2015) mobile phone, multimedia

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De dérive en dérive Gafsa (2015) mobile phone, multimedia Following Page: De dérive en dérive Gafsa (2015) mobile phone, multimedia

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De dĂŠrive en dĂŠrive Gafsa (2015) mobile phone, multimedia

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FOCUS Images - Courtesy of the artist and Imane Farès Gallery. Writer - Basak Senova, curator.

Ali Cherri: Dust and Other Anxieties Blending fact with fiction

Ali Cherri mainly works on images by searching what kind of knowledge they produce as sources of historical documentation. In this context, he blends elements of fact and fiction by exploring the links between power structures and their representational implications in the images. His lens-based works address the politics of control, history and identity in a critical tone. Cherri probes into the act of archiving by questioning the diverse perceptions during phases of creating, distributing, accessing, consuming and decontextualizing images. In Dust and Other Anxieties, Cherri’s starting point is one of the statues of Hafez Al-Assad that was erected in Lattakia, Syria. Cherri decontextualizes this image by transposing this statue to a desert. We follow a path in history through this image. In Cherri’s words: “The effigy is almost swallowed by a cloud of dust, similar to one created by a spacecraft in the process of lift-off. Through the haze, we perceive what was once a symbol of authority vanishing in a desolate landscape; it is far removed from the signs of life in the foreground, the recent passage of cars perhaps. The monument is seemingly lost in a vast, dusty and claustrophobic post-apocalyptic panorama and is almost forgotten in the background, taking up only a small fraction of the image.” In Dust and Other Anxieties, the image of Hafez Al Assad has become “a haunting after-image” that appears like a mirage in the midst of a desert. In such an alienated background, this surreal image renders the sequences of memory—extracted from the story of this political figure along with the dominating political power he represented. For Cherri, Dust and Other Anxieties is not a political statement: “It is a projection of a hazy, complex and polarised reality. It is a poetic disappearance that leaves us anxious about the void it creates.”

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Dust and Other Anxieties, 2013

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REVIEW Images - Courtesy of the artists. Writer - Gabrielle Officer, visual arts writer.

Vantage: Layers of Meaning Art and Spirituality

‘What defines us as Muslim women?’ Stephanie Ravel,

in a new light. She evokes the multiple symbols in

a French photographer who converted to Islam asked

religion; symbols whose meaning, by their familiarity

She evokes one essential question surrounding faith: “should we have our own faith imposed upon us or should we interpret it ourselves?

this question to a group of artists. From this starting

to us, can become distorted.

them to question whether the threads of knowledge

In the exhibition Vantage, seven Bahrain-based female

and lightness. It is an intimate portrayal in which art

artists share their unique perspective on the common

and ritual meet.

theme, which is their Muslim faith, and how this relates to their identity as artists. The exhibition, a feature of

Ghada Khunji depicts light as an essential feature,

the 2015 Bahrain Spring of Culture Programme at the

the origin of all religion and art. She touches on

Al Riwaq Gallery, is an exploration of the relationship

the realities of coming back to her homeland

between art and spirituality.

after spending time abroad, having gathered new experiences which doubtlessly present a familiar place

point, a journey exploring the multiple facets of faith

are being woven in a way which is pleasing to Allah.

began. The group of participants—Ghada Khunji, Hala

In the black and white photomontage Echo, Mariam

Yateem, Mariam Al-Arab, Stephanie Ravel, Somaya

Al-Arab’s depiction of mosques at an angle that

The focus of the installation In Prayer by Tamara Saleh

Abdulghani, Tamara S. Al-Pachachi and Waheeda

emphasises their grandeur illustrates multiple driving

Al-Pachachi is on the niyyah (intention), as the energy

Malullah­—includes both established and emerging

forces within the Islamic community. The “echo”

in the spiritual act of prayer which is seen as a direct

artists from different walks of life. Renowned Arab

produced by these often overlapping voices may

link to God and the universe. She calls for positive

artist Camille Zakharia and Bayan Al Barak Kanoo,

hinder one from hearing their own inner voice. She

and sincere intentions by photographing the hands of

owner of the Al Riwaq Art Space, both gave their

evokes one essential question surrounding faith:

several Muslims as they recite a du’a (prayer).

valuable insights about the artists’ work. The range of

“Should we have our own faith imposed upon us or

different angles expressed on the subject is apparent

should we interpret it ourselves?”

in the manifold of media displayed—photomontage, collage, mixed media and audio. While the pieces in

In her photomontage, Hala Yateem examines the

uniformly painted in white, to draw a parallel between

the exhibition can speak universally and feature some

meaning of jihad as the Mujahadat al Nafs (struggle

the materialistic value of currency and the status of the

common themes, they are also deeply personal, as

with the self) by using images of prayer to create a light

woman in the Arab and Muslim world. The creative

expressions of the artists’ inner worlds. How the theme

and bright geometric figure, a stark contrast to the

process which surrounded Vantage was a journey

resonates most strongly to them is a result of where

conventional dark interpretation of jihad perpetrated

in itself: from the process of introspection to the

they stand in their religious, artistic and life journey.

by the media in current times.

exchange of different ideas came the artists’ common

From their unique vantage points, each photographer provides an answer to the question.

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In Personal Status, Waheeda Malullah utilises the imagery on coins of various monetary value, all

understanding that each is seeking different answers The neutral tones and interlacing of different materials

through religion. Vantage was an opportunity for the

in Sumaya Abdulghani’s piece create an organic feeling

artists to pause and reflect on their identity as Muslim

In the set of three artworks called i-Islam, Stephanie

which mirrors a simplicity found in nature. Read, the first

women as well as artists. The artwork produced acts

Ravel presents a self-documentation of her discovery

word revealed in the Holy Quran, is also the intention of

as a kind of mirror to the viewer, who in turn is invited

of the faith, from initial struggles to a sense of ease

the artist, who wishes to educate the viewer, and invite

to question him or herself.

Hala Yateem - Jihad

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Mariam Al Arab - Echo

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PROFILES Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Kriti Bajaj, writer and editor.

Laura Boushnak: I Read I Write Exploring the role of women’s education and literacy

“I was really pushed by my own experience,” says

to collaboration, which is why I asked the women I

endeavours, such as a reading group initiated

Laura Boushnak about how she began her ongoing

worked with to write their own words and ideas on

by the Birmingham Museum for women whose

photography series I Read I Write in 2009. “The more

prints of their own images.” They were not always

first language is not English. “Women must have

time I spend on the project, the more I realize that we

easy to convince, but as Boushnak’s images were

a stronger role in the changing process,” says

can’t bring about change without making education a

shared in classrooms, some began to see how their

Boushnak, “and they’re slowly getting there.”

priority, especially with the ongoing waves of protests

stories might motivate other women, and agreed

and social upheaval in the Arab world.”

to participate.

In I Read I Write, the Kuwait-born Palestinian

Financial independence and greater agency in

Photography in New York. At the time, she worked as

photographer Laura Boushnak documents the stories

their daily life are core drivers behind women’s

a receptionist at an American school for girls in Kuwait

of women in various Arab countries who are turning

desire for literacy and education. I Read I Write

to earn enough to put herself through university.

to education as the first step towards improving

explores the obstacles that they face in achieving

She then moved to Beirut to continue her higher

their lives. Boushnak focuses on a particular issue

these goals, ranging from economic situations to

education at the Lebanese University, majoring in

surrounding literacy in each of the countries where

family opposition. Boushnak says that she has been

Sociology, which became the “perfect marriage”

she’s photographing the series to highlight the

constantly surprised by the teaching methods still

with her passion for photography. She worked for the

similarities and, more importantly, the differences

used in many schools in the region, from the focus

Associated Press in Lebanon, followed by Agence

between them owing to economic and social factors.

on memorising over analytical and critical thinking, to

France-Presse (AFP) in Cyprus and Paris, covering

In Kuwait, she asked teachers about educational

physical and verbal abuse. “Life is already hard, and

conflicts such as the Iraq war. Since 2008, Boushnak

reforms; in Tunisia, she followed the stories of four

one hopes that classrooms would provide students

has been working as an independent photographer.

female members of the university Students’ Union;

with a healthy environment that allows them to build

Her work has appeared in The New York Times,

in Egypt, she invited women taking a literacy class

their self-confidence and nourish their talents. What

The Guardian, La Monde and National Geographic,

to inscribe words on the photographs; in Jordan,

I’ve witnessed sometimes was so upsetting, and

among others. Boushnak is also co-founder of

she photographed girls at a programme for dropout

that’s why educational reform is an urgent matter.

RAWIYA, the first photography collective for women

students, and in conservative Yemen, she spoke to

What the students are learning at schools and, above

in the Middle East.

women who were among the first in their families to

all, how they’re learning, should be every single

pursue higher education.

government’s priority.”

Laura Boushnak’s tryst with photography began with a distance learning course from the Institute of

The Egypt chapter of I Read I Write was acquired by the British Museum in 2012, and the project is also a

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Rather than presenting her own point of view,

Boushnak’s project has resonated with people

part of several private collections. Boushnak hopes

Boushnak’s approach is reflexive. “When I first

globally, as is evident from the popularity of the

to add three more countries to it before publishing

started the project, I wanted to do something beyond

TED talk she gave in 2014 which was even shown

as a book. She will be working in Palestine, and also

classical portraiture,” she says. “I was more open

in high school classes. It also sparked other similar

plans to cover the Syrian refugee situation in Jordan.

I Read I Write, Egypt, Illiteracy

What the students are learning at schools and, above all, how they’re learning, should be every single government’s priority.

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My Rock Stars, Jones (2011) Metallic lambda print on dibond with tyre painted frame, 99 x 73 cm

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

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Previous page: I Read I Write, Yemen, Access to Education I Read I Write, Yemen, Access to Education

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I Read I Write, Yemen, Access to Education

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ESSAY Images - Courtesy of the artists. Writer - Nicola Gray, curator.

The Rock is Still Rolling A look at Creative practices in Palestinian photography

In a 2009 statement about his Self Portrait series,

is actually happy with his burden; it gives meaning,

Tarek Al Ghoussein mentions the Greek myth of

and Camus proposes that “one must imagine

Sisyphus as a metaphor for the perpetual cycles of

Sisyphus happy.”2 Camus is thinking more of the

the Palestinian struggle.1 For lying to the gods and

artist as writer, the creator of fictional worlds in

attempting to cheat death, Sisyphus is condemned

which characters act, but his idea can equally be

to push a heavy rock uphill only to have it fall back

applied to visual artists, the producers of images.

under its own weight to the bottom each time, just The Palestinian diasporic and exilic experience is

keep trying to push it to the top again and again.

strongly tied to a notion of national identity and this

It is an image that can leave us feeling exhausted

sense has become almost more powerful than the

and hopeless, but it is a tempting metaphor to

geo-political reality (or unreality) can ever match.

apply to the apparently endless cycles of problems

For millions of refugees and exiles ‘Palestine’ is a

connected with anything to do with Palestine. In

memory, an unrealised idea long in-the-process-

Albert Camus’ Le mythe de Sisyphe (1942), however,

of-becoming and a potential dream. Tarek Al

it is more the philosophical question of suicide

Ghoussein and Sama Alshaibi are artists working

that he considers. In addressing the existential

with photography who have spent all or most of

without the scarf, suggest the ongoing Palestinian

absurdities of human life, he then declares “that

their lives elsewhere but in whose work ‘Palestine’

presence outside Palestine itself, although often in

even within the limits of nihilism it is possible to

has sometimes become a receptacle for and the

scenes suggestive of isolation and disconnection.

find the means to proceed beyond nihilism.” He

depository of stories of a lost ‘home’ or inaccessible

concludes that suicide is not a legitimate act and

place of origin. Al Ghoussein (born in Kuwait, and

Sama Alshaibi continues to explore identity,

postulates that it can be through the work of the

living in Abu Dhabi) and Alshaibi (born in Iraq,

displacement, war and violence in her videos and

artist that nihilism is negated, a place where we

living in the US) have both hinted in their works at

photographic work, while violence and suffering

can find “a lucid invitation to live and to create, in

the representations in western media images of

visited on the body have also underlined much of

the very midst of the desert.” The work of art can

Arabs as ‘terrorists.’ Al Ghoussein’s ‘self-portraits’

Mona Hatoum’s work, especially her performances

be viewed as an absurd phenomenon (it has no

in a black and white kuffiyeh scarf place him in

in the 1980s. Over my Dead Body, originally

utilitarian function), but Sisyphus, Camus suggests,

locations that have no direct link to this stereotypical

conceived as a billboard in 1988 (soon after the

representation, yet the mere image of the kuffiyeh-

outbreak of the First Intifada in 1987), has overtones

wrapped head is enough. Other ‘self-portraits’,

of an early 20th century revolutionary poster. Yet the

1.“…I was drawn to the apparent similarities between the myth of Sisyphus and what can be characterized as the growing ‘myth’ generated through the Western media that all Palestinians are terrorists and that the Palestinian Intifada, like Sisyphus, seems condemned to an endless cyclical struggle.” (Artist’s statement for the exhibition Mapping, curated by Samar Martha for Art Dubai Projects in 2009).

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A camera doesn’t need the working space and time to think that a painting or sculpture would.

as it is within reach of the top, and he must eternally

toy soldier is dwarfed by a defiant image of the artist 2. These quotes are from Camus’ own (translated) preface, in The Myth of Sisyphus, Penguin Books, London, 1955, p. 7.

herself staring it down, a symbolic reversal of the usual power relationship and in inverse proportion to the reality of the balance of military force in the

Yazan Khalili, On Love and Other Landscapes (2011) Courtesy of the artist

knotted histories of Palestine/Lebanon/Israel that is

no other image-system has ever enjoyed.”3 It can be a

artists, both through her own practice and in the influence

Hatoum’s family background.

way of working quickly, of seizing a moment, of recording.

her photography courses have had on the students who

And recording is essential. Photography has an inevitably

have passed through them. Her photographs have

Living in such a charged landscape and space as

close relationship with photojournalism, and the need to

included iconic images from scenes of conflict, but also

contemporary Palestine means being forced into the

record and bear witness to injustice and the events that

of normal daily life that goes on beyond the news bulletins

position of being a witness – not only a witness in the sense

make history. Taking a photo is a way of exercising a form

– family life, weddings, shopping, school, etc. Other series,

of ‘seeing,’ but also living through the reality of actual

of power over one’s surroundings. As Sontag says, “One

such as Negative Incursion, Irrational, Traces and The

experience and of searching for the means of coming

can’t possess reality, one can possess (and be possessed

Wall, have taken photojournalist practice to another level,

to terms with and understanding those experiences. In

by) images.” Many of the younger generation of artists

while her images of the abandoned village of Lifta, near

this position, time assumes new dimensions and takes

in or from Palestine have increasingly used photographic

Jerusalem, are a testament to the survival of these ancient

on different meanings. There is a need to record and

or moving image media, often coming to them through

stone houses but also to the over 400 villages that have

remember historical time, to invest in hope and ideas

other studies – philosophy perhaps, or architecture or

been deliberately erased from the occupier’s narrative

for future time, and to submit to unpleasant realities and

engineering – they are highly flexible mediums with no

of the landscape.

hindrances in daily time. Situations can change on a daily

requirements for special materials or space.


or weekly basis, sometimes hourly, and those changes can

Another way photographic practice has been used is as

affect the best intentioned attempts to conduct ‘normal’

In the cultural milieu in Palestine itself, Rula Halawani is one

a means of storytelling – in its widest sense, and not only

life. How can artists respond? What is an appropriate tool

of the key figures in this use of the camera’s eye by younger

through the creation of new works but also finding or

or method to use? A camera doesn’t need the working space and time to think that a painting or sculpture would. Susan Sontag has said that photography has “powers that

seeing stories in the fascinating and crucial documentary 3-Susan Sontag, On Photography (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1977), p. 139. 4-Ibid, p. 144.

record that photographic images of all kinds generate. Ahlam Shibli’s substantial body of documentary work has

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explored many aspects of the Palestinian experience: in her series Trackers (2005), Arab Al-Sbaih (2007) and Death (2011–12). A recent project, Ramallah Archive (2014), explored a commercial portrait photographer’s legacy in the form of hundreds of photographic negatives, combining his images from an earlier time with her own contemporary ones of the West Bank city. Shuruq Harb has used both her own photographic images and the life and circulation of images in the public domain to tell alternative stories. Distributed in the form of a limited edition book, her The Keeper project (2012) relates an encounter with a young Ramallah street vendor selling images of politicians, revolutionary heroes, cultural icons and film stars culled from the internet. Yazan Khalili, on the other hand, in On Love and Other Landscapes from 2011 (a “film in the format of a book” with 91 still images) appears to tell the story of a love affair against the background of an emotionally loaded landscape that is as much part of the story, if not the main protagonist. As Camus suggests, we must imagine Sisyphus happy in his repetitive task. Imaginative play and adventures, as well as humour and irony, can be effective mechanisms in coping with tragedy and becoming accustomed to difficulties in order to have the energy to continue. For artists in Gaza, life and their working environment have been especially devastating, but new media, photographic and digital technologies have opened new ways of working and been enthusiastically embraced. Since the advent and first availability of digital cameras, they have recorded Gaza, almost incessantly in some cases, posting on social media and creating digital works that are readily emailable, and printable and exhibitable elsewhere. Mohammed Al Hawajri has combined images of the Gaza to which he is confined, subject to the blockade and restrictions on movement, in digital collages that make imaginative and creative use of the online digitised image banks of artworks. Shareef Sarhan, who is also employed as a UN photographer and has extensively documented death and destruction, constantly creates a daily archive of life in Gaza, countering the images presented in the media with an emphasis on the positive and daily aspects of life: fishermen, children playing, the beach and sea, market traders, farmers. Such recording is a crucial and intimate part of his practice as an artist. If, tamam, everything is fine, then we can abandon our Sisyphean tasks and go home happy to sleep comfortably. In Palestine many times everything can have the superficial appearance of seeming to be fine, otherwise it would be impossible to go from day to day. But it is in that space, the space where everything is not actually fine that creative action is possible, and even essential. If we abandon that hope and give up the constant push to get the rock to the top of the hill, we are paralysed and condemned, in Camus’ philosophy, to suicide. History, events and experiences have profoundly affected Palestinian eyes and minds, yet, at the same time, have given them the means to manoeuvre that knowledge to another level. Photographic means and practices have enabled a previously unknown flexibility and creativity. There are rich seams to be mined. Sisyphus can never go home; he must keep his pushing his rock up the hill. This is an edited and updated version of an essay formerly published in the catalogue to the Mapping exhibition curated by Samar Martha for Art Dubai Projects in 2009. 56 tribe

Mona Hatoum Over My Dead Body (2005), 70 x 100 cm Photo: Bill Orcutt, courtesy of Alexander and Bonin, New York

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Mohammed Al Hawajri Over the Town (2012), inspired by Au-dessus de la ville (1918) by Marc Chagall, 45 x 120 cm, digital print on photo paper.

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Rula Halawani Lifta (2008), Courtesy of the artist and Ayyam Gallery

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Ahlam Shibli Untitled (Ramallah Archive, no. 6) (2014), 70 x 100 cm Courtesy of the artist and Qalandiya International

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Sama Alshaibi To Eat Bread (2008), from the series Between Two Rivers, 50 x 75 cm, pigment archival print on cotton rag. Courtesy of the artist and Ayyam Gallery

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Tarek Al-Ghoussein Untitled 9, from the Self Portrait Series (2002–03), 55 x 75 cm Courtesy of the artist and The Third Line

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FESTIVAL Images - Courtesy of the artists. Writer - Eckhard Thiemann.

A Volatile Age Raed Yassin and George Awde at Shubbak

This year’s Shubbak Festival did not have an

historical photographs: casual arrangements of

the threshold of adulthood, which were shown as

exhibition dedicated to photography. It did, however,

people with heads turned to face the camera; a

part of the exhibition I Spy With My Little Eye… at

include the works of two strikingly different artists

child on the back of a camel; a furtive kiss and

the Mosaic Rooms and curated by Sam Bardaouil

who explored the role of photography to frame

a family scene by the seaside. We are familiar

and Till Fellrath.

and interpret our understanding of childhood. This

with these conscious postures and the frontal

volatile age is filled with some of the most intense

positioning. We also recognise the un-composed

These are not images filled with nostalgia and

memories in our lives. Images with biographic

casual shot, when the photographer deliberately

memory, but with expectation and an uncertain future.

detail become ingrained in our minds, triggering

tried to catch a spontaneous family moment.

Bathed in hazy coloured light, pubescent boys take

memories of mood, smell, sounds and emotions of the captured moment.

on still poses precariously balanced between casual Raed Yassin relied on memory to redraw by hand

incidence and carefully staged self-representation.

these remembered photographs as line drawings.

Their appearances seem as monumental as they

In an age of instagram and social media, it may be

The slowness of the hand replaces the speed of

are fragile. The large-scale camera, which the artist

difficult for a younger generation to imagine how rare

the camera shutter, the painstaking selection of

uses, demands a clear sense of awareness and

images of childhood once were. They were kept in

colour, fabrics, texture and embroidery stitches

cooperation of the sitter. Yet there is a palpable

albums and occasionally brought out for collective

becomes a time-consuming process to mourn

distance between the photographer and the subject,

viewing. An absence of these printed specimens

the immediacy of the captured photographed

a distance of difference of age, personal backgrounds

reduced memory to stories, bereft of the authenticity

moment. The value of the memorised image is

and experiences. These images belong to the artist’s

and evidence which the medium of photography

heightened as well as compromised through the

last series His Passing Cover and depict a group of

was claiming to provide.

selection of precious material and a mechanised

six Syrian boys now based in Beirut. Condemned to

manufacturing process.

a transitory existence away from their homeland and

Raed Yassin’s childhood photographs were largely

insecure about their identities as children or adults,

lost during the Lebanese civil war of the 70s and

Dancing, Smoking, Kissing also cleverly exposes

their searching gazes look for the promise of a future,

80s. For his series Dancing, Smoking, Kissing

the collective lives of this by-gone era. The flared

yet they hint at a reluctance and defiance to embrace

the artist re-imagined some of these lost images

trousers, oversized glasses and motifs like fathers

what lies ahead.

as delicate silk embroideries. Less interested in

balancing their child on one arm do not just

bringing these photographs back to life through

present autobiographical detail, but offer glimpses

Unlike Raed Yassin’s ironic and re-assuring

re-staging and re-enactment, the artist chose to

into social conventions and shared tastes. Old

retrospective vantage point from which he explores

heighten the preciousness of the memorised physical

family photographs become important documents

the collective past of childhood, George Awde’s

photograph by selecting sumptuous material like silk

of personal as well as social history.

photographs capture the unsettling and existential

and luxurious fabric. The computerised mechanical

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moment when identities and destinies are still open

embroidery machine replaces darkroom techniques.

Another kind of childhood memory is invoked in

and fluid, when what will later become memory is

The motives are instantly recognisable from

George Awde’s haunting portraits of young boys at

still a raw and intensely charged sensation.

Raed Yassin Ruins In Space (2014) Archival inkjet print, text, sound, speaker, record cover, Vinyl record dimensions variable Courtesy of the artist and Kalfayan Galleries, Athens – Thessaloniki.

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Raed Yassin Family portrait with peacock, Dancing, Smoking, Kissing series (2013) silk thread embroidery on embroidered silk cloth, 90 x 110 cm Courtesy Kalfayan Galleries, Athens – Thessaloniki.

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George Awde His Passing Cover (2013), Untitled

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George Awde His Passing Cover (2014), Untitled

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PORTFOLIO Images - Courtesy of the artist, The Third Line, Dubai and Plutschow Gallery, Zürich. Writer - Yasmina Reggad, curator.

Zineb Sedira: Mobility, Memory and Transmission of ‘White Gold’ Over the 15 years of her practice, Zineb Sedira

tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world,

has enriched the debate around the concepts of

from Africa and Oceania to the Caribbean, the

modernism, modernity and its manifestations in an

West Indies and the shores of Latin America.

inclusive way. She has also raised awareness of artistic

The different shades of ochre in these sugars

expression and contemporary experience in North

kept in small sample bottles conserve the

Africa. She found inspiration initially in researching

history of the domestication of the sugar plant

her identity as a woman with a singular personal

and the subsequent manufacture of cane sugar.

geography. From these autobiographical concerns

This ‘white gold’ is associated with explorers

she gradually shifted her interest to more universal

and discoveries, human migration and endless

ideas of mobility, memory and transmission. Sedira

journeys across seas and oceans. Not only was

has also addressed environmental, geographical and

sugar cane brought to be cultivated on the alien

cultural issues, negotiating between both past and

soils of the colonies because of their appropriate

future. Using portraits, landscapes, language and

climate, but also it required the displacement and

archival research, she has developed a polyphonic

enslavement of populations to work on sugar

vocabulary, spanning fiction and documentary

plantations. This fed the triangular trade routes

including poetic and lyrical approaches. Sedira has

of the 19th and 20th centuries.

worked in installation, photography, film and video. She has recently returned to object-making.

With the sculpture Sugar Routes II, Sedira metaphorically summarizes the human dilemma

In the series Sugar Routes, developed in a sugar

as well as the dynamics of coming, going and

silo located in the Port of Marseille, France, Sedira

remaining still that the sea engenders in us.

proposes possible archaeology and geopolitics

The artist used one kind of sugar to recreate

of the commodification of natural resources. In

two emblematic symbols of movement in the

her monumental photographs, mountains of

sea: the anchor and the propeller. Gripping the

sugar stocked in warehouses take the form of

bottom of the sea and holding the ship firmly in

landscapes, craters, geological and topographical

place, the anchor anticipates the vessel’s arrival

strata. Once the buildings are emptied, layers of

and the memories to be kept and transmitted.

sugar dust imprint themselves upon the walls of the

Meanwhile, the propeller is the force which drives

silo, creating abstract murals. On the floor, heavy

us forward, between countries, or simply towards

machines leave evidence of the mass mechanical

new futures.

industrialization of the sugar trade. Catalog excerpt commissioned by The Third

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Granulated sugar transported in bulk to Marseille

Line Gallery to coincide with Zineb Sedira’s solo

to be stored is extracted from sugar cane in

exhibition Sand of Time at the gallery.

Sugar Routes 1 (2013), Digital C-type, 144 x 180 cm Courtesy of the artist, The Third Line, Dubai and Plutschow Gallery, Z端rich.

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Sugar Silo Diptych I (2013), Digital C-types, 160 x 200 cm Courtesy of the artist, The Third Line, Dubai and Plutschow Gallery, Z端rich.

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The Lovers (2008) C-print 120 x 100 cm Courtesy the artist, kamel mennour, Paris ďżź

The following images and catalog excerpt are from the current exhibition Zineb Sedira: Present Tense curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath. Zineb’s The Lovers: Death of a Journey (2008) is a haunting image of two floating boat carcasses resting, like two humans, against one another: a couple broken by the passage of time and the eroding force of a relentless sea.

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Broken Lens I (2011) C-print, 120 x 80 cm. Courtesy the artist, kamel mennour, Paris

Broken Lens (2011) is a work that manages to embody all these phases in which Sedira conflates the personal with the collective, action with immobility, the archival with the poetic and the fading memories of the past with a present, which despite its proximity, remains blurred due to the infinite narratives that continue to be projected onto it.

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Registre du phare (2011) digital print on Hahnemühle Fine Art media paper, framed 37 x 54.5 cm © Photo. Fabrice Seixas, Courtesy the artist, kamel mennour, Paris Registre du phare (2011) Installation view, 6 digital prints on Hahnemühle Fine. Art media paper, 37 x 54.5 cm each View of the exhibition Beneath the Surface, mamel mennour (2011)

Registre du Phare (2011), in echoing Broken Lens (2011), the narrative that Zineb excavates is less about the objects themselves, in this case the lighthouse keepers’ logbooks, and is more about the individuals behind them. A lighthouse logbook is an administrative record of the various, often dull and mundane events essential to the lighthouse’s good functioning. Page after page the years unravel: the column headings — “light-on and light-off times”, “lamp consumption” and “supplies received” — are invariable. However, further to the advent of Algeria’s independence in 1962, just like the names of both the lighthouses’ keepers and visitors change from Duclaud and Guyotville to Mehleb and Ain Benian, just to name a few, so does the respective reality of the cities that they represent. Geographies collapse...

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PROFILES Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Dalya Islam, curator

Basim Magdy: Every Subtle Gesture Narratives from seemingly familiar places One of Egypt’s most talented exports, Basim

photographic equipment that in practical terms

Magdy’s work spans paint, film, installation and

catalogue his life. However, this functional diary

photography. His work is included in Ocean of

element is entirely absent from the conceptual

Images: New Photography currently on exhibit

drive of the series. The artistry is in the image’s

at MoMA and was awarded artist of the year by


Deutsche Bank for 2016. Every Subtle Gesture moves constantly through At the Thirteenth Istanbul Biennial, Magdy

time, it is a narrative that is never explicit. Magdy

presented the photo and text series Every Subtle

harnesses the confusion of the surreal, bringing a

Gesture. It is a body of work composed of archival

mysterious clarity to the viewers as they untangle

color images printed in the upper section of with

emotional responses to an oblique image and its

titles embossed in silver letter press beneath.

obscure title. Magdy purposefully chooses images shot on locations that may seem familiar but are

Despite the general view of photography as a

Begun in 2012 and based on a collection of

unrecognizable, providing the freedom for the

documentary tool, Basim Magdy understands it

personal photographs he had embarked on in 1998,

viewer to identify with an unknown time and place.

as the perfect vehicle for creating fiction. In Every

Every Subtle Gesture was inspired by the revolution

The pathos of this lingering doubt, the truth just

Subtle Gesture the images present an altered version

in Egypt. As the artist was drawn into the drama

out of reach, is the artist’s aspiration.

of reality through the use of voyeuristic angles,

and tragedy of these events, he created a body of

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The artist’s intention is not to take a hyper realistic image, but to derive a narrative from it

confusing proportions and unexpected filters.

work based on the cycle of aspirations and failures

Magdy’s titles are key to his work, and the images

that he perceived as defining human endeavor.

of Every Subtle Gesture are twinned with captions

The images were taken mostly during Magdy’s

The series is extensive, with a vague structure and

to create a perfect storm of ambiguity. To Magdy

travels, dating from his first foray outside of Egypt.

loose narrative that will, in time, come to an unclear

the title is a critical element as well as a clue to

They were intended to record places and moments

and unexpected end —mirroring the bewildering,

the subject, complementing without defining.

he knew he would never revisit. As such the tools

uplifting and poignant puzzle that is life.

In order to name each image, Magdy mentally

he used were the closest to hand, from disposable

distances himself from the work and baptizes it

Kodaks to the best digital cameras. The artist’s

Magdy studied art at Helwan University in Cairo,

with a phrase that accords it an unexpected angle.

intention is not to take a hyper realistic image,

receiving a highly conservative education in the

A title such as Every Subtle Gesture Reflected a

but to derive a narrative from it. To Magdy the

arts. His experience was limited to painting. Upon

Growing Revolution is paired with a calm scene of

technique is secondary to the concept.

graduating Basim traveled extensively, taught

faluka boats floating on the Nile. Where Reality was

himself new techniques and is continually exploring

Separated from its Shadow by a Looking Glass is the

new forms of expression.

title for a mundane apartment building framed by

that captures the essence of mono no aware, the

a rainbow. These juxtapositions create a space for

Japanese Taoist philosophy of the pathos of things,

In Every Subtle Gesture the artist has built a series

the imagination to marinate between the images

a sensitivity to ephemera and expression of gentle

from scores of different images using a variety of

and their interpretation.

sadness at the passing of things.

Every Subtle Gesture is an important body of work

Every Subtle Gesture (2012-), color prints on Fuji Crystal Archive paper and Letterpress silver text. 52 x 45 cm

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Every Subtle Gesture (2012-), color prints on Fuji Crystal Archive paper and Letterpress silver text. 52 x 45 cm

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IN CONVERSATION Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Aisha Mazin Stoby.

Hassan Meer: Circle, Beyond the Hill and Moon Omani artist explores through the still Hassan Meer was born in Muscat, Oman in 1972.

The idea actually first came from a curator named Karin

I grew up on a farm and always heard these noises.

He received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees

Adrian during an exhibition at the Museum of Bonn

And I position myself in various ways with these birds,

in Fine Art from the Savannah College of Art and

in 2005. She suggested producing photographs

in one shot the bird is in my hand, and in another it is

Design, Georgia, USA. While in the United States, he

alongside the video, as some collectors are interested

over my head, which is the way I often envision them.

began experimenting with video and installation art

in taking something away from the video. So I started

Even during Ramadan I had that feeling of isolation

modes. He has been the recipient of several awards

taking photographs while I was filming. A video is not

in the center of nowhere that is depicted in this work.

including the Golden Palm from the second exhibition

always collectible, in the end it's an idea. But whether

of the Gulf States and has been invited to exhibit

it's a photo or a video, it's about how the message

You have stated that your inspiration for the Moon


gets to people.

Series (2009-11) was Oman during the seventies,

In the year 2000, Meer organized the first exhibition

I don't consider myself a photographer as much I

photography studios opened. Could you discuss this

of the Circle series, together with a handful of

consider myself a conceptual artist, but it is interesting

period of local photography and how it influenced you?

avant-garde pioneers in Muscat. The goal of the

that photography has entered into my thinking. Now

Before 1970 there were no photo studios, photographs

exhibition was to practice experimental forms of

when I work on projects I think of the photography

were generally taken by individual photographers.

artistic expression within Oman. These efforts have

more than the video. I always evaluate how I can

Then in 1970, we had our Nahda (Renaissance), the

resulted in international recognition for contemporary

freeze the frames and convert these images into two-

moment when modernity arrived. Iranian and Indian

Omani art, which has allowed the country to engage in

dimensional concepts. So I would say photographs

photographers opened studios in Oman with varying

a running dialogue with artists from all over the world.

have affected my mindset. The way I think has changed.

styles and a range of backdrops. The moon was the

most popular backdrop for these photographs, in

Still headed by Meer, the Circle has exhibited

Beyond the Hill (2010) was your second photography

particular for portraits of women.

throughout the Gulf and has featured international

series. This series shows you walking through an

artists from throughout the Gulf region as well as

unknown space surrounded by menacing black birds

Girls would arrive in Muscat without their families

from Pakistan, Lebanon, South Africa, Austria, Japan,

overhead. Is there a similar language of symbolism

and took portraits against the background of the

Morocco and Germany. With the backing of the

that takes place?

moon, and they felt like they were flying. It is in fact

Alserkal family, Meer founded Stal Gallery in Muscat

Beyond the Hill was shot near the beach close to

a very futuristic approach to flying. If you study the

in 2013, a project space dedicated to the mission of

my home in Azaibah. You feel there is something

photography that was produced in Oman in the

the Circle group that encouraged new forms of art

beyond. In this shot you have a sea on one side and

1970s you will see that most of it is very futuristic

throughout the region.

landscapes on the other, and crows circling overhead.

in this way.

a period of modernization during which new

For me, crows serve as omens, in that their presence

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Much of your practice has been focused on installation

is strange and weird things seem to be impending.

These images were so popular, they were

art and video, and your first series of photographs

They are always circling in the sky and you rarely see

everywhere. I actually took my first inspiration for

were stills from early performances and projects. How

them landing, you never see them up close. They

the Moon Series from family portraits that were taken

did you come to the decision to translate those bodies

sound as if they are trying to scream, to be heard,

in these studios against backdrops of the moon, so

of work into photography?

circling overhead.

in a way they are reproduced family photographs. 

The Moon Series and Reflection from Memories (2009-12) are very special in that

as a scene falling down. The ceiling and the walls were falling to the floor, and for

the text and very personal archive material from this time of modernization is not

me it was hugely reminiscent to the falling of the house. The resulting photographs

well documented. When did you decide to incorporate this personal material

are that documentation, and the text which is layered are excerpts from his letters.

into your practice and can you describe the process of making these images? There was a more recent period of immigration from the villages much like in

What was the inspiration for your series, Wedding Memories (2011-14)? What is

the 1970s. Oil facilitated much of our modernity, and people suddenly found

the importance of gesture in this series—are they posed images?

that small houses were no longer comfortable and wanted to move into larger

The inspiration for this started from the same research I was considering in the

homes. What is striking about this time is that people did not want to take their

old house series. On one visit to my grandfather's house I saw a wedding taking

memories with them.

place next door. It was a very traditional wedding, taking place in this small village and it inspired me to take these pictures.

Reflection from Memories is a very personal series for me for many reasons, it is an homage to my grandfather. He lived in very isolated circumstances, and

There is of course a tradition inherent in how people meet in these societies,

did not interact with the rest of the family. He was very liberal and my father

and how there can be forced unions, which is part of the wedding ceremony.

was conservative, we did not communicate with him, so he wrote us hand written

But I view this as a wedding from the past. I also took inspiration from the British

letters as if from a great distance. I would even see him on the road or in the

Museum in this piece, looking at works from European painters in the 14th and

common spaces and not speak to him. We only spoke a few times that I can

15th century, their use of gesture, and comparing their interactions with ours. This


is one of my favorite periods in art history and it is fascinating to see how much we have in common culturally.

Then one day I discovered his letters when I went to visit his old house. It was very

damaged at this point, and I can recall entering the first room in the house and

Have you pursued any photographic projects since Wedding Memories?

feeling overwhelmed. I would visit and collect pieces from his belongings. There

I have but they are mostly very personal and I choose not to exhibit them. I will

were so many books and magazines from the 1950s and 1960s. He had many

be exhibiting a new series I am working on which I will show at Stal gallery.

issues of the Al Arabi magazine that was produced in Kuwait and several boxes of dishdasha material. I looked at all these objects and started to think about how

I am also very busy with my new project space founded by the Alserkal family in

to produce a work with them.

Oman. We have been working with young emerging photographers and often put out open calls with possibilities for grants. Through this we are enabling young Omani

It became about more than just the objects, but also the house, I realized you

artists to pursue residencies abroad for two to three weeks a time. Our website

could look at the history of Oman and the region through this house. I felt that my

has a full list of workshops and lectures, in particular, Wadha and Muzna Al Musfar,

personal experiences were intertwined with all these materials. Each room in the

young emerging artists from Muscat, have been hosting a series of workshops

house eventually collapsed, and I documented each one as they were collapsing,

encouraging young filmmakers and photographers to pursue their different visions.

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From the series Wedding Memories

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From the series Beyond the Hill

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From the series Moon

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REVIEW Images - Courtesy of The Third Line. Writer - Laura Egerton, curator. .

Sara Naim: Molecular and Metaphorical Anthropomorphic qualities and extreme scales captivate the viewer. Have you ever thought that the cells on your

from the UAE’s central region. Each print is displayed

fingertips, when magnified roughly 20 thousand

on a white framed block, the size of an average

times, could resemble the rough contours of a

human hand. The images are close ups, zoomed-in

mountain side? Sara Naim is an artist who finds

snapshots of stone sections, showing the broken

such subtle connections within the landscape of

lines and infinite variety of ridges, both intrinsic to

our daily lives, investigating them in molecular and

the terrain as well as of the impact of weathering.

metaphorical ways. How well do we know ourselves,

This gives Naim’s photographs an anthropomorphic

our physical anatomy: our capacity to love and

quality and warmth, as do the sporadic sprouting of

connect with another human being? Heartstrings, an

vegetation on the rocks.

intimate exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, includes four of Sara Naim’s works selected by curator

Naim’s video Modes of Being is shown on the wall

Dina Ibrahim which share a monotone palette yet

alongside, a constantly moving projection on a

collectively display a density of emotion and pathos

loop, one image scrolling onto the next (similar to

while investigating the process of image-making that

navigating a smart phone) which identifies subtle

to shade, depth to flatness. She recalls finding

identifies Naim as an artist of exceptional dexterity.

changes from the one before – we are looking

negatives of photographs of her ruffled bedsheets

at magnified dead skin cells from the artist’s own

alongside prints of skin cells in the dark room, hardly

The exhibition venue, a busy café cum bar, is

fingertips, moving from one miniscule area to

being able to distinguish between them.

called the Concrete Café due to its unclad walls.

another, but they could just as easily be craters on

These serve as an ideal backdrop for the eleven

the moon. We use our fingertips to navigate the

The final piece in the show Untitled is from the Rock

components of Naim’s project Metamorphic

world through the sensation of touch. How are we

Series, taking a photograph of a magnified rock,

Masafi, which was shown at Art Dubai in 2015. The

supposed to understand and grasp our surroundings

printing it on photographic paper and scrunching it

photographs are hung with an intention of creating

if we cannot identify or recognise the physical make

up into a frame that is too small for the size of paper,

a random arrangement, with some photographs as

up of our own skin?

so it feels the contents are constricted, fighting

low as the skirting, others close to the lighting rigging

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How are we supposed to understand and grasp our surroundings if we cannot identify or recognise the physical make up of our own skin?

to escape. It also allows for shadows and rivets

overhead. Naim explains they were limited with

Naim’s work Fabric of the Human Body comments

to appear in the image, turning it into something

where to hang the work as they had to reuse existing

on how we wrap ourselves in a further protective

both messy and sculptural. The reflective glass

holes. In fact, the final arrangement is symmetrical—

layer through our clothing. A diaphanous piece of

projects onto the image a further dimension: the

which was unintentional but is perhaps a signal of life

fabric hangs from a rail, decorated with a printed

surrounding environment, the viewer, as well as the

itself. Naim sees the wall as an echo of a medieval

image of a human lung and heart from a cadaver,

exhibition space. Curator Dina Ibrahim explains,

castle or fort, where her works resemble the slits used

enlarged beyond recognition. Such extremes

“The intersection between photography and

by archers to shoot out at any enemy. It also looks

of scale are integral to Naim’s practice.They

sculpture is, to me, one of the most intriguing

like a climbing wall, the vertical hanging wires like

intentionally confuse, breaking surfaces down to

formal elements, yet is explored by so few artists;

ropes. Indeed the subject matter is rock formations

the relationships of highlights to shadows, light

here it is treated with full maturity in Naim’s work.”

Metamorphic Masafi, (2015) C-type digital prints, 18 x 8 cm

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The exhibition venue, a busy café cum bar, is called the Concrete Café due to its unclad walls. These serve as an ideal backdrop for the eleven components of Naim’s project Metamorphic Masafi

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Metamorphic Masafi, (2015) C-type digital prints, 18 x 8 cm

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PROFILES Images - Courtesy of the artist and Taymour Grahme Gallery Writers - Lara Tabbara, arts blogger; Woodman Taylor art historian and ethnomusicologist.

Fayçal Baghriche: Reinventing Value A journey through the Atlas Mountains Fayçal Baghriche is a French-Algerian artist who

stones-[M dash]including geodes with quartz, crystal

began as mined stones are transformed by Berber

challenges the normative frameworks of society

and agate. Picking the Atlas Mountains is also

labor into tourist curios which ultimately may end

by critically examining stereotypes of human

significant because historically the mountain range

up being displayed in modernist interiors of

conduct, perception and expression in his art

was formed through the violent geographic collisions

European homes, a physical sign of a territory they

practice. Through his photographs, video projects

between the tectonic plates of Africa, Europe and

transgressed as a tourists. Yet through their acts

and installations, Baghriche captures ordinary,

even the Americas. The Atlas Mountains additionally

of dying, Berber merchants stragetically deploy a

contemporary scenes while introducing slight

physically mark the boundary between the northern,

palette of visually jarring colors from a pop aesthetic

discrepancies of daily life in order to distance his

more ‘Arab’ areas of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia

taken from Western commercial culture to cunningly

viewers from what they consider as “normal” reality.

that border the Mediterranean, from those areas

lure tourists marauding through their own home

By doing so, Baghriche engages with the idea of

that lead south to a ‘black’ sub-Saharan Africa. In

territory into a hoped for sale. Ironically these

an initial viewer’s response that he uses to unmask

many ways the Atlas Mountains physically mirror the

tourists hope for an authentic curio but end up

mankind’s instinctive nature in relation to language,

cultural combinations that occur between ‘Arab’ and

with one that is both artificial and inauthentic, yet

taste and behavior.

‘African’ cultures in this very region, which create the

remains forever spectacular.

distinctive hybrid cultures of the Berber, who inhabit A Paris-based artist born in Algeria in 1972,

the high and often remote areas of these mountains.

Baghriche grew up negotiating his identity between

exposing the subversive cunning of Berber

Arab and Western cultures. In his art practice,

Along tourist routes through the mountains, Berber

merchants when deploying pop aesthetics to

Baghriche exposes the gaps, frissions and fractures

villagers sell augmented renditions of these rare

attract tourists’ desire and gaze, to make exhibition

that challenge attempts to bridge possibilities of

and sought after geode rocks to tourists, dying

viewers also question or even choose between

understanding between the so called ‘East’ and the

their interiors in rich, vibrant colors that appeal

what is authentic and that which is spectacularly

‘West.’ In his works Baghriche exposes a blurred

to the contemporary cultural tastes of European

false. By contrasting the radiant geodes with

sense of understanding generated by distinctive and

and Arab outsiders. Through his photographs that

the soiled hands of the Berber sellers, Baghriche

often opposing cultural lenses. Baghriche received

focus on the spectacular, even if highly artificial,

not only highlights the human cost for rare and

a Fine Arts diploma from La Villa Arson, in Nice,

look of these transformed rocks, Baghriche visually

valued goods, he also foregrounds racial divisions in

France, a B.A. in Dramatic Arts from Sophia Antipolis,

critiques how these objects, which were initially hard

Algerian society, where laborers are mostly Berber

Nice, and an M.A. in Multimedia Creation from the

to sell in their natural state, are imbued with new

or black. The artist, consequently, forces viewers

National School of Fine Arts, in Paris.

visual value to become prized possessions within

of his photographs to reconsider the criteria for

a very different cultural aesthetic.

quality, and question their own system of aesthetics

Baghriche’s latest body of photographic works,

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In the Atlas Series Baghriche uses his photographs

and expectations of value. In many ways, through

the Atlas Series, titled after its namesake, the Atlas

Photography, in this case, becomes the platform

his project Baghriche identifies himself with the

Mountains, generates a geo-cultural debate by

for Baghriche to create a cultural critique, both of

Berber makers of these geodes, by showcasing

focusing on the lucrative angle of this mountainous

the aesthetics of luxury as well as of the economic

the augmented beauty of both his and their artistic

site, which is rich in minerals and semi-precious

production of these spectacularized objects. What

products with pride.

Atlas Series 1 (2015) Digigraphic print on Baryta Hahnem端hle 125 x 100 cm

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Atlas Series 4 (2015) Digigraphic print on Baryta Hahnem端hle

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Atlas Series 5 (2015) Digigraphic print on Baryta Hahnem端hle 325g

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Atlas Series 8 (2015) Digigraphic print on Baryta Hahnem端hle

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Atlas Series 10 (2015) Digigraphic print on Baryta Hahnem端hle

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PROFILES Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Rania Jaber.

Aya Haidar: The Translator’s Thread From memory to story, a subtle process of embroidering the image.

Aya Haidar’s journey into the materiality of stories

The images she recreates rely on her physical

comes from her family archive of oral histories. She

involvement and not just her discerning eye. “These

grew up in London, close to her grandmother who

buildings tell a story just like my grandma does, just

recounted stories about Lebanon while teaching

like my father does, they are visual remnants of a

her how to sew and knit. In her artwork, the artist

past.” Yet, underneath the façade, rests a visceral

uses embroidery not only for its symbolic and labour

longing to turn these material objects into something

intensive technique but also because it is a feminist

almost immaterial. Haidar pulls the threads loose

tool and a large part of women’s history. Haidar

from the building’s symbolism and stitches her

believes in sharing narratives that are passed on to

interpretation through the image. After taking a series

different generations through stitching. A practice that

of photographs, she selects several images that she

was once relegated as “craft,” she claims, “stitching

prints onto linen and begins to embroider.

projected women onto the expressionist stage. With that it gave them a voice.”

They do, however, become a translation through embroidery, creating an after-life in another context

The buildings she chooses are usually iconic, historical,

especially for audiences who have no connection to

colonial ruins or simply structures that had once

these historical structures. Yet, through the process

Seamstress (2011) is a series of photographs taken

been witness to the many events that unfolded at a

of embroidery, they are interpreted into an almost

by Haidar on one of her frequent trips to Beirut.

disconnected moment in the past. Haidar claims that

fictive rendering. Haidar is drawn to the layers

Although she has never lived there, she continuously

there is an element of “self-healing” in the process

of colonial, violent, and timely histories of each

moves back and forth between her two cities, Beirut

of adopting a technique and applying it to images

building, which for her tell stories similar to those

and London. The series began during a trip to the

she has heard stories about. Each suture translates

her grandmother once told. These buildings are also

market of a different city, when the artist lived in

this feeling of mending and piecing together

“visual signs of remnants” of a past that she had

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. In search of fabric for her

ruptures of both past and present. The materiality

once seen in her grandmother’s archive. What Haidar

work, she stumbled upon the old town—Al Balad

of the photograph is juxtaposed with the durational

brings to each image is a retelling that she translates

series—rich with beautiful architecture and houses

quality of the embroidered act. Using bright colours,

with thread. This allows her to transform “context”

that echoed those of Beirut’s Ottoman period. She

she threads some of the bullet holes in the statue of

into both the textile and the textual, creating a new

was drawn to the stories lingering on the walls,

Martyrs Square in Seamstress V, while in Seamstress

take on the adage to “weave a tale.” According to

behind the facades, and in the very structures of

XVIII, she uses yellow and orange thread to sew over

Tim Ingold (2007) “threads may be transformed into

the buildings. This interest in photographing and

the supporting pillars of St. Georges Hotel in Beirut.

traces and traces into threads.” Once the thread

documenting old buildings continued with the same

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Each suture translates this feeling of mending and piecing together ruptures of both past and present

passes through the image, a new surface is formed

intensity when returning to Beirut, as she walked

The symbolic histories of the St. Georges Hotel and

from the repetitive movement, creating a trace of

around the city, snapping photos of places, corners

the Martyr’s Square statue in Beirut are both loaded

a distant memory or a patchwork of reconstructed

and buildings that caught her attention.

with cultural and political histories of their own.

surfaces across the canvas.

Recollections (Seamstress series) VII (2011) Embroidery on printed linen, 61.5 x 43cm

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Al Balad XII (2012) Embroidery on printed linen 64 x 49 cm

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Al Balad XII (2012) Embroidery on printed linen 64 x 49 cm

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PREVIEW Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Anabelle de Gersigny.

Ahmed Mater: 100 Found Objects A multi-media installation that triggers imagination, conflating fact with fiction and confusing notions of history and memory In the city of Makkah a new future is being plotted

of the object. As we are suspended between the

On another screen, a digital landscape shrouded

and planned. The contours of that future are

sounds of these objects speaking in the first person

in electronic and snowy blue pans in and out. We

becoming visible amidst a landscape teeming

and the vision of the object or film itself, finding

can hear the abrupt conversation of two men, as

with initiatives, to develop and reinvent seemingly

equilibrium somewhere between the stories and

we decipher the territory we are looking at. What

immutable rituals, states and assumptions. The

chronology they are chaptered into, the objects

could be misinterpreted as an imaginary, fantasy

redevelopment of a site shaped by its own narrative

become knots or points along a timeline, one that

landscape from a video game, is in fact a film of

may culminate in the re-imagining of life at the

charts the social and political history of Saudi Arabia.

the movement sensitive monitor taken by the artist

centre of the Islamic world. Amid a rapidly changing

The artist has woven an intricate web with these

from a KSA army helicopter. Details such as the easily

economic landscape, Makkah is re-examining its

objects, making connections through the scripts that

unnoticed ‘disarm’ status on the screen; the Makkah

methods and its relationships with itself and with

accompany them. Each story seems to draw out a

Royal Clock Tower towering over the Kabbah in the

the rest of the world.

tale, triggering imagination and memory, mixing fact

distance; the crowds of pilgrims glimpsed through


with fiction, ultimately with the aim of straddling,

the tunnels of the new high rise accommodation

Ahmed Mater has been given privileged access

conflating and confusing notions of history and

become latent references to the world’s past and

to the site of Makkah and as a consequence has


current tensions. Captured in the piece, taken from

access to collateral found material. His 100 Found

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the artist’s unauthorized filming of the monitor, is a hint

Objects collection was, and is still, being amassed

Mater’s shift from more photographic to installation-

of Makkah’s plausible future. Here we see a sprawling

whilst recording Makkah’s redevelopment as part of

based works is vividly brought to life in the films

metropolis monitored from the skies, with an army

his ongoing Desert of Pharan series. It is made up of

included as part of the collection. Here the artist as

whose mission it is to detect the undesired movement

a broad range of paraphernalia – including archival

social and political activist is ever present. Drawing

of illegal pilgrims navigating their way across the arid

publications and papers, recorded conversations,

on the proliferation of video on social media,

and inhospitable terrain of the Kabbah mountains.

found audio and video tapes, short films taken

particularly in the region, the films he has been

on the mobile phones of laborers, army medals

sent by laborers through WhatsApp show the mass

Whilst individual objects are often extracted from

and helicopter surveillance videos, Makkah hotel

demolition of the city, exposing the trauma implicit in

the collection for touring exhibitions, the work as a

accessories, tourist and pilgrimage memorabilia

the deconstruction of communities. The vulnerability

whole (first exhibited at the Sharjah Art Foundation

– that in its entirety chronicles Makkah’s past through

of the labourers vital to this daily devastation mirrors

in 2013), dives between the detailed interpretation

to its present identity. The archive draws on wider

a drawing out of more subjective interpretations

of the recited stories and the continuous reminder

political histories, the familiarities of communities that

from the viewer as we move through the work. As

of broader instrumental events. It divulges,

once lived in Makkah’s vicinity, outsider perceptions

we encounter tourist imagery (View Finders) followed

celebrates and questions collective dreams and

of Makkah, along with distinctive pilgrims’ tales.

by this raw footage, we are reminded of the duplicity

ideologies through to innate mythology and

of contemporary social modes – whilst construction

iconography associated with a site that draws on

Mater uses each object to tell a tale, with each story

runs with rushes of violence, marketing and sales

the visions of every man or woman, child or elder

recited and played within easy listening distance

slowly work their manipulation.

interconnected by a shared faith.

View-Master Stereoscope, extracts from 100 Found Objects (1960–1980 CE 1379-1400 AH) Found in an old shop in Mahbas Al Jinn, Makkah, now demolished.

I am shutter sounds mixed with the sweet salts of nostalgia. With every click of the

I’m easy to dismiss, but look through these lenses and you can see images rich in

dial, I enlist old memories to support the limitations of my images. There was a time

history that look to Makkah before the siege of 1979. I might work through a trick of

when I was the favourite. I was passed around from hand to hand. Children, parents,

the eye, but my depictions are real, captured on film. I hold the Makkah of before. But

grandparents would gaze through me to the sun and study my tales of Makkah. Some

let me tell you that whilst my trick holds a truth, I do not offer the earliest depictions

would reminisce; I could feel the salt on their lashes as they remembered times of

of Makkah and its pilgrims. My ancestors date back to the 13th century and are spread

congregation […]

across the globe, having traveled continents and seas. […] We are the rose windows of the rituals and secrets of Makkah.

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Disarm, extracts from 100 Found Objects Photographs taken by the artist, when in a KSA army helicopter (2013)

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Disarm – a conversation between two helicopter pilots MA – I see the tower at 9 o’clock

MA – It’s too close now

ZJ – Try to get it to 12 o’clock

ZJ – Keep your altitude, turn away, move towards 3 o’clock

MA – OK, tower now at 12

MA – Time now 8 hundred hours, 46 minutes

ZJ – Can you see that?

ZJ – Exactly

MA – Yes, head straight, it’s incredible

MA – Allahu Akbar Allahkbar  

ZJ – I can see the clock hands moving right in front of me

BASE – MI2 movement on F2 Arafat, head to F2, over

MA – Amazing, I could touch the swords and date tree

ZJ – OK sir, making way to F2 Arafat, over

ZJ – Allahu Akbar

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Man on crest, sounds of cheering men, extracts from 100 Found Objects (2013 CE, 1434 AH) Mobile phone footage, 5 min 30 sec. Given to the artist on the demolition site, through Bluetooth/WhatsApp, by one of the labourers who was filming on his mobile phone

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Swooping and swinging. Hanging from the crane that heads up to the skies. I am perched here feeling like an angel. Suspended above the tower, decorated with Arabic inscriptions, I swoop down with my crescentshape spire. This can happen only once, the final touch to the tower. As the dizzying heights swing me around the top, I imagine I am flying. […] tribe 109

The workers, extracts from 100 Found Objects (2013 CE, 1434 AH) Mobile phone footage, 3 mins. Given to the artist on the demolition site, through Bluetooth/What’s App, by one of the labourers who was filming on his mobile phone

Moosa from India, 44 years old, the oldest worker in the camp I was kind of relieved when they put Parveen in the room with us. He was quiet and monosyllabic, which when a room sleeps 12 men, makes quite a difference. I’ve been here the longest, in Saudi that is and working for this company. I paid off my loan to them years ago. But I dare not return to my village. There’s a history there that I would rather not go into. So, this Parveen. He was given the bed above mine and at first it was a relief to have him there as opposed to the fat slob before him. I hate having to now sleep on the bottom bunk, but my legs aren’t what they were. I try my best to move as fast as the rest, but it’s tough. The last thing I want is for them to send me home. This is all I know now and the hills of my hometown are but a memory, a dream I wrap myself in when I’m sleeping. Anyway, what was I saying … ah yes. So Parveen. […] The Noble Recorders, extract from 100 Found Objects, 2014, Ahmed Mater

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Demolition site, extracts from 100 Found Objects (2013 CE, 1434 AH) Mobile phone footage, 3 mins, Given to the artist on the demolition site, through Bluetooth/What’s App, by one of the labourers who was filming on his mobile phone

When our very structure was first put into question, they couldn’t find a way to take us

I am Abdullah Dowan.* The buildings call me the Dowan, as though a lord or a king.

down. We were safe in the knowledge that our kind were impossible to deconstruct.

I hear their walls whispering to each other as I map out their demise. […]

Then, the Dowan arrived. We were never sure where he came from, dressed like the

* Abdullah Dowan is the head of demolition on the Makkah site.

wizard that he was. We almost felt that he must have been born of some tower himself, the way he knew how we work, our weaknesses, our strengths. […]

Extract from 100 Found Objects, 2014, Ahmed Mater

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PORTFOLIO Images - Courtesy of the artist and The Third Line. Writer - Saira Ansari.

Youssef Nabil: A Portfolio Review From vintage photo processes to video evoking loss, displacement, memory and rebirth “In my work, the landscapes, people and emotions

by Egyptian-Armenian studio photographer Van

In the early 2000s, Youssef found recognition for

are a direct representation of how I perceive my

Leo who, during the 40s and 50s, took portraits

his portrait and self-portrait series, with his images

journey in this life and my preoccupation with death.

of famous homegrown personalities, ranging from

highlighting the extraordinary character of his models,

Over the years, my work has looked to illustrate

politicians to singers. He met the photographer in

distinguished artists, actors, singers and friends.

my anxieties and my hopes. I often wonder about

1992 and they remained close friends till Leo’s death

International figures from the world of art, cinema

what it means to belong – to a place, a country, its

in 2002, the relationship leaving a profound effect

and music became his subjects, with some prominent

people and its culture. What happens when one

on the artist. In the meanwhile, Youssef went on to

names including Tracey Emin, Natacha Atlas, Paulo

finds oneselves alienated and unable to relate with

work as an apprentice photographer with renowned

Coelho, Nan Goldin, Bob Wilson and John Waters.

the changes that begin to occur? And what happens

luminaries David LaChapelle and Mario Testino, which

Cairo’s fingerprints are all over his works, including

when one moves away?

led to a unique training experience and exposure,

famous Egyptian personalities such as the belly dancer

encouraging his own creative growth. In 2003, Youssef

Fifi Abdou, artist Ghada Amer, controversial crooner

I left Egypt in 2003 and since then I keep moving,

left Egypt and since then has worked primarily from

Shaaban Abdel Rehim and Nobel prize winning author

traveling, and living in new places, all the time making

his studios in New York, Miami and Paris.

Naguib Mahfouz. The portraits saw all these figures

work and getting inspired. I considered my first move

and more transported to Youssef’s world, each image

like a kind of rebirth as I drifted between New York and

Youssef’s work over the years has come to be

offering a private glimpse into their persona, with

Paris, and my return to visit Egypt afterwards left me

identified with his characteristic technique of hand

compositions suggestive of stills from an imaginary

even more isolated. My first video You Never Left, and

painted silver gelatin photographs, which evoke

film. At the same time, Youssef was also producing

many of my photographs, sketch a parallel between

the feel of the photo-novels and movie posters that

highly sensitive, and almost voyeuristic self-portraits.

exile and death as a response to this. And a lot of

accompanied Egyptian cinema more than half a

Taken over many years, these now number in the

my work, including the new video I Saved My Belly

century ago. It is a meticulous and time-consuming

dozens, and have been taken in different locations

Dancer, is often meant as autobiographical, through

process that may take days, and the process combines

across the world. These self-portraits are different

which I expose deeply intimate and personal feelings

vintage photographic practices with contemporary

from his other portraits, always presenting him in

which act as both reality and metaphor. My work

compositions and subtexts.

profile or from the back, or looking away from the

provides a look into the constant death and re-birth

lens, gazing into a faraway place. This places the

of my identity, or those of the ‘characters’ I portray.”–

"When I was a kid, and while watching old Egyptian

viewer in a voyeur’s position, peeking into Youssef’s

Youssef Nabil

movies, I used to ask my mother about all the actors,

personal life.

where they all are," he recalls. "And mostly the

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Youssef Nabil was born in Cairo, Egypt in 1972

answer was that they were all dead. It was a strange

In 2010, the artist known for his work combining

where he grew up in a city caught in the romance

idea to me to watch and love all these beautiful dead

photography and painting presented his first video

of the golden age cinema of Hollywood on the

people. I think it did something to my subconscious.

You Never Left, an 8-minute piece with the actors

Nile: a black and white film world in which he recalls

Later on in my work when photographing people,

Fanny Ardant and Tahar Rahim set in an allegorical

the glamour and the elegance of an alternative

I always think of how to make the moment eternal;

other place that is a metaphor of a lost Egypt. The

realm. At a young age, Youssef discovered works

before they die, or I die."

video represented a major turning point in Youssef’s

Never Left XII (2010), Hand coloured silver gelatin print

career, whose entire body of work thus far had

the medium of dance. Multiple images of belly

A sleeping man (Tahar Rahim) dreams of his old

been inspired by cinema. It revisited the aesthetic

dancers caught in whirling movements make up

glamorous Egypt, which is disappearing. A last

characteristics of Egyptian cinema’s golden age – the

a kaleidoscopic visual frenzy. While the images are

remaining belly dancer (Salma Hayek) comes to

stars, Technicolor, the type of film stock – that inspired

sensual in nature, it is the association of the ‘sexual’

comfort him and tell him that his world has not

his own calling as an artist. You Never Left also had

with this art form that is now threatening its survival

vanished. She dances for him a last dance before he

the same personal, diaristic quality that is found in

in Egypt. The slow disappearance of these belly

takes her with him to the American desert where he

his photographic work.

dancers is significant of a new cultural identity

now lives. The video progresses without any dialogue,

that is following political shifts in the Egyptian

and the imagery is ubiquitous with surrealism and

In 2013, Youssef exhibited Time of Transformation,

mindsets. The Transformation panels look at the

symbolism that makes Youssef’s work much more

which presented three new series that echoed the

subtle change in the subject through seven stages.

than unassuming reminiscence. Loss, displacement,

clash of archetypes that he felt defined the state of

Almost staged as dramatic renditions of reactionary

memory, exile, new beginnings and rebirth continue

his present day home country. This body of work

expressions, the work addresses how the artist is

to be a recurring theme in Youssef’s work. The video

explored notions of transition and change as Youssef

personally grappling with, and responding to, the

is a self-portrait of his history and relationship with

reflected upon an Egypt that is rapidly transforming

transformations that are taking place within him.

Egypt – and his separation from it – as well as what is

and acquiring new ideals that he is unfamiliar with.

left of the past within memory; even if it is no longer

The Veiled Women series features women from

Youssef is now working on a new body of work titled

a part of reality. The video also explores shifting

the fields of art, music and cinema, all adorning by

I Saved My Belly Dancer, a video which has taken

perceptions of the position of women in the region,

the Mediterranean veil. In these portraits, Youssef

years to plan, finance and film. Featuring Salma Hayek

with the amplified sexualisation of their bodies a

ruminates about meanings associated with the veil

and Tahar Rahim, I Saved My Belly Dancer is a poetic

growing problem in the new social constructs. It is

now and how it was once worn in the Mediterranean

depiction of Youssef’s fascination with belly dancers,

this, and the fear of losing an indigenous art form to

cultures. By reincarnating the idea of the veil he loved,

and his anxiety over the disappearance of the art form

time and changing ideologies, that inspired Youssef

Youssef provides an allegory that is in sharp contrast

that is unique to the Middle East. The 12-minute

to work on I Saved My Belly Dancer, the second video

to its connotation in the present day. The portraits

video is visually inspired by Egypt cinema from the

in his career.

echo a loss of innocence and the assimilation of

50s and touches upon Youssef's fraught relationship

I Saved My Belly Dancer will be launched at The

new ideals that delineate between sex and religion.

with his home country – both elements that inform a

Third Line, with his solo exhibition planned for the

In The Last Dance series, change is explored through

large aspect of his practice.

beginning of 2016.

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Lonely Pasha, Cairo (2002) Hand coloured silver gelatin print

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Amani, Cairo (1993) Hand colored silver gelatin print

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The Last Dance #I Denver (2012) Hand colored silver gelatin print

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The End, New York (2007) Hand colored silver gelatin print

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Previos Page: I Saved My Belly Dancer #VIII (2015) I Saved My Belly Dancer #XIII (2015)

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I Saved My Belly Dancer #XIII (2015)

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ARCHIVES Images - Courtesy of Zamaaan. Writer - Veronica Houk.

Zamaaan: Collecting the Past Nostaglia through a social network platform Scrolling through Zamaaan’s Instagam feed, I feel

Instagram’s modern design—and the possibilities its

I received a lot of submissions, especially from Saudi

as if I were looking through a kaleidoscope rather

digital medium allows—and timeworn analog photos

Arabia and Kuwait.” The Zamaaan Instagram account,

than the app’s steady grid. My eye darts through the

to create precious yet widely accessible images.

which has collected thousands of photographs, is

stream of vintage images, which range from black

Looking at these images through a modern aperture,

particularly popular: it boasts more than 23,000

and white and dusty sepia to full color. Almost all of

few photos are immune to remembrance’s rosy filter.

followers to date. That number, however, is less than

the pictures have people in them, but not all of them

half of the followers of Fatima’s Arabic Typography

are strictly “of” people. I immediately focus on the

The project, of course, is more than an exercise in

Instagram page, a sister project that posts artistic

diversity of sartorial fashion: some men are snapped in

nostalgia. “The more submissions and stories we

photos of Arabic writing that rarely include people.

khandooras and keffiyeh, while others wear suits and

collect, the more impact we can have in shaping

tarboosh hats, and in my favorites, they wear collared

perceptions,” Fatima says. Zamaaan’s abundant

Zamaaan clearly demonstrates that concerns about

shirts and flared trousers that are unimaginable in

photographs, many of which are inherited family

personal privacy in the Gulf do not prevent people

any decade other than the 1970s. Women might

photos, reflect diverse and sometimes startlingly

from submitting and rallying around family photos

be wearing leather niqabs, embroidered galabeyas,

revealing images of the Middle East, a part of the

in significant numbers. There is certainly no dearth

thick silver nose rings, strappy sundresses, or couture

world that has suffered from generalized and one-

of images from the region. In fact, they exist in

fashion gowns. In relaxed shots—when the lens

dimensional representations in the media. Even

abundance, and while many are protected in private

captures families leaning against their car before

people in the region are not accustomed to seeing

archives or scattered across the globe in analog

a holiday, fathers holding their little girls, couples

pictures of those who look like them, their families,

photo albums and flea markets, Fatima discovered

flirting, and women going to school and work in chic

and their friends posted online. Vernacular images

that a great number are uploaded online. One big

uniforms—lips are curled into toothy smiles. Formal

of everyday people and activities are so rare that

problem is that they are temporal. “I’ve always had

portraits, on the other hand, usually taken of young

followers become excited about images Fatima

this fascination with how much Arabic content is

children, adolescents, and women, are marked by

thinks are too mundane to post, such as a black-

hosted in forums in images, similar to the Chinese

somber faces that stare back at the viewer.

and-white portrait of a little girl in a collared dress.

web, that expire quickly,” Fatima explains. “People

She almost did not post the image, but after she did,

post their photos, everybody reminisces, and then the

Since Fatima Moussa founded Zamaaan’s Instagram

it became immediately popular, with numerous users

images disappear.” She sighed, then dreamt aloud,

and Tumblr sites in 2013, she has gathered disparate

commenting to name the friends and family members

“My wish has always been to organize the Arab web.”

and widely dispersed images from individuals as well

of whom the girl reminded them.

as institutions to create an expansive family album. It’s

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That may sound like a tall order for a 28-year-old

not just the content that gives value to the images—

Originally Mauritanian, Fatima has lived in Jordan,

with a full-time job as a marketing professional, but

the types of intimate, everyday pictures of Arab men,

Syria, Sudan, the UAE and now Qatar. Still, she was

after poring over Zamaaan, it is clear that even with

women and children we sadly do not often see—but

surprised by people’s active engagement in the

little organizational structure and limited accessibility

also their age. Some are wrinkled, ripped, taped or

project given the usual assumptions about privacy

one can bring valuable but unknown images to the

cross-processed, naturally achieving the online filter

in the Middle East. “I was afraid that a lot of people

public. The digital nature of the archive and the

affects of artificially aged photographs. Zamaaan,

would not want to share, since many Arabs are

images’ accessibility—in terms of its free cost as well

which means “time” or “it’s been so long,” marries

afraid of being in the public sphere,” she says, “but

as vernacular images—is its main draw.

“Lebanon during the 1950s.” Posted September 20, 2014.

“If the image becomes commoditized as ‘art’ and I have to pay for the image, it defeats the purpose,” Fatima says. “In Doha, there are so many archiving projects going on, but it’s all under lock and key.” In addition to building a searchable database, Fatima would like to take this project offline, perhaps by creating a booklet of some of the strongest submissions, to further increase the range of people who can submit and view content. Though the majority of the images are likely pulled out of family photo albums, some surpass the average memento in artistic quality. One image in particular stands out: it is a kaleidoscope in and of itself, constantly shifting the viewer’s access to aspects of the composition and the Lebanon it represents. Taken in the 1950s, the black and white photograph depicts a peaceful urban street that preceded the nation’s military and political upheavals: the Civil War, invasion by Israel, and a wave of bombings throughout the past decade. Four young girls walk down a brightly lit street, elbows linked. They are each wearing white tulle dresses and white socks, engaged in animated conversation. Three of the four step in sync. White lights penetrate the darkness, and their huge, singular shadow is thrown before them. They walk on, only light chasing at their heels. A pharmacy’s cross glows from a storefront, promising health and protection, above a sign in Arabic that advertises a Lebanese roastery. A woman wearing black walks a few steps behind the girls but stares past them, absorbed instead in window displays. In the photo’s immediate foreground, under a sign that reads in capital letters “Studio AKL,” a moustached man in a suit looks up the street. Bookended by adults, the four girls epitomize youthful innocence, female friendship, and middle class leisure; their exhilaration appears comforting, not irresponsible. They are safe, even infallible in this moment. A friend of mine who was born in Beirut in the early 1990s looked at this photograph and puzzled over it. When I asked what bothered him, he suggested the sign that said “Lebanon Roastery” must be wrong. For him, the country in this photo was part of an unrecognizable past. But the image does more than assure us of Lebanon’s peaceful and prosperous prime: it also provides a sharp commentary on both the power of Lebanon’s intellectual identity in the 1950s and of photography as a medium. “Studio AKL,” the most prominent sign in the image, is in fact a photo studio, one ostensibly owned by someone with the common surname Akl, the

language. The diverse communicative strategies the signs employ are essential signals: Western and

same surname as that of the Lebanese poet and language reformer Said

Arabic writing are both used, and even the pharmacy cross is a visual symbol that originated in Europe

Akl. He famously argued for a distinct alphabet that acknowledged the

and became universally accessible through the effects of colonialization. Read with the figures in the

“acoustic, semantic and grammatical” separateness of Lebanese Arabic

street and the photo studio’s innuendo of Akl’s progressive linguistic vision, these elements coalesce

from Modern Standard Arabic and aimed to increase literacy among

in a concise argument for the egalitarian and effective visual language of photography, as both an

uneducated Lebanese. The invocation of Akl’s politics speaks to class

alternative and a complement to any written script.

and education in the photograph, as the subjects are clear beneficiaries of at least basic, if not elite, education.

The real value of Zamaaan lies in its simultaneous ability to question the boundaries of photography as well as those of personal and collective memory. The diversity of the images, and their potential

Intimations of Akl’s language and education reform would not be readily

to subvert an individual’s memory of that time and place, underscores the fact that the Middle East,

apparent in the 1950s, as Akl boasted of his “Lebanese language”

as a codified geographical region or identity, does not exist. The fixed perpendicularity of Instagram

throughout the decade but did not publicly introduce the alphabet until

notwithstanding, the random content and chronology of Zamaaan offers a refreshing departure from

1961. Looking at this image in hindsight, however, it clearly grapples with

institutional exhibitions. They remind us that kaleidoscopes are organized ways of viewing the world.

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Clockwise: Seville photo, late 30s or so. A photographer in Makkah named Al Sharefa Rashida Al Bakali taken in 1932. Haifa, Palestine. Approx 1927 In Al-Ruwais in Jeddah in 1958 or 1959. Abdul Jaleel Batterjee by Abdul Raouf Batterjee in 1943 or 1944, Jeddah KSA. Â Cairo Egypt 1950s

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Clockwise: 60s, Photo courtesy of Shahnaz Abdullah Badri Hala Rachika Husseini Haifa, Palestine. Approx 1927 60s, Photo courtesy of Shahnaz Abdullah Badri Egypt In Baghdad around 1916, the Daghistani family

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NEW MEDIA Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Anabelle de Gersigny.

Safina Radio Project A new space for dialog

When I first moved to the Middle East and the

the three days, with additional content contributed

UAE, I was working in Abu Dhabi and commuting

from around the world, from the UAE to Hong Kong,

from Dubai. From the busy, thronging streets and

including sound pieces, performances, conversations

transport systems of London, the hours spent alone

and music sets – in all there were 26 contributions. Wafaa Bilal is an artist and also an Associate Professor

in the cocoon of my car along the Sheikh Zayed Road were at once isolating and liberating. After a

The boat or radio space itself, became one for binding

of art at New York University teaching photography,

few weeks on this journey, which over the course of

different realities and experiences – tapping into the

new media and performative practices.

a year would accumulate to three months full time

unique energy of the biennale and the crossover of

Sara Raza is the Guggenheim UBS MAP Curator

education, the sense of isolation pervaded and I

thought and practices. When compressed into the

Middle East & North Africa.

started to desperately seek out podcasts about art

small confines of a Venetian taxi, they led to an intense,

and culture in the region. Material, which I believed,

poetic and familial atmosphere, which I hope comes

SR: I’d like to first start by just asking you some general

would give me a stronger sense of connection to my

through in the conversations. I selected an extract

questions about your practice to get some context

environment. I quickly got through the audio material

from a conversation between Sara Raza and Wafaa

to your work. You are known for, very specifically, for

I managed to root out, and it wasn’t long before the

Bilal to include here. Wafaa and Sara have known each

your technology-driven projects, particularly using

podcast radio concept came to fruition.

other for some time, working together closely on a

technology as a vehicle to navigate diverse spaces.

number of curatorial and editorial projects, including

One of these spaces is what you term the ‘comfort

The radio seeks to shed light on the currents and

the permanent installation, Hierarchy of Being, at

zone’ or the ‘safe zone’, which is the West, and the

undercurrents in the region, specifically looking

the Maraya Art Centre in Sharjah. Safina provided

second is the ‘conflict zone’, which is your native

towards art and culture. Alserkal Avenue invited me

a platform for them both to explore new territories

Iraq. If you could use those two parallel opposites

to launch the project in Venice during the 56 Venice

in Wafaa’s work but also, provided a unique insight

to contextualize what you’ve been doing over the

Biennale on a boat, commissioning and supporting

into an ongoing dialogue between curator and artist.

last decade.


Safina Radio Project in its entirety. It was an exciting

WB: I think when I left Iraq in 1991 and arrived in

moment setting up for the first piece with Raqs Media

Safina in Arabic means vessel or ship. It is also used

the United States, I started realizing as an artist that I

Collective, bringing to life the itinerant broadcasting

for manuscripts, denoting a special form of a book

have a kind of responsibility for these two places: the

concept, transforming the vessel into a recording

whose cover is elongated – when the book is opened,

comfort zone—meaning the place I live in, which

studio that would navigate the waterways of Venice

it resembles a long vessel. In Persian use, ‘safineh’

is the US—and the conflict zone, which is Iraq. I

for three days, and act as a roving platform for

is a synonym for ‘jong’ which means a collection of

started realizing there was an emotional and physical

conversation and exchange. The aim of the Venice

essays or poems.

distance between my subject and the audience in

edition was to bring questions pertinent to the

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Wafaa Bilal and Sara Raza – an extract

the United States. So I tried to bring these two zones

Middle East to the fore within the context of the wider

The first edition of Safina Radio Project took place

together in conversation, not imposing my point

biennale, with the conversations covering a broad

during the 56th Venice Biennale. The second edition

of view on them or even trying to inform them in

range of subjects. We recorded nine pieces over

will take place as part of the Dhaka Art Summit 2016.

any way, but establishing a platform. The platform

functions as a way to bring people together. One thing was lacking. The physical

WB: I always say there is a moment or many moments, perhaps, that define who

distance, I could not bridge that. So I started using technology early on, extending

we are or define what we do. That moment came for me in 2004. News came

the very physical platform of people coming into the gallery, the museum, art

from Iraq that my brother Haji was killed by a drone attack in our hometown.

spaces. By linking these two zones, I was able to move my project from didactic

Everything from that point changed in my life. Three years after, up until I made

into dynamic – which means that the end state is not closed, it is unknown, allowing

this work in 2007, I didn’t know what to do. As an artist, how should I respond

the participants to become very active in it. In fact, the viewers or participants

to that? How is it possible to communicate my loss, my family's loss and the

write part of the narrative of these projects, which allows them to build their own

country’s loss? In January of 2007, I listened to an interview with a soldier, an

story, to own the story that can then be retold.

American soldier sitting in Colorado directing these drones, dropping missiles

and bombs on Iraq. This soldier had no psychological or emotional connection

SR: I’d like to choose one particular earlier project called Domestic Tension from

to the ground in Iraq and right there I thought of the project. I wanted to recreate

2007, in which you enclose yourself in a gallery for a month. You built a robotic gun

the entire experience. For people like this soldier to see the reality of being

that was controlled via the Internet and people could shoot you with a paintball

attacked without connection. I wanted to connect these two zones, but at the

gun, by pressing a command from anywhere in the world. You recreated a scenario

same time I wanted to use language that people understand. By using the

in which you were mimicking somehow the everyday reality of people in your

language of gaming, the Internet and paintball, which is very popular in the

native Iraq under the state of siege and war. You united these two languages of

United States, I opened the entire conversation to an online audience and it was

gaming and war. Could you expand on that?

amazing what happened. I realised I was a bit naïve to stage the performance

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Domestic Tension Night of Bush Capturing

for one month in a gallery locked up, never leaving with a gun constantly aimed at

servicemen. I went back and researched the source of the project and it was originally

me. The highest viewers or hits achieved in one month was 80 million. I was shot at

an American game called Hunt for Saddam. The original game was used by soldiers

75,000 times from 128 countries, but also collected three thousand pages of chat room

and the public, and was released in 2003 at the start of the war. In that game, all of

conversations. In the beginning I used the chatroom to tell people what happened to

the soldiers, all of the Iraqi soldiers have Saddam’s face and when you shoot at them,

me and what happened to my family, but later on I realized that my role was to stay

they speak nonsense Arabic and there are so many things, slogans for example, in the

away from the audience’s conversation and not judge them for shooting at me. I let

game that are racist. What Al Qaeda did was take the video game and only changed

the crowd, in a way, control each other—and they did. […]

the skin. The Iraqi soldier became an American soldier. Saddam’s face became Bush’s face and then they released the game with a Jihadi soundtrack. So, I wanted to develop

SR: You use gaming in a physical sense but you use it as a conceptual device as well,

my own game based on these two games reversing the idea of hunter and hunted. I

and as a kind of wide political rhetoric to speak about the way in which ideologies

wanted to expose hypocrisy in video games because when they are directed at other

function. In particular, how ideology of war functions, how these ideas come to play.

cultures, it’s okay, they’re called just video games, but when it’s directed at America,

Moving further from that, I know that you also look to the way in which video games

it’s not a video game, it’s terrorist propaganda. I wanted to engage the people who

function, how gaming is used to train soldiers with hand-eye coordination. You looked

might not be willing to engage in the dialogue. I took an exact copy of the Al Qaeda

in particular at a video game that was supplied to American servicemen as an alternative

game, Night of Bush Capturing and I called it Virtual Jihadi. I hacked into the game

training. Perhaps you could talk about how you then re-appropriated that language to

and I inserted myself as a virtual jihadi, who had his own story — his brother is killed

create a new game.

in Iraq and he is recruited by Al Qaeda, and he goes on this mission to assassinate

WB: In 2005 I came across a video game called Night of Bush Capturing which was

President Bush. It was naïve of me to do that while President Bush was still in office. The

released by Al Qaeda in 2005. The US state department automatically said that this is

premiere was at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and there was a huge outrage and the

a recruitment tool and terrorist propaganda. The game has seven-levels, you go and

FBI, CIA and Homeland Security showed up and they had to give me four bodyguards

encounter American soldiers and you shoot them until you come to the last stage in which

and the game was closed after the first day.

you are face-to-face with President Bush. Then either he kills you or you kill him. I was skeptical about how these guys and Al-Qaeda were able to mount such a sophisticated game. I found out that Night of Bush Capturing was also a device used by American

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Director, Commissioned and supported by Alserkal Avenue Founding partners: Anabelle de Gersigny and Alserkal Avenue To listen to the full conversations: safinaradioproject.org

In the beginning I used the chatroom to tell people what happened to me and what happened to my family, but later on I realized that my role was to stay away from the audience’s conversation and not judge them for shooting at me.

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ART IN PUBLIC SPACES Images - Courtesy of the artist and MinRASY PROJECTS. Writer - Ala Younis.

Tarek at the Roundabout and Men in the Sun Unplified Tarek at the Roundabout and Unplified were among

If the Palestinian is envisioned as an isolated man,

And choose my exile.

a series of public interventions initiated by MinRASY

Palestine as a green or blue cloud, expanding and

My exile is the backdrop of the epic scene,

PROJECTS in 2011, as a tribute to Kuwait’s celebrations

shrinking, and the diaspora in which he lives as a

I defend the poet’s need for both

of fifty years of independence and twenty years of

desert, then whatever appears on the horizon of

The morrow and memories,

liberation from Iraqi invasion. In the same year, MinRASY

this desert-scape signals the limits of the world


Projects installed “United States of Palestine Airlines” at

before or around him. With such alienation,

And I defend a land kidnapped by myth.

the Mishref Fairground in Kuwait, initiated the Museum

questing and anticipation, this is a depiction of

Can one return to anything?

of Manufactured Response to Absence (MoMRtA) to

a man’s existence in the Gulf. Al-Ghoussein is a

That before me drags what

be premiered at Museum of Modern Art, Kuwait, under

Kuwaiti citizen of Palestinian origin. Born in Kuwait

lies behind and hastens on;

the patronage of the National Council for Culture, Arts

and living in the United Arab Emirates, the artist’s

There’s no time on my watch

and Letters in May 2012. Other projects include Study

work is the earliest to appear from a generation

to pen lines in sand,

for a Domiciled Gallery (2015), Incomplete Personal

that develops a sense of belonging, or debt to,

But I can visit yesterday

Archives at Qalandiya International II, and We’re all

several homelands. Such works mark the juncture

As strangers do.

for Kuwait and Kuwait for us publication. MinRASY

at which artistic and literary works moved away

PROJECTS develops and produces projects that

from treating Palestine as the only homeland,

Al-Ghoussein’s pictures lack neither poetry nor

stem from its director Rana Sadik. MinRASY is both

and started addressing the idea of a homeland

aesthetic merit, even as their interpretation opens

an acronym in Arabic, from Rana and Samer Younis

in Kuwait.

onto the absolute temporal states of absolute

and a double entendre, meaning “from my head”.

individuals. They look forward to what will happen This man, alone in the desert, drags the sheet

based on what has happened. They are anticipation,

behind him. Long and heavy it stirs the sands and

suspension in a hanging, floating void, a legacy with

leaves tracks. It pulls the man just as surely as he

which we decide to interpret the figure before us

In April 2011, four nearly, but not quite, identical

pulls it. His other hand hangs free before him: with

as either Palestinian or Kuwaiti. Does the Kuwaiti

pictures by the artist Tarek Al-Ghoussein were raised

this hand he must do everything else. We see the

Palestinian dream of Kuwait as his father dreamed

on vast advertising boards over the Sadik Commercial

man make shapes; he changes the way he uses the

of Palestine before him? Generations of Palestinians

Center in Hawalli in Kuwait. This intervention bore

sheet, to make it a tablecloth, a sheet, a shelter, a

have lived on non-Palestinian land; their feet have

a title with a double meaning, Tarek ala duwwar:

horizon. The protagonist is defined by his existence

never trodden Palestinian soil. And yet to what

“Tarek at the Roundabout” or “Knocking at the

outside the place in which he figures as the hero;

extent have these generations been afforded the

Roundabout”. The artist stands, knocking at the door

worlds in place of a world; homelands instead of a

right to belong to the nations where they were born

of time and place, preparing to come inside.

homeland; languages not one language­­—Edward

or worked, or brought others forth into the world?

Tarek at the Roundabout was among a series of public

Said as described by Mahmoud Darwish:

away? Al-Ghoussein defines the homeland as the

interventions initiated by MinRASY PROJECTS in

He loves a land

place in which he lives, ‘right now’.

2011, as a tribute to Kuwait’s celebrations of fifty years

And leaves it.

of independence and twenty years of liberation from

I am what I say and what I shall be;

“Yes, no place in the world possesses so many

Iraqi occupation.

I shall make myself from myself

interesting aspects to its overall anatomy.

At the Roundabout

Who gives rights in these lands and who takes them

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Archaeologists and architects, photographers and pilots, experts and laborers,

“Look at them. Amongst their number are the finest surgeons, the finest

doctors and nurses, students and teachers, merchants and employees,

doctors and the finest administrators. Without these skills it would have

contractors and their competitors, all live a very interesting, harmonious,

been impossible to appoint them to their current positions.”

and agitated life on the most unique spot in the world.” Hawalli’s heart is the roundabout, dubbed the Sadik Roundabout due to Hawalli: with its overwhelming majority of middle-class residents. Up until

its proximity to the three-storey shopping center on which Tarek’s pictures

1990 the area was home to Palestinian teachers, government clerks and

perch. The photographs almost seem as though they were here before

politicians who lived amidst associations, corner stores, offices, clinics,

the roundabout, which gives the misleading impression of having been

restaurants and government and privately run schools. Hawalli was the

recently built. The palm trees surrounding it are still short and the beds

stronghold of the Palestinian community and the location of the PLO’s head

around them not yet green. At its centre, as is the case throughout Kuwait,

offices, themselves surrounded by the headquarters of other Palestinian

sits a diminutive fortress-shaped building holding up a square tower with

organizations. From its offices the PLO ran fourteen sports clubs named

a clock on every side: a gift to the country from a local organization.

after Palestinian cities, a Palestinian football league that had five minutes

Similarly, the vast pictures were fixed over the roundabout as a personal

devoted to its match reports on Kuwait’s radio each morning and sports

initiative on the occasion of Kuwait’s 2011 celebrations. Three stories up

teams that travelled to compete in international sporting events under the

one thinks of images of the four hundred thousand Palestinians who lived

Palestinian flag.

in Kuwait until 1990.

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All Images courtesy of the artist and The Third Line

Top: Tarek Al-Ghoussein, Untitled 4 ( D II Series) Bottom: Tarek Al-Ghoussein, Untitled 2 ( D II Series)

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Top: Tarek Al-Ghoussein, Untitled 11 (C Series) Bottom: Tarek Al-Ghoussein, Untitled 7 (C Series)

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“He’s from Kuwait; he was born in the Kuwaiti

stretches of desert—at crossroads, in roundabouts,

the event, silence imposes itself on both the reader

newspapers, I mean. I was still newly arrived in

between walls—sometimes with great expanses

and the author, only for a torrent of questions and

Kuwait and a son of Ain Helweh.”

of blue tarpaulin or green synthetic mesh. His

answers to pour forth once we have turned the

themes have taken a more existential turn, as if

last page. The most memorable aspect of the

This is the first time Al-Ghoussein has brought his

the artist were grasping at a place in the universe

novel is the extreme heat of the Kuwaiti desert,

art to the place where he was born and raised.

rather than just a legitimate geopolitical location.

which the characters are compelled to endure.

It is the first time, in fact, that his pictures have

We never get a clear view of the man in

It is the diametric opposite of the lost paradise

left the gallery and made their way out into the

Al-Ghoussein’s photographs. Most likely he is

that is Palestine.

city. No opening night party was held for these

never read as being Palestinian, a fact that has

pictures; there are no signs at the entrance to the

a power of its own. The pictures contain no

The artist has analyzed the novel’s narrative elements

roundabout or mall announcing or even explaining

Palestinian references. The migrant worker, of

and dramatic structure and on his journey, he

their presence. Al-Ghoussein himself made several

whatever origin, can see his image in such a work

recorded the sounds of the road and the desert, the

circuits of the roundabout at various times of the

and likewise the pure-blood Kuwaiti, and any

burning sun between Kuwait and Basra, the boiling

day, without gaining the slightest idea of the

worker who is at once strong and solitary.

heat inside the water tank, before coming to a halt at

public’s perception of his pieces. This is a dialogue between the work and the audience, more than one between the artist and his public. Workers, teachers, children, managers and women passing through the roundabout may all have thought the pictures to be an advertisement for some major forthcoming production, and they would not have been far wrong if they had. Tarek’s pictures are an embodiment of the hundreds of thousands of migrants at large in the country, a vast production sweeping Kuwait. Al-Ghoussein has abandoned the kufiya in order to make images that are more open-ended and inclusive. In a global world of increasing immigration and expatriation, “home” is a complicated idea for many people. This is something about which Mr. Al-Ghoussein is particularly aware in his adopted home of the UAE, where foreigners far outnumber Emiratis. These later works tend to be shot in anonymous

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the Kuwait-Iraq border. Many such trucks still cross

Men in the Sun Unplified MinRASY PROJECTS initiated a collaboration with sound artist Tarek Atoui of which they produced Unplified (2012), a work inspired by Ghassan Kanafani’s 1963 novel Men In The Sun. Atoui came to Kuwait in late 2011, and was sent on a truck out into the desert to experience his contemporary version of the trip taken by the novel’s Palestinian displaced men who tried to sneak into Kuwait from Iraq inside the canister of water truck driven by a frustrated Palestinian driver. The novel uses the stories of the three men and their driver to describe the hardships of these men’s journey into Kuwait, and their aspiration for earning a living in the country. The denouement is both tragic and condensed. As the tank crosses the border, the driver cannot hear the men knocking on the canister, as they suffocate to death. After

this border carrying water and oil and the sounds and images of these many years of passage swim in the desert’s burning void. Atoui was most affected by how the desert swallowed its noises, inspired by this quality of ephemerality, of the individual’s relationship with a space that swallows sound and presence into its vastness. Kanafani’s tale concludes with questions about what it was that stopped the men rapping on the canister’s metal wall when the heat became too much for them to take. Atoui’s answer is that the men did beat on the canister, but the desert swallowed the sound. Beyond doubt, the worst thing about the desert is this scattering of sound, never to return as an echo or distant chime. After a journey of more than ten hours, darkness fell. Then, the smuggler pointed to a distant group of lights and said: ‘That is Kuwait. You’ll be there in half an hour.’ And do you know what happened? It wasn’t Kuwait…

Following page: Four microphones in the desert of Ash Shigaya, north of Kuwait, to record the sound piece Unplified, 2012. Courtesy MinRASY Projects, London

Tarek Atoui studied contemporary and electronic music at the French National

I really don’t know what I hope people get or feel from it. It is a very abstract

Conservatory, and works on breaking down and reconstructing sounds and

piece of work; you can relate to it on different levels. Based on the response

aural disturbances and producing digital outputs created by computers,

I received yesterday, there are a diversity of experiences you can get out of

speakers and sensors. The artist alternates between outputs to create snippets

it. I developed this as a conceptual sound piece with a complex relation to

of audible and (subsonic) sound run through interferences, improvisations,

the book, but I didn’t have a specific intention . . . I know it is not an easy

sound-boards, programs and speakers. The machine, the heart and ear are

piece; it is not an environment that you can stand at ease in. It’s hot and

all partners in his experiments.

it’s saturated, in terms of light. The sound, as well, is saturated and these three elements function together. What I really like is that these elements

In May 2012, Unplified’s audio-visual installation was set up inside an

reproduce the intensity that I wanted. [...] I didn’t want to create an illustration

aluminium cabin, purpose built to fit into its space at the Museum of Modern

of the sound environment of the book. The idea was to transform this into

Art in Kuwait. The cabin was divided into two rooms and its walls were

something else, to use the story as a generator to produce something

plastered. The installation consisted of four microphones set up in the first

different. But there is still a relationship to the novel: having four speakers

room and linked to a system of sound equipment, sensors and software

relates to the number of characters in the book. The idea was to tune the

programs, which mixed the sounds of voices and movement inside the

analysis system on each speaker to act differently, creating a symphony,

cabin with an archive of desert sounds recorded by Atoui in the course

where each speaker generates a different sound and the four create the

of two separate journeys to the Kuwaiti-Iraqi border. For his first trip, the

piece together, but when you move through the space, you can still hear

artist rode inside the truck’s metal container; for the second, he set up four

each one on its own. I didn’t want to use or show the sound in a raw way.

microphones at varying frequencies to spend an entire day recording the

The sound loop in the installation is two hours long, cut down from seven

sounds of the desert space, while a video camera pointed at these audio

hours of recorded sound footage.

pick-ups recorded images. While Unplified intersects with the world of the novel’s men, it disintegrates When the visitor enters the cabin the microphones pick up the sounds of his

within the space, scattering and fading in both practical and temporal terms

movement and voice and process them through computer software, which

as it sets up a delayed existence in another space. These constructed sounds,

is rebroadcast as a blend of live and pre-recorded audio output through

like others, unconstructed, will wander off to float in the endless void.

mounted speakers. The microphones then record this treated output plus the sounds of any new entrants and send it back through the computer program to be processed in the same way, and so on: an endless, cyclical operation, amplifying arrival and disappearance in a space that mirrors the hollow interior of a metal container in a burning desert. The sounds are of silence, of hissing, and of heat. May is a month of searing heat out in the Kuwaiti sands and it would be impossible to set up air-conditioning units in such a sonically sensitive environment. The aluminium walls heat the cabin’s interior, which resembles the temporary offices of foremen and engineers at building sites, and only

Atoui was most affected by how the desert swallowed its noises, inspired by this quality of ephemerality, of the individual’s relationship with a space that swallows sound and presence into its vastness.

the movement of people into and out of the space stirs the stifling air. The heat grows more intense, and with it the re-broadcast sounds of silence, whistling and crackling heat—like a ringing in the ears or a throbbing headache, like the whine of a some permanently working machine inside a building. In the second room, a small opening in the white wall houses a screen displaying footage of the four microphones recording in the Kuwaiti desert. Nothing happens, just sand eddying about in the wind. Movement, presence in place of absence, the public coming inside, oppressive heat and breathlessness: The desert void at the moment of amplification encounters fleeting presence in a stifling space. Within this narrative, the world of Men In The Sun touches on the contemporary world. When the constrained body swells, when the wide desert contracts (its fleeting gain fading to nothing), work and time disintegrate in one place, even as they lay the foundations for a delayed existence in another. These manufactured sounds, and their natural counterparts, wander off to float in the endless void.

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My Rock Stars, Jones (2011) Metallic lambda print on dibond with tyre painted frame, 99 x 73 cm

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

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BOOKS Images - From the collection of Diab Alkarssifi. Writer - Joobin Bekhrad, founder and Editor of Reorient.

A Lebanese Archive: The best of times, the worst of times..remembering Lebanon through photographs I’ve been living so long with my pictures of you that I almost believe that the pictures are all I can feel … - The Cure, Pictures of You (1989) They came from different worlds, Ania and Diab, who met each other one day in the squalid splendour of Camden Town, with its smell of rancid noodles and grass and whistling plastic birds by the canal. Diab was down and out, having split from his wife, and Ania had just begun an artist residency at the hostel where Diab was staying in the interim, as he wondered where life would take him next. With his broken English, and Ania’s ‘non-existent’ Arabic, communicating through tongues was trying, but it didn’t matter. Where words failed them, pictures filled the voids – lots of pictures; for Diab not only took pictures, but lived and breathed them. Alone in manic London, trying to find his way, it seemed the pictures of his cherished homeland were all he had. He hadn’t left those gilded days of late in faraway Beirut and elsewhere, beneath rubble and ash and the crags of memory; you could see them in his eyes and the lines on his brow, feel them in the breaths that looked, in a way, like the fog of the Corniche when condensed in the cold autumn air. And of course, one could see them, if they wanted, in boxes and bags brimming with those photographs, faded, scratched, and weathered, each telling tales of the thitherto untold and unseen; tales that, with the vision of the young girl from faraway communist Poland, would be told once again. Someone once said that pictures make ghosts of people; better to open the trove and let the spirits fly again, then. Ania’s book of photographs from the archives of Diab Al Karssifi, simply titled A Lebanese Archive, is a thick, warming volume of people, war, dreams and those golden years when nothing could touch one. Co-Published by Book Works and Arab Image Foundation

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‘Ania’s encounter with Diab is at once intense and ambitious as it takes place across all of those territories (in the sense it takes place across different cultures and times and practices). It is an evocative encounter, so inspiring and so enriching to her. With his photographs in mind she writes her own.’ – Akram Zataari

Clockwise: The Caracalla family wedding with Ahmad Caracalla, Abd Al-Karim Salah, Abu Saeed Solh, Abu Fakhr Shalha, Mustafa Caracalla, Ahmad’s uncle, Mohammad Caracalla, Walid Solh, and Ali Holhal, now a singer in Lebanon (photograph by Diab Alkarssifi) Beirut, 1960s (photographer unknown; from the Baalbek Family Archives and the Baalbek Photo Print Studio; courtesy Hikmat Awada; from the collection of Diab Alkarssifi) An unknown woman in the 50s (photographer unknown; from the Baalbek Family Archives and the collection of Diab Alkarssifi; courtesy Hikmat Awada and the Baalbek Photo Print Studio)

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WINDOW Images - Courtesy of the artist and Ayyam gallery. Writer - Marina Iordan.

Partners-in-crime Banksy invites Arab artists to participate in his Dismaland This summer, photographers Tammam Azzam, Ammar Abd Rabbo, and Huda Beydoun took part in the notorious British street artist, Banksy’s latest pop-up festival. Dismaland was secretly built at a derelict seaside lido in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, in the United Kingdom. Taking over the abandoned leisure facility, Banksy’s cynical twist on Disney’s amusement parks, where the highlight is a fire-ravaged fairytale castle, brought together 46 international artists. Tammam Azzam was featured with Freedom Graffiti, an emblematic digital work that gained the artist international recognition after it went viral through social media in 2013. The image is from his series called Syrian Museum, and it projects Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss onto a Syrian war-torn building as an embellishment of Azzam’s devastated homeland. Fellow Syrian photographer Ammar Abd Rabbo presented Aleppo, Into the Wild—a photograph that portrays an inhabitant of the Syrian capital riding his motorbike though a crumbling street while cloths stretched between buildings are meant to protect him against stray bullets. Abd Rabbo’s work shifts the focus from combat scenes to the unexpectedly ordinary and yet perilous routines of Aleppo’s inhabitants. It measures the extent of the city’s destruction, all while highlighting the artist’s visual storytelling abilities. Huda Beydoun took part with four works from her Documenting the Undocumented series, in which she digitally included Mickey’s ears, Minnie’s bows, polka dots, and yellow shoes onto photographs of illegal immigrants taken in Jeddah. Behind the protective veils of the Disney props, Beydoun’s stratified symbolism reveals a courageous yet subtle critique that links pop culture, graffiti, and social issues observed in the artist’s native country. Following its sojourn in the British seaside resort, Banksy announced that all Dismaland’s timber structure and fixtures will be disassembled and shipped to Calais,France, re-purposing his so-called ‘bemusement’ park. There, they will be used to erect shelters for the thousands of refugees that have set up camp in the area surrounding the French port.

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Huda Beydoun, Tagged & Documented from Documenting the Undocumented Series (2013) 100 X 150 cm. C-print Diasec Mounting

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Huda Beydoun, Tagged & Documented from Documenting the Undocumented Series (2013) 100 X 150 cm. C-print Diasec Mounting

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Huda Beydoun, Tagged & Documented from Documenting the Undocumented Series (2013) 100 X 150 cm. C-print Diasec Mounting

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Previous Page: Ammar Abd Rabbo, Into the Wild from Visiting Aleppo series (2014-4) 100 X 150 cm. Archival pigment print on glossy photo paper Tammam Azzam, Syrian Museum - Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss (Freedom Graffiti) (2013) 112 X 112 cm. Archival pigment print on cotton paper

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Larissa Sansour, Nation Estate (Olive Tree) 2012

Supported by

Community Partner



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Photography and New Media from the Arab world

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Photography and New Media from the Arab world


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