In a recent project with the Showroom in London, Lawrence Abu Hamdan presented The Freedom of Speech Itself (2012), an audio documentary that examined the history and application of forensic speech analysis and voice-prints in the United Kingdom’s controversial use of ‘voice analysis’. Accent, always a key signifier in determining an individual’s identity, has now become a means to proscribe and outlaw certain accents when determining the origins and authenticity of asylum seekers’ accents and their places of origin. Drawing on testimony from lawyers, phonetic experts, asylum seekers and Home Office officials, The Freedom of Speech Itself reveals the geo-politics of accents, and how such processes create newer and ill-defined states of exceptionalism when it comes to the rights of refugees. The show also included excerpts from Abu Hamdan’s audio archive and a workshop led by the artist on Harold Pinter’s play Mountain Language, written in 1988. In this conversation, Anthony Downey explores the motivation behind this work with the artist and how it has developed as an investigation into both the legal status of the voice and, perhaps more importantly, the legal implications of silence in the face of immigration laws today. (more…)
View of Home Workspace, 2011. Photograph by Houssam Mchaiemch. Courtesy of Home Workspace, Beirut.
Since its inception in 1994, Ashkal Alwan has become an international platform for the creation and exchange of ideas around artistic practices and educational processes. Having initially committed its resources to introducing the work of artists who were working within, and following on from the events of post-war Lebanon, the organization has since developed residencies, a research hub, public and civic projects, and an extensive education programme. One of these projects, Home Works Forum (HWF), launched in 2002, has since evolved into a pre-eminent platform for research on cultural practices within the region and beyond. Another project, launched last year under the name Home Workspace (HW), is a multipurpose facility dedicated to research, production and education in the context of contemporary artistic practices and debate. Housing production and editing studios, performance spaces, auditoriums, and Lebanon’s first multimedia library for contemporary arts, Home Workspace is dedicated to developing an interdisciplinary approach to arts education in the Arab world. (more…)
Ziad Antar, Cote d’Azure Hotel, Jnah Beirut, Built in 1973, 2007. Courtesy of Selma Feriani Gallery, London.
Born in Saida, Lebanon, in 1978, Ziad Antar studied at the American University in Beirut and the École Supérieure d’études Cinématographiques (ESEC) in Paris. His work in photography and video examines approaches to photography and what processes lie behind the production of images, not to mention their subsequent role as symbols of time passing, and the apparent realities of cities. Although not interested in the final quality of the image, Antar is singularly preoccupied with the exigencies and formal demands of image production and the everyday contexts out of which photographs emerge. What makes an image symbolic, he seems to ask; or, more simply, what makes an image? (more…)
Rabih Mroué, On Three Posters, reflections on a video-performance, 2004, installation detail, Iniva at Rivington Place, London, 2011. Courtesy of the artist and Iniva at Rivington Place, London.
Beirut-based artist, theatre director, actor and writer Rabih Mroué is a central figure in post-Civil War Beirut’s avant-garde scene. Beginning his career in the early 1990s, he has produced performances, video work and installations meditating on and questioning the legacy of Lebanon’s Civil War (1975-1990). A regular collaborator with Lebanese artists Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, Mroué appeared alongside French actress Catherine Deneuve in their 2008 film, Je Veux Voir. His stage works conjoin the worlds of theatre and performance art as well as narrative fact and fiction. (more…)
Long considered a bastion of creativity in the region, Iran is currently experiencing a remarkable artistic revival in the middle of the most challenging of circumstances. Different Sames catalogues this new movement, capturing its brilliance and creative energy. Packed with wonderful images, it is an important and lively compendium of thought provoking essays, historical context and profiles of the country’s leading contemporary artists. Art changes the way we look at the world, and Different Sames is an attempt to explain todays Iranian art movement in this spirit.
The work of Reza Aramesh, on the face of it, may seem to utilize relatively traditional forms of media; namely, sculpture and photography. However, it is important to note that his work has a performative element to it inasmuch as the images we see in both his photographs and the poses of his sculptures have often been restaged by individuals taking their cue – with the artist’s guidance – from newspaper photographs and other visual material.
Ayman Baalbaki, Al Maw3oud, 2011, installation detail, The Future of a Promise, 2011, oil on canvas and printed fabric.
The 54th Venice Biennial was notable for a number of things, not least the number of Arab artists represented there and, in some instances, the cancellation of shows – for a variety of different reasons –associated with the Middle East and North Africa. In a time of on-going revolt in countries throughout the Middle East, it also came as no surprise that media interest in Arab-related shows was unprecedented. Most of our readers will be familiar with The Future of a Promise, a show curated by Ibraaz’s Associate Editor Lina Lazaar; however, in the following interview we invited three more curators involved in the Venice Biennial to discuss both the problems and the potential to be had in curating contemporary Arab visual culture in the current climate. (more…)
The Future of a Promise is the catalogue for the largest pan-Arab exhibition of contemporary art at the 54th Venice Biennale, published by Ibraaz. From Tunisia all the way to Saudi Arabia, this landmark exhibition curated by Lina Lazaar brought together more than 25 recent works and commissions by some of the foremost artists from the Arab world, including, Ziad Antar (Lebanon), Fayçal Baghriche (Algeria), Yto Barrada (France), Taysir Batniji (Palestine), Ayman Yossri Daydban (Palestine), Mounir Fatmi (Morocco), Mona Hatoum (Lebanon) as well as three Abraaj Capital Art Prize Winners, Jananne Al-Ani (Iraq), Kader Attia (France), and Nadia Kaabi-Linke (Tunisia).
The Future of a Promise examines how a promise opens up a horizon of future possibilities, be they aesthetic, political, historical, social or critical. With the events currently unfolding in the Middle East, the question of the future and the promise inherent within culture has assumed an even more acute degree of pertinence. The exhibition enquires into the promise of visual culture in an age that has become increasingly disaffected with politics as a means of social engagement. The artists included in The Future of a Promise seek to engage with a singular issue in the Middle East today: who gets to represent the present-day realities and the horizons to which they aspire?
The catalogue is edited by Ibraaz’s Editor Dr. Anthony Downey and Associate Editor Lina Lazaar and includes essays by the editors, Samir Kassir and Rachida Triki, and an interview with Muslim scholar Mohamed Talbi.
Tunisian protesters demonstrating beneath a poster of Mohamed Bouazizi.
‘There exists a specific sensory experience – the aesthetic – that holds the promise of both a new world of Art and a new life for individuals and the community.'
A slap. An act of violence visited upon an individual that proved to have an afterlife that exceeded anything imaginable in the moment it was both delivered and received. On the morning of 17 December 2010, Mohamed Bouazizi, an unemployed Tunisian residing in Sidi Bouzid, a small town south of Tunis, was attempting to make ends meet by selling vegetables from a cart when, at 10.30am, he was harassed, slapped in the face by a municipal official, had his wares and scales confiscated and, upon complaining to the local governor’s office, was denied a fair hearing to air his grievances. These are the known facts of the matter according to eye-witnesses but it is what happened next that would give rise to an unprecedented revolution throughout the Middle East: at 11.30am, almost one hour after being harassed and slapped in the face, Mohamed Bouazizi purchased a can of gasoline (or possibly paint thinner), doused himself with it in front of the governor’s office, and set himself alight. These are the brute facts of the matter: a slap translates into an unforgiving act of self-immolation and thereafter into a conflagration that has brought with it both unforeseen freedoms and brutal repression in equal measure. (more…)