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Book Publication: Future Imperfect: Contemporary Art Practices and Cultural Institutions in the Middle East (Sternberg Press, 9 December, 2016)

Sternberg Press, 2016 | Editor

To read Anthony’s introductory essay “Future Imperfect: Critical Propositions and Institutional Realities in the Middle East”, click here

future-imperfect Future Imperfect: Contemporary Art Practices and Cultural Institutions in the Middle East critically examines the role played by cultural institutions in producing present-day and future contexts for the production, dissemination and reception of contemporary art in the Middle East and North Africa. It offers critical contexts for a discussion that has become increasingly urgent in recent years – the role of culture in a time of conflict and globalization – and an in-depth critique of the historical state of cultural institutions in an age of political upheaval, social unrest, exuberant cultural activity, ascendant neoliberal forms of privatization, social activism, and regional uncertainty.

Organised around three key areas, Future Imperfect draws attention to the ongoing demands and antagonisms that have affected cultural production across the region, both in historical and more recent post-revolutionary contexts. In doing so, it offers an in-depth discussion of how cultural producers have developed alternative institutional models to negotiate the constraints placed upon their practices. How cultural institutions operate within the conditions of a global cultural economy, and alongside the often conflicting demands they place on cultural production in the region, is likewise an over-arching point of reference throughout this volume.

While the politics of contemporary cultural production and institutional practices in the Middle East can tell us a great deal about local and regional concerns, one of the cornerstone ambitions of this volume is to enquire into what they can also impart about the politics of global cultural production. This involves exploring the multiple ways in which contemporary art practices are being reduced, willingly or otherwise, to the logic of global capital. What, in sum, is needed in terms of infrastructure for cultural production today, and how, crucially, can we speculatively propose new infrastructures and institutions in the context of present-day realities?

Future Imperfect contains essays, interviews, and projects from contributors including Monira Al Qadiri, Hoor Al-Qasimi, Anahi Alviso-Marino, AMBS Architects, Stephanie Bailey, Eray Çaylı, Rachel Dedman, Elizabeth Derderian, Anthony Downey, Karen Exell, Reema Salha Fadda, Wafa Gabsi, Hadia Gana, Adalet R. Garmiany, Baha Jubeh, Suhair Jubeh, Amal Khalaf, Kamel Lazaar, Jens Maier-Rothe, Guy Mannes-Abbott, Doreen Mende, Lea Morin, Jack Persekian, Rijin Sahakian, Gregory Sholette, Tom Snow, Ania Szremski, Christine Tohme, Toleen Touq, Williams Wells, Ala Younis and Yasmine Zidane.

The publication is accompanied by a collection of special projects on the Ibraaz website from Leila Al-Shami, Wided Rihana Khadraoui, Lois Stonock, Nile Sunset Annex, Alia Rayyan and Husam Al-Sarray.

Other titles in the Visual Culture in the Middle East series, edited by Anthony Downey, include Dissonant Archives: Contemporary Visual Culture and Contested Narratives in the Middle East (2015); and Uncommon Grounds: New Media and Critical Practices in North Africa and the Middle East (2014).

The production of this book was accomplished through the generous support of the Kamel Lazaar Foundation.

 

Buy the book here

ISBN 978-3-95679-246-5


Click on the links below for selected reviews:

Tohu Magazine

Journal of Arabian Studies

 

 

 

 

Essay: “Scopic Reflections: Incoming and the Technology of Exceptionalism” (February, 2017)

February 2017

Richard Mosse In Conversation with Anthony Downey

From the opening of Richard Mosse’s Incoming (2016), it is evident that we are looking at something disturbingly vivid. Abstract images, grounded in a resounding radar-like echo, give way to the supersonic pitch of a strident, purposeful engine. A tenebrous image of a fighter jet strafing a town with laser-like intensity, its nose incandescent with heat as it fires round after round of needle-like missiles, appears almost languid and disconcertingly graceful in its livid ambit.

To read full essay, please click here

To listen to Richard Mosse in conversation with Anthony Downey, Barbican Centre, 2017, please click here.

To purchase a copy of Richard Mosse, click here.

Paper: Instrumental Visions: Neoliberalism, Institutions and Cultural Policy in the Middle East, Westminster University, 21 April, 2017

21 April 2017

Museum of Islamic Arts, Doha, Qatar. Copyright: Andrea Seemann/Shutterstock

Museum of Islamic Arts, Doha, Qatar. Copyright: Andrea Seemann/Shutterstock

 

For more information about the conference click here

Paper Précis

Instrumental Visions: Neoliberalism, Cultural Institutions and Cultural Policy in the Middle East

Neoliberalism, in conjunction with the policies that enable its ascendancy, co-opts cultural institutions into the realm of a decidedly politicized, and ultimately privatized, ethic of production, exchange, and consumption. Increasingly, and nowhere more so than in an age of deregulation, real estate speculation, cultural expansionism, labour exploitation, financial speculation, and capital accumulation, institutions in the Middle East have become defined by these policies. The manifestation of a neoliberal ethos can be readily seen, to take but some of the more pertinent examples, in the instrumentalist models of promotion, marketing, merchandising, entrepreneurship, sponsorship, community-based programmes, educational courses, and corporate expansionism that underwrite these institutions. In the UAE, specifically, but also in Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, and Turkey, cultural policy seems preoccupied with statist forms of centralised management that have, moreover, largely resulted in the building of sepulchral testaments to the expansionist cultural policies of western institutions.

The ongoing manifestation of so-called “mega-museums”, alongside government-prescribed forms of “soft power” and the privatization of culture, have not only affected the future evolution of cultural institutions in the Middle East but have also predetermined what forms cultural production can assume under the rationalizing ethos of institutionalized neoliberalism. These activities foreground a fundamental concern: does neoliberalism, in these contexts, predicate cultural forms that answer to (rather than oppose) the political and economic agendas that underwrite cultural policies in the region? If we accept that neoliberalism invariably reduces institutions and cultural policies to the divisive imperatives of economic reasoning and political didacticism, can art as a practice critically respond to and inform the development of cultural policy in the region? Who, moreover, benefits from the work of art in the region? What, moreover, can the neoliberal politics of cultural production and cultural policy in the region tell us about the politics of global cultural policies regarding arts institutions and art practice in the early part of the 21st century?

Book Publication: “Future Imperfect: Critical Propositions and Institutional Realities in the Middle East” (December, 2016)

December 2016

Future Imperfect

There is a momentous process happening across the Middle East and North Africa today. It is an insidious development, partly surreptitious but mostly blatant in its operations. It is an evolving phenomenon that affects numerous people and communities, albeit to different degrees, and yet remains, with a few exceptions, unobserved. This development, if allowed ascendancy, will present an insurmountable obstacle to social, political, economic and cultural progress across the region. It will also hinder and obstruct relations between individuals and within communities for generations to come.

Future Imperfect: Contemporary Art Practices and Cultural Institutions in the Middle East launched on 22 February 2017 at Delfina Foundation, London.

Read the full essay and introduction.

To read the introduction to Volume 01 in this series, Uncommon Grounds: New Media and Critical Practices in the Middle East, see here.

To read the introduction to Volume 02 in this series, Dissonant Archives: Culture and Contested Narratives in the Middle East, see here.

To purchase a copy of Future Imperfect please follow this link.

Interview with Anthony Downey, Di’van Journal, December, 2016

December 2016

Future Imperfect

 

Future Imperfect: Focus on Visual Culture in the Middle East

ALAN CRUICKSHANK: Ibraaz launched its inaugural Platform 001 in June 2011, in response to regional developments across North Africa and the Middle East, the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ and its effects upon the visual culture of the region. In your Ibraaz 5th year anniversary editorial, ‘Return to the Former Middle East’,1 you stated that this was premised by a “relatively straightforward question: what do we need to know about the MENA region today?” The objective was to understand what was happening to art practices under certain political, social, economic, and cultural conditions and how this relates to global developments. And given that these conditions of unrest, as real economic, social, historical and political facts of life, you further considered what the politics of contemporary cultural production in the Middle East can tell us about the politics of global cultural production…

To read the full interview click here

Book Launch: Don’t Shrink Me to the Size of a Bullet: The Works of Hiwa K, edited by Anthony Downey, KW (Berlin), 31 May, and Documenta 14 (Kassel), 11 June, 2017

May/June 2017

Join Anthony Downey, Hiwa K, and Adam Szymczyk to celebrate the publication of the first monograph on the artist’s work. The event is followed by a book signing with the artist.

 

1-HiwaK_FrontCover

 

KW (Berlin) Launch details here

Documenta 14 (Kassel) Launch details here

To read full essay, see link to essay.

Chair: “Representing the Artist”, Survival of the Artist, a one-day symposium at the British Museum, 2 July, 2017

2 July 2017

survival-of-the-artist

The British Museum
BP Lecture Theatre
10am-5.30pm

More information here

The Mosaic Rooms, in association with Shubbak Festival 2017, presents Survival of the Artist, a one day conference of talks and performance which asks how art can survive and respond in times of civil and political conflict.

Artists, curators, collectors, cultural commentators and institutions in the region are at increasing risk. We hear from individuals, institutions and commentators about these challenges and how some artists and art spaces endure and continue to thrive in the most
challenging conditions. From Palmyra to Mosul, the destruction of ancient sites through armed violence has been widely reported in the media; the day ends with artists who are responding to these threats to cultural heritage.

The conference is divided into three sessions, looking at the themes of censorship, artists at risk and heritage destruction. Sessions will include presentations from each of the participants, panel discussions and audience Q&As.

A special art performance will take place in the lecture theatre for all conference ticket holders. The performance is repeated three times during the day. Delegates will be assigned a time slot upon purchasing tickets.

Talk: The Future of an Anachronism, Khalil Sakakini Cultural Centre, Ramallah, Palestine, 16 Nov 2016

16 November 2016

Paul Klee, Joana Hadithomas, Kalil Jorige

London (2016), Paul Klee (1920), Joana Hadjithomas and Kalil Joreige (1997-2006); photos from the Khalil Sakakini Cultural Centre

 

For information about this event click here

Khalil Sakakini Cultural Centre (as part of the Art Writing Workshop) invites you to a seminar with Anthony Downey in discussion with Tina Sherwell at Khalil Sakakini Cultural Centre on Wednesday 16/11/2016 at 17:00. Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center مركز خليل السكاكيني الثقافي Khalil Sakakini Str. Al Masyoon Ramallah Palestine, 0970 Ramallah

The Future of an Anachronism: Contemporary Art Practices and the Precarious Image

Beginning with Oktober 18, 1977 (1988), a work in which Gerhard Richter grappled with the historical legacy of the Baader-Meinhof group, this lecture explores how artists employ anachronism and displacement to negotiate the material and conceptual precariousness associated with civil conflict, political upheaval, and acts of terror. In negotiating, through anachronistic forms, the politics and aesthetics of representing conflict and violence, contemporary art can often produce alternative forms of knowledge that are, in turn, based upon the precarious nature of representation itself: the manner, that is, in which the means of producing images, be they in the form of painting, sculpture, video, film or performance, can productively employ an aesthetic that is intimately associated with self-effacement, elision, destruction, ambivalence, withdrawal, abstraction, obfuscation, equivocation and evasiveness.

John Akomfrah in Conversation with Anthony Downey, 16 January 2016

16 January 2016

John Akomfrah in Conversation with Anthony Downey from Arnolfini on Vimeo.

To coincide with the UK premiere of John Akomfrah’s acclaimed video installation Vertigo Sea, the artist will be in conversation with academic, editor and writer, Anthony Downey.

A unique opportunity to hear artist John Akomfrah talk about his work and the exhibition at Arnolfini.
John Akomfrah is an artist and filmmaker whose works are characterised by their investigations into personal and collective histories and memory, cultural, ethnic and personal identity, post-colonialism and temporality. Importantly, his focus is most often on giving voice to the experience of the African diaspora in Europe and the USA.John Akomfrah: Vertigo Sea

A founding member of the influential Black Audio Film Collective, his work has been shown in museums and exhibitions around the world including the Liverpool Biennial; Documenta 11, Centre Pompidou, the Serpentine Gallery; Tate; and Southbank Centre, and MoMA, New York. A major retrospective of Akomfrah’s gallery-based work with the Black Audio Film Collective premiered at FACT, Liverpool and Arnolfini, Bristol in 2007. His films have been included in international film festivals such as Cannes, Toronto, Sundance, amongst others. He has recently been shortlisted for the Artes Mundi 7 prize.

Anthony Downey is an academic, editor and writer. Recent and upcoming publications include Dissonant Archives: Contemporary Visual Culture and Contested Narratives in the Middle East (I.B. Tauris, 2015); Art and Politics Now (Thames and Hudson, 2014); Uncommon Grounds: New Media and Critical Practice in North Africa and the Middle East (I.B. Tauris, 2014);Slavs and Tatars: Mirrors for Princes (JRP Ringier, 2015); and The Future of a Promise: Contemporary Art from the Arab World (Ibraaz Publishing, 2011).

Listen: Full audio from this talk is available on sound cloud: soundcloud.com/arnolfiniarts/john-akomfrah-in-conversation-vertigo-sea


Reference:

Akomfrah, John. “John Akomfrah in Conversation with Anthony Downey”, Interview by Anthony Downey. Arnolfini Arts, Bristol.16 January 2016.

Larissa Sansour in Conversation with Anthony Downey, London, 6 July 2016

6 July 2016Larissa Sansour

Larissa Sansour will discuss the works featured in the exhibition ‘In the Future They Ate from the Finest Porcelain‘ with academic, editor and writer Anthony Downey.

In this ambitious show, Jerusalem-born Sansour creates a vision of a futuristic world where the excavation of the past is a battleground. The artist offers a poetic and charged reflection on the politicisation of archaeology where the material past is used as a tool to justify territorial claims and assert historic entitlement. This is in particular reference to Israel/Palestine but is also reflective of other contested spaces and histories.

The discussion will offer compelling insight into Sansour’s practice which often explores the crossover between the fictional and the factual, interrogating personal and political issues.

For more information and to RSVP click here