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Istanbul Book Launch: Dissonant Archives: Contemporary Visual Culture and Contested Narratives in the Middle East

SALT Galata, Istanbul

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Dissonant Archives launched in Istanbul alongside a panel discussion with contributions from Vahap Avşar, Burak Arikan, Meriç Algün Ringborg and Basak Senova.

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Edited by Anthony Downey and published by IB Tauris, Dissonant Archives is the first book to consider the various ways in which contemporary artists from North Africa and the Middle East utilize and disrupt the function of the archive and, in so doing, highlight a systemic and perhaps irrevocable crisis in institutional and state-ordained archiving across the region.

Often viewed as ordered collections of historical documents that record information about people, places and events, this perception of the archive nevertheless obscures a crucial element: although subject to the vagaries of time and history, the archive is primarily concerned with determining the future. This feature of the archive has gained urgency in modern day North Africa and the Middle East, where it has come to the fore as a precarious and performative site of social, historical, theoretical and political contestation.

In addressing these issues, this volume enquires into a number of imminent questions. How, for one, do we understand the speculative forms of archival knowledge that are being produced in contemporary art practices in North Africa and the Middle East? Do these practices foster a nostalgic fetishization for the archive or suggest an ongoing crisis in institutional and state-ordained archiving? And what, moreover, do artistic practices that engage with archives reveal about the contemporary politics of global cultural production?

London Book Launch: Dissonant Archives: Contemporary Visual Culture and Contested Narratives in the Middle East

Rivington Place, London

Thursday, 10 September 2015, 18.00-21.00

The London-based launch was be preceded by a panel discussion with a number of the book’s contributors, including John Akomfrah, Nick Denes, Laura Cugusi, Guy Mannes-Abbott and Zineb Sedira.

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Edited by Anthony Downey and published by IB Tauris, Dissonant Archives is the first book to consider the various ways in which contemporary artists from North Africa and the Middle East utilize and disrupt the function of the archive and, in so doing, highlight a systemic and perhaps irrevocable crisis in institutional and state-ordained archiving across the region.

Often viewed as ordered collections of historical documents that record information about people, places and events, this perception of the archive nevertheless obscures a crucial element: although subject to the vagaries of time and history, the archive is primarily concerned with determining the future. This feature of the archive has gained urgency in modern day North Africa and the Middle East, where it has come to the fore as a precarious and performative site of social, historical, theoretical and political contestation.

In addressing these issues, this volume enquires into a number of imminent questions. How, for one, do we understand the speculative forms of archival knowledge that are being produced in contemporary art practices in North Africa and the Middle East? Do these practices foster a nostalgic fetishization for the archive or suggest an ongoing crisis in institutional and state-ordained archiving? And what, moreover, do artistic practices that engage with archives reveal about the contemporary politics of global cultural production?

 

 

Contingency, Dissonance and Performativity: Critical Archives and Knowledge Production in Contemporary Art

1 May 2015

Cover image

“[T]he question of the archive is not […] a question of the past. It is not the question of a concept dealing with the past that might already be at our disposal or not at our disposal, an archivable concept of the archive. It is a question of the future, the question of the future itself, the question of a response, of a promise and of a responsibility for tomorrow.” Jacques Derrida¹

How do we define the ongoing relationship between contemporary art and the archive? Considering the unprecedented levels of present-day information storage and forms of data circulation, alongside the diversity of contemporary art practices, this question may seem hopelessly open-ended. In an age defined by the application of archival knowledge as an apparatus of social, political, cultural, historical, state and sovereign power, it nevertheless needs to be posed.

Read the full essay.

To purchase a copy of Dissonant Archives please follow this link.

Performative Resonances: Hiwa K in conversation with Anthony Downey and Amal Khalaf

30 July 2015

Hiwa K., The Bell, 2007–2015. Courtesy the artist and Promoteo Gallery.

Hiwa K., The Bell, 2007–2015. Courtesy the artist and Promoteo Gallery.

Hiwa K’s work fundamentally interrogates the position of the artist, formal education systems and the resonances, both literally and aurally, of historical events. In this far ranging conversation, Hiwa reflects upon his most recent work The Bell (2007–2015) and previous performances.  Highlighting how his use of sound – a primal, organic medium of direct engagement and influence – produces performative acts and explaining how he utilizes humour to reinvigorate the friction of reality; and how, as an ‘extellectual’, he is challenging the standardized notions of artistic knowledge production.

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JAOU Tunis 2015: Visual Culture In An Age Of Global Conflict

The National Museum of Bardo, Tunis

28-30 May 2015

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The Kamel Lazaar Foundation staged a two-day conference at the National Museum of Bardo from 28–30 May, 2015. This was the 3rd iteration of the JAOU initiative held there and the first international conference at the Museum since the terrorist attacks on Wednesday, 18 March 2015.

Organized in advance of those attacks, the conference took on an additional pertinence in relation to any investigation into the role that culture performs in the personal, social, public, and political discourses that are unfolding across the region. The indiscriminate attacks have further highlighted the susceptibility of culture in an age of global terror, as have the recent destruction of artifacts in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. The questions that remain demand exploration and considered responses if we are to not only condemn these attacks but also ensure that culture and civil society will prevail in the face of extremism, violence and indiscriminate killing.

JAOU 2015 brought together local and international artists, curators, academics, and cultural practitioners to address these concerns and included, alongside other events, a condition report on visual culture in the Maghreb, an extended series of round table discussions on, respectively, collaborative geographies in an age of global conflict, the future of art institutions in the Middle East, the role of artistic practices in building international relations and local institutions, the use of archives in contemporary art practices, and the historical genealogies that inform performance art in the Middle East.

Here is a link to a video of the presentation of the programme, further information about the details of the event and programme can be found on the Ibraaz site

Images:
1. Roundtable Panel 1
2. Anthony Downey and Sultan Al Qassami
3. Roundtable Panel 2
4. Hiwa K.
5. Payam Sharifi of Slavs and Tatars

Image credit: Ibraaz

Essay: Contingency, Dissonance and Performativity: Critical Archives and Knowledge Production in Contemporary Art

30 May 2015

Cover image

How do we define the ongoing relationship between contemporary art and the archive? Considering the unprecedented levels of present-day information storage and forms of data circulation, alongside the diversity of contemporary art practices, this question may seem hopelessly open-ended. In an age defined by the application of archival knowledge as an apparatus of social, political, cultural, historical, state and sovereign power, it nevertheless needs to be posed. In what follows, I will suggest that we can more fully refine the question and offer a series of conditional answers if we consider, in the first instance, the extent to which contemporary artists retrieve, explore and critique orders of archival knowledge.

Read the full Introductory essay.

Contributors:

Basel Abbas 
and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, John Akomfrah
, Jananne Al-Ani, Meriç Algün Ringborg, Héla Ammar, Burak Arıkan, Ariella Azoulay
, Vahap Avşar, Sussan Babaie
, Alessandro Balteo Yazbeck, Timothy P.A Cooper, Joshua Craze, Laura Cugusi, Ania Dabrowska, Nick Denes, Chad Elias, Media Farzin, Mariam Ghani, Gulf Labor, Tom Holert, Adelita Husni-Bey, Maryam Jafri, Guy Mannes-Abbott, Amina Menia, Shaheen Merali, Naeem Mohaiemen, Mariam Motamedi Fraser, Pad.ma, Lucie Ryzova, Lucien Samaha, Rona Sela and Laila Shereen Sakr (VJ Um Amel).

Dissonant Archives: Contemporary Visual Culture and Contested Narratives in the Middle East launched on 30 May 2015 at JAOU Tunis 2015 at the National Museum of Bardo, Tunis.

To purchase a copy of Dissonant Archives please follow this link.

Dissonant Archives: Contemporary Visual Culture and Contested Narratives in the Middle East

I.B.Tauris, 2015 | EDITOR

Featuring writing, interviews and original art work – reproduced in full-colour – by internationally renowned academics, curators, activists, filmmakers and artists, Dissonant Archives: Contemporary Visual Culture and Contested Narratives in the Middle East asks a crucial series of questions: How do we define the ongoing relationship between contemporary art and the archive? How do we understand the suppositional forms of knowledge that are being produced in contemporary art practices in North Africa and the Middle East? Do these practices foster a nostalgic fetishization for the archive or suggest an ongoing crisis in institutional and state-ordained archiving? And what, moreover, do artistic practices that engage with archives reveal about the politics of global cultural production?

Emerging throughout this volume as a troubled, dissonant and performative space, the archive is central to a process whereby contemporary artists produce their own critical and highly speculative visions of the future. In exploring and producing archives, be they alternative, interrogative, or fictional, these artists are not simply questioning the authenticity, authority or authorship of the archive; rather, they are unlocking its regenerative, radical potential.

Contributors:

Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, John Akomfrah, Jananne Al-Ani, Meriç Algün Ringborg, Héla Ammar, Burak Arıkan, Ariella Azoulay, Vahap Avşar, Sussan Babaie, Alessandro Balteo Yazbeck, Timothy P.A Cooper, Joshua Craze, Laura Cugusi, Ania Dabrowska, Nick Denes, Chad Elias, Media Farzin, Mariam Ghani, Gulf Labor, Tom Holert, Adelita Husni-Bey, Maryam Jafri, Guy Mannes-Abbott, Amina Menia, Shaheen Merali, Naeem Mohaiemen, Mariam Motamedi Fraser, Pad.ma, Lucie Ryzova, Lucien Samaha, Rona Sela and Laila Shereen Sakr (VJ Um Amel).

Dissonant Archives: Contemporary Visual Culture and Contested Narratives in the Middle East launches on 30 May 2015 at JAOU Tunis 2015 at the National Museum of Bardo, Tunis.

Read the Introduction

To purchase a copy of Dissonant Archives please follow this link.

ISBN 978-1-784-53-4110


Click on links below for selected reviews:

AAP Review

The Brooklyn Rail

Camera Austria

The American Archivist

Hyperallergic

Critique D’Art

BlouinARTINFO

Essay: Exemplary subjects: Camps and the politics of representation*

15 November 2013

 Episode 1, Renzo Martens

Film still from Episode 1, Renzo Martens (2003), installation at FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology), Liverpool as part of My War (2010). Images courtesy of FACT.

Today, we are in an intervallic period in which the great majority of people do not have a name. The only name available is ‘excluded’, which is the name of those who have no name.[1]

Alain Badiou, ‘The Caesura of Nihilism’

And so I must carry with me, through the course
Of pale imaginings that leave no trace,
This broken, idle mill-wheel, and the force
Of circumstance that still protects the place.[2]

J H Prynne, ‘Force of Circumstance’

Lives lived on the margins of social, political, cultural, economic and geographical borders are lives half lived. Denied access to legal, economic and political redress, these lives exist in a limbo-like state that is largely preoccupied with acquiring and sustaining the bare essentials of life. The refugee, the political prisoner, the disappeared, the ‘ghost detainee’, the victim of torture, the dispossessed, the silenced, all have been excluded, to different degrees, from the fraternity of the social sphere, appeal to the safety net of the nation state, and recourse to international law. They have been out-lawed, so to speak: placed beyond recourse to law and yet still occupying a more often than-not precarious relationship to the law. Although there is a significant degree of familiarity to be found in these sentiments, there is an increasingly notable move both in the political sciences and in cultural studies to view such subject positions not as the exception to modernity but its exemplification. Which brings us to a far more radical proposal: what if the fact of discrimination, in all its injustice and strategic forms of exclusion, is the point at which we fi nd not so much an imperfect modern subject — a subject existing in a ‘sub-modern’ phase that has yet to realize its full potential — as we do the sine qua non of modernity; its prerequisite as opposed to anomalous subject? What if the refugee, the political prisoner, the disappeared, the victim of torture, the ‘ghost detainee’, and the dispossessed are not only constitutive of modernity but its emblematic if not exemplary subjects? (more…)

Book Launch: Mirrors for Princes: Both Sides of the Tongue, Slavs and Tatars

Art Dubai

Thursday, 19 March 2015, 15.00-16.00

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Payam Sharifi (Slavs and Tatars) in conversation with Anthony Downey, Art Dubai, 19 March, 2015

Published to coincide with the NYUAD Art Gallery presenting a major exhibition of the art collective Slavs and Tatars, Mirrors for Princes: Both Sides of the Tongue will be available as of 19 March. The exhibition will be on view February 28 through May 30, 2015 and is Slavs and Tatars’ most ambitious, immersive installation to date, with new work occupying the entire 650 square meter (7,000-square-foot) exhibition space.

The specially-commissioned book Mirrors for Princes: Both Sides of the Tongue launches on Thursday 19 March 15.00-16.00 at Art Dubai. Published by JRP|Ringier, the book has been commissioned by NYUAD Art Gallery and is edited by Anthony Downey/Ibraaz Publishing. A hybrid of scholarly research and original artworks, Mirrors for Princes: Both Sides of the Tongue features essays specially commissioned on the research topic, as well as an interview with the artists by Downey and Beatrix Ruf.

Mirrors for Princes: Slavs and Tatars

NYU Press, 2015 | EDITOR

A form of political writing often called advice literature shared by Christian and Muslim lands, during the Middle Ages, mirrors for princes attempted to elevate statecraft (dawla) to the same level as faith/religion (din). These guides for future rulers- Machiavelli’s The Prince being a widely known example- addressed the delicate balance between seclusion and society, spirit and state, echoes of which we continue to find in the US, Europe and the Middle East several centuries later.

Today, we suffer from the very opposite: there’s no shortage of political commentary but a notable lack of intelligent, eloquent discourse on the role of faith and the immaterial as a valuable agent in society or public life.

Mirrors for Princes brings together the writing of pre-eminent scholars and commentators using the genre of medieval advice literature as a starting point to discuss contemporary politics in Turkey, Indian television dramas, fate, fortune and governance, and advice for female nobility.

The illustrated essays are accompanied by an interview with Slavs and Tatars.

Mirrors for Princes is edited by Anthony Downey, Editor-in-Chief of Ibraaz, and is published on the occasion of Slavs and Tatars’ exhibition at NYU Abu Dhabi.

ISBN 978-3-03764-407-2


Click on links below for selected reviews:

AAP Review

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