Language Arts (17 March – April 17, 2014) at The Third Line, Dubai, was Slavs and Tatars’ first solo exhibition in the Middle East. In this interview, Ibraaz Editor-in-Chief Anthony Downey talks to Slavs and Tatars about the group’s interest in language, its history and humour, and the central role that language plays in the research, development and manifestation of their artwork. (more…)
Lamia Joreige, Under-Writing Beirut – Mathaf (2013). Mixed-media installation, commissioned by the Sharjah Art Foundation. View of exhibition at Art Factum Gallery, Beirut. Image courtesy of Art Factum Gallery.
On her recent project, Under-Writing Beirut – Mathaf (2013), Lamia Joreige wrote: ‘When excavating specific instances or locations, whether from the past, present, or projected future, intertemporal continuities and ruptures surface via what persists, what has vanished, and the promise of knowing and imagining inherent in both.’ Mathaf, the Arabic word for museum, Joreige continues, ‘is a historically significant area that is home to the National Museum of Beirut.’ It is also the neighbourhood where Joreige lives, which explains why the artists chose to conduct an archaeology of sorts that explored the many layers and foundations that constitutes this museum’s form, content and function, which in turn reflect on the history of Beirut – or Beyrouthe – itself. This underwriting is an approach Joreige has taken in many of her projects. Beirut, Autopsy of a City (2010), is an installation that ‘proposes possible reconciliations between the task of the archaeologist and that of the poet, between modern images and ancient texts.’ As Joreige writes, ‘In the middle of tales of conquest and defeat that shaped (and disfigured) Beirut, one wanders amidst narratives that point out to the impossibility of constructing a grand history.’ In this interview, Joreige discusses the logic behind her investigations. (more…)
Akram Zaatari, 28 Nights and a Poem (detail), 2006. Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Dane Gallery.
Photographs are affected by their means of production, reproduction and distribution. The social and political economy in which they circulate, in turn, imbricates the very fabric and content of a photograph. In this extensive conversation with Akram Zaatari, these implications are explored and the ramifications for photography as an archival form are questioned. A member and co-founder of the Arab Image Foundation (AIF), a non-profit organization established in Beirut in 1997, Zaatari discusses the idea that the archival impulse has decontextualized original images by taking them out of their social and political economy, viewing the layers added to images through wear and tear as additions of meaning in the life of a photograph. The conflicting views of preservation versus archaeological, artistic, or anthropological imperatives are also discussed, within a dialogue that considers the changing nature of photography as a practice across the region and beyond. (more…)
Michael Rakowitz, Detail of The Breakup, 2012. Original Sgt.Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover (1967) magazine color printouts 12 x 12 inches, 30.5 x 30.5 cm. Courtesy the artist and Lombard Freid Gallery
Michael Rakowitz is an Iraqi-American conceptual artist whose work is influenced by his cultural origins, not so much in terms of identity, but as a means through which to engage issues that affect cultural production and the loss of culture. An artist with a concern for the economies of exchange that inform social, political and historical events, it is in the contested realm of human experience that Rakowitz situates his practice. However, rather than offering solutions to forms of social inequality and historical injustice, or attempting to ameliorate social and cultural loss, Rakowitz’s practice is more about agitation and the antagonistic counter-narratives that continue to re-emerge in any accepted version of events. (more…)
Tarek Al-Ghoussein Untitled 11, from C Series, 2007 Digital Print, 21 5/8 x 29 1/2 inches (55 x 75 cm). Edition of 6. Courtesy of The Third Line and Tarek Al-Ghoussein
Tarek Al-Ghoussein is an artist based in the UAE. His work has appeared in international exhibitions throughout Europe, the United States and the Middle East. His work is also featured in several anthologies and a monograph on his work In Absentia was published by Page One and The Third Line in 2009. Al–Ghoussein’s work is in permanent collections at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Royal Museum of Photography in Copenhagen, Darat Al–Funun in Amman and Mathaf Museum in Qatar. In this interview for Ibraaz, the artist explores the development of his work and how, through the form and technique of the self-portrait, it engages with preconceptions of what is meant by ‘Arabness’ in the eyes of both Arabs and non-Arabs alike. Al-Ghoussein also addresses what he considers to be a failure of sorts in his early photojournalist work and how his later body of photographs attempts to unpack what is meant by belonging and identity in a region where such ideals are not only beset by glib media representations but are also underwritten by the popular stereotypes of Arabness that circulate throughout the Middle East and beyond. (more…)
Roy Samaha, Untitled For Several Reasons, 2002-2003, video. Courtesy of the artist.
Roy Samaha is a Lebanese artist based in Beirut. Practicing with video and photography since 2002, he has exhibited in numerous film and contemporary art festivals. Between 1998 and 2008, he worked in the television industry as part of his field research on electronic media. He got his Master’s degree in film studies at USEK, Lebanon. Currently, he is giving seminars on alternative video practices in different universities in Beirut. In this conversation with Anthony Downey, he talks about the various influences on his work, including William Burroughs, and how technology affects not only how we perceive the world but changes modes of perception over time. In visually dense videos, which draw on multiple sources of imagery, Samaha explores the effect of technology upon his own perceptions of reality and what an excess of communication can do to how we understand events such as those in Tahrir Square during the revolution in Egypt, not to mention the long-term effects of video technology in determining how we perceive the world.
Having worked as a lawyer for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Tom Bogaert has managed to garner a degree of access to communities throughout the Middle East that is often difficult to acquire. In his work with refugees he has witnessed first-hand the geo-politics of the region and since 2004, has channelled that knowledge into his practice as an artist. Speaking here to Anthony Downey, he explores the research processes that lead up to producing work and the sound project he has developed exclusively for Ibraaz. The latter involves sounds from cities in countries as diverse as Jordan, Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria, and Ibraaz is pleased to showcase it here. Elsewhere in this conversation, Bogaert explores the backdrop to his multi-media project Syria, which was produced this year; his ongoing ideas for a mausoleum for Bashar Al Assad; the overt aestheticisation of warfare and combat in the region; and the issue of whose interests are served by seemingly innocuous terms such as ‘Facebook Revolution’ and ‘walking through walls’, the latter phrase having been deployed by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) in their strategising of combat situations in cities such as Nablus. (more…)
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…)