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Curatorial Conundrums – Arab Representation at the 54th Venice Biennale: A roundtable discussion

14 August 2011

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…)

Beyond the Former Middle East: Aesthetics, Civil Society, and the Politics of Representation

01 June 2011

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.'[1]

–Jacques Rancière

I
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…)

Islam in its International Context: Comparative Perspectives

Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011 | CONTRIBUTOR

islam in its international contextChanging attitudes to Islam profoundly influence political cultures and national identities, as well as policies regarding immigration, security and multiculturalism. Given that the majority of relevant scholarly works have either adopted monocultural perspectives, or approached Islam in its general, non nation-specific dimension, the need for in-depth, multi-nation studies is urgent. Islam itself, and responses to its rise, are becoming increasingly internationalised. It is therefore important that analyses of Islam-related phenomena are sensitive to the particular cultures in which they are encountered. This volume does precisely that. Contributions, some explicitly comparative, others implicitly so, cover perspectives from across Europe, the USA and the Middle East, along with new treatments of the rich diversity to be found in Islamic art, and discussions of inter-faith exchanges. They also represent a range of disciplinary approaches. Among the many issues addressed are: the challenges posed by the rise of Muslim radicalism to multicultural societies; various media treatments of the War on Terror ; the national specificities of Islamophobic xenophobia; contemporary visual arts in Islamic societies; differing attitudes to the translation of religious texts. The authors include authoritative, international experts, balanced by promising, younger scholars.

Chapter authored:The Burden of Representation: Contemporary Visual Arts in the Middle East.

To purchase a copy of Islam in its International Context: Comparative Perspectives please follow this link.