Mijn hersenspinsels en gedachtekronkels

Exhibition I.M. Ziad Haider- زياد حيدر

Ziad met laatste werk

IM Ziad Haider

Gallery Out in the Field

Warmondstraat 197, Amsterdam

27/5- 27/6/2018
http://www.art-gallery-outinthefied.com

زياد حيدر

Here the Original Dutch version

The abstract works of Ziad Haider (1954, Al-Amara, Iraq-2006 Amsterdam, the Netherlands) can be interpreted as deep reflections on his own turbulent biography, but always indirect, on a highly sublimized level. Born in Iraq and lived through a period of war and imprisonment, and after he found his destiny in the Netherlands, he left an impressive oeuvre.

Ziad Haider studied in the first half of the seventies at the Baghdad Institute of Fine Arts. In the two decades before a flourishing local and original Iraqi art scene was created. From the fifties till the seventies Iraq was one of the leading countries in the Arab world in the field of modern art and culture. Artists like Jewad Selim, Shakir Hassan al-Said and Mahmud Sabri shaped their own version of international modernism. Although these artists were educated abroad (mainly in Europe), after returned to Iraq they founded an art movement which was both rooted in the local traditions of Iraq as fully connected with the international developments in modernist art. They created a strong and steady basis for an Iraqi modern art, unless how much the Iraqi modern art movement would suffer from during the following decades of oppression, war and occupation, so much that it mainly would find its destiny in exile.

The turning-point came during the time Ziad Haider was studying at the academy. Artists who were a member of the ruling Ba’th party- or willing to become one- were promised an even international career with many possibilities to exhibit, as long as they were willing to express their loyalty to the regime, or even sometimes participate in propaganda-projects, like monuments, or portraits and statues of Saddam Husayn. Ziad Haider, who never joined the Ba’th party, was sent into the army.

In 1980 the Iraqi regime launched the long and destructive war with Iran. Many young Iraqis were sent into the army to fight at the frontline. This also happened to Ziad Haider. The Iraq/Iran war was a destructive trench war in which finally one million Iraqis (and also one million Iranians) died. The years of war meant a long interruption in Ziad Haider’s career and live as an artist. It turned out much more dramatic for him, when he was back in Baghdad for a short period at home. He was arrested after he peed on a portrait of Saddam Husayn. Ziad Haider was sent to Abu Ghraib Prison, where he stayed for five years (1986-1990) probably the darkest period of his life. After his time in prison he was sent away to the front again, this time in a new war: the occupation of Kuwait and the following American attack on Iraq.

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After the Intifada of 1991, the massive uprising against the Iraqi regime in the aftermath of the Gulf War, which was violently supressed, Ziad Haider fled Iraq, like many others. After a period of five years in Syria and Jordan he was recognized by the UN as a refugee and was invited to live in the Netherlands, which became his new homeland. With a few paintings and drawings, he arrived 1997 in Amersfoort. After Amersfoort he lived for short a while in Almere and finally in Amsterdam. In first instance it was not simple to start all over again as an artist in his new country. Beside he worked further in his personal style he started to draw portraits in the streets of Amsterdam (the Leidse Plein and the Rembrandtplein). Later he organised, together with the Dutch artist Paula Vermeulen he met during this time and became his partner, several courses in drawing and painting in their common studio. Ziad Haider was very productive in this period and created many different works in different styles. Giving courses in figurative drawing and painting and drawing portraits was for him very important. As he told in a Dutch television documentary on five Iraqi artists in the Netherlands (2004, see here) these activities and the positive interaction with people were for him the best tools to “drive away his nightmares”.

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In his abstract works, always the main part of his artistic production, he sought the confrontation with the demons from the past. Although abstract there are often some recognisable elements, which are returning in several works during the years. A returning motive is the representation of his feet. This refers to several events from his own life. As a soldier Ziad had to march for days. When he was released from prison, together with some other prisoners, he was the only one who, although heavily tortured on his feet, who was able to stand up and walk. And his feet brought him further, on his long journey into exile, till he finally found a safe place to live and work.

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The motive of his bare feet is not the only figurative element in his work. In many of his paintings and drawings there are some more or less anthropomorphic elements, often molten together with structures with the appearance of liquid metal. The theme of man and machine plays an important role in the expressive works of Ziad. Of course this is close connected to his own biography and history of war and imprisonment.

In some of his works one can vividly experience a sense of a claustrophobic space, referring to his time spending in the trenches during the war, the interior of the tank and- later- the prison-cell. But all these experiences went through a process of transformation, of abstraction and translated in the language of art. And this art is, unless the underlying struggle, very lyrical in its expression.

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The also in the Netherlands living Iraqi journalist, poet and critic Karim al-Najar wrote about Ziad Haider: “For a very long time the artist, Ziad Haider, has been living in solitude, prison and rebellion. On this basis, the foregoing works constitute his open protest against the decline, triviality and prominence of half-witted personalities as well as their accession of the authority of art and culture in Iraq for more than two decades. Here we could touch the fruits of the artist’s liberty and its reflection on his works. For Ziad Haider has been able to achieve works showing his artistic talent and high professionalism within a relatively short time. We see him at the present time liberated from his dark, heavy nightmares rapidly into their embodiment through colour and musical symmetry with the different situations. It indeed counts as a visual and aesthetic view of the drama of life as well as man’s permanent question, away from directness, conventionality and false slogans”.

Although he opposed another American war against Iraq, with an uncertain outcome for its people, the end of the Ba’athist regime made it possible to visit his home country after many years of exile. In the autumn of 2003 he visited Iraq for the first time since his long absence in exile. His visit to iraq made a great impression and also influenced his work after. In the last series of paintings he made his use of colours changed dramatically. The explosive use of intense shades of red were replaced for a use of sober browns and greys. The dynamic compositions were changed in regular constructed forms. Also these works, from his last series, are represented on this exhibition.

Ziad meant a lot for many, as an artist, but also as a human being and a friend. Within the community of exiled Iraqi artists in the Netherlands he played a very important role. In 2004 he initiated the Iraqi cultural manifestation in Amsterdam, with the title “I cross the Arch of Darkness”, a quote from a poem by his friend, the also in the Netherlands living Iraqi poet Salah Hassan ( ﺃﻋﺒﺭﻗﻮﺲ ﻟﻟﻆﻻﻢ  ﺃﻮﻤﻰﻋ ﻟﻟﻧﻬﺎﺭ ﺑﻌﻛﺎﺰﻱ  ,  from his collected poems, published under the title “A rebel with a broken compass”, 1997). In this festival visual artists, poets, musicians and actors came together to show the variety and richness of the Iraqi cultual life in exile to a Dutch audience.

During the years Ziad and Paula lived at the Rozengracht in the old centre of Amsterdam, there home was a regular meetingpoint of many exiled Iraqi artists, poets, writers, musicians, actors, journalists and intellectuals. Many will cherish their sweet memories of the sometimes notorious gatherings till deep in the night. His sudden death in 2006 was a great loss for many of us.

The works of Ziad are still here and they deserve to be exhibited (now his second exhibition after he passed away). With this exhibition we celebrate Ziad Haider what he meant as an artist and as a human being.

Floris Schreve

Amsterdam, 2018

Gallery Out in the Field

On this blog (mainly in Dutch):

Tentoonstelling Ziad Haider (Diversity and Art)

Iraakse kunstenaars in ballingschap

Modern and contemporary art of the Middle East and North Africa (English)

See also this In Memoriam of Ziad’s friend, the artcritic  Amer Fatuhi

The opening:

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Tentoonstelling IM Ziad Haider- زياد حيدر

Ziad met laatste werk

IM Ziad Haider

Gallery Out in the Field

Warmondstraat 197, Amsterdam

27/5- 27/6/2018

http://www.art-gallery-outinthefied.com

 

زياد حيدر

Here the English version

Het abstracte werk van Ziad Haider (al-Amara, Irak, 1954-Amsterdam 2006) kan worden gezien als een diep doorleefde reflectie op zijn roerige levensgeschiedenis, zij het altijd in gesublimeerde vorm. Afkomstig uit Irak en, na een periode van oorlog en gevangenschap, uitgeweken naar Nederland, heeft hij, in de jaren dat hij werkzaam in Nederlandse ballingschap was, een groot aantal indrukwekkende werken nagelaten.

Ziad Haider studeerde begin jaren zeventig aan de kunstacademie in Bagdad.
In de twee decennia daarvoor was er in Irak een bloeiende modernistische kunstscene ontstaan. Vanaf de jaren vijftig tot in de jaren zeventig was Irak een van de meest toonaangevende landen op het gebied van moderne kunst en cultuur in de Arabische wereld. Iraakse kunstenaars als Jewad Selim, Shakir Hassan al-Said en Mahmud Sabri creëerden hun eigen versie van het internationale modernisme. Hoewel deze kunstenaars elders (vooral in Europa) waren opgeleid, trachtten zij, teruggekeerd naar hun geboorteland, een moderne kunstscene op te zetten, die zowel geworteld was in de lokale traditie, als aansloot bij de internationale ontwikkelingen. Zij creëerden hiermee een stevige basis voor een heel eigen Iraakse moderne kunsttraditie, hoezeer deze ook onder druk kwam te staan in de daaropvolgende decennia, vol met onderdrukking, oorlog en bezetting, waardoor vele Iraakse kunstenaars noodgedwongen hun werk in ballingschap moesten voortzetten.

In de tijd dat Ziad Haider studeerde kwam net het kantelpunt. Kunstenaars die lid van de regerende Ba’thpartij waren, konden, wanneer zij ook bereid waren om bij gelegenheid mee te werken met de verheerlijking van het regime en de officiële propaganda, soms een glanzende carrière tegemoetzien, tot en met de mogelijkheid tot exposeren in het buitenland. Ziad Haider, die geen lid van de Ba’thpartij was, werd na zijn studietijd meteen het leger ingestuurd.

Kort daarna, begin 1980, stortte het Iraakse regime zich in de oorlog met Iran. Vele jonge Iraki’s werden de oorlog ingestuurd om aan het front als soldaat te dienen en ook Ziad Haider trof dit lot. De Irak/Iran oorlog was een vernietigende loopgravenoorlog, waarin uiteindelijk een miljoen Iraki’s (en een miljoen Iraniërs) de dood vonden. De jaren van oorlog betekenden een lange onderbreking van Ziads loopbaan als kunstenaar. Zijn leven zou nog een veel heviger wending nemen toen hij midden jaren tachtig, gedurende een kort verlof in Bagdad, werd gearresteerd, omdat iemand over hem had geklikt bij de geheime dienst. Hij had over een portret van Saddam geplast. Voor bijna vijf jaar verbleef Ziad Haider in de beruchte Abu Ghraib gevangenis, de donkerste periode van zijn leven (1986-1990). Nadat hij was vrijgelaten werd hij weer terug het leger ingestuurd dat net Koeweit was binnengevallen. Ook de Golfoorlog van 1991 maakte hij volledig mee.

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Na de volksopstand tegen het regime van 1991 ontvluchtte hij Irak. Voor vijf jaar verbleef hij achtereenvolgens in Syrië en Jordanië, totdat hij in 1997 als vluchteling aan Nederland werd toegewezen. Met een paar schilderijen en een serie tekeningen, kwam hij aan in ons land, waar hij terecht kwam in Amersfoort. Na Amersfoort woonde hij voor korte tijd in Almere en vervolgens in Amsterdam. Net als voor veel van zijn lotgenoten, was het in eerste instantie niet makkelijk om zich hier als kunstenaar te vestigen. Naast dat hij doorwerkte aan zijn persoonlijke stijl, werkte hij ook veel als portrettist en tekende hij portretten van passanten op het Leidse Plein en het Rembrandtplein. Later gaf hij, samen met Paula Vermeulen, die hij in die tijd ontmoette, ook verschillende teken- en schildercursussen in hun gemeenschappelijke atelier. Ziad Haider was in deze periode zeer productief, werkte met verschillende technieken in verschillende stijlen. Juist het werken met zijn cursisten of het tekenen van portretten op straat waren voor hem een belangrijke bron levenslust, zoals hij dat een keer verklaarde voor de IKON televisie, in een documentaire uit 2003: “Een manier om de terugkerende nachtmerries te verdrijven” (Factor, Ikon, 17-6-2003, zie hier).

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In zijn abstracte werk ging Ziad Haider juist de confrontatie aan met de heftige gebeurtenissen uit zijn leven van de jaren daarvoor. In deze werken duiken ook een paar herkenbare elementen op, die regelmatig terugkeren in verschillende werken. Een motief dat op verschillende manieren terugkeert, is de weergave van zijn voeten. Dit gegeven refereert aan verschillende gebeurtenissen in zijn leven. Als soldaat moest Ziad Haider vaak lange marsen afleggen. Toen hij uit de gevangenis werd vrijgelaten was hij de enige van zijn medegevangenen die nog amper in staat was om op zijn voeten te staan. En natuurlijk hebben zijn voeten hem verder gedragen, op zijn lange reis in ballingschap, totdat hij uiteindelijk een veilige plaats vond.

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Het motief van de voeten is niet het enige herkenbare gegeven in Ziads werken. Vaak zijn er min of meer antropomorfe elementen te ontdekken. Deze lijken vaak versmolten met vormen die doen denken aan gloeiend metaal. Het thema mens en machine speelt in het werk van Ziad een belangrijke rol. Ook dit thema hangt vanzelfsprekend nauw samen met zijn eigen geschiedenis van oorlog en gevangenschap.
Voelbaar is in sommige werken ook de claustrofobische ruimte, die refereert aan zijn verblijf in de loopgraven, de tank en daarna de cel, al zijn deze ervaringen altijd door een transformatieproces gegaan, waardoor ze zijn te vervatten in kunst. En deze kunst heeft, ondanks de strijd, vaak een buitengewoon lyrisch karakter.

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De in Nederland wonende Iraakse journalist, dichter en criticus Karim al-Najar over Ziad Haider: ‘For a very long time the artist, Ziad Haider, has been living in solitude, prison and rebellion. On this basis, the foregoing works constitute his open protest against the decline, triviality and prominence of half-witted personalities as well as their accession of the authority of art and culture in Iraq for more than two decades. Here we could touch the fruits of the artist’s liberty and its reflection on his works. For Ziad Haider has been able to achieve works showing his artistic talent and high professionalism within a relatively short time. We see him at the present time liberated from his dark, heavy nightmares rapidly into their embodiment through colour and musical symmetry with the different situations. It indeed counts as a visual and aesthetic view of the drama of life as well as man’s permanent question, away from directness, conventionality and false slogans’.
Hoe zeer hij ook zijn bedenkingen had bij de Amerikaanse invasie van Irak in 2003, het betekende voor Ziad wel een mogelijkheid om weer zijn geboorteland te bezoeken. In de herfst van 2003 zette hij deze stap. Zijn bezoek aan Irak maakte grote indruk en had ook zijn weerslag op de laatste serie werken die hij maakte. Allereerst veranderde zijn palet. Het intense rood, dat zijn werken voor die tijd sterk had gedomineerd, werd vervangen door sobere bruinen en grijzen. De heftige bewegingen in zijn composities maakten plaats voor een regelmatiger opbouw. Ook dat werk, uit zijn laatste reeks, is op deze tentoonstelling te zien.
Ziad heeft veel betekend als kunstenaar, maar verder was hij ook een belangrijk figuur binnen de Iraakse kunstscene in ballingschap. Zo was hij de initiatiefnemer van het de manifestatie “Ik stap over de Boog van Duisternis; Iraakse kunstenaars in Amsterdam”. Onder deze titel , die verwijst naar een zin uit een gedicht van de dichter en Ziads vriend Salah Hassan, (  “ﺃﻋﺒﺭﻗﻮﺲ ﻟﻟﻆﻻﻢ ﺃﻮﻤﻰﻋ ﻟﻟﻧﻬﺎﺭ ﺑﻌﻛﺎﺰﻱ ” , uit de bundel Een rebel met een kapot kompas, 1997), werd er in 2004 een Iraaks cultureel festival in Amsterdam georganiseerd, waarin verschillende uit Irak afkomstige beeldende kunstenaars, dichters, musici en acteurs centraal stonden.
Gedurende de jaren dat Ziad en Paula samen aan de Rozengracht woonden, was hun huis een trefpunt van vele Iraakse beeldende kunstenaars, maar ook dichters, schrijvers, musici, acteurs en journalisten. Velen zullen dierbare herinneringen koesteren aan deze roemruchte avonden. Het plotselinge overlijden van Ziad Haider in 2006 kwam dan ook als een grote klap.
Zijn werk is er gelukkig nog en verdient het om getoond te worden. Met deze tentoonstelling vieren wij wat hij als kunstenaar en als mens heeft betekend.

Floris Schreve
Amsterdam, mei 2018

Gallery Out in the Field

Verder op dit blog:

Tentoonstelling Ziad Haider (Diversity and Art)

Iraakse kunstenaars in ballingschap

Zie ook deze In Memoriam van de Iraakse kunstcriticus Amer Fatuhi

De opening:

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Exhibition of Mahmoud Sabri in London (25th June – 6th July, La Galleria Pall Mall)

محمود صبري

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Mahmoud Sabri (1927-2012)

This summer (25th June – 6th July) a very unique and special exhibition will be held in London: ‘Mahmoud Sabri; a retrospective’. Mahmoud Sabri (1927-2012) was one of the leading artists of Iraq, for many one of ‘the big three’ who were crucial for the Iraqi modern art movement, as mentioned by the Iraqi artist Ali Assaf (Rome), in the introduction of ‘Acqua Ferita’ (‘Wounded Water’), the catalogue of the Iraqi Pavilion at the Venice Biennial of 2011 (see also here on this blog). Unless the other two, Jewad Selim and Shakir Hassan al-Said (also discussed a few times on this blog, like here) the role of Mahmoud Sabri seems almost being erased from history. In most literature he isn’t even mentioned, or at least as a footnote, without showing one of his works. Also for me it was not easy to find a proper reproduction of one of his works, till around 2010, when his daughter Yasmin Sabri (working as a computer scientist based in London) launched a website with many of his works and writings.

The main reason that Sabri seems to be forgotten is that he was a dissident of the regime of the Ba’thparty from the very first moment. When the Ba’thists for the first time came to power, in 1963 , Sabri wrote a manifesto in which he stipulated the fascist nature of the new regime. Immediately after he went into exile. For decades he lived in Prague, during the years of the Cold War, so out of sight of Western critics and exhibition-makers, who started gradually to pay some interest in the modern art of the Middle East. Also later he became for many too much an outsider or exile, to be discussed in the history of the modern art movement of Iraq or the Middle East in general. Although he lived the last decade of his live in London, where many initiatives took place in the field of contemporary art of the Middle East, both in literature as in several exhibitions, his importance for the Iraqi modern art and contemporary art wasn’t really recognised.

He was never forgotten by many Iraqi artists. Very often I heard, when I was interviewing the Iraqi artists in exile here in the Netherlands, that Sabri was one of the greatest pioneers and an important key-figure, in pushing the Iraqi modern art forward. Many of them consider Sabri as a symbolic teacher and a source of inspiration. For example, when in 2000 thirty Iraqi artists, based in the Netherlands, came together to held a group exhibition in The Hague, they dedicated this initiative to Mahmoud Sabri.

For me it is a great pleasure to announce this wonderful initiative by Yasmin Sabri and Lamice el-Amari, professor theatre studies based in Berlin. Later this month I will visit this exhibition myself and will write an extensive article on Mahmoud Sabri, in which I also will discuss this exhibition.

From http://www.lagalleria.org/section697199.html:

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Mahmoud Sabri, 97 percent Human

Mahmoud Sabri

Mahmoud Sabri – A Retrospective

An exhibition of the pioneering Iraqi artist Mahmoud Sabri
25th June – 6th July

The exhibition features the work of the pioneering Iraqi artist Mahmoud Sabri (1927 – 2012) and takes us through his lifetime journey, from his early work that reflected the suffering of the Iraqi people to his pursuit of a new form of art that represented the atomic level of reality revealed by modern science which he termed “Quantum Realism”.
At the age of forty, Sabri started working on the relationship between art and science, and its link to social development. In 1971 he published his Manifesto of the New Art of Quantum Realism (QR). QR is the application of the scientific method in the field of art and graphically represents the complex processes in nature. In his words, “Art is now the last area of human activity to which the scientific method is still not applied”.
His Quantum Realism collection is displayed for the first time in the UK. The exhibition presents a unique opportunity to see a comprehensive collection of Sabri’s work spanning over 4 decades.
Mahmoud Sabri was born in Baghdad in 1927, he studied social sciences at Loughborough University in the late forties. While in England, his interest in painting developed and he attended evening art classes. Following university, he worked in banking and at the early age of 32 he became the deputy head of the largest national bank in Iraq, the Al-Rafidain Bank. He resigned from the bank to take the responsibility for establishing the first Exhibitions Department in Iraq and to set up the first international exhibition in Baghdad in 1960. Following that, he decided to focus on painting, resigned from his job and went to study art academically at the Surikov Institute for Art in Moscow 1961-1963. After the Baathist coup d’état in Iraq (1963), he moved to Prague to join the Committee for the Defence of the Iraqi People. His paintings during that period reflected the suffering of the Iraqi people under that regime. From the late 60s he started working on Quantum Realism and continued to develop it until his death in April 2012 in the UK.
Mahmoud Sabri was a member of the Iraqi Avant-garde artists group. He was a founder member of the Society of Iraqi Artists. He had several publications on art, philosophy and politics (in Arabic and English). He lived most of his life in exile. (More info on QR on www.quantumrealism.co.uk )

Events
29th June, 14:00 – 15:30: Artist Satta Hashem will give a lecture and a guided tour of Sabri’s work
3rd July, 18.00 – 20.00: Symposium – Mahmoud Sabri and art in Iraq. Includes a panel discussion and documentary films

The exhibition is open 25th June – 6th July, 2013
Mon -Saturday: 11:00 – 19:00
Sunday 30th Jun: 12:00 – 18:00
Saturday 6th Jul: 11:00 – 17:00

 

La Galleria Pall Mall
30, Royal Opera Arcade
London SW1Y4UY

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Mahmoud Sabri, extract from ‘Watani’ (My Country), 1960’s

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Mahmoud Sabri, ‘Mother’

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Mahmoud Sabri, Hydrogyn Atom (1990’s)

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Mahmoud Sabri, Air- 2

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Mahmoud Sabri, Water, Salt and Vinegar

More is coming after I visited the exhibition myself. See for more information: http://www.lagalleria.org/section697199.html

More on Mahmoud Sabri: www.quantumrealism.co.uk

Update (2-7-2013): An impression of the exhibition (more details will follow later)

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Mahumoud Sabri, The Hero, oil on canvas, 1963

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photos by Floris Schreve

My Beautiful Enemy; Farhad Foroutanian & Qassim Alsaedy (exhibition Diversity & Art, Amsterdam)

Flyer/handout exhibition (pdf)

قاسم الساعدي و فرهاد فروتنیان

Qassim en Farhad

Farhad Foroutanian and Qassim Alsaedy (photo: Nasrin Ghasemzade)

My Beautiful Enemy  –  دشمن زیبای من  –  عدوي الجميل

Farhad Foroutanian &  Qassim Alsaedy

Mesopotamia and Persia, Iraq and Iran. Two civilizations, two fertile counties in an arid environment. The historical Garden of Eden and the basis of civilization in the ancient world. But also the area were many wars were fought, from the antiquity to the present.The recent war between Iraq and Iran (1980-1988) left deep traces in the lives and the works of the artists

The artists Qassim Alsaedy (Iraq) and Farhad Foroutanian (Iran) both lived through the last gruesome conflict. Both artists, now living in exile in the Netherlands, took the initiative for this exhibition to reflect on this dark historical event, which marked the recent history of their homelands and their personal lives. Neither Farhad nor Qassim ever chose being eachother’s enemies. To the contrary, these two artists make a statement with ‘My Beautiful Enemy’ to confirm their friendship.

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 Farhad Foroutanian, Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 2013

Farhad Foroutanian

Farhad Foroutanian (Teheran 1957) studied one and a half year at the theatre academy, before he went to the art academy of Teheran in 1975. At that time the Iranian capital was famous for its hybrid and international oriented art scene. Artists worked in many styles, from pop-art till the traditional miniature painting, a tradition of more than thousand years,  in which  Foroutanian was trained.

After his education Foroutanian found a job as a political cartoonist at a newspaper. During that time, in 1978, the revolution came, which overthrew the regime of the Pahlavi Shah Dynasty. For many Iranian intellectuals and also for Foroutanian in the beginning the revolution came as a liberation. The censorship of the Shah was dismissed and the revolution created a lot of energy and creativity. A lot of new newspapers were founded. But this outburst of new found freedom didn’t last for long; in the middle of 1979 it became clear that the returned Ayatollah Khomeiny became the new ruler and founded the new Islamic Republic. Censorship returned on a large and villain scale and, in case of the cartoonists, it became clear that they could work as long as they declared their loyalty to the message and the new ideology of the Islamic Republic.

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 Farhad Foroutanian, Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 2013

The artistic climate became more and more restrictive. In the mid eighties Foroutanian fled his homeland. In 1986 he arrived with his family in the Netherlands.  Since that time Foroutanian manifested himself in several ways, as an independent artist, as a cartoonist and as actor/ theatre maker (most of the time together with his wife, the actress Nasrin Ghasemzade Khoramabadi).

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 Farhad Foroutanian, Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 2013

In his mostly small scaled paintings and drawings Foroutanian shows often a lonely figure of a man, often just a silhouette or a shadow, who tries to deal with an alienating or even surrealistic environment. This melancholical  figure, sometimes represented as a motionless observer, sometimes involved in actions which are obviously useless or failing, represents  the loneliness of the existence of an exile. Foroutanian:

“If you live in exile you can feel at home anywhere.  The situation and location in which an artist is operating, determines his way of looking at theworld. If he feels himself at home nowhere,  becomes what the artist produces is very bizarre.

The artist in exile is always looking for the lost identity. How can you find yourself in this strange situation? That is what the artist in exile constantly has to deal with. You can think very rationally and assume that the whole world is your home, but your roots- where you grew up and where you originally belong-are so important.It defines who you are and how you will develop. If the circumstances dictates that you can’t visit the place where your origins are, that has serious consequences. You miss it. You are uncertain if you have ever the chance to see this place again. The only option you have is to create your own world, to fantasize about it. But you can’t lose yourself in this process. You need to keep a connection with the reality, with the here and now.  Unfortunately this is very difficult and for some even something impossible. You live in another dimension. You see things different than others ”.

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 Farhad Foroutanian, Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 2013

In his works the lonely figures are often represented with a suitcase. Foroutanian:

“A case with everything you own in it. Miscellaneous pieces of yourself are packed. And the case is never opened. You carry it from one to another place. And sometimes you open the trunk a little and do something new. But you never open the suitcase completely and you never unpack everything. That’sexile”.

Foroutanian emphasizes that his political drawings were for him personally his anker that prevented him to drift off from reality. The concept of exile is the most important theme in Foroutanian’s work, in his paintings, drawings, but also in his theatre work, like Babel (2007) or  No-one’s Land (Niemandsland, 2010). In all his expressions  the lonely figure is not far away, just  accompanied with his closed suitcase and often long shadow.

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 Farhad Foroutanian, Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 2013

Foroutanian participated in several exhibitions, in the Netherlands and abroad. He also worked  as a cartoonist for some Dutch magazines and newspapers, like Vrij Nederland, Het Algemeen Dagblad and Het Rotterdams Dagblad. Like Qassim Alsaedy he exhibited at an earlier occasion in D&A.

The quotes of Foroutanian are English translations of an interview with the artist in Dutch, by Floor Hageman, on the occasion of a performance of Bertold Brecht’s ‘Der gute Mensch von Sezuan’ (‘ The Good Person of Szechwan’), Toneelgroep de Appel, The Hague, see http://www.toneelgroepdeappel.nl/voorstelling/153/page/1952/Interview_met_Iraanse_cartoonist_Farhad_Foroutanian

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Qassim Alsaedy, untitled, oil on canvas,  2009

Qassim Alsaedy

Qassim Alsaedy (Baghdad 1949) studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Baghdad during the seventies. One of his teachers was Shakir Hassan al-Said, one of the leading artists of Iraq and perhaps one of the most influential artists of the Arab and even Muslim world of twentieth century. During his student years in the seventies Alsaedy came in conflict with the regime of the Ba’th party. He was arrested and spent nine months in the notorious al-Qasr an-Nihayyah, the Palace of the End, the precursor of the Abu Ghraib prison.

After that time it was extremely difficult for Alsaedy to settle himself as an artist in Iraq. Alsaedy: “Artists who didn’t join the party and worked for the regime had to find their own way”. For Alsaedy it meant he had to go in exile. He lived alternately in Lebanon and in the eighties in Iraqi Kurdistan, where he lived with the Peshmerga (Kurdish rebels). When the regime in Baghdad launched operation ‘Anfal’ , the infamous genocidal campaign against the Kurds, Alsaedy went to Libya, where he was a lecturer at the art academy of Tripoli for seven years. Finally he came to the Netherlands in the mid nineties.

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Qassim Alsaedy, untitled, mixed media, 2012/2013

The work of Alsaedy is deeply rooted in the tradition of the Iraqi art of the twentieth century, although of course he is also influenced by his new homeland. The most significant aspect of Alsaedy’s work is his use of abstract signs, almost a kind of inscriptions he engraves in the layers of oil paint in his works. Alsaedy:

“In my home country it is sometimes very windy. When the wind blows the air is filled with dust. Sometimes it can be very dusty you can see nothing. Factually this is the dust of Babylon, Ninive, Assur, the first civilisations. This is the dust you breath, you have it on your body, your clothes, it is in your memory, blood, it is everywhere, because the Iraqi civilisations had been made of clay. We are a country of rivers, not of stones. The dust you breath it belongs to something. It belongs to houses, to people or to some texts. I feel it in this way; the ancient civilisations didn’t end. The clay is an important condition of making life. It is used by people and then it becomes dust, which falls in the water, to change again in thick clay. There is a permanent circle of water, clay, dust, etc. It is how life is going on and on. I have these elements in me. I use them not because I am homesick, or to cry for my beloved country. No it is more than this. I feel the place and I feel the meaning of the place. I feel the voices and the spirits in those dust, clay, walls and air. In this atmosphere I can find a lot of elements which I can reuse or recycle. You can find these things in my work; some letters, some shadows, some voices or some traces of people. On every wall you can find traces. The wall is always a sign of human life”.

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Qassim Alsaedy, untitled, mixed media, 2012/2013

The notion of a sign of a wall which symbolizes human life is something Alseady experienced during his time in prison. In his cell he could see the marks carved by other prisoners in the walls as a sign of life and hope.

Later, in Kurdistan, Alsaedy saw the burned landscapes after the bombardments of the Iraqi army. Alsaedy:

“ Huge fields became totally black. The houses, trees, grass, everything was black. But look, when you see the burned grass, late in the season, you could see some little green points, because the life and the beauty is stronger than the evilness. The life was coming through. So you saw black, but there was some green coming up. For example I show you this painting which is extremely black, but it is to deep in my heart. Maybe you can see it hardly but when you look very sensitive you see some little traces of life. You see the life is still there. It shines through the blackness. The life is coming back”.

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Qassim Alsaedy, untitled, mixed media, 2012/2013

Another important element in Alsaedy’s mixed media objects is his use of rusted nails or empty gun cartridges. For Alsaedy the nails and the cartridges symbolize the pain, the human suffering and the ugliness of war. But also these elements will rust away and leave just an empty trace of their presence. Life will going on and the sufferings of the war will be once a part of history.

His ceramic objects creates Alsaedy together with the artist Brigitte Reuter. Reuter creates the basic form, while Alsaedy brings on the marks and the first colors. Together they finish the process by baking and glazing the objects.

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Qassim Alsaedy, untitled, mixed media, 2012/2013

Since Alsaedy came to the Netherlands he participated in many exhibitions, both solo and group. His most important were his exhibition at the Flehite Museum Amersfoort (2006) and Museum Gouda (2012). He regularly exhibits in the Gallery of Frank Welkenhuysen in Utrecht.

Floris Schreve, Amsterdam, 2013

My Beautiful enemy

28 April- 26 May 2013

O P E N I N G op zondag 28 april om 16.00uur – deur open om 15.00 uur
door Emiel Barendsen – Programma Director Tropentheater

logo Diversity & Art

http://www.diversityandart.com/

Diversity & Art | Sint Nicolaasstraat 21 | 1012 NJ Amsterdam | open: do 13.00 – 19.00 | vr t/m za 13.00 – 17.00

عدوي الجميل

قاسم الساعدي وفرهاد فوروتونيان

يسرنا دعوتكم لحضور افتتاح المعرض المشترك للفنانين قاسم الساعدي ( العراق) وفرهاد فوروتونيان ( ايران ) , الساعة الرابعة من بعد ظهر يوم الاحد الثامن والعشرين من نيسان- ابريل 2013

وذلك على فضاء كاليري دي اند أ

الذي يقع على مبعدة مسيرة عشرة دقائق من محطة قطار امستردام المركزية , خلف القصر الملكي

تفتتح الصالة بتمام الساعة الثالثة

Een kleine impressie van de tentoonstelling (foto’s Floris Schreve):

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tentoonstelling 2

tentoonstelling 3

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Opening

Opening 2

Emiel Barendsen (foto Floris Schreve)

Dames en heren, goedemiddag,

Toen Herman Divendal mij benaderde met het verzoek een openingswoord tot u te richten ter gelegenheid van de duo expositie van Qassim Alsaedy en Farhad Foroutanian moest ik een moment stilstaan. Immers, ik ben de man die ruim 35 jaar werkzaam is in de podiumkunsten. Weliswaar altijd de niet-westerse podiumkunsten maar toch…podiumkunsten. Herman vertelde mij toen dat hij graag dit soort gelegenheden te baat neemt om anderen dan de usual suspects hun licht te laten schijnen op de tentoongestelde werken. Mooie gedachte die ik met hem deel.
Als Hoofd Programmering en interim directeur van het helaas opgeheven Tropentheater was ik in de gelegenheid om veel te reizen op zoek naar nieuwe artiesten en producties die wij belangrijk en interessant vonden om aan het Nederlandse publiek voor te stellen. In die queste ben je op zoek naar elementen die aan dat specifieke raamwerk appelleren: nieuwsgierigheid, avontuurlijkheid, vakmanschap en ambachtelijkheid, authenticiteit en identiteit maar bovenal de eigen signatuur van de makers.
Beide kunstenaars hier vertegenwoordigd vertellen ons mede op zoek te zijn naar identiteit, beide zijn gevlucht uit hun moederland , beide delen een gezamenlijk bestaan; een gedwongen toekomst. En identiteit is verworden tot een lastig te hanteren begrip in de Nederlandse samenleving anno nu. Sinds de opkomst van populistische partijen hebben wij de mondvol over dé Nederlandse cultuur en identiteit ; maar waar bestaat die in vredesnaam uit. Ik heb er de canon van Nederland nog een op nageslagen en als je het hebt over kunst en cultuur frappeert de constatering dat het juist de externe influx is geweest – en nog immer is – die ons Nederlands DNA bepaalt. Aan de vooravond van een Koningswisseling constateren we dat na de Duits-Oostenrijkse, Engelse, Franse en Spaanse adel de elite van de nieuwe wereld hun opwachting maakt in de Nederlandse monarchie. De ultieme uiting van globalisering. Argentinië nota bene een land opgebouwd uit door conquistadores verkrachte indianen aangevuld met voor armoe gevluchte Sicilianen, Ashkenazische joden, Duitse boeren , Britse gelukzoekers en nazaten van de Westafrikaanse slaven die – behalve hun ritme – de Rio de la Plata niet mochten oversteken, levert de nieuwe Koningin. Wat is onze Nederlandse identiteit eigenlijk als onze kunsthistorische canon vooral gebouwd is op het –wellicht door pragmatisme ingegeven- asiel dat wij boden aan gevluchte kunstenaars: geen Gouden Eeuw zonder Vlamingen, Hugenoten, Sefardische Joden of Armeniers. ‘Onze’ succesvolste nog levende beeldend kunstenares, Marlene Duma, is van Zuid Afrikaanse oorsprong.
Vanuit mijn vakgebied huldig ik het principe dat men tradities moet begrijpen om het hedendaagse te kunnen duiden. Dit geldt niet alleen voor de podiumkunsten maar in mijn optiek ook voor de beeldende kunst. Traditie als conditio sine qua non voor modernisering.
Over de grenzen kijken betekent vooral eerst jezelf leren kennen; wat vind ik mooi, interessant en vooral waarom? Wat zijn die verhalen die je observeert en hoort en in welke culturele context moet ik die plaatsten?
Je laten leiden door je eigen nieuwsgierigheid levert een grote geestelijke verrijking op.
‘My beautiful enemy’ is de titel van deze expositie en verwijst naar het Irak – Iran conflict uit de jaren tachtig van vorige eeuw. Twee buurlanden gebouwd op de civilisaties en dynastieën die de bakermat van onze beschaving vormen. Een gebied dat een lange geschiedenis van conflicten kent maar waar de culturele overeenkomsten groter blijken te zijn dan de verschillen. In samenlevingen waarin de kunstenaar de mond gesnoerd wordt en waar kritische noten niet meer gehoord mogen worden rest vaak maar één pijnlijke optie: ballingschap. Huis en haard worden verlaten om elders in de wereld een nieuw bestaan op te bouwen. Dit proces is voor iedere balling moeilijk en eenzaam; de geschiedenis verankerd in je geheugen is de basis waar je op terugvalt. Mijmeringen over kleuren, geuren, geluiden en smaken van je geboortegrond bijeengehouden door verhalen.
En dat zie je terug in de hier tentoongestelde werken: als ik de werken van Qassim Alsaedy observeer dan herken ik de vakman die in een beeldende taal abstracte verhalen vertelt die een appèl doen op zijn geboortegrond. Als ik mijn ogen luik verbeeld ik mij het landschap te ruiken en hoor ik bij het ene werk de zanger Kazem al Saher op de achtergrond en bij het andere poëtische werk de oud-speler Munir Bachir zachtjes tokkelen.
Farhad Foroutanian gebruikt een ander idioom en zijn stijl verraadt zijn achtergrond als cartoonist. In ogenschijnlijk een paar klare lijnen zet hij zijn figuren neer in een welhaast surreëel decorum. De man met de koffers doet mij terugdenken aan mijn eigen jeugd die ik doorbracht in Zuid-Amerika. Toen aan de vooravond van de gruwelijke Pinochet-coup in Chili de dreiging alsmaar toenam zetten mijn ouder twee koffers klaar waarin de meest noodzakelijke spullen zaten om eventueel te moeten vluchten. Paspoorten en baar geld, kleding en toiletartikelen. Wij moesten niet vluchten, gelukkig, maar werden wel verzocht het land te verlaten. Onze nieuwe bestemming werd het door een burgeroorlog geteisterde Colombia en hoewel dat geweld voornamelijk in de jungle ver van de grote steden plaatsvond waren er momenten dat dat geweld angstig dichtbij kwam. En weer stonden die twee koffers onder handbereik.
Zo blijkt dat deze werken prikkelen en vragen stellen. Het is aan het individu echter om daar invulling aan te geven . Daarover te praten met anderen levert vanzelf weer nieuwe verhalen op.
In een tijd waarin de overheid net doet of diversiteit niet meer van deze tijd is en moedwillig aanstuurt op ondubbelzinnige eenvormigheid ben ik blij dat er nog een plek in Amsterdam is waar men deze prachtige kunst kan aanschouwen.
Ik besluit met het motto “tegenwind is wat de vlieger doet stijgen” en wens Qassim en Farhad alle goeds toe. En u als publiek veel kijkgenot.

Dank u.
Emiel Barendsen

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Farhad Foroutanian en Qassim Alsaedy (foto Floris Schreve)

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In Front (left): Qassim Alsaedy, the Dutch/Iraqi Kurdish writer Ibrahim Selman and the actress Nasrin Ghasemzade (the wife of Farhad Foroutanian)

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Bart Top, Farhad Foroutanian and Ishan Mohiddin

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The Iraqi Kudish artists Hoshyar Rasheed and Aras Kareem (who exhibited in D&A before, see here and here), Ishan Mohiddin and Jwana Omer (the wife of Aras Kareem)

De Volkskrant (vrijdag 3 mei 2013):

Volkskrant

Lecture: A history of Iraqi modern art and Iraqi artists in the Diaspora, on the occasion of the exhibition ‘Distant Dreams; the other face of Iraq’, Kunstliefde (Utrecht)

http://onglobalandlocalart.wordpress.com/2012/02/28/

Handout of my lecture on Iraqi modern art and Iraqi artists in the Diaspora, Kunstliefde, Utrecht, The Netherlands, 24 February 2012, on the occasion of the exhibition Distant Dreams;  five Iraqi artists in the Netherlands (Baldin Ahmad, Qassim Alsaedy, Salam Djaaz, Awni Sami and Araz Talib), with the addition of some of the visual material (click on the pictures to enlarge)

Introduction on the history and geography of Iraq

Origins and development of the Iraqi modern art (from 1950)

 

             

Jewad Selim              Faeq Hassan               Shakir Hassan al-Said

        

             

Mahmud Sabri             Dhia Azzawi                Rafa al-Nasiri   

         

Mohammed Mohreddin          Hanaa Mal-Allah

Art and mass-propaganda under the rule of the Ba’th Party

 

Al-Nasb al-Shaheed (‘The Martyr’s Monument’, by Ismael Fattah al-Turk)

Bab al-Nasr ( ‘Victory Arch’,  designed by Saddam Husayn and executed by Khalid al-Rahal and Mohammed Ghani Hikmet)

     

Statues and portraits of Saddam Husayn and Michel Aflaq (founder of the Ba’thparty)

 

 

Iraqi artists in the Diaspora

The Netherlands:

                

 Baldin Ahmad            Aras Kareem           Hoshyar Rasheed

                  

Araz Talib             Awni Sami          Salam Djaaz

     

Qassim Alsaedy        Ziad Haider        Nedim Kufi

 

Some Iraqi artists in other countries:

           

Rebwar Saeed (England)         Anahit Sarkes (England)

          

Jananne al-Ani (England)      Ahmed al-Sudani (United States) 

       

Walid Siti (England)       Halim Al Kareem (Netherlands/United States) 

         

Adel Abidin (Finland)         Azad Nanakeli (Italy)

    

Ali Assaf (Italy)       Wafaa Bilal (United States)

 

On the screen a work of Mahmud Sabri, one of the most experimental Iraqi artists in history

A work of Jewad Selim, more or less the ‘founder of the Iraqi modern art’

On the screen a work of Shakir Hassan al-Said, whose style influenced artists all over the Arab and even the islamic world

Left (in front) Qassim Alsaedy. Me behind the laptop. Behind me (left side) my sister Leonie Schreve and her partner Anand Kanhai. Behind them the Iraqi artist Ali Talib. Second right of me Brigitte Reuter, who created many works together with Qassim Alsaedy. On the walls (right) the work of Awni Sami

Left behind me Martin van der Randen, curator of this exhibition. Left on the wall the work of Baldin Ahmad

Floris Schreve

 فلوريس سحرافا
 
Photos during the lecture by Liesbeth Schreve-Brinkman

Tentoonstelling ‘Distant Dreams; the other face of Iraq’ (Kunstliefde, Utrecht)

http://onglobalandlocalart.wordpress.com/2012/02/05/exhibition-distant-dreams-the-other-face-of-iraq-kunstliefde-utrecht-the-netherlands-and-a-lecture-on-modern-and-contemporary-iraqi-art/

 

أحلام بعيدة، هي الوجه الآخر للعراق

معرض لخمسة فنانين عراقيين في هولندا

On Sunday February 19th in Utrecht (in the artists Society Kunstliefde) the exhibition ‘Distant Dreams, the other face of Iraq’ will be opened, an exhibition of five Iraqi artists who are living and working in the Netherlands, curated by Martin van der Randen. The participating artists are Salam Djaaz, Qassim Alsaedy, Baldin Ahmad, Awni Sami and Araz Talib , all on this blog ever mentioned or extensively discussed. On Friday, February 24 at 20:00 I will give a lecture at the exhibition on the history of modern art of Iraq and the Iraqi art in the Diaspora, in the Netherlands and elsewhere.

Here is the brochure of Distant Dreams; The other face of Iraq (both in English and Dutch)

In this blog entry, the documentation of the exhibition and the lecture will appear very soon. Below the official announcement. See also http://www.iraqiart.com/inp/view.asp?ID=1305 (Arabic):

Op zondag 19 februari wordt in de Utrechtse kunstenaarsvereniging Kunstliefde de tentoonstelling Distant Dreams; the other face of Iraq geopend, van vijf uit Irak afkomstige kunstenaars in Nederland, samengesteld door Martin van der Randen. De deelnemende kunstenaars zijn Salam Djaaz, Qassim Alsaedy, Baldin Ahmad, Awni Sami en Araz Talib, allen weleens op dit blog genoemd of uitvoerig besproken. Op vrijdag 24 februari zal ik om 20.00 bij de tentoonstelling een lezing geven over de geschiedenis van de moderne kunst van Irak en de Iraakse kunst in de Diaspora, in Nederland en elders.

Zie hier de Brochure van Distant Dreams; The other face of Iraq

In dit blogitem zal de documentatie van de tentoonstelling en de lezing verschijnen. Hieronder de officiële aankondiging.

Salam Djaaz   سلام جعاز

Qassim Alsaedy   قاسم الساعدي

Baldin Ahmad   بالدين أحمد

Awni Sami   عوني سامي

Araz Talib   آراز طالب

Lezing op 24 februari, om 20.00 in Kunstliefde, Nobelstraat 12A, Utrecht (www.kunstliefde.nl)

Floris Schreve

فلوريس سحرافا

(أمستردام، هولندا)

Opening (Sunday February 19th, 2012)

 

Qassim Alsaedy (l), Salam Djaaz (r)

Awni Sami (l), Baldin Ahmad (r)

Araz Talib

The writers/journalists Ishin Mohiddin (l), Karim Al-Najar (r)

Mrs Mayada al-Gharqoly of the Iraqi Embassy in the Netherlands. Behind her Martin van der Randen, curator of this exhibition

Mayada al-Gharqoly

Mounir Goran (ud), with the Dutch Kurdish Iraqi poet Baban Kirkuki

The Dutch Iraqi Kurdish writer Ibrahim Selman (l) with Qassim Alsaedy

From the left to the right: Baban Kirkuki, Mounir Goran, Qassim Alsaedy, Baldin Ahmad, Araz Talib, Salam Djaaz, Awni Sami

Finissage (Sunday March 18th, 2012)

Qassim Alsaedy with HE Dr. Saad Ibrahim al-Ali, Embassador of Iraq in the Netherlands

The embassador, with some other staff of the Embassy and some of the artists

Martin van der Randen with Baldin Ahmad

Baldin Ahmad and Salam Djaaz

Baldin Ahmad and Qassim Alsaedy

Baban Kirkuki, Salam Djaaz and Munir Goran

photos by Floris Schreve

An impression of the Arab contributions at the Venice Biennial 2011

http://onglobalandlocalart.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/an-impression-of-the-arab-contributions-at-the-venice-biennal-2011/

مساهمة الدول العربية في بينالي البندقية

An Impression of the contributions of several artists from the Arab world at the Venice Biennial 2011. Photos by Floris Schreve. An extensive article will follow later

The Future of a Promise

Curatorial Statement by Lina Nazaar:

“What does it mean to make a promise? In an age where the ‘promise of the future’ has become something of a cliché, what is meant by The Future of a Promise?

In its most basic sense, a promise is the manifestation of an intention to act or, indeed, the intention to refrain from acting in a specified way. A commitment is made on behalf of the promisee which suggests hope, expectation, and the assurance of a future deed committed to the best interests of all.

A promise, in sum, opens up a horizon of future possibilities, be they aesthetic, political, historical, social or indeed, critical. ‘The future of a promise’ aims to explore the nature of the promise as a form of aesthetic and socio-political transaction and how it is made manifest in contemporary visual culture in the Arab world today.

In a basic sense, there is a degree of promise in the way in which an idea is made manifest in a formal, visual context – the ‘promise’, that is, of potential meaning emerging in an artwork and its opening up to interpretation. There is also the ‘transaction’ between what the artist had in mind and the future (if not legacy) of that creative promise and the viewer. Whilst the artists included here are not representative of a movement as such, they do seek to engage with a singular issue in the Middle East today: who gets to represent the present-day realities and promise of the region and the horizons to which they aspire?

It is with this in mind that the show will enquire into the ‘promise’ of visual culture in an age that has become increasingly disaffected with politics as a means of social engagement. Can visual culture, in sum, respond to both recent events and the future promise implied in those events? And if so, what forms do those responses take?”

http://www.thefutureofapromise.com/index.php/about/view/curators_statement

The participating artists are Ziad Abillama (Lebanon), Ahmed Alsoudani (Iraq, zie ook see also this ealier contribuition) Ziad Antar (Lebanon), Jananne Al-Ani (Iraq), Kader Attia (Algeria/France), Ayman Baalbaki (Lebanon), Fayçal Baghriche (Algeria), Lara Baladi (Lebanon), Yto Barrada (France, Morocco), Taysir Batniyi (Palestine), Abdelkader Benchamma (France/Algeria), Manal Aldowayan (Saudi Arabia), Mounir Fatmi (Morocco, see this earlier contribution), Abdulnasser Gharem (Saudi Arabia), Mona Hatoum (Palestine/Lebanon), Raafat Ishak (Egypt), Emily Jacir (Palestine), Nadia Kaabi-Linke (Tunesia), Yazan Khalili (Palestine), Ahmed Mater (Saudi Arabia, see this earlier contribution), Driss Ouadahi (Algeria/Morocco) en Ayman Yossri Daydban (Saudi Arabia).

Mona Hatoum, Drowning sorrows (Gran Centenario), installatie van ‘doorgesneden’ glazen flessen, 2002, op ‘The Future of a Promise’, Biënnale van Venetië, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve

Mona Hatoum, Drowning Sorrows (detail)- photo Floris Schreve

‘Hatoum’s work is the presentation of identity as unable to identify with itself, but nevertheless grappling the notion (perhaps only the ghost) of identity to itself. Thus is exiled figured and plotted in the objects she creates (Said, “Art of displacement” 17).

‘Hatoum’s Drowning Sorrows distinctly exemplifies the “exile” Said denotes above. Drowning Sorrows displays the pain and beauty of being an exile without overtly supplying the tools with which to unhinge the paradox attached to it. It creates suggestive effects which ultimately lead the viewer towards its paradoxical ambiance. The work contains a circle of glass pieces drawn on a floor. The circle is made up of different shapes of glass flasks and, as they appear on the floor, it seems that the circle holds them afloat. The disparately angled glasses imply cuts from their sharp edges and their appearance is associated with a feeling of pain from the cut. This circle of glasses, therefore, signifies an exilic ache and embodies an authority to “figure” and “plot” the pain’.

The work signifies the reality of being unmoored from a fixed identity as the flasks are ambiguously put on a ground where they are perceived to be ungrounded. The appearance of the glasses is also unusual—we do not get to see their full shapes. As the artist’s imagination endows them with a symbolic meaning, they have been cut in triangular and rectangular forms of different sizes. These varieties of cut glasses speak of an undying pain that the exile suffers. In an exile’s life, irresolvable pain comes from dispossessions, uncertainty, and non-belonging. Being uprooted from a deep-seated identity, an exile finds him/herself catapulted into a perpetual flux; neither going back “home” nor a complete harmony with the adopted environment through adopting internally the “new” ideals is easily achievable. There exists an insuperable rift between his/her identity and locales which both are nevertheless integral parts of their identity. Hence, Hatoum portrays the exilic “identity as unable to identify with itself,” as Said puts it.

However, the glass edges above also represent that an exile’s experiences are nonetheless beautiful and worthy of celebration. The glass pieces show the experiences that an exilic traveller gathers in the journey of life. The journey is all about brokenness and difference. But an exile’s life becomes enriched in many ways by being filled up with varieties of knowledge and strengths accrued through encountering differences. Hatoum’s creation, therefore, befittingly captures these benefits by transferring them into an art work that bewitches the viewer through an unknown beauty. Being an expression of beauty, the art work is transformed into a celebration of “exile.” Despite “Drowning” in “Sorrows,” Hatoum’s work demonstrates an authority to give vent to the exilic pain through a work of beauty.

Ultimately, we see that an exile is not entirely drowned by the sorrows of loss. Notwithstanding the anguish, the exile gains the privilege to explore the conditions that create the pain; because the painfulness zeroes in on the very nature of identity formation. The exile has the privilege of reflecting on the reality surrounding his/her identity. Therefore, Hatoum’s glasses are not pieced together purposelessly; they depict the ambiguity that the exile feels towards identity. Her creative ambiguity makes us both enjoy the art and question the reality which we ourselves, exiles or not, find ourselves in. “Drowning Sorrows” shows a way to question the reality by being ambiguous towards it. Hatoum thus transmutes her exilic pain into a work of imagination which becomes an emblem of her artistic power through such suggestiveness.

From this point of view, Hatoum is an exemplary Saidian “exile” as she turns the reality of being uprooted from “home” into an intellectual power against the systematisation of identities. In Orientalism, Said distinguishes the dividing line that severs the supposedly superior Western culture from the ostensibly inferior one of the “Others.” He examines the modus operandi of such a disjunction. He studies power-structures to reveal how they dissociate cultures. Thus the Saidian “exile” develops independent criticisms of cultures in order to defeat the debilitating effects of discursivity that disconnect cultures. The “exile” thus sees the whole world as a foreign land captured in the power-knowledge nexus’.

From: Rehnuma Sazzad, Hatoum, Said and Foucault: Resistance through Revealing the Power-Knowledge Nexus? van Postcolonial Text, Vol 4, No 3 2008), see here

Emily Jacir, Embrace, 2005 (‘The Future of a Promise’, Venetië, 2011- foto Floris Schreve)

Embrace is a circular, motorised sculpture fabricated to look like an empy luggage conveyor system found in airports. It remains perfectly still and quiet, but when a viewer comes near the sculpture their presence activates the work; it turns on and starts moving. The work’s diameter refers to the height of the artist. The work symbolizes, amongst many things, waiting and the etymology of the word ‘embrace’.

Emily Jacir (statement for The Future of a Promise)

Ahmed Alsoudani, Untitled, acryl en houtskool op doek, 2010 (‘The Future of a Promise’, Venetië, 2011- foto Floris Schreve)

‘At the time I was in the tenth grade and I was spending hours reading Russian novels and poetry. Reading things like The Brothers Karamazow, The Idiot, War and Peace, Mayakovsky and Anna Akhmatova, and an anthology of poetry from the frontline of World War II- I can’t remember the title- helped me clarify my own circumstances and put the idea of leaving Iraq in my head. At that time in Iraq all ideas, even private thoughts, could land you in jail. As millions of Iraqis dreamt of leaving, I knew I had to plan carefully. (…) I left Baghdad in the middle of the afternoon and traveled by taxi to Kurdistan, which was under U.S. protection. We had to pass many heavily guarded checkpoints, but my older brother used his connections to bribe our way through. It cost him a lot of money. I stayed for a few weeks in Kurdistan, and later I met with an Iraqi opposition member who helped me cross into Syria (…) After I  escaped from Baghdad I spent four years in Syria. In the beginning life was pretty rough and lonely, but eventually I made a few friends. One in particular helped me tremendously- an Iraqi poet named Mohammed Mazlom who was a friend of my brother. He let me stay at his place in Damascus for a year and helped me get a job writing for the Iraqi opposition newspaper there. The big problem with Syria is that though they don’t bother you as an Iraqi exile, you can’t get the paperwork you need to be a legal resident either. You’re in a kind of a limbo: it’s almost if you don’t exist. I knew I would eventually have to leave there as well. In Damascus there is an office called UNHCR, which is a part of the United Nations. Every day the office is full of refugees waiting to get an application to leave. It was a complicated process but I decided after two years in this state of limbo to do it. It took almost a year of waiting but finally I got a meeting with someone from the US embassy. As someone writing for the Iraqi opposition in Syria my case was strong, and after several meetings they granted me political asylum’

(in Robert Goff, Cassie Rosenthal, Ahmed Alsoudani, Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ostfildern, Germany, 2009).

Ahmed Alsoudani, Untitled, acryl en houtskool op doek, 2010 (‘The Future of a Promise’, Venetië, 2011- foto Floris Schreve)

‘These turbulent paintings depict a disfigured tableau of war and atrocity. Although the content of the paintings draw on my own experiences of recent wars in Iraq, the imagery of devestation and violence- occasionally laced with a morbid and barbed humour-evoke universal experience of conflict and human suffering. Deformed figures, some almost indistinguishable and verging on the bestial, intertwine and distort in vivid, surreal landscapes. Figures are often depicted at a moment of transition- through fear and agony- from human to grotesque’

Ahmed Alsoudani (statement for The Future of a Promise)

Jananne Al-Ani, Aerial II, production still from Shadow Sites II, 2011 (bron: http://www.art-agenda.com/reviews/sharjah-biennial-10-plot-for-a-biennial-16-march-16-may-2011-and-art-dubai-16-19-march-2011/

The Aesthetics of Disappearance: A Land Without People – Jananne Al-Ani from Sharjah Art Foundation on Vimeo.

Jananne Al-Ani, Shadow Sites II, 2011 (The Future of a Promise, Venetië, 2011-foto Floris Schreve)

Jananne Al-Ani, Shadow Sites II, 2011 (The Future of a Promise, Venetië, 2011-foto Floris Schreve)

Jananne Al-Ani, Shadow Sites II, 2011 (The Future of a Promise, Venetië, 2011-foto Floris Schreve)

Shadow Sites II is a film that takes the form of an aerial journey. It is made up of images of landscape bearing traces of natural and manmade activity as well as ancient and contemporary structures. Seen from above, the landscape appears abstracted, its buildings flattened and its inhabitants invisible to the human eye. Only when the sun is at its lowest, do the features on the ground, the archeological sites and settlements come to light. Such ‘shadow sites’ when seen from the air, map the latent images by the landscape’s surface.  Much like a photographic plate, the landscape itself holds the potential to be exposed, thereby revealing the memory of its past. Historically, representations of the Middle Eastern landscape, from William Holman Hunt’s 1854 painting The Scapegoat (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Scapegoat_(painting), FS) to media images from the 1991 Desert Storm campaign have depicted the region as uninhabited and without sign of civilization. In response to the military’s use of digital technology and satellite navigation, Shadow Sites II recreates the aerial vantage point of such missions while taking an altogether different viewpoint of the land it surveys. The film burrows into the landscape as one image slowly dissolves in another, like a mineshaft tunneling deep into substrate of memories preserved over time’.

Jananne Al-Ani (statement The Future of a Promise)

.

Ahmed Mater, The Cowboy Code, op ‘The Future of a Promise’, Biënnale van Venetië, 2011 (foto Floris Schreve)

Mater in his statement about ‘Antenna’:

“Antenna is a symbol and a metaphor for growing

up in Saudi Arabia. As children, we used to climb

up to the roofs of our houses and hold these

television antennas up to the sky.

We were trying to catch a signal from beyond the

nearby border with Yemen or Sudan; searching –

like so many of my generation in Saudi –

for music, for poetry, for a glimpse of a different

kind of life. I think this work can symbolise the

whole Arab world right now… searching for a

different kind of life through other stories and

other voices. This story says a lot about my life

and my art; I catch art from the story of my life,

I don’t know any other way”.

Ahmed Mater

Ahmed Mater, Antenna, op ‘The Future of a Promise’, Biënnale van Venetië, 2011 (foto Floris Schreve)

Spring Cleaning! By Franck Hermann Ekra (winner of 2010 AICA Incentive Prize for Young Critics):

The lost Springs, Mounir Fatmi’s minimal installation, displays the 22 flags of the states of the Arab League at half mast. In the Tunisian and Egyptian pavilions, two brooms refer to the upheavals that led to the fall of President Ben Ali in Tunisia and President Mubarak in Egypt. This evocative, subtle and trenchant work of art has been inspired by the current protests against neo-patriarchal powers in the Maghreb, the Mashriq and the Arabian Peninsula.

In the anthropology  of the state, the flag is  a symbol rich in identity and attribution. It is a part of a secular liturgy which establishes  a holy space for the politically sacred.  Mounir Fatmi seems to have captured this with his intuition of an iconic device halfway between the altar and the universalizing official dramaturgy. He gets to the core of democratic representation, on the capacity to metaphorically catalyse the civil link. There is a touch of the domestic in his contemporary heraldry.

Mounir Fatmi, Aborted Revolutions (installation), 2011-Photo Floris Schreve

The necessary cleansing that Mounir Fatmi suggests does not concern the community but rather the dictators who dream themselves as demiurges. It calls for action-creation. The Brooms ironically point to some dynamic process and stimulating imitation effect.  Who’s next? What else should be dusted? Where has the rubbish been hidden?

Though the aesthetics of sweeping, the artist testifies to some timeless spring. A standard bearer of the pan-Arabic revolutionary revivalism and its enchanting Utopia, he breaks away from the prevailing monotony of always disenchanted tomorrows, irreverently using the devices of complicity through self-sufficient references, and blurring the familiar novel and popular romance. Giving his work an essential and symbolic function, he dematerializes it, as if to repeat over and over again that symbols are food for thought’.

From ’The Future of a Promise’.

Abdulnasser Gharem, The Stamp (Amen), rubber on wooden stamp, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

‘My relationship with the urban environment is reciprocal; streets and the cities inspire a particularly critical reaction. As a socially engaged artist, I need to take back to the people, to the city, to the built environment.

In previous works I have related the story of social environments marked for destruction, regardless of the fate of the people who live in it, or of disaster arising from a misplaced trust in the security of concrete. With the current work, I turn my attention to the false promise of the manufactured modern city.

Viewing 3D models for the future cities springing up across the Gulf, focuses attention on the disjunction between the apparent utopia of the future they appear to offer and the daily, complex and problematic reality of our actual urban lives.

These cities can be a distraction, a vehicle exploited by bureaucracies who wish to divert the attention of a sophisticated population away from a reality which is not model. Through the use of stamps, I underline the inevitable stultifying and complicating effect the bureaucracy will have, even as it works to build its vision for a better society. Why do we look to an utopian future when we have social issues we need to address now? I am not opposed to this brave new world but I want to see governments engage with the streets and cities, and the problems of their people, as they are now. Why built new cities when there are poor people we need to look after? This is a distraction: we should not be afraid to change.

Abdulnasser Gharem  (statement for The Future of a Promise)

http://www.dailymotion.com/embed/video/xnbbqj
Saudi artist captures Arab Spring door CNN_International

Manal Aldowayan, Suspended Together, installation, 2011 (detail)

On Manal Al-Dowayan:

Suspended Together is an installation that gives the impression of a movement and freedom.

However, a closer look at the 200 doves brings the realization that the doves are actually frozen and suspended, with no hope of flight. An even closer look shows that each dove carries on its body the permission document that allows a Saudi woman to travel. Notwithstanding the circumstances, all Saudi women are required to have this document, issued by their appointed male guardian.

The artist reached out to a large group of leading female figures from Saudi Arabia to donate their permission documents for inclusion in this artwork. Suspended Together carries the documents of award-winning scientists, educators, journalists, engineers, artists and leaders with groundbreaking achievements that contributed  to society.  The youngest contributor is six months old and the oldest is 60 years old. In the artist’s words: ‘regardless of age and achievement, when it comes to travel, all these women are treated like a flock of suspended doves’.

http://universes-in-universe.org/eng/bien/venice_biennale/2011/tour/the_future_of_a_promise/manal_al_dowayan

Manal Aldowayan, Suspended Together, installation, 2011

Nadia Kaabi-Linke, Flying Carpets, installation, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

The Flying Carpet is an Oriental fairytale, a dream of instantaneous and boundless travel, but when I visited Venice I saw that illegal immigrants use carpets to fly the coop. They sell counterfeit goods in order to make some money for living. If they are caught by the police they risk expulsion.

There was a butcher in Tunis who wanted to honour Ben Ali. His idea was to call his shop ‘Butcher shop of the 7th November’, the day when Ben Ali assumed the presidency in a ‘medical’ coup d’ état from then President Habib Bourguiba. After he did so, he disappeared without a trace.

In winter 2010, I visited Cairo, a city which has more citizens than the country I was born. This metropolis is characterized by strong contradictions: tradition and modernism, culture and illiteracy, poverty and wealth, bureaucracy and spirituality. All voices fade through the noisy hustle of this melting pot, but if you risk a closer look on the walls you will find the whisper of the people carved into stone.

The three works document  the crossing of borders: traversing the European border leads to problems of being a EU citizen or not; the wide line between insult and homage was transgressed through the unspoken proximity of slaughter and governance of the former Tunesian regime; and the longing for freedom in the police state of Cairo was already written into the walls of the city’

Nadia Kaabi-Linke

Nadia Kaabi-Linke, Butcher bliss, mixed media, 2010

Nadia Kaabi-Linke, Impression of Cairo, mixed media, 2010 (detail)

The Future of a Promise, with works of (ao) Nadia Kaabi-Linke and Emily Jacir

The Pavilion of Egypt

http://www.ahmedbasiony.com/images/pdf/e-flux.pdf

Right: Ahmed Basiony, “30 Days of Running in the Place” documentation footage, February–March2010, Palace of the Arts Gallery, Opera House Grounds, Cairo, Egypt.

Left: Ahmed Basiony, 28th of January (Friday of Rage) 6:50 pm, Tahrir Square. Photo taken by Magdi Mostafa.

Biennale di Arte / 54th International Venice Biennale

Egyptian Pavilion, 2011

30 Days of Running in the Place

Honoring Ahmed Basiony (1978–2011)

Opening reception:

3 June 2011 at 4:15 PM

Runs until 27 November 2011

www.ahmedbasiony.com

Ahmed Basiony (1978–2011) was a crucial component as an artist and professor to the use of new media technology in his artistic and socio-cultural research. He designed projects, each working in its own altering direction out of a diversity of domains in order to expose a personal account experienced through the function of audio and visual material. Motioning through his artistic projects, with an accurate eye of constant visibility, and invisibility, while listening to audio material that further relayed the mappings of social information: Whether in the study of the body, locomotion through a street, the visual impact of a scream versus data representation in the form of indecipherable codes. The artist functioned as a contemporary documentarian; only allowing the archival of data the moment it came in, and no longer there after.

30 Days of Running in the Place is the play of a video documentation to a project that had taken place one year ago. Marking a specific time when the artist had performed a particular demonstration of running, in order to anticipate a countering digital reaction; the aim was to observe how in the act of running in a single standing point, with sensors installed in the soles of his shoes, and on his body [to read levels of body heat], could it had been translated into a visual diagram only to be read in codes, and visually witness the movement of energy and physical consumption become born into an image.

One year later, the uprisings to the Egyptian revolution took on Basiony’s attention, as it had millions of other Egyptians motioning through the exact same states of social consumption. It was from then on, for a period of four days, did Basiony film with his digital and phone camera, the events of downtown Cairo and Tahrir Square, leading to his death on the night of the January 28th, 2011.

An evolution of universal networks created out of audio, visual and electronic communications, blurring the distinction between interpersonal communication, and that of the masses, Basiony’s works only existed in real-time, and then after that they became part of the archives of research he invested into making. It is with this note, we collectively desired, under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture, to recognize and honor the life and death of an artist who was fully dedicated to the notions of an Egypt, that to only recently, demanded the type of change he was seeking his entire life.

A gesture of 30 years young, up against 30 years of a multitude of disquieted unrest.

Curatorial Team

Aida Eltorie, Curator

Shady El Noshokaty, Executive Curator

Magdi Mostafa, Sound & Media Engineering

Hosam Hodhod, Production Assistant

Website: http://www.ahmedbasiony.com

Contact: info@ahmedbasiony.com

http://www.dailymotion.com/embed/video/xkjond Ahmed Basiony: Thirty Days of Running in the… door vernissagetv

My own impression:

Ahmed Basiony, 30 days of running in the space, video installation, Pavilion of Egypt, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Ahmed Basiony, 30 days of running in the space, video installation, Pavilion of Egypt, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Ahmed Basiony, 30 days of running in the space, video installation, Pavilion of Egypt, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Ahmed Basiony, 30 days of running in the space, video installation, Pavilion of Egypt, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Ahmed Basiony, 30 days of running in the space, video installation, Pavilion of Egypt, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Ahmed Basiony, 30 days of running in the space, video installation, Pavilion of Egypt, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Ahmed Basiony, 30 days of running in the space, video installation, Pavilion of Egypt, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Photos by Floris Schreve

The Pavilion of Saudi Arabia

http://www.thisistomorrow.info/viewArticle.aspx?artId=823

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Pavilion, Arsenale, Venice, Italy, 6 Jun 2011

The Black Arch

Title : The Black Arch, installation view Credit : Courtesy Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Pavilion

//


Press Release Abdulaziz Alsebail, Commissioner, is pleased to announce that Shadia and Raja Alem will represent the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for its inaugural pavilion at the 54th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia, Mona Khazindar1 and Robin Start2 will curate The Black Arch, an installation by the two artists. The work of Shadia and Raja Alem can be read as a double narrative. Raja the writer, and Shadia the visual artist, have a non-traditional artist’s background. While having had a classical and literary education the sisters acquired knowledge through their encounters with pilgrims visiting Makkah. Their family had welcomed pilgrims into their home during the Hajj for generations. Since the mid 1980s, the sisters have travelled the world for exhibitions, lectures, and for the general exploration and appreciation of art and literature, and in some way seeking the origins of cultures and civilizations that sparked their imagination through the stories of the visitors to Makkah throughout their childhood. The Black Arch was created through a profound collaboration between Shadia and Raja Alem. It is very much about a meeting point of the two artists; of two visions of the world; from darkness to light, and of two cities – Makkah and Venice. The work is a stage, set to project the artists’ collective memory of Black – the monumental absence of colour – and physical representation of Black, referring to their past. The narrative is fuelled by the inspirational tales told by their aunts and grandmothers, and is anchored in Makkah, where the sisters grew up in the 1970s. The experience with the physical presence of Black, the first part of the installation, is striking for the artists; Raja explains, “I grew up aware of the physical presence of Black all around, the black silhouettes of Saudi women, the black cloth of the Al ka’ba3 and the black stone4 which is said to have enhanced our knowledge.” As a counter-point, the second part of the installation is a mirror image, reflecting the present. These are the aesthetic parameters of the work. The Black Arch is also about a journey, about transition; inspired by Marco Polo and fellow 13th century traveller Ibn Battuta5 – both examples of how to bridge cultures through travel. Shadia explains how she felt a desire to follow Marco Polo’s example and “to bring my city of Makkah to Venice, through objects brought from there: a Black Arch; a cubic city, and a handful of Muzdalifah pebbles.6” The artists focus on the similarities between the two cosmopolitan cities and their inspirational powers. The double vision of two women, two sisters, two artists unfolds in a world of ritual and tradition which, however, confronts the day-to-day reality of human behaviour with simplicity. “If the doors of perception were cleared, everything would appear to man as it really is, infinite.”  William Blake.

See also the extensive documentation on the website of the Saudi Pavilion: http://saudipavilionvenice.com/

Impression by Floris Schreve:

Raja & Shadia Alem, The Black Arch, installation, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Raja & Shadia Alem, The Black Arch, installation, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Raja & Shadia Alem, The Black Arch, installation, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Raja & Shadia Alem, The Black Arch, installation, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Raja & Shadia Alem, The Black Arch, installation, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Raja & Shadia Alem, The Black Arch, installation, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Raja & Shadia Alem, The Black Arch, installation, Venice Biennial, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

The Pavilion of Iraq; my own impression

Introduction of the curator Mary Angela Shroth:

“These are extraordinary times for Iraq. The project to create an official country Pavilion for the 54. Biennale di Venezia is a multiple and participatory work in progress since 2004. It is historically coming at a period of great renewal after more than 30 years of war and conflict in that country.

The Pavilion of Iraq will feature six internationally-known contemporary Iraqi artists who are emblematic in their individual experimental artistic research, a result of both living inside and outside their country. These artists, studying Fine Arts in Baghdad, completed their arts studies in Europe and USA. They represent two generations: one, born in the early 1950′s, has experienced both the political instability and the cultural richness of that period in Iraq. Ali Assaf, Azad Nanakeli and Walid Siti came of age in the 1970′s during the period of the creation of political socialism that marked their background. The second generation, to include Adel Abidin, Ahmed Alsoudani and Halim Al Karim, grew up during the drama of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), the invasion of Kuwait, overwhelming UN economic sanctions and subsequent artistic isolation. This generation of artists exited the country before the 2003 invasion, finding refuge in Europe and USA by sheer fortune coupled with the artistic virtue of their work. All six artists thus have identities indubitably forged with contemporary artistic practice that unites the global situation with the Iraqi experience and they represent a sophisticated and experimental approach that is completely international in scope.

The six artists will execute works on site that are inspired by both the Gervasuti Foundation space and the thematic choice of water. This is a timely interpretation since the lack of water is a primary source of emergency in Iraq, more than civil war and terrorism. A documentary by Oday Rasheed curated by Rijin Sahakian will feature artists living and working in Iraq today.

The Pavilion of Iraq has been produced thanks to Shwan I. Taha and Reem Shather-Kubba/Patrons Committee, corporate and individual contributors, Embassy of the Republic of Iraq and generous grants from the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, Hussain Ali Al-Hariri, and Nemir & Nada Kirdar. Honorary Patron is the architect Zaha Hadid“.

Azad Nanakeli, Destnuej (purification), Video Installation, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

‘In my language Destnuej means ‘purification’, to cleanse the body from all sins. When I was a boy, water for daily use was extracted from wells for drinking, cooking and washing. Long ago the water from the wells was clear and pure, but already at that time, however, things had changed: my friends who lived in the same area suffered from illness linked to contaminated water. My nephew contracted malaria and died. Since then, much has changed and the wells no longer exist. As in most places they were replaced by aqueducts but the problem persists. Residues of every shape and substance are poured incessantly into the water, poisoning rivers and oceans.

Toxic waste, nuclear by-products, and various chemicals multiply inexorably, seeping into groundwater. Slowly, day after day, they enter into our bodies. For these reasons, the water is no longer pure. Drinking, cooking, washing. Purifying. Purification is an ancient ritual, disseminated in the four corners of the world.

The man who continues to drink this water contaminates his own body. The man who uses it to purify himself contaminates himself.

My work is based on and motivated by these themes, which are also linked to general degradation man causes to the environment around us’.

Azad Nanakeli, March 2011

From: Ali Assaf, Mary Angela Shroth, Acqua Ferita/Wounded Water; Six Iraqi artists interpret the theme of water, Gangemi editore, Venice Biennale, 2011, p. 52

Azad Nanakeli, Au (Water), Mixed Media Installation with audio, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

‘Au’ means water in Kurdish. It is present on our planet in enormous quantities. For the most part, however, it is not available for use: it is salt water that makes up our oceans and glaciers.

The remaining quantity, which we use for the needs of mankind, might be considered sufficient for the moment, but the resources are not unlimited. The need for water increases in an exponential way, with the rise of the world population, and in a few years time the supply might be in jeopardy.

Add to the man’s carelessness and irresponsibility. We waste and pollute water supplies in the name of progress, of consumerism and of economic interests.

It is estimated that within the next twenty years consumption is destined to increase by 40%. What’s more, already today a large part of the world’s population does not have access to clean water sources; among them are the people of the Middle East.

In ancient days and until a few decades ago, these sources existed throughout the territory. They were called oasis. Today after the building of dams by Turkey in the 70’s and by Syria in the 80’s, and the relentless draining of 15,000 square kilometers of Iraqi land (a decision by the regime) everything has changed: where there was once fertile land, there is now desert and desolation.

The World Bank estimates that, by 2035, only 90% of the population of Western Asia, including the Arab Peninsula,  will be without water. The small quantity that will still be available will be directed to urban areas, while the countryside will drown in inescapable aridity.

The accumulation of refuse of large urban and industrial areas over the years had created further danger and damage to the integrity of its precious resource.

Underground water levels are polluted by toxic substances. Non-biodegradable materials from refuse dumps accumulate in canals and oceans.

This work emulates the disturbing images from the media of islands composed entirely of accumulated waste.

Azad Nanakeli, March, 2011

Acqua Ferita, p. 56

Halim Al Karim, Nations Laundry, video installation, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Nations Laundry

In this video (Nations Laundry), the idea and materials used to reflect the concepts of threat, apprehension, and survival in matters of our environment. Within this work, my aim is to create an awareness that may, in turn, help bring about positive changes to our failing environmental systems that came as a result of yours and our wars.

Halim Al-Karim, March 2011

Acqua Ferita, p. 58

Halim Al Karim, Hidden Love 3, fotograph lambda-print, 2010 (photo Floris Schreve)

Halim al Karim (overview- source http://www.modernism.ro/2011/08/29/six-iraqi-artists-acqua-ferita-wounded-water-iraq-pavilion-the-54th-international-art-exhibition-of-the-venice-biennale/)

My works dwell on the envolving mentality of urban society. I am concerned with ongoing and unresolved issues, particularly when they relate to violence. I search both through the layers of collective memory and my personal experience in that context.

In this process, the main challenge for me is to identify and stay clear of the historical and contemporary elements of brainwash.

Through these works I try to visualize an urban society free of violence. These out of focus images, sometimes rendered more mysterious under a veil of silk, imply uncertainty of context, time and place. These techniques, which have become the hallmark of my work, are a means to overcome the effects of politics of deception and, in turn, transform me and the camera into single truth seeking entity.

Halim Al-Karim, March 2011

Acqua Ferita, p. 58

Ahmed Alsoudani (overview- source http://www.modernism.ro/2011/08/29/six-iraqi-artists-acqua-ferita-wounded-water-iraq-pavilion-the-54th-international-art-exhibition-of-the-venice-biennale/)

‘My deepest memories are central to my painting but it is often easier only to look at the surface; to see war, torture and violence and even to consider my art only in terms of the present Iraq war. My own approach is different from anything related to the first impression. I am interested in memory and history, and in the potent areas between the two that enable me to keep memories alive in the present. As an artist, it is important not to get obsessed with my subject matter. I need critical distance. Some of the events that inform my paintings are things I have personally experienced while others I have heard about from family or close friends. These events are refashioned  in my imagination in such a way that I am able to look at them both very personally and with some distance. If I were too personal and too literal about these subjects I would be overly emotional and that would negatively affect the work, I would take it into a place which is something other than art. In order for these works to survive as art I need the distance my interior process of distilling my subject matter affords me. In terms of Iraq, I care deeply about the country and the people there. My work is not intended to be a first person account on war, atrocity or the effect of totalitarianism in Iraq in the last twenty years; in fact I think there are universal and common aspects to these things throughout history and different parts of the world and I hope viewers will see this in my paintings in Venice’.

Ahmed Alsoudani, New York, april, 2011 (from Ali Assaf, Mary Angela Shroth, Acqua Ferita/Wounded Water; Six Iraqi artists interpret the theme of water, Gangemi editore, Venice Biennale, 2011)

Walid Siti, Beauty-spot, installation, 2011 (http://fnewsmagazine.com/2011/07/biennale-binge-part-2/ )

Beauty Spot

The Gali Ali Breg (Gorge of Ali Beg) waterfall is part of Hamilton Road, built in 1932 under the guidance of New Zealand engineer Sir Archibald Milne Hamilton to link Erbil with the Iranian border. The waterfall had long been a tourist destination, featured in Iraqi publications and on the current  5000 Iraqi Dinar note.

Two years ago a drought afflicted the region, and left the waterfall dry in the summer seasons. This prompted the Kurdish government to hire a Lebanese company to divert water to the falls, which involved pumping 250 cubic meters of water per second. The imagery on the note thus remained intact.

Walid Siti, 2011

Acqua Ferita, p. 64

Walid Siti, Mes0 (detail), Mylar mirror, twill tape, nylon fishing line and wood, 2011 (source: http://www.modernism.ro/2011/08/29/six-iraqi-artists-acqua-ferita-wounded-water-iraq-pavilion-the-54th-international-art-exhibition-of-the-venice-biennale/)

Walid Siti,   Meso (detail), Mylar mirror, twill tape, nylon fishing line and wood, 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Meso 2011

From the air, the Great Zab River near Erbil forms a snaking, green body of water in a dry, golden landscape. Though beautiful, the sight also reveals the skeletons of dried out rivers and streams that once contributed to its flow. This piece exposes the fragility of the Great Zab (one of the main tributaries to the Tigris River), now exposed to the lurking threats of drought, rapid development and political tugs-of-war.

Walid Siti, 2011

Acqua Ferita, p. 64

Adel Abidin, Consumptions of War, Video Projection and amorphic installation (photo Floris Schreve- see here a compilation)

Adel Abidin, Consumptions of War, Video Projection and amorphic installation (photo Floris Schreve- see here a compilation)

Adel Abidin, Consumptions of War, Video Projection and amorphic installation (photo Floris Schreve- see here a compilation)

Adel Abidin, Consumptions of War, Video Projection and amorphic installation (photo Floris Schreve- see here a compilation)

Adel Abidin, Consumptions of War, Video Projection and amorphic installation (photo Floris Schreve- see here a compilation)

Consumption of War explores the environmental crisis through the participatory crisis and spectator culture of profit driven bodies. Today, global corporate entities encourage consumption on a massive scale for maximum profit, disregarding the obscene amounts of water needed to produce ‘necessities’ such as a pair of jeans or cup of coffee. In Iraq, major corporations have signed the largest free oil exploration deals in history. Yet while every barrel of oil extracted requires 1.5 barrels of water, 1 out of every 4 citizens has no access to clean drinking water.

In a corporate office, two men compete in a childish battle inspired by Star Wars, using fluorescent lights as swords. Each light is consumed until the darkened room marks the game’s abrupt end. Alternating between lush and dry, attractive and foolish, this is a landscape of false promises and restricted power’

Adel Abidin, March 2011, Acqua Ferita, p. 34

Narciso – Alì Assaf from EcoArt Project on Vimeo.

Ali Assaf, still from Narciso (photo Floris Schreve)

For the 2011 Biennale I have conceived two works. Between them, they approach several aspects following my recent visit to my hometown, Al Basrah, where I lived till the age of 18 and where the majority of my gamily still resides.

Narciso

In my parents’ house in Al Basrah, I found myself turning the pages of an old schoolbook on Caravaggio (1571-1610). Before an illustration of his ‘Narciso’, these questions came to mind:

‘What would happen today if Narcissus saw himself in the water?’

‘Would he be able to see his image in today’s polluted water?’

‘And myself? If I was able to see my image in the waters of Al Basrah, what would I see?’

In this manner my return to Al Basrah had the meaning of reflecting myself in my own history and in its own in-depth and intimate personal identity. But it was impossible to do, because I found this identity led astray and darkened.

Ali Assaf, al-Basrah, the Venice of the East (installation), 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Ali Assaf, al-Basrah, the Venice of the East (installation), 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Ali Assaf, al-Basrah, the Venice of the East (installation), 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Ali Assaf, al-Basrah, the Venice of the East (installation), 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Ali Assaf,  al-Basrah, the Venice of the East (detail), 2011 (photo Floris Schreve)

Al Basrah, the Venice of the East

My arrival at the border between Kuwait and Iraq was a shock.

A profound sense of frustration when confronted with this reality.

‘ There was nothing left from those memories that were so important to my survival. Only destruction and ugliness. The surviving friends and family had aged, the Shatt al-Arab River had become saline.

The canals had dried up and were a deposit for refuse and garbage, the historic buildings destroyed or substituted by illegal constructions, the dates were contaminated.

The Shenashil built of wood (with their Indo-English balconies) were abandoned to their own devices, to the sun and rain, they had lost their charm and characteristic beauty. These places were corroded by humidity and lack of care, marked by war and the embargo.

All without a trace of poetry.

Ali Assaf, 2011

Acqua Ferita, p. 46

Me in the Black Arch

Floris Schreve

فلوريس سحرافا

(أمستردام، هولندا)

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Kunstenaars uit de Arabische wereld in Nederland (verschenen in Eutopia nr. 27, april 2011 ‘Diversiteit in de Beeldende Kunst’) – فنانون من العالم العربي في هولندا

Mijn artikel, dat afgelopen voorjaar in Eutopia is verschenen (Eutopia nr. 27, april 2011, themanummer ‘Diversiteit in de Beeldende Kunst’, zie hier). Het artikel heb ik echter geschreven in het najaar van 2010, dus nog vóór de opstanden in de Arabische wereld. Hoewel het onderwerp natuurlijk kunstenaars uit de Arabische wereld in Nederland was, zou ik er zeker een opmerking over hebben gemaakt. De Arabische Lente, die in Tunesië begon nadat op 17 december 2010 in Sidi Bouzid de 27 jarige Mohamed Bouazizi zichzelf in brand stak en daarmee de onvrede van de relatief jonge Arabische bevolking met de zittende dictatoriale regimes van de diverse landen een gezicht gaf, is, los van hoe de ontwikkelingen verder zullen gaan, natuurlijk een historische mijlpaal zonder weerga. Maar het begin van de Arabische opstanden voltrok zich precies tussen het moment dat ik onderstaande bijdrage had ingestuurd (november 2010) en de uiteindelijke verschijning in mei 2011.   In een later geschreven bijdrage voor Kunstbeeld, over moderne en hedendaagse kunst in de Arabische wereld zelf, heb ik wel aandacht aan deze ontwikkelingen besteed, zie hier.

Het nummer van Eutopia was vrijwel geheel gewijd aan kunstenaars uit Iran in Nederland. In de verschillende bijdragen van Özkan Gölpinar, Neil van der Linden, Robert Kluijver, Dineke Huizenga, Bart Top, Marja Vuijsje, Wanda Zoet en anderen kwamen vooral Iraanse kunstenaars aan bod, als Soheila Najand, Atousa Bandeh Ghiasabadi, Farhad Foroutanian, (de affaire) Sooreh Hera en nog een aantal anderen. In mijn bijdrage heb ik me gericht op de kunstenaars uit de Arabische landen, die wonen en werken in Nederland, die ook een belangrijke rol speelden in mijn scriptie-onderzoek.

De tekst is vrijwel dezelfde als die van de gedrukte versie, alleen heb ik een flink aantal weblinks toegevoegd, die verwijzen naar websites van individuele kunstenaars, achtergrondartikelen en documentaires, of radio- en televisie-uitzendingen.

Hieronder mijn bijdrage aan dit themanummer:

Kunstenaars uit de Arabische wereld in Nederland 

فنانون من العالم العربي في هولندا

Naast dat er een aantal uit Iran afkomstige kunstenaars in ons land actief zijn, zijn er ook veel kunstenaars uit de Arabische landen, die wonen en werken in Nederland. Je zou deze groep migrantkunstenaars in drie categorieën kunnen verdelen.

Allereerst zijn er zo’n twintig kunstenaars die vanaf de jaren zeventig naar Europa en uiteindelijk naar Nederland kwamen om hun opleiding te voltooien en hier gebleven zijn. Te denken valt aan Nour-Eddine Jarram  en Bouchaib Dihaj (Marokko),  Abousleiman (Libanon), Baldin (Iraaks Koerdistan), Saad Ali  (Irak, inmiddels verhuisd naar Frankrijk), Essam Marouf , Shawky Ezzat, Achnaton Nassar (Egypte) en van een iets latere lichting Abdulhamid Lahzami en Chokri Ben Amor (Tunesië) .  [1]

Achnaton Nassar, bijvoorbeeld, kwam naar Nederland om verder te studeren aan de Rijksacademie. Hij werd in 1952 in Qena, Egypte, geboren en studeerde aan de universiteiten van Alexandrië en Cairo. Hier werd hij opgeleid in de islamitische traditie, waarbij het Arabische alfabet als uitgangspunt diende. Nassar vond dit te beperkt. De drang om zich verder te ontwikkelen dreef hem naar Europa. Na een studie architectuur in het Griekse Saloniki deed Nassar zijn toelatingsexamen voor de Rijksacademie, te Amsterdam. Daarna vestigde hij zich in 1982 in Amstelveen.

Het grootste deel van Nassars werk bestaat uit abstracte tekeningen, waarbij hij verschillende technieken inzet. In zijn composities verwijst Nassar vaak naar de abstracte vormtaal van de islamitische kunst en het Arabische schrift, al verwerkt hij deze met de organische vormen die hij hier in bijvoorbeeld het Amsterdamse bos aantreft, dat vlakbij zijn atelier ligt.  [2]

In de jaren negentig heeft Nassar een serie popart-achtige figuratieve werken gemaakt, die een dwarse kijk geven op het toen net oplaaiende debat over ‘de multiculturele samenleving’. In deze serie werken combineert Nassar clichébeelden van wat de Nederlandse identiteit zou zijn, met clichébeelden die hier bestaan van de Arabische cultuur. Door op een ironische manier beide stereoptype beelden te combineren, worden beiden gerelativeerd of ontzenuwd.

Een voorbeeld is het hier getoonde paneel uit de periode 1995-2000. Het werk verwijst naar het bankbiljet voor duizend gulden, waarop het portret van Spinoza staat weergegeven. Door kleine interventies is het beeld van betekenis veranderd. Het gebruikelijke 1000 gulden is vervangen met 1001 Nacht en ‘De Nederlandsche Bank’ is veranderd in ‘De Wereldliteratuurbank’. Het biljet is getekend door president N. Mahfouz op 22 juli 1952, de dag van de Egyptische revolutie en bovendien Nassars geboortedag. Een opmerkelijk detail zijn de met goudverf aangebrachte lijnen in het gezicht van Spinoza. Deze lijnen, die lopen vanaf het profiel van de neus via de rechter wenkbrauw naar het rechteroog, vormen het woord Baruch in het Arabisch, Spinoza’s voornaam. Op deze wijze plaatst Nassar een Nederlands symbool als het duizend gulden biljet in een nieuwe context. Spinoza was immers in zijn tijd ook een vreemdeling, namelijk een nazaat van Portugese Joden. Met een werk als dit stelt Nassar belangrijke vragen over nationale versus hybride identiteit en maakt hij een statement over de betrekkelijkheid van symboliek als een statisch referentiepunt van nationale identificatie. [3]

Ook de andere figuratieve werken van Nassar staan vol met dit soort verwijzingen. De essentie van zijn werk ligt in hoe de een naar de ander kijkt en de ander weer naar de één. De ‘oosterling’ kijkt naar de ‘westerling’ volgens een bepaald mechanisme, maar Nassar heeft vooral dit thema in omgekeerde richting verwerkt: wat is de cultureel bepaalde blik van het ‘Westen’ naar de ‘Oriënt’?

Achnaton Nassar, Zonder titel, acryl op paneel, 1995-1996 (afb. collectie van de kunstenaar)

Met zijn beeldinterventies legt Nassar valse neo-koloniale en exotistische structuren bloot, die in het westerse culturele denken bestaan. Hiermee raakt hij een belangrijk punt van de westerse cultuurgeschiedenis. Volgens de Palestijnse literatuurwetenschapper Edward Said bestaat er een groot complex aan cultureel bepaalde vooroordelen in de westerse culturele canon wat betreft de ‘Oriënt’. In zijn belangrijkste werk, Orientalism  (1978), heeft hij erop gewezen dat de beeldvorming van het westen van de Arabische wereld vooral wordt bepaald door enerzijds een romantisch exotisme en anderzijds door een reactionaire kracht die, in de wil tot overheersing, de ‘irrationaliteit’ van de ‘Oriënt’ wil indammen, daar zij nooit zelf in staat zou zijn om tot vernieuwingen te komen. Said heeft in zijn belangrijke wetenschappelijke oeuvre (Orientalism en latere werken) de onderliggende denkstructuren blootgelegd, die hij toeschrijft aan het imperialistische gedachtegoed, een restant dat is gebleven na de koloniale periode en nog steeds zijn weerslag vindt in bijvoorbeeld de wetenschap (zie Bernard Lewis, maar van iets later bijvoorbeeld ook de notie van de ‘Clash of Civilizations’ van Samuel Huntington, die sterk op het gedachtegoed van Lewis is geïnspireerd- het begrip ‘Clash of Civilizations’ is zelfs ontleend aan een passage uit Lewis’ artikel The Roots of the Muslim Rage uit 1990), de media en de politiek. [4] Ook voor het debat in de hedendaagse kunst is Saids bijdrage van groot belang geweest. Op dit moment speelt het discours zich af tussen processen van uitsluiting, het toetreden van de ander (maar daarbij het insluipende gevaar van exotisme), of gewoon dat goede kunst van ieder werelddeel afkomstig kan zijn.

De overgrote meerderheid van de kunstenaars uit de Arabische wereld in Nederland bestaat vooral uit kunstenaars uit Irak, die grotendeels in de jaren negentig naar Nederland zijn gekomen als politiek vluchteling voor het vroegere Iraakse regime. Het gaat hier om zo’n tachtig beeldende kunstenaars, zowel van Arabische als Koerdische afkomst. Naast beeldende kunstenaars zijn er overigens ook veel dichters (bijv. Salah Hassan, Naji Rahim, Chaalan Charif  en al-Galidi ), schrijvers (Mowaffk al-Sawad  en Ibrahim Selman), musici (zoals het beroemde Iraqi Maqam ensemble van Farida Mohammed Ali, de fluitist / slagwerker Sattar Alsaadi, de zanger Saleh Bustan en het Koerdische gezelschap Belan, van oa Nariman Goran) en acteurs (bijv. Saleh Hassan Faris) in die tijd naar Nederland gekomen. [5]

Beeldende kunstenaars uit Irak die zich de afgelopen jaren in Nederland hebben gemanifesteerd zijn oa Ziad Haider (helaas overleden in 2006, zie ook dit artikel op dit blog), Aras Kareem (zie ook hier op dit blog), Monkith Saaid  (helaas overleden in 2008), Ali Talib , Afifa Aleiby, Nedim Kufi (zie op dit blog hier en hier), Halim al Karim (verhuisd naar de VS, overigens nu op de Biënnale van Venetië, zie dit artikel), Salman al-Basri, Mohammed Qureish, Hoshyar Rasheed (zie ook op dit blog), Sadik Kwaish Alfraji, Sattar Kawoosh , Iman Ali , Hesam Kakay, Fathel Neema, Salam Djaaz, Araz Talib, Hareth Muthanna, Awni Sami, Fatima Barznge en vele anderen. [6]

Een Iraakse kunstenaar, die sinds de laatste jaren steeds meer boven de horizon van ook de Nederlandse gevestigde kunstinstellingen is gekomen, is Qassim Alsaedy (Bagdad 1949). Alsaedy studeerde in de jaren zeventig aan de kunstacademie in Bagdad, waar hij een leerling was van oa Shakir Hassan al-Said, een van de meest toonaangevende kunstenaars van Irak en wellicht een van de meest invloedrijke kunstenaars van de Arabische en zelfs islamitische wereld van de twintigste eeuw. [7] Gedurende zijn studententijd kwam Alsaedy al in conflict met het regime van de Ba’thpartij. Hij werd gearresteerd en zat negen maanden gevangen in al-Qasr an-Nihayyah, het beruchte ‘Paleis van het Einde’, de voorloper van de latere Abu Ghraib gevangenis.

Na die tijd was het voor Alasedy erg moeilijk om zich ergens langdurig als kunstenaar te vestigen. Hij woonde afwisselend in Syrië, Jemen en in de jaren tachtig in Iraaks Koerdistan, waar hij leefde met de Peshmerga’s (de Koerdische rebellen). Toen het regime in Bagdad de operatie ‘Anfal’ lanceerde, de beruchte genocide campagne op de Koerden, week Alsaedy uit naar Libië, waar hij zeven jaar lang als kunstenaar actief was. Uiteindelijk kwam hij midden jaren negentig naar Nederland.

 

 

Afbeelding78

Qassim Alsaedy, object uit de serie/installatie Faces of Baghdad, assemblage van metaal en lege patroonhulzen op paneel, 2005 (geëxposeerd op de Biënnale van Florence van 2005). Afb. collectie van de kunstenaar

In het werk van Alsaedy staan de afdrukken die de mens in de loop van geschiedenis hebben achterlaten centraal. Hij is vooral gefascineerd door oude muren, waarop de sporen van de geschiedenis zichtbaar zijn. In zijn vaderland Irak, het gebied van het vroegere Mesopotamië, werden al sinds duizenden jaren bouwwerken opgetrokken, die in de loop van de geschiedenis weer vergingen. Telkens weer liet de mens zijn sporen na. In Alsaedy’s visie blijft er op een plaats altijd iets van de geschiedenis achter. In een bepaald opzicht vertoont het werk van Qassim Alsaedy enige overeenkomsten met het werk van de bekende Nederlandse kunstenaar Armando . Toch zijn er ook verschillen; waar Armando in zijn ‘schuldige landschappen’ tracht uit te drukken dat de geschiedenis een blijvend stempel op een bepaalde plaats drukt (zie zijn werken nav de Tweede Wereldoorlog en de concentratiekampen van de Nazi’s), laat Alsaedy de toeschouwer zien dat de tijd uiteindelijk de wonden van de geschiedenis heelt. [8]

Het hier getoonde werk gaat meer over de recente geschiedenis van zijn land. Alsaedy maakte deze assemblage van lege patroonhulzen na zijn bezoek aan Bagdad in de zomer van 2003, toen hij na meer dan vijfentwintig jaar voor het eerst weer zijn geboorteland bezocht. Vanzelfsprekend is dit werk een reactie op de oorlog die dat jaar begonnen was. Maar ook deze ‘oorlogsresten’ zullen uiteindelijk wegroesten en verdwijnen, waarna er slechts een paar gaten of littekens achterblijven.

Sinds de laatste tien jaar begint ook de tweede generatie migrantenkunstenaars uit de Arabische wereld zichtbaar te worden. De tot nu toe meest bekende kunstenaar uit deze categorie is de Nederlandse/ Marokkaanse kunstenaar Rachid Ben Ali. Ben Ali bezocht kortstondig de mode-academie en de kunstacademie in Arnhem, maar vestigde zich al snel als autonoom kunstenaar in Amsterdam. Sinds die tijd heeft hij een stormachtige carrière doorgemaakt. Hij werd ‘ontdekt’ door Rudi Fuchs, exposeerde in het Stedelijk op de tentoonstelling die was samengesteld door Koningin Beatrix en had een paar grote solo-exposities, waaronder in Het Domein in Sittard (2002) en in het Cobramuseum in Amstelveen (2005). Deze tentoonstellingen verliepen overigens niet zonder controverses. Vanuit de islamitische hoek, maar zeker ook vanuit de autochtone Nederlandse hoek (zoals in de gemeente van Sittard, toen Ben Ali in het Domein exposeerde in 2002), werd het werk van Ben Ali als provocerend of aanstootgevend ervaren, vooral vanwege de expliciet homo-erotische voorstellingen die hij had verbeeld. [9]

Het werk van Ben Ali is rauw, direct, intuïtief en soms confronterend. In zijn werk zijn persoonlijke en politieke thema’s met elkaar verweven. Een belangrijke rol spelen zijn persoonlijke achtergrond, zijn homoseksualiteit, zijn verontwaardiging over zowel racisme en vreemdelingenhaat, als over religieuze bekrompenheid en intolerantie en zijn betrokkenheid bij wat er in de wereld gebeurt. Het hier getoonde werk maakte Ben Ali naar aanleiding van beelden van doodgeschoten Palestijnse kinderen door het Israëlische leger. Het weergegeven silhouet is een verbeelding van zijn eigen schaduw. Ben Ali heeft zichzelf hier weergeven als een machteloze toeschouwer, die van een grote afstand niet in staat is om iets te doen, behalve te aanschouwen en te getuigen. [10]

Er zijn nog veel meer kunstenaars uit de Arabische wereld in Nederland actief, zowel uit het Midden Oosten als Noord Afrika. Het is vanzelfsprekend onmogelijk om hen allemaal in dit verband recht te doen. Hoewel de meesten nog onbekend zijn bij de gevestigde instellingen, neemt hun zichtbaarheid in de Nederlandse kunstwereld langzaam maar zeker toe.

Floris Schreve,

Amsterdam, november 2010

فلوريس سحرافا

امستردام، 2010

Zie in dit verband ook mijn recente uitgebreide tekst over Qassim Alsaedy, nav de tentoonstelling in Diversity & Art en de bijdragen rond mijn lezing (de handout, mijn bijdrage in Kunstbeeld en de Engelse versie, waarin ik beiden heb samengevoegd) over de hedendaagse kunst in de Arabische wereld, waarin de actuele gebeurtenissen wel uitgebreid aan de orde zijn gekomen

 

 

Rachid h2 5

Rachid Ben Ali, Zonder Titel, acryl op doek, 2001 (foto Floris Schreve)

Noten

 [1] Tineke Lonte, Kleine Beelden, Grote Dromen, Al Farabi, Beurs van Berlage, Amsterdam, 1993 (zie ook Jihad Abou Sleiman, Arabische kunstenaars schilderen bergen in Nederland, in Rosemarie Buikema, Maaike Meijer, ‘Cultuur en Migratie in Nederland; Kunst in Beweging 1980-2000’, Sdu Uitgevers, Den Haag, 2004, pp. 237-252, http://www.dbnl.org/tekst/meij017cult02_01/meij017cult02_01_0015.php) ; Mili Milosevic, Schakels, Museum voor Volkenkunde (Wereldmuseum), Rotterdam,  1988; Jetteke Bolten, Els van der Plas, Het Klimaat: Buitenlandse Beeldende Kunstenaars in Nederland, Gate Foundation, Stedelijk Museum de Lakenhal, Culturele Raad Zuid Holland, Den Haag, 1991; Paul Faber, Sebastian López, Double Dutch; transculturele beïnvloeding in de beeldende kunst, Stichting Kunst Mondiaal, Tilburg, 1992 (zie hier de introductie);  Els van der Plas, Anil Ramdas, Sebastian López, Het land dat in mij woont: literatuur en beeldende kunst over migratie, Gate Foundation, Museum voor Volkenkunde (Wereldmuseum), Rotterdam, 1995.

[2] Hans Sizoo, ‘Nassar, het park en de Moskee’, in J. Rutten (red.) met bijdragen van Kitty Zijlmans, Floris Schreve, Hans Sizoo, Achnaton Nassar, Saskia en Hassan gaan trouwen, werken van Achnaton Nassar, Universiteitsbibliotheek Leiden, 2001. Zie ook http://www.dripbook.com/achnatonnassar/splash/ en voor meer abstract werk (tekeningen), zie de site van Galerie Art Singel 100, http://www.artxs.nl/achnaton.htm

[3] Saskia en Hassan (2001), zie ook de online versie http://bc.ub.leidenuniv.nl/bc/tentoonstelling/Saskia_en_hassan/

[4] Edward Said, Orientalism; Western conceptions of the Orient, Pantheon Books, New York, 1978 (repr. Penguin Books, New York 1995, 2003). Zie ook: Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations?, Foreign Affairs, vol. 72, no. 3, Summer 1993; Bernard Lewis, The Roots of the Muslim Rage, The Atlantic Monthly, September 1990, http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1990/09/the-roots-of-muslim-rage/4643/ , Edward Said, The Clash of Ignorance, The Nation, 4 October, 2001, http://www.thenation.com/article/clash-ignorance

[5] Zie bijv. Chaalan Charif, Dineke Huizenga, Mowaffk al-Sawad (red.), Dwaallicht; tien Iraakse dichters in Nederland (poëzie van Mohammad Amin, Chaalan Charif, Venus Faiq, Hameed Haddad, Balkis Hamid Hassan, Salah Hassan, Karim Nasser, Naji Rahim, Mowaffk al-Sawad en Ali Shaye), de Passage, Groningen, 2006; Mowaffk al-Sawad, Stemmen onder de zon, uitgeverij de Passage, Groningen (roman, gebundelde brieven), 2002; Ibrahim Selman, En de zee spleet in tweeën, in de Knipscheer, Amsterdam, 2002 (roman) en de website van Al Galidi http://www.algalidi.com/. Over Iraakse schrijvers in Nederland Dineke Huizenga, Parels van getuigenissen, Zemzem; Tijdschrift over het Midden Oosten, Noord Afrika en islam, themanummer ‘Nederland en Irak’, jaargang 2, nr. 2/ 2006, pp. 56-63 en over Iraakse musici in Nederland Neil van der Linden, Muzikant in Holland, idem, pp. 82-87

[6] Zie oa W. P. C. van der Ende, Versluierde Taal, vijf uit Irak afkomstige kunstenaars in Nederland, Museum Rijswijk, Vluchtelingenwerk Rijswijk, 1999; IMPRESSIES; Kunstenaars uit Irak in ballingschap, AIDA Nederland, Amsterdam, 1996; Ismael Zayer, 28 kunstenaars uit Irak in Nederland, de Babil Liga voor de letteren en de kunsten, Gemeentehuis Den Haag, 2000; Anneke van Ammelrooy, Karim al-Najar, Iraakse kunstenaars in het Museon, Babil, Den Haag, november, 2002; Floris Schreve, Out of Mesopotamia; Iraakse kunstenaars in ballingschap, Leidschrift, Vakgroep Geschiedenis Universiteit Leiden, 17-3-2002 (bewerkte versie Iraakse kunst in de Diaspora, verschenen in Eutopia, nr. 4, april 2003, pp. 45-63); Floris Schreve, Kunst gedijt ook in ballingschap, Zemzem; Tijdschrift over het Midden Oosten, Noord Afrika en islam, themanummer ‘Nederland en Irak’, jaargang 2, nr. 2/ 2006, pp. 73-80 (online versie: https://fhs1973.wordpress.com/2009/06/16/ ); Helge Daniels, Corien Hoek, Charlotte Huygens, Focus Irak, programma en catalogus van het Iraakse culturele festival/tentoonstelling in het Wereldmuseum, ism de Stchting Akkaad, Rotterdam, mei 2004 (zie http://www.akaad.nl/archief.php);  programma ‘Iraakse kunsten in Amsterdam’ (2004), zie http://aidanederland.nl/wordpress/archief/discipline/multidisciplinair/seizoen-2004-2005/iraakse-kunsten-in-amsterdam/. Zie ook Beeldenstorm; vijf Iraakse kunstenaars in Nederland over hun ervaringen in Irak, ‘Factor’, IKON, Nederland 1, 17 juli, 2003, http://www.ikonrtv.nl/factor/index.asp?oId=924#. Zie over Iraakse kunstenaars uit de Diaspora van verschillende landen (uit Nederland Nedim Kufi) Robert Kluijver, Nat Muller, Borders; contemporary Middle Eastern Art and Discourse, Gemak/ De Vrije Academie, Den Haag, oktober 2007/januari 2009.

[7] Nada Shabout, Shakir Hassan Al Said; A Journey towards the One-dimension, Universe in Universe, Ifa (Duitsland), april, 2008, http://universes-in-universe.org/eng/nafas/articles/2008/shakir_hassan_al_said . Zie ook Saeb Eigner, Art of the Middle East; modern and contemporary art of the Arab World and Iran, Merrell, Londen/New York, 2010; Maysaloun Faraj (ed.), Strokes of genius; contemporary Iraqi art, Saqi Books, Londen, 2002; Mohamed Metalsi, Croisement de Signe, Institut du Monde Arabe, Parijs, 1989. Zie ook hier, op de site van de Darat al-Funun in Amman (Jordanië), een van de meest toonaangevende musea voor moderne en hedendaagse kunst in de Arabische wereld.

[8] Zie mijn interview met Qassim Alsaedy, augustus 2000, gepubliceerd op https://fhs1973.wordpress.com/2008/07/14/. Een interview met Alsaedy in het Arabisch (in al-Hurra) is hier te raadplegen. Zie voor meer werk Qassim Alsaedy’s website, http://www.qassim-alsaedy.com/ of de website van de galerie van Frank Welkenhuysen (Utrecht) http://www.kunstexpert.com/kunstenaar.aspx?id=4481

[9] Patrick Healy, Henk Kraan, Rachid Ben Ali, Amsterdam, 2000; Rudi Fuchs, Het Stedelijk Paleis, de keuze van de Koningin, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 2000; Bloothed, Het Domein Sittard, 2003, Rachid Ben Ali, Cobra Museum, Amstelveen, 2005. Zie verder discussie op Maroc.nl (http://www.maroc.nl/forums/archive/index.php/t-43300.html), Premtime (http://www.volkskrant.nl/vk/nl/2844/Archief/archief/article/detail/658197/2005/01/25/PREMtime.dhtml), of bij de Nederlandse Moslimomroep (http://www.nmo.nl/67-kunst__offerfeest_en_nationale_verzoening.html?aflevering=2413).

[10] Dominique Caubet, Margriet Kruyver, Rachid Ben Ali, Thieme Art, 2008. Zie voor recent werk de website van Witzenhausen Gallery, http://www.witzenhausengallery.nl/artist.php?mgrp=0&idxArtist=185

   

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Nedim Kufi en Ahmed Mater; twee bijzondere kunstenaars uit de Arabische wereld nu in Amsterdam – نديم الكوفي وأحمد ماطر

            

links: Nedim Kufi, News, bedrukt papier op houten latten (detail), 2010 (foto Floris Schreve)
rechts: Ahmed Mater, Waqf Illumination III , Gold Leaf, Tea, Pomegranate, Crystals, Dupont Chinese ink & offset X-Ray film print on paper (detail), 2009

Een weerzien met een oude bekende en een nieuwe ontmoeting

Nedim Kufi en Ahmed Mater; twee toonaangevende en vernieuwende kunstenaars uit de Arabische wereld, nu te zien in Amsterdam

نديم الكوفي وأحمد ماطر

Vanaf 21 mei is er in Amsterdam een bijzondere tentoonstelling te bewonderen, van een aantal vooraanstaande kunstenaars uit het Midden Oosten. Samensteller is Robert Kluijver, die sinds de afgelopen jaren zeer actief is geweest op het gebied van kunst uit het Midden Oosten. Ik geef hier de details:

http://www.baarsprojects.com/index.html

Tot zover de omschrijving van de tentoonstelling. Ik kan trouwens de gehele expositie van harte aanbevelen, er is veel interessant werk te zien. In dit verband wil ik mij richten op twee van de deelnemende kunstenaars, Nedim Kufi en Ahmed Mater. Ik zal ook ingaan op eerder en ander werk, dat niet op deze tentoonstelling is te zien. De anderen, de kunstenaars Rana Begum, Abdulnasser Gharem, Susan Hefuna en Shahzia Sikander bewaar ik wellicht voor een andere gelegenheid.

Nedim Kufi – نديم الكوفي

Nedim Kufi, afkomstig uit Irak, is een van de kunstenaars die ik nog ken van mijn scriptie-onderzoek. Ook in latere artikelen (zoals hier en hier ) heb ik aandacht aan hem besteed. Ook is hij een keer uitgebreid door de NRC geïnterviewd, voor een artikel dat grotendeels over mijn onderzoek naar kunstenaars uit Irak in Nederland ging, zie hier op dit blog. Een tijdje was hij wat uit mijn netwerk verdwenen, al volgde ik hem wel op afstand, vooral via internet. Hoewel hij betrekkelijk weinig in Nederland heeft geëxposeerd is vooral in het buitenland zijn ster steeds meer gaan rijzen. Ook zijn werk heeft in de afgelopen tijd een indrukwekkende ontwikkeling doorgemaakt.

Nedim Kufi, die in het verleden ook bekend stond onder de namen Nedim Muhsen of Nedim El Chelaby, werd in 1962 geboren in Bagdad. Hij studeerde begin jaren tachtig aan de kunstacademie in Bagdad bij de beroemde kunstenaars Ismail Fattah al-Turk (beeldhouwkunst/keramiek) en grafische technieken bij Rafa al-Nasiri. Over zijn tijd aan de academie verklaarde hij het volgende:

‘I applied to the Institute of Fine Arts Baghdad, I was excited, and anxious at the same time about the racist oppression of the Baath Party. While learning and practicing my art, that was also an unpleasant period of my life. You cannot imagine, great depression, no freedom, no oxygen at all’

 Na zijn academietijd werd Kufi direct naar het front gestuurd om als soldaat te dienen in de oorlog tegen Iran. Kufi:

‘Although I felt very fortunate to have had art as an alternative companion, sketching up the way I lived in one notebook, it’s also important to include here my emotions. I cannot describe at this moment how much sorrow I carried. I graduated after five years and it was then compulsory for me to become a soldier. Imagine that, during the war with Iran: a black comedy. Counting time until the sun rises and gains in intensity, suddenly one day on 08.08.1988 it was proclaimed that the war was over. Oh my God. I felt I could fly. I needed to make a big difference in my life after this war. But how? How do I escape? I felt fenced into the country. The dream of moving abroad infiltrated my mind every single moment. All of that was a dark layer’.

Uiteindelijk lukte het Kufi om Irak te ontvluchten en na een bizarre omzwerving (over zelfs meerdere continenten) kon hij zich in Nederland vestigen. Sinds die tijd woont en werkt hij in Amersfoort. Ook volgde hij hier nog een opleiding grafische vormgeving aan de Hoge School voor de Kunsten in Utrecht.

Nedim Kufi, Brainwash; Object topical Iraqi, installatie/ready-made, Aleppo-zeep en aluinsteen, 1999

Waarin Kufi zich al vanaf eind jaren negentig van de meeste van zijn in Nederland wonende Iraakse collega’s onderscheidde was het sterke conceptuele karakter van zijn werk. Een van de meest sprekende werken uit die tijd is zijn readymade Brainwah; object toppical Iraqi uit 2001. Te zien is een blokje Aleppo-zeep en een stukje aluinsteen (een soort puimsteen), attributen die in het Midden Oosten tot de vaste bad- assecoires  behoren. Alleen doet de vorm van de steen ook denken aan een hersenkwab. Het is de combinatie van de objecten en de titel die het werk een mogelijke betekenis geven. Dit soort dubbelzinnigheden zijn typerend voor het werk van Kufi.

Kufi eerder over dit werk in NRC Handelsblad in 2003 (zie ook op dit blog ): ‘Gewassen hersenen worden van steen – ze slibben dicht, er kan niets meer in’

Nedim Kufi, Eyes everywhere, krijt en potlood op papier, 1999

Een vergelijkbare associatie roept de tekening Eyes everywhere op. Te zien is weer een vorm die sterk doet denken aan een menselijk brein. Alleen is er met potlood op verschillende plaatsen telkens weer hetzelfde tekentje  aangebracht. Het gaat hier om de Arabische letter  ع  (‘ayn), wat ‘oog’ betekent (عين). Het gegeven van ‘overal ogen’, al dan niet ingebeeld, is ook weer een teken waarmee je verschillende kanten op kunt.

Een andere readymade uit dezelfde periode is een enveloppe. Kufi heeft dit werk de titel Brainwash II gegeven. Wellicht gaat het hier om een uit Irak verzonden brief, gericht aan Kufi en gestuurd naar een adres in Borculo (wellicht nog de vluchtelingenopvang). De inhoud van de enveloppe laat zich raden, maar Kufi geeft hier wel een aanwijzing in welke richting wij het moeten zoeken.

Nedim Kufi, Brainwash II, readymade, 1999

Een zelfde soort ironie blijkt ook uit verschillende korte tekstjes, die Kufi een aantal jaren terug op zijn website publiceerde. Hier een passage uit ‘The defenition of Cool’:

 ‘How do I describe the word C O O L? How come? It’s hard to answer this

question in a couple of pages. But one thing could be very helpful, and that

is everybody nowadays almost says (cool), obviously as an immediate

expression. No need to make the idea of cool explicit any more. It’s an

attitude of this age, a new common language used with the meaning of

superiority and high quality. Yes it has a magic power when it touches

people, I don’t know really! Is it so cool? Is it so attractive? Is it a bit sharp?

Is it too glossy? Or could it be too perfect? It’s logical if life had totally

changed, from age to age (groovy) transformed into (cool) deep into

Internet TITLES mostly extended to (cool) to be saleable items.’

 

Vervolgens komt hij met een heleboel voorbeelden, zoals:

 

‘Getting the best model of mobile telephone with special extra function is so cool, Dancing

the whole Saturday night is cool too, Vacation in IBIZA is extremely cool,

Getting your own domain name in www is so cool, Bombing here and there

is very cool, American action movies are so cool, If you win a million is real

cool, If you get a USA passport is cool,’

 

enz.

 

Hoewel de tragiek nooit ver weg is, heeft Kufi altijd oog voor het absurde en is zijn werk zeker niet gespeend van enige humor.

  

Nedim Kufi, ‘Habibi-project’ ( حبيبي = ‘Habibi’) , Amersfoort, 2009

Kufi zet alle mogelijke materialen zoals kauwgum, rozenblaadjes of zeep. In mijn gesprek met Kufi uit 2001 sprak hij dan ook van ‘junk art’. Tegelijkertijd is hij ook bijzonder bedreven in alle mogelijke grafische technieken, tot en met allerlei computeranimaties. Zie bijvoorbeeld zijn Habibi-project dat hij in 2009 in Amersfoort realiseerde, samen met de dichter Gerard Beentjes. ‘Habibi’ betekent overigens ‘mijn liefje’ in het Arabisch. (zie http://www.deweekkrant.nl/files/pdfarchief/AB/20090708/NUC_ANU-1-07_090708_1.pdf )

In zijn recentere werk ontpopt Kufi zich tot een soort alchemist. Aan de Libanese Dayly Star vertelde Kufi dat hij zich opeens een vriend van zijn vader uit zijn kindertijd herinnerde, die werkte als traditionele ‘attar’ (alchemist).  Kufi hierover:

 “If we say art is a profession only, then it is not enough for me. I mean, I know art is a profession but it has to be more than that. I have to find in art a temple, a ritual, spiritual behavior. So in general, I behave in art as an attar to feel comfortable and complete. From that moment, I feel very much settled.”

 

Nedim Kufi, Milk, honey, ink and soil, mixed media/installatie (New York, The Phatory Garden of Eden), 2003

Het gegeven van de alchemist lijkt bijna letterlijk te worden in een kleine installatie uit 2003, die Kufi in New York exposeerde (zie bovenstaande afbeelding) Maar ook andere in werken (zie de voorbeelden hiervoor) blijkt in Kufi zich een alchemist, die met ogenschijnlijk waardeloze materialen, of alledaagse beelden, onverwachte schoonheid kan creëren. Kufi is dat in de afgelopen jaren tot en met nu blijven doen, zie de hieronder getoonde voorbeelden waarin hij onder meer werkt met wegwerpmateriaal als zeep en kauwgum. Zie overigens ook dit boeiende interview met Kufi door zijn collega-kunstenaar Ali Mandalawi in al-Sharq al-Awsat in het Arabisch. Daar gaat Kufi uitgebreid in op ‘zijn rol als alchemist’. Kufi zegt ondermeer, dat hij, toen hij in New York exposeerde (zie bovenstaande afbeelding), meermalen de vraag kreeg toegeworpen: ‘Ben u kunstenaar of chemicus?’ Kufi antwoordt dat hij zich als kunstenaar sterk kan identificeren met de traditionele ‘attar’ (of chemicus). Zijn atelier is zijn laboratorium en hij ziet voor de kunst een belangrijke taak weggelegd. Net als de traditionele attar moet de kunstenaar ook het geweten van de samenleving zijn, die het ‘besturingssysteem’ van de maatschappij de juiste richting wijst (hij maakt de vergelijking met het besturingssysteem van een computer). Verder zegt hij in het interview dat het hem opviel dat, itt in Nederland, hem in Amerika vaker werd gevraagd ‘Waar gaat u naartoe?’, dan ‘Waar komt u vandaan?’ Voor hem is de eerste vraag veel wezenlijker dan de tweede. 

Een tijd lang heeft Kufi ook op internet een soort dagboek bijgehouden, zijn ‘Daftar Project’ (‘Daftar’ betekent ‘schrift’, of ‘notitieboek’  in het Arabisch). Helaas staat dat niet meer online, maar ik geef hieronder het een en ander aan documentatie en afbeeldingen. De twee beelden waarmee hij zijn ‘dagboek’ introduceert en de toeschouwer binnenleidt zijn haast iconisch; een waarschuwing dat het breekbaar is, maar wel met een uitgestoken hand.

 

http://universes-in-universe.org/eng/nafas/node_60/2006/node_577/photos/kufi_1/

http://web.me.com/southproject/south/Daftar.html

Drie bovenstaande afbeeldingen: Nedim Kufi, Daftar, online schetsboek/dagboek, 2004-2005

Nedim Kufi, bijdrage aan Dafatir (‘Iraqi Notebook project’), zeventien Iraakse kunstenaars wereldwijd, coördinatie Nada Shabout (University of North Texas), 2006. Zie hier de verschillende bijdragen en hier wat achtergrondinformatie

In 2006 participeerde Kufi in het zg Dafatir-project, een initiatief van de Amerikaanse Iraakse Nada Shabout, hoogleraar hedendaagse kunst van het Midden Oosten aan de Universiteit van North Texas. Zeventien Iraakse kunstenaars, verspreid van over de hele wereld, namen hieraan deel, waaronder grote namen van de iets oudere generatie als Dhia Azzawi, Rafa al-Nasiri en Hanna Mal Allah, maar ook Kufi’s generatie-genoten als Mohamed al-Shammerey. De meeste kunstenaars excelleerden in hun persoonlijke handschrift op miniatuurformaat. De vaak beeldschone resultaten van dit project zijn hier te bekijken. Kufi’s bijdrage was, geheel in zijn stijl, conceptueel en minimalistisch en behoeft eigenlijk geen toelichting, zie bovenstaande afbeelding.

 

Nedim Kufi, The Moon follows us, gemengde technieken op doek, 2008  (Sultan Gallery, Kuwayt, zie hier voor meer achtergronden)

“On a summers day traveling from Baghdad to Kufa on a visit to relatives the view shifted along our course seducing us. I remember sleeping deeply during this two hour trip, a long time for a child of six. In between sleep I caught sight of the view through the car window; the moon centered in an ecstatic sky. The speeding car followed it through the dark and desolate desert. I was amazed that whenever the car stopped or slowed down so did the moon. It entered my mind freely stirring my astonishment and curiosity, this phenomena, and I asked my father “Oh father…the moon follows us, why is this?” I wished to impress my father with the depth of this phenomenological thought! He smiled but didn’t offer any words in reply. It was as if he had known the answer at a time past, but no longer. The question remained silently with me through out the long night spent with my relatives till we went onto the roof of the house to sleep. There was the moon again reclining above and seeming to own the sky here as it did in Baghdad. With a new sense of clarity I said to my father “this proves my theory, look just as I told you…the moon follows us! Content I fell asleep with a smile… unfortunately the heads of the households seemed only to speak about life’s problems…not paying attention to the moon.

And here I am, unexpectedly passing through the fortieth year of my life, still in a state of surprise. When I try and unravel the darkness and find order in the Dutch sky Baghdad’s moon does not provide sense though it follows me yet softening my estranged and desolate path.” Van  http://www.infocusdialogue.com/interviews/nedim-kufi/

Nedim Kufi, Soap and Silence, zeep en tekstiel op paneel, 2008

Nedim Kufi, Rooh/Soul  (روح  = ziel), rode zeep op doek, 2010

Nedim Kufi, Bore, print op doek, 2009

Nedim Kufi, Nass (ناس = mensen), fotoprint op doek, 2010 (detail)

Nedim Kufi, 20 years later, installatie, 2010

 

Nedim Kufi, Home/Empty, digitale print, 2008

In Kufi’s meest recente werk keert het thema van zijn ballingschap weer sterk terug. Zie bijvoorbeeld zijn werk 20 years later, waarin hij een vliegticket van Amsterdam naar Baghrein sterk vergroot op doek heeft afgedrukt.

In een interview uit 2006 met Predrag Pajdic zette Kufi zijn verhouding met zijn geboorteland als volgt uiteen:

Pajdic: ‘I expect this ‘identity recycling’ to be the nucleus of your work. Is it?’

Kufi: ‘Yes, I totally agree with you. Identity and what’s beyond is the point. In terms of meanings modeling. I’m not sure yet whether I’m a pure Iraqi or not, but here I will try to figure out to my self at least how much of an Iraqi I am. Feeling like an alien is not an issue any more. Why? Because it started already, in the early dark time of being home in Baghdad in the ’80s and ’90s, and that badly consumed my soul. I was actually under the Baath Party occupation. Where ever I moved I found a checkpoint asking me for my papers. Me and the government. Me and the authority. Me and the dictatorship. We never trusted each other. Like a daily game between Tom and Jerry.
I still shake, if you can believe me, every time I find myself at any airport, or any police office. Even now I have a Dutch passport: the most acceptable one in the world. Look! and pay attention to the contrast: what I had and what I have today. I’m wondering, is identity an official paper? Is it a continuity in the family tree? Is it an army service duty? Is it the place of birth and death? Is it saying yes to what they decide for you? No! I reject all of those common thoughts and focus only on one. And then I may say: being satisfied on a piece of land where ever it is and sleeping deeply, peacefully there without any of nightmares. That is the real identity. According to my experience, there still is an ID conflict which automatically allows my identity to be recycled. From time to time the mirror of the past follows me but in front of me. It reflects clearly my memories. The sweet and bitter ones. And also it’s able to
observe, compare and manipulate the meaning of it. Trying to find a balance somehow. I used to find myself in betweens: imperfect existence. It has to be, one day, full identity. Art could be an ID. Even a good mother language as well. The identity recycling idea came to me while I was in New York City once.
In order to analyse this conflict, I put all my trust in the tongue and eyes of Iraqi kids. Through a visual essay about traveling between here in the Netherlands and the Middle East. My project aims are to update visual feedback of Iraqi kids (6-14 years). Since 1990 they hold at least double identity. My job is like a postman. Collecting and activating a kind of exchange between their stories. Thoughts and dreams in one historical document by video art’ (
http://www.infocusdialogue.com/interviews/nedim-kufi/ ).

Nedim Kufi, Home/Absense (foto Floris Schreve)

Nedim Kufi, News, installatie 2011 (foto Floris Schreve)

Zie ook een statement van dit jaar:

An Art that deletes the memory; 21 years later in exile

Sometimes I see myself as an author more than a visual artist, especially when I intensively think on theoretical level which is very different from visual practices I normally do. This happens when I’m outside my studio. This matter makes me always say that “intellect” is a substantial half of the creation of an image. As for the rest, it is some kind of a vision which goes beyond this world, a path to our soul and one important tool to translate our visual dreams. Day by day, it becomes certain and obvious that producing Art is extremely hard task. Seriously I could say here, after my long experience in the field, that a work of Art will get rid of its impurities then change into light. These kinds of things happen in special times of inspiration. They make my many remarks on papers, sketches and failed documents go to the recycle bin, new pure papier-mâché after cooking, as if we are cooking our thoughts. Yes I assume and think that we are in a virtual kitchen. Let me give you my conclusion: We are recycling our lives, words, forms and art, although we always deny this fact, all the way.

Nedim KUFI
Amsterdam | june 2011

In zijn ‘Home/Absence’ serie (2008-2010) is het gegeven van ballingschap duidelijk aanwezig. In ieder werk uit deze reeks keert steeds hetzelfde motief terug. Aan de linkerkant is steeds een (bewerkte) foto weergegeven uit Kufi’s jeugd, waar hij zelf op staat. Aan de rechterkant is dezelfde foto weergeven maar dan gemanipuleerd en heeft Kufi zichzelf weggetoucheerd. Saeb Eigner, in zijn grote overzichtswerk Art of the Middle East (2010) over deze serie:

‘Iraqi artists have reacted to the suffering of their compatriots with varying degrees of directness. Nedim Kufi has used actual photographs as his startingpoint, manipulating them in order to convey the related themes of bloodshed and loss. Based on a photograph taken more than forty years ago, the pair of canvasses here is suggestive  rather than explicit, subtly addressing the theme of innocence betrayed’

Saeb Eigner, Art of the Middle East; Modern and Contemporary Art of the Arab World and Iran,  Merell, Londen/New York, 2010, p. 173

Op de tentoonstelling in het Willem Baars Project is een van zijnHome/Empty werken te zien, samen met een kleine installatie News, bestaande uit houten latten, waarin fragmenten van artikelen uit Arabische kranten zijn weergeven (zie afb.)

Nedim Kufi woont en werkt in Amersfoort, maar exposeert voornamelijk in de Arabische wereld.

 

 Kufi’s werk in het Willem Baarsproject (foto Floris Schreve), links: Home/Absense (digitale print, 2010) en rechts: News (papier op houten latten, 2010)

werk van Ahmed Mater op de tentoonstelling in het Willem Baarsproject

Ahmed Mater – أحمد ماطر

Ahmed Mater al-Ziad Aseeri werd in  1979 geboren in Rijal Alma, in het Aseeri-gebied van Saoedi-Arabië. Op zijn negentiende ging hij geneeskunde studeren aan het Abha-College. Tegelijkertijd zette hij zijn eerste stappen op het pad van professioneel kunstenaar in het nabijgelegen al-Meftaha Arts Village, dat was gesticht door de Gouverneur van Aseer, ZKH Prins Khalid al-Faisal, zelf dichter en schilder, om de locale kunstscene te stimuleren.

Zijn werk kreeg voor het eerst internationale aandacht, toen Prins Charles van Engeland, in 2000 op bezoek bij Prins Khalid al-Faisal, kennismaakte met het werk van Mater. Doorslaggevend voor zijn loopbaan was echter een bezoek van de Britse kunstenaar Stephen Stapleton in 2003. Stapleton over zijn ontmoeting:

‘I First met Ahmed at the al-Mefthaha Arts Village in March 2003. He was sitting in the corner of his studio in a white. Ankle-length, painted thawb (long shirt), and was surrounded by a sprawling collection of medical paraphernalia. X-rays, anatomical illustrations and prescription receipts jostled for space ammangst bottles of calligraphy ink, spray paint cans and books on Islamic art.

He told me how his ‘double’ life as a doctor and artist had awakened in him a creative energy and motivation to explore humanity, in an era of religious, political and cultural turmoil. With great excitement he showed me his latest paintings; expressive layers of rich colour painted onto human X-rays, marked with religious symbols and hand written medical notes. “An anatomy of faith in the 21st century”, is how he described them’ (In Stephen Stapleton (ed.), with contributions of Venetia Porter, Ashraf Fayadh, Aarnout Helb, ao, Ahmed Mater, Booth-Clibborn Productions, Abha/London 2010, p. 27)

Stapleton bracht Ahmed Mater ook in contact met Venetia Porter, conservator van Word into Art, de permanente tentoonstelling van hedendaagse kunst uit de islamitische wereld in het British Museum. Zij verwierf meteen X Ray (2003, zie onderstaande afbeelding) voor de collectie. Sinds die tijd kan het werk van  Ahmed Mater op een groeiende internationale belangstelling rekenen, met als voorlopig hoogtepunt zijn deelname aan de Biënnale van Venetië dit jaar, aan de tentoonstelling The Future of a Promise , waarin een aantal van de meest prominente kunstenaars van de Arabische wereld van dit moment participeren. 

Ahmed Mater, X Ray, Mixed media and x-ray film, 2003 (collectie Word into Art, British Museum), zie http://blog.ahmedmater.com/?p=76

Gedurende de afgelopen tien jaar heeft Mater een indrukwekkend oeuvre ontwikkeld, waarin hij zich voornamelijk heeft geconcentreerd op vier verschillende thema’s (al zijn er sinds kort een paar bijgekomen, waar ik hierna nog wat aandacht aan zal besteden). Deze zijn Illumination, Magnetism, Evolution of Man en Yellow Cow . In dit verband wil ik deze vier  thema’s een voor een behandelen, waarbij ik een aantal duidelijke voorbeelden zal laten zien.

Allereerst zijn Illuminations, zijn ‘X-rays’. Ahmed Mater is tot op de dag van vandaag ook werkzaam als arts in een ziekenhuis in Abha.  De directe inspiratie haalt hij dan ook uit deze omgeving. Maar het gaat er natuurlijk om wat hij met deze röntgenfoto’s doet. Deze zijn verwerkt in complexe composities, rijk gelardeerd met islamitische ornamenten en symbolen, en soms overladen met gekalligrafeerde teksten.

Aan Venetia Porter lichtte Mater het volgende toe: ‘(this painting) explores the confusion in the identity of mankind in the contemporary world. The X-ray, sitting on top of a deep, layered background of medical text and expressive paint, represents an objective view of the individual, chosen to provoke a familiar response…My approach as a doctor has been evidence based and influenced by a direct experience of the world’ (zie http://ahmedmater.com/artwork/illuminations/resume/venetia-porter-/ ). Juist dat ‘evidence based art’ is voor Mater een belangrijk punt, we zullen het nog tegenkomen bij zijn andere werken.

Ahmed Mater, Illumination I & II, Gold Leaf, Tea, Pomegranate, Dupont Chinese ink & offset X-Ray film print on paper. Let op het handschrift boven en onder beide werken. Hier staat in het Arabisch وقف  (‘waqf’= ‘charity’)

Over de hier getoonde Illuminations I & II: ‘They are laid out in exactly the same way as the beginning of a religious text. I have also added the word waqf beneath each. This means charity. Traditionally in religious texts you have two pages, symmetrical in design, containing abstract design. The craftsmen would always spend a great deal of time on these opening pages: they’re the first thing you see. Instead of a traditional geometry I have printed two facing X-ray images of human torsos. I prepared the paper using tea, pomegranate, coffee and other materials traditionally used on these kinds of pages. By using them you ensure that when you come to paint onto the paper it will have an extraordinary luminous quality – the paint will truly shine. And that’ what I want to do with this piece, to illuminate. I am giving light. It’s about two humans in conversation. Us and them, and how this encounter gives light. Dar a luz. So many religions around the world share this concept of giving light, not darkness. It is one religious idea that has reached mankind through many different windows.’ ( http://ahmedmater.com/artwork/illuminations/resume/venetia-porter-/ )

Zijn latere Illuminations zijn complexer en weelderiger van compositie. Mater doet hier het begrip ‘illuminatie’ in de zin van ‘boekverluchtingen’ ruimschoots eer aan. Tegelijkertijd zou je zijn deze verluchtingen kunnen opvatten als een artistieke synthese tussen traditie en moderniteit, of als je wilt, tussen religie en wetenschap.

 

   

Ahmed Mater, Waqf Illumination III , Gold Leaf, Tea, Pomegranate, Crystals, Dupont Chinese ink & offset X-Ray film print on paper, 2009. Voor vergrote afbeelding en meer details, klik hier

 Ahmed Mater, X-Ray Calligpaphy, offsetprint, 2005

Bij Magnetism, zijn tweede thema is eveneens sprake van een soort synthese tussen wetenschap en religie, wellicht nog uitgesprokener dan in zijn Illuminations. Munten zijn X Rays uit in een weelderige vormentaal, zijn magnetisme-reeks is van een verpletterende eenvoud. Eigenlijk is het een simpele trouvaille, waarin met een eenvoudige handeling een heleboel gezegd wordt.

Het enige wat Mater doet is het plaatsen van een magneetblokje in een hoopje ijzervijlsel, met de negatieve pool naar beneden. Het gevolg is dat het ijzervijlsel wordt afgestoten en in een cirkelvormige ring in een regelmatig patroon (vanwege de aantrekkingskracht van de positieve pool aan de bovenkant) blijft liggen. Deze simpele handeling levert de volgende bijna archetypische beelden op (zie onderstaande afbeeldingen): 

    

     

Het beeld van de vierkanten of rechthoekige magneet, omringd met een cirkel van metaalgruis, roept natuurlijk ook de associatie op met de Kaäba in Mekka, het hart van de islam. Tim Mackintosh-Smith over deze trouvaille (want dat is het eigenlijk):

‘Al-Bayt al-‘Atiq, the Ancient House, to give the Ka’bah another of its names, is ancient – indeed archetypal – in more than one way. The cube is the primary building-block, and the most basic form of a built structure. And the Cube, the Ka’bah, is also Bayt Allah, the House of the One God: it was built by Abraham, the first monotheist, or in some accounts by the first man, Adam. Its site may be more ancient still: ‘According to some traditions,’ the thirteenth-century geographer Yaqut al-Hamawi wrote, ‘the first thing God created on earth was the site of the Ka’bah. He then spread out the earth from beneath this place. Thus it is the navel of the earth and the mid-point of this lower world and the mother of villages.’ The circumambulation of the pilgrims, Yaqut goes on to explain on the authority of earlier scholars, is the earthly equivalent of the angels’ circling the heavenly throne of God, seeking His pleasure after they had incurred His wrath. To this day, and beyond, the Ka’bah is a focal point of atonement and expiation; in the Qur’anic phrase, ‘a place of resort for mankind and a place of safety’.

Ahmed Mater’s Magnetism, however, gives us more than simple simulacra of that Ancient House of God. His counterpoint of square and circle, whorl and cube, of black and white, light and dark, places the primal elements of form and tone in dynamic equipoise. And there is another dynamic and harmonious opposition implicit in both magnetism and pilgrimage – that of attraction and repulsion. The Ka’bah is magnet and centrifuge: going away, going back home, is the last rite of pilgrimage. There is, too, a lexical parallel: the Arabic word for ‘to attract’, jadhaba, can also on occasion signify its opposite, ‘to repel’. (‘In Arabic, everything means itself, its opposite, and a camel,’ somebody once said; not to be taken literally, of course, although the number of self-contradictory entries in the dictionary is surprising.) And yet all this inbuilt contrariness is not so strange: ‘Without contraries,’ as William Blake explained, ‘there is no progression. Attraction and repulsion . . . are necessary to human existence.’ (http://ahmedmater.com/artwork/magnetism/fre/tim-mackintosh-smith/ )

In zijn derde thema, ‘Evolution of Man’, waarin hij weer gebruik maakt van Röntgenfoto’s,  lijkt Mater zich wat politieker uit te spreken. We zien hier een aantal lichtbakken, waarin een reeks van figuren is weergegeven, die een geleidelijke ‘evolutie’ doormaken. Lezend van rechts naar links (gebruikelijk in het Arabisch) is er te zien hoe een benzinepomp zich langzaam ontwikkelt tot een man die zichzelf door het hoofd schiet (zie onderstaande afbeelding). In de tentoonstelling van het Willem Baarsproject is overigens een kleinere versie te zien, maar daar staat deze ‘evolutie’ van links naar rechts weergegeven- meer toegerust op een Europees publiek . Hoewel de cyclus ook beide kanten opgaat; olie kan uiteindelijk de mens doden, maar als de mens zichzelf vernietigd heeft, wordt hij uiteindelijk olie (fossiele brandstof).

Ahmed Mater, Evolution of Man, installatie, Biënnale van Cairo, 2008

Ahmed al Omran, journalist en een van de bekendste Saudische bloggers (zie hier zijn site) heeft een buitengewoon interessant commentaar geschreven op deze reeks van Mater. Ik geeft het hier integraal weer (http://ahmedmater.com/artwork/evolution-of-man/responses/ahmed-al-omran/ ):

EVOLUTION OF MAN

Saudis, by and large, do not believe in the theory of evolution. Like other conservative, religious societies, Saudis have firmly rejected Darwin’s theory on the basis that human beings are perfect, state-of-the-art creations of God, not the result of some natural process. Ahmed Mater is a doctor by training. He believes in evolution. But for him, evolution does not necessarily mean survival of the fittest. Sometimes, evolution can lead to one’s demise.

Saudi Arabia, founded in 1932, was a poor country with scarce natural resources. Then in 1938 oil was discovered in its deserts, and ten years later production was up to full capacity.

Petrodollars flooded the Kingdom, transforming the face of its land and giving Saudi a great deal of leverage with the international community. Interestingly, the origin of oil is connected to the theory of evolution. Oil is derived from ancient organic matter; the remains of creatures that have not survived the planet’s biological and geological changes.

Saudi Arabia did not only use petrodollars to fuel its rapid development. Vast amounts of the same money were also used to promote and spread the Saudi ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam, also known as Wahhabism. But most Saudis reject this term because they believe they are simply practicing Islam in its purest form, and also because they think the term has been used unfairly to slander their religion and their country.

Whether they agree with the term or not probably matters little now, because some of the extremist ideas that originated in Saudi have in recent years come to shake the world with terror.

Mater’s Evolution of Man brings to my mind the boom and bust economic cycle – but with a Saudi twist. The oil money used to build the Kingdom’s cities and modernise the infrastructure was seldom used to develop minds or modernise their way of thinking. Allowing the clergy to control education and media paved the way for the rise of extremism, which eventually resulted in terrorist attacks outside and inside the country, including attempts to bomb vital Saudi oil production facilities.

What I like about Mater’s use of X-rays is how they turn everything into bare-bone structures; you can go under the skin, explore the essence behind the facade. I also like how the piece is so full of energy; the sequence, the movement, the seamlessness, the lack of a starting or end point. All of this produces a lively interaction between the viewer and the artwork.

This richness, however, does not always manage to displace some of the dark thoughts that crossed my mind when I first saw the piece. True, I am cynical and pessimistic, but I think it goes beyond that; it comes from something within the work itself.

In our hungry world, greed is a sure way to an easy self-destruction. The constant desire for more is depleting whatever is left of our limited resources, not only the material ones but our emotional reserves as well. We spend a great deal of time acquiring everything we can get our hands on. To what end? During your lifetime on earth you can only consume so much. When death comes knocking at your door, such ‘consumer’ choices become meaningless. Do you get to choose how and when you die? Would it make any difference if you did?

You can choose how and when you die if you decide to kill yourself. Suicide is strongly prohibited by Islam but this, of course, does not stop some Muslims from killing themselves, which, although religiously frowned upon, is still a personal matter.

Except that sometimes it’s not. That is, when a suicide results in the death of many others. It is tragic, but that’s the world we live in today. The communication revolution which many hoped would foster understanding between different peoples, religions and ideologies has also allowed extremists to spread their messages of hatred and violence far and wide. We can’t blame technology – it’s merely a tool that can be used for good in the same way it can be used for evil.

In the end, it’s up to us, the people. It’s up to every single one of us. We have the right to live peacefully, and that’s why it’s our duty to be responsible, not reckless. It should be our mission to build, not destroy. It’s time to take matters into our own hands and reclaim this right. We can no longer afford to live in constant, nagging fear.

So let us start changing. Let us make the right choices. Let us choose life over death, peace over conflict and hope over fear. Let us do it now.

Ahmed Al-Omran

Riyadh

February 2010

Ahmed Mater, Evolution of Man, 2008. Een versie hiervan  is te zien op de tentoonstelling in het Willem Baarsproject.

Zie hier een animatie van Maters Evolution of Man:

Evolution of Man from Prognosis Art on Vimeo

Het vierde thema van Ahmed Mater is zijn Yellow Cow reeks. Deze serie is minstens zo pregnant als de voorgaande. Mater presenteert hier een virtuele productielijn in levensmiddelen, met de slogan ‘Ideologically Free Products’. Voor dit project voerde hij ook een performance uit waarin hij een koe beschilderde met gele safraanverf, zie onderstaand clipje:

Ahmed Mater, Yellow Cow, clipje nav de performance uit 2007, zie hier de registratie van de performance

Yellow Cow bestaat verder uit een verzameling ‘reclamecampagnes’ voor ‘zuivelproducten’, zie de onderstaande afbeeldingen. Yoghurt, melk, allerlei kaasjes en roomboter, alles wordt aangeprezen in de stijl van de smeerkaasjes van ‘La Vache qui Rit’,  Zie het bijbehorende logo, waar alleen de traditionele koebel is vervangen door een oorringetje met een klein klokje (wellicht als een alternatief voor het beruchte gele oormerk?). In de monografie van Mater (Stephen Stapleton (ed.), Ahmed Mater, Booth-Clibborn Productions, Abha/London 2010 ) zijn overigens ook een paar stickervellen toegevoegd, met echte reclamestickers.

     

http://universes-in-universe.org/eng/nafas/articles/2008/ahmed_mater/photos/09

Aarnout Helb van het Greenbox Museum voor hedendaagse Saudische kunst in Amsterdam legt mijns inziens terecht een verband met het Gouden Kalf, een Bijbels gegeven dat ook op meer plaatsen in de Koran voorkomt, zoals bijvoorbeeld in Koran 7:148 (zie op http://www.bijbelenkoran.nl/verhaal.php?lIntEntityId=10 ). Helb:

‘Ahmed Mater has made a rich work of art; a non-commercial dairy shop full of real ideas that may help sustain humanity for a century as much as yoghurt, milk, butter and cheese do for a day. Yellow Cow products (2007) came to my attention in the Netherlands while I was reading the Qur’an in search of something that might relate to the visual arts. The story that first caught my attention was about this odd-coloured cow which God instructed Moses’ people to sacrifice. The story acknowledges this simple fact: humans, whether they live in the vicinity of Mecca or in Amsterdam, have eyes as well as ears and may take pleasure in what they see—even attach themselves to a pleasantly-coloured cow or a handsome car—but in the end, they will have an overriding wish to dwell in the company of truth.

Ahmed believes the people in this story were a bit slow finding the truth. It took them a while to decide on sacrifice, and they asked too many questions about the cow, increasing their demands on God as we increase our demands on the material world in consumer societies. But I wonder, were the people demanding to know more so different from a doctor in search of evidence for a true diagnosis?

Not all art is about truth. Yellow Cow products is. Ahmed Mater is. His relationship with truth will be attributed by some to his profession as a medical doctor practicing ‘evidence-based medicine’ and to his heritage as a Muslim. But he might have just been one of those boys who flip stories around to see if their mirror image reflects the truth as well. And smiles

So, I understand Ahmed took a childhood story from his mosque and renewed it, gave it attention anew by wondering what would have happened if the cow had not been sacrificed. From the artwork we can assume the cow would have lived on to become a range of consumer products. By choosing to be a change-manager in a dairy shop, Ahmed
turns the ‘arrogant’ consumer products industry to his advantage by reminding us of the original story. For this he returned to the farm with a bucket of paint, bringing a real yellow cow to life and to the imagination. This is a magnificent act of love allowed only to artists: painting your own evidence in support of the truth’. (http://ahmedmater.com/artwork/yellow-cow/responses/aarnout-helb-greenbox-museum/ )

Tot zover de vier thema’s waarmee Ahmed Mater de laatste jaren heeft gewerkt. Sinds vrij recent zijn er een aantal bijgekomen. Ik wil er hier twee aanstippen. Het gaat hier om oa werk dat hij presenteerde op de Biënnale van Venetië van dit jaar, in de tentoonstelling A Future of a Promise.

Allereerst presenteerde hij daar de Cowboycode. Ik geef hier de tekst weer:

1.A cowboy never takes unfair advantage – even of an enemy.
2.A cowboy never betrays a trust. He never goes back on his word.
3.A cowboy always tells the truth.
4.A cowboy is kind and gentle to small children, old folks, and animals.
5.A cowboy is free from racial and religious intolerances.
6.A cowboy is always helpful when someone is in trouble.
7.A cowboy is always a good worker.
8.A cowboy respects womanhood, his parents and his nation’s laws.
9.A cowboy is clean about his person in thought, word, and deed.
10.A cowboy is a Patriot

Natuurlijk verwijst dit werk naar de ‘Amerikaanse waarden’ die de Verenigde Staten wereldwijd beweren uit te dragen (of op te leggen), zeker in het Midden Oosten. Alleen, als je het zo bij elkaar ziet is het bijna zo lachewekkend, dat de hypocrisie van deze ‘Amerikaanse waarden’ wordt doorgeprikt.

Ahmed Mater, The Cowboy Code, op ‘The Future of a Promise’, Biënnale van Venetië, 2011 (foto Floris Schreve)

Op zowel The Future of a Promise, als op de tentoonstelling in het Willem Baars Project toont Mater een van zijn ‘antenna’s’ (zie onderstaande afbeelding). Mater in een statement over zijn ‘antennes’:

Antenna is a symbol and a metaphor for growing

up in Saudi Arabia. As children, we used to climb

up to the roofs of our houses and hold these

television antennas up to the sky.

We were trying to catch a signal from beyond the

nearby border with Yemen or Sudan; searching –

like so many of my generation in Saudi –

for music, for poetry, for a glimpse of a different

kind of life. I think this work can symbolise the

whole Arab world right now… searching for a

different kind of life through other stories and

other voices. This story says a lot about my life

and my art; I catch art from the story of my life,

I don’t know any other way.

Ahmed Mater

Ahmed Mater, Antenna, op ‘The Future of a Promise’, Biënnale van Venetië, 2011 (foto Floris Schreve)

Tot zover deze bespreking van het werk van Ahmed Mater. De tentoonstelling in Amsterdam, samengesteld door Robert Kluijver, met werk van Rana Begum, Abdulnasser Gharem, Susan Hefuna,  Nedim Kufi , Ahmed Mater en Shahzia Sikander wil ik van harte aanbevelen. Te zien tot 30 juli, Willem Baarsproject, Hoogte Kadijk 15 hs (zie voor info de website http://www.baarsprojects.com/index.html )

 

Floris Schreve

 فلوريس سحرافا

 

.

De antenne van Ahmed Mater op de tentoonstelling. Daarachter het werk van Nedim Kufi. Links werk van Rana Begum en rechts van Abdulnasser Gharem (foto Floris Schreve)

Ahmed Mater, Evolution of Man en Yellow Cow (foto Floris Schreve)

Beknopt literatuuroverzicht en andere bronnen:

literatuur over (oa.) Nedim Kufi:

  • Saeb Eigner, Art of the Middle East; modern and contemporary art of the Arab World and Iran, Merrell, Londen/New York, 2010
  • Maysaloun Faraj (ed.), Strokes of genius; contemporary Iraqi art, Saqi Books, Londen, 2002 (zie hier een presentatie van de Strokes of Genius exhibition)
  • Robert Kluijver, Borders; contemporary Middle Eastern art and discourse, Gemak, The Hague, October 2007/ January 2009

Internet:

Op dit Blog:

literatuur over (oa.) Ahmed Mater:

  • Antony Downey & Lina Lazaar (ed.), The Future of a Promise, published on the occasion of the 54th International Art Exhibition-La Biennale di Venezia, Ibraaz Publishing, Tunis, 2011.
  • Stephen Stapleton (ed.), with contributions of Venetia Porter, Ashraf Fayadh, Aarnout Helb, ao, Ahmed Mater, Booth-Clibborn Productions, Abha/London 2010
  • Stephen Stapleton (ed.), with contributions of Lulwah al-Homoud, Ahmed Mater al-Ziad Aseeri, Abdulnasser Gharem & Venitia Porter, Edge of Arabia; contemporary art of Saudi Arabia, Offscreen Education Programme, London, 2008

Internet:

Op dit Blog:

Iraq returns to the Venice Bienial – Irak weer terug op de Biënnale van Venetië – العراق يعود إلى بينالي البندقية

http://jungeblodt.comhttp://onglobalandlocalart.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/

Acqua Ferita / Wounded Water

The Iraqi Pavilion at the Venice Bienial/Het Paviljoen van Irak op de Biënnale van Venetië/ الجناح العراقي في بينالي البندقية

After an absence of thirty-five years, Iraq finally again is represented at the Venice Biennial. Although the situation in Iraq is far from favorable for artists and the circumstances are still very difficult (albeit in a different way than under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein), the Iraqi pavilion at the Biennale is probably something hopeful. Probably because it seemed not have been easy to achieve this. Ali Assaf, the in Italy living Iraqi artist who is the main initiator of this project (earlier I spent on this blog some attention on his work in this article in Dutch and see this clip with a compilation of older work), had initially planned an exhibition of artists who are living and working inside Iraq. Because of the insecure circumstances in Iraq (still no government and no guarantees for substantial support) ultimately this plan ended up impossible to realise and the project became an exhibition of six artists from the Iraqi diaspora.

The participating artists are Adel Abidin (Helsinki, born 1973 in Baghdad), Ahmed Alsoudani (New York, born in 1975 in Baghdad), Ali Assaf (Rome, born in 1950 in Basra), Azad Nanakeli (Florence, born 1951 in Arbil , Kurdistan), Halim Al Karim (Denver, born in 1963 in Najaf) and Walid Siti (London, born in 1954 in Dohuk, Kurdistan). The exhibition is curated by Mary Angela Schroth (curator), Vittorio Urbani (co-commisioner) and Rijin Sahakian (Projects Assistant). Honorary President is the world-renowned Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid.

The only one of these artists I’ve once personally  met is Halim Al Karim (Ali Assaf I once interviewed by phone about his performance Feet of Sand of 1996, see here). After his escape from Iraq Halim Al Karim spent some time in the Netherlands ( he studied at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam). I met him early summer 2000, when he exhibited in the no longer existing gallery Fi Beiti (which was specialized in artists from the Middle East) in Amsterdam. At that time he made ceramic objects (see this example). Although at that time  he was barely known in the Dutch artscene (in the Middle East he already had a great career), I found his ceramic work had a very special quality. His breakthrough in the West came when he had moved to the United States. This was especially with his photographic work, as shown below. Today, his work is represented in the Saatchi Collection among others (see here)

Anyhow it’s special that this pavilion was created. Here will follow some of the official documentation, supplemented with information and images of the participating artists. In a later context, I will publish an article in English in which I will discuss more extensively some of these artists.

Floris Schreve,  Amsterdam

فلوريس سحرافا
(أمستردام، هولندا)

Click here for the essay of Mary Angela Shroth, curator of the Pavilion of Iraq

Ali Assaf, Al Basrah, the Venice of the East, Mixed Media Installation, 2011 (photo http://jungeblodt.com )

Adel Abidin, Consumptions of War, Video Projection and amorphic installation (photo http://jungeblodt.com )

Walid Siti, Beauty Spot, Mixed Media Installation, 2011 (photo http://jungeblodt.com )

Na een afwezigheid van vijfendertig jaar is Irak weer vertegenwoordigd op de Biënnale van Venetië. Hoewel de situatie in Irak allerminst gunstig is en kunstenaars het daar nog altijd bijzonder zwaar hebben (zij het op een andere manier dan onder de dictatuur van Saddam Hoessein), stemt het Iraakse paviljoen op de Biënnale enigszins hoopvol. Enigszins want het schijnt niet makkelijk geweest te zijn om dit te realiseren. Ali Assaf, de in Italië wonende Iraakse kunstenaar die de belangrijkste initiator van dit project was (eerder besteedde ik op dit blog aandacht zijn werk in dit artikel en zie hier een filmpje met een compilatie van wat ouder werk) was oorspronkelijk van plan om een tentoonstelling samen te stellen van kunstenaars uit Irak zelf. Uiteindelijk bleek dit niet realiseerbaar en werd het een expositie van zes Iraakse kunstenaars uit de Diaspora.

De particperende kunstenaars zijn Adel Abidin (Helsinki, geb. 1973 in Bagdad), Ahmed Alsoudani (New York, geboren in 1975 in Bagdad),  Ali Assaf (Rome, geboren in 1950 in Basra), Azad Nanakeli (Florence, geboren 1951 in Arbil, Koerdistan), Halim Al Karim (Denver, geboren in 1963 in Najaf) en Walid Siti (Londen, geboren in 1954 in Dohuk, Koerdistan). De tentoonstelling werd samengesteld door, naast Ali Assaf, Mary Angela Schroth (curator), Vittorio Urbani (co-commisioner) en Rijin Sahakian (adjunct Projects). Erevoorzitter is de inmiddels wereldwijd befaamde Iraakse architecte Zaha Hadid.

De enige van deze kunstenaars die ik zelf een keer heb ontmoet is Halim Al Karim (Ali Assaf heb ik een keer telefonisch geïnterviewd over zijn performance Feet of Sand uit 1996, zie hier). Na zijn vlucht uit Irak verbleef Halim Al Karim een tijd in Nederland (hij studeerde oa aan de Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam). Ik heb hem ontmoet begin zomer 2000, toen hij exposeerde in de niet meer bestaande gallerie Fi Beiti (gespecialiseerd in kunstenaars uit het Midden Oosten), aan de Prinsengracht in Amsterdam. In die tijd maakte hij keramische objecten (zie dit voorbeeld). Toen was hij nog nauwelijks bekend. Ten onrechte vond ik toen al, want zijn keramische werk had een bijzondere kwaliteit.  Zijn grote doorbraak kwam toen hij naar Denver was verhuisd. Dat was vooral met zijn fotografische werk, zoals hieronder te zien is. Tegenwoordig prijkt zijn werk in oa de Saatchi Collectie (zie hier)

Hoe dan ook is het bijzonder dat dit paviljoen tot stand is gekomen. In dit verband geef ik wat van de officiële documentatie weer, aangevuld met informatie en beeldmateriaal van de participerende kunstenaars. In een later verband zal ik in een nog te verschijnen Engelstalige bijdrage veel dieper ingaan op het werk van oa een aantal van deze kunstenaars.

Floris Schreve, Amsterdam

فلوريس سحرافا
(أمستردام، هولندا)

Pavilion of Iraq
54th International Art Exhibition
la Biennale di Venezia

Iraq’s experimental contemporary artists have never had a chance to present their work for an Iraq Pavilion at the Venice Biennale; the first and last major appearance in 1976 outlined only some of their “modern” artists. The Iraq Pavilion for 2011 will indeed show the world an exciting professionally-curated selection of 6 Iraqi artists from two generations, including various artistic media (painting, performance, video, photography, sculpture/installation).

Ali Assaf, Commissioner for the Pavilion of Iraq 2011

 

Acqua Ferita / Wounded Water
Six Iraqi Artists interpret the theme of water

Site: Gervasuti Foundation, Fondamenta S. Ana (Via Garibaldi) Castello 995, between Giardini and Arsenale
Opening to the Public: June 4, 2011. Closes Nov. 27, 2011 10-6 pm daily except Mondays
Press Preview: June 2, 2011 7 to 9 pm
Commissioner: Ali Assaf
Co-Commissioner: Vittorio Urbani
Curator: Mary Angela Schroth
Organization: Nuova Icona and Sala 1
Media Partner: Canvas Magazine
In collaboration with: Embassy of the Republic of Iraq in Italy, Iraq UN Representation in Rome, Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, corporate and individual patrons and the Iraq Pavilion Patrons Committee

These are extraordinary times for Iraq. The project to create an official country Pavilion for the 54. Biennale di Venezia is a multiple and participatory work in progress since 2004. It is historically coming at a period of great renewal after more than 30 years of war and conflict in that country.

The Pavilion of Iraq will feature six internationally-known contemporary Iraqi artists who are emblematic in their individual experimental artistic research, a result of both living inside and outside their country. These artists, studying Fine Arts in Baghdad, completed their arts studies in Europe and USA. They represent two generations: one, born in the early 1950’s, has experienced both the political instability and the cultural richness of that period in Iraq. Ali Assaf, Azad Nanakeli and Walid Siti came of age in the 1970’s during the period of the creation of political socialism that marked their background. The second generation, to include Adel Abidin, Ahmed Alsoudani and Halim Al Karim, grew up during the drama of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), the invasion of Kuwait, overwhelming UN economic sanctions and subsequent artistic isolation. This generation of artists exited the country before the 2003 invasion, finding refuge in Europe and USA by sheer fortune coupled with the artistic virtue of their work. All six artists thus have identities indubitably forged with contemporary artistic practice that unites the global situation with the Iraqi experience and they represent a sophisticated and experimental approach that is completely international in scope.

The six artists will execute works on site that are inspired by both the Gervasuti Foundation space and the thematic choice of water. This is a timely interpretation since the lack of water is a primary source of emergency in Iraq, more than civil war and terrorism. A documentary by Oday Rasheed curated by Rijin Sahakian will feature artists living and working in Iraq today.

The Pavilion of Iraq has been produced thanks to Shwan I. Taha and Reem Shather-Kubba/Patrons Committee, corporate and individual contributors, Embassy of the Republic of Iraq and generous grants from the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, Hussain Ali Al-Hariri, and Nemir & Nada Kirdar.
Honorary Patron is the architect Zaha Hadid.

         

Links en rechts: Adel Abidin, Consumptions of War, Video Projection and amorphic installation

    

Links: Ahmed Alsoudani, Untitled, Charcoal and acrylic on canvas, 2010. Rechts: Ahmed Alsoudani, Untitled, Charcoal and acrylic on canvas, 2011

      

Links: Ali Assaf, Narciso, video installation, 2010. Rechts:Ali Assaf, Al Basrah, the Venice of the East, Mixed Media Installation, 2011

      

Links: Azad Nanakeli, Destnuej (purification), Video Installation, 2011. Rechts: Azad Nanakeli, Au (Water), Mixed Media Installation with audio, 2011

    

Links: Halim al Karim, Hidden Love 1, photograph Lambda Print, 2010. Rechts: Halim Al Karim, Hidden Revolution, video still, 2010

   

Links: Walid Siti, Beauty Spot,  Mixed Media Installation, 2011. Rechts: Walid Siti, Mesa, Mylar mirror, twill tape, nylon fishing line and wood, 2011

Bron en voor veel meer informatie en beeldmateriaal: http://www.pavilionofiraq.org/upload/index.html

In een later verband zal ik nog uitgebreid aandacht besteden aan een aantal van deze kunstenaars.

Floris Schreve
فلوريس سحرافا

Pavilion Of Iraq

54th International Art Exhibition
La Biennale di Venezia

click on logo to visit the website

Azad Nanakeli, Destnuej (purification), video-installatie, 2011

Ali Assaf, Al Basrah, the Venice of the East, Mixed Media Installation, 2011

Adel Abidin, Consumption of War, video, 2011

Halim Al Karim, Nations Laundry, video installatie, 2010-2011

Ahmed Alsoudani, Untitled, Charcoal and acrylic on canvas, 2011

Walid Siti, Mesa, Mylar mirror, twill tape, nylon fishing line and wood, 2011 (detail)

Uit ‘The Wallstreet Journal’ van 24 maart 2011: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704893604576200652720598940.html?mod=WSJ_Magazine_LEFTTopStories

Iraq Comes to Venice

Curator and iconoclast Mary Angela Schroth is spearheading a campaign to return Iraqi art to the prestigious Venice Biennale after a 35-year absence

Read more: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704893604576200652720598940.html#ixzz1PMFU92Df

By MARISA MAZRIA KATZ

[mag411_schroth1] Courtesy of Robert Goff GalleryAHMED ALSOUDANI | The Baghdad-born, New York-based painter (‘Untitled,’ 2007, pictured here) will be among six artists showing work at the Venice Biennale’s Iraq pavilion opening in June.

Walking a provocative tightrope is what American contemporary-art curator Mary Angela Schroth does best. In 1993, with memories of apartheid still fresh, Schroth staged Italy’s first exhibition of South African art, and during the days of glasnost and a collapsing Soviet Union, she presented its first show of perestroika-era Russian artists. And in a move that some might interpret as the ultimate in cultural and political overtures, Schroth is now preparing the return of the Iraq pavilion to the 2011 Venice Biennale after a 35-year hiatus.

[mag411_schroth2] Photograph by Danilo ScarpatiCurator Mary Angela Schroth, photographed at mixed-media artist Ali Assaf’s studio in Rome.

Artists and curators who have worked with Schroth throughout her career, which includes running Rome’s first nonprofit art space, Sala 1 (pronounced “Sala Uno,” Italian for “Room One”), say it’s the native Virginian’s tenacity and inquisitiveness that have shaped her vision since she entered the art world back in 1977.

“With anyone else it would have been impossible,” says Basra-born, Italy-based artist Ali Assaf, who is the commissioner and one of six Iraqi artists presenting work in the pavilion. Bringing his native country back to Venice was a cause he championed for years, but decades of unrest prevented its materialization. “At first it couldn’t be done because of Saddam, but then it became impossible because of the severe fighting and confusion,” he explains.

In 2009, Assaf approached Schroth to curate the pavilion in hopes that the combination of his passion and her trademark ambition would lead Iraq back into the Venice Biennale limelight. “The pavilion, through its artists and collaboration with the new government, is one small, but significant step,” Schroth says. “It is an important symbol for change.”

[mag411_schroth3] Courtesy of Azad NanakeliAZAD NANAKELI | Stills from the Florence-based artist’s video installation ‘Destnuej’ (2011)

In the two years since, Schroth, 61, has worked with Assaf to select artists who represent a cross-section of intergenerational talent from the Arab nation. But with the exodus of much of the country’s creative class, as well as today’s fragile security situation, choosing artists currently residing in Iraq proved unfeasible.

“Getting Iraqi artists [who live in Iraq] is not an easy job,” says Iraq’s ambassador to the U.N. agencies in Rome, Hassan Janabi. “It could be tedious and possibly create friction. Instead, they sought out artists living on the outside who could truly reflect what constitutes an Iraqi artist.” The list includes New York–based Ahmed Alsoudani, who will simultaneously show several paintings inside the nearby Palazzo Grassi, and the London-based Kurdish artist Walid Siti.

[mag411_schroth4] Courtesy of Walid SitiWALID SITI | ‘Family Ties’ (April 2009), an installation in Dubai by the London-based artist

The title of the pavilion, “Acqua Ferita”—or “wounded water” in Italian—was selected to shift the Iraq conversation away from war and onto one many view as equally significant. “Terrorism is a theme people are fed up with,” Assaf says. “There are other problems, such as water loss in the region, that no one thinks about.” The concept drew support from Janabi, who was at the time an official adviser to the Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources. “Vast areas once covered with water are now desert,” Janabi says. “Water is life and this life has been taken away. This is critical and it’s now diminishing.”

Although some might chafe at the idea of an American curating the Iraq pavilion, contentious nationality issues have always remained far outside Schroth’s purview. “My nomadic life means I have more in common with these artists than a normal curator,” she says.

Indeed, it has been more than three decades since Schroth lived in the U.S. Her departure for Europe came on the heels of a five-year stretch working as an assistant at CBS under the helm of Walter Cronkite, covering events like Watergate, the end of the Vietnam War and the election of Jimmy Carter.

[0411Karim] Courtesy of Halim al-KarimHALIM AL-KARIM | ‘Hidden War’ (1985), a triptych by the U.S.-based photographer.

Her first destination was Normandy, France. Although Schroth had no formal art training, her enthusiasm led her to some of the country’s most off-the-map art happenings—the most fruitful of which was a collaboration with French contemporary artist Joël Hubaut. Together they established the independent art space Nouveau Mixage, hedged inside an abandoned garage in the center of Caen. It was there Schroth learned how to become an “artist’s producer,” or someone, she explains, “who could translate their projects into reality.”

While living in France, Schroth met the commissioner of the U.S. pavilion at the 50th Venice Biennale, Kathleen Goncharov, and the two have since traveled to remote biennials and art events around the world. “My investigations to countries outside the Eurocentric context have been a big part of my identity in my work with contemporary art,” Schroth says.

With the impending closure of Nouveau Mixage, Schroth relocated to Rome. She arrived in a city replete with sweeping, historic charm, but a flatlining contemporary art scene. “Rome was a backwater,” Schroth says. “It didn’t have in the early 1980s what it has today. It just wasn’t interested in international contemporary art.”

[mag411_schroth6] Courtesy of Adel AbidinADEL ABIDIN | Still from ‘Three Love Songs’ (2010-11), a video installation at Mathaf, the Arab Museum of Modern Art in Qatar.

A lack of galleries and independent spaces forced Schroth to spend her first year scouring the city for artists and setting her sights on transforming disused spaces into art hubs. One of the first such shows exhibited the work of Italian and British artists in abandoned, underground bathroom stalls in a central Roman piazza. The event, which still retains a kind of cult status in Italy today, proved to be one of the most pivotal in Schroth’s career, as it facilitated her introduction to sculptor and Passionist priest Tito Amodei.

Amodei’s art studio was housed inside a vaulted, former basilica compound owned by the Vatican. Inside the complex was also the 800-square-foot Sala 1 gallery that he used for sculptural exhibitions. He had for some time been on a desperate hunt for a director to take over the space. “Back then it wasn’t cool to be connected to the Catholic Church,” Schroth says. “Many didn’t think it could be a viable art space, but it just needed a curatorial jumpstart. Like any place, it was just a container unless you had a vision.” And so in 1985, Schroth assumed the role of director at Sala 1. The only rules for running the space, explains the now 85-year-old Amodei, were: “No politics. No religion. No Vatican. Only culture.”

Keeping their distance from their landlord, which meant never asking for financial assistance, has enabled Sala 1 to maintain a large degree of creative freedom—best exemplified in a succession of groundbreaking exhibitions. These include the 1995 “Halal” show, the first display of contemporary Israeli artists in Italy, and collaborating with the Studio Museum in Harlem in 2006 to present the U.S.’s first show of comic books hailing from Africa.

[mag411_schroth7] Courtesy of Ali AssafALI ASSAF | ‘Waters!’ (2009), an installation at Sette Sale in Rome.

Now with the 2002 opening of MACRO, the contemporary art museum and galleries, including an outpost from powerhouse dealer Larry Gagosian, Rome is beginning to take hold as a serious contemporary-art center. “At a time when Rome had mostly sleepy institutions, she was one of the only people working with emerging talent,” says Viktor Misiano, former contemporary-art curator at the Pushkin Museum and co-curator of “Mosca: Terza Roma,” Schroth’s 1988 exhibition of Russian art. “She is one of the few that had the courage to do something unusual.”

As if to underscore Schroth’s unremitting energy, she is also curating the first-ever Bangladesh pavilion for this summer’s Venice Biennale, which coincides with the country’s 40th anniversary. Both Bangladesh and Iraq will be housed in the Gervasuti Foundation, an artisan’s workshop in a construction zone in central Venice.

“For me being with the artist is as good as it gets,” says Schroth in a still-thick Southern accent. “And although sometimes it’s not perfect, in the end, they give you what I call illumination.”

“Which,” she adds, “just so happens to be the theme of this year’s Biennale.”

—The 54th Venice Biennale will run from June 4 to November 27, 2011.

Read more: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704893604576200652720598940.html#ixzz1PMEloVln

3/18. Bezoekers bekijken een kunstwerk van de Irakees Azad Nanakeli. Foto AFP / Filippo Monteforte (NRC, zie http://www.nrc.nl/inbeeld/2011/06/04/de-54e-biennale-van-venetie/ )

Ali Assaf, detail of Al Basra, the Venice of the East, video of oil soaked birds of the Gulf oil spill, accompanied by children’s songs (source http://www.artandpoliticsnow.com/2011/06/venice-biennale-2011-first-installment-the-iraqi-pavillion/ )

Ahmed Alsoudani, Untitled, Charcoal and acrylic on canvas, 2011

Ali Assaf, Narciso, video installation, 2010

Halim al Karim, Hidden Love 3, Photograph Lambda Print, 2009

http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2011/jun/02/venice-biennale-iraqi-voice

Venice Biennale gives voice to Iraqi diaspora and struggling younger artists

Iraq’s first pavilion for 34 years is about trying to change perceptions of a dictatorship-scarred and war-wounded country

Charlotte Higgins

Venice Art Biennale - Iraqui Pavilion

Azad Nanakeli’s Acqua ferita/ Wounded Water at the Iraqi pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Photograph: Christian Jungeblodt

“I want to create, I want to show the world what I am capable of, but I cannot.” So says a 16-year-old Iraqi photographer, as Iraq fields its first pavilion for 34 years at the Venice Biennale.

The words of Ayman Haider Kadhm are part of a short documentary that looks at the experiences of three young Iraqi artists struggling to find a voice in a war-ravaged country.

He talks of his camera being confiscated by the security forces. “Do I look like a terrorist? I am only a photographer who wants to record life.”

In fact the main installation of the Iraq pavilion contains work only by members of the Iraqi diaspora, most of whom left in the 1970s to study abroad before the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war.

According to Rijin Sahakian, the Iraqi-born, American head of the Echo cultural foundation, another supporter of the pavilion: “There has been a severance of training, and an isolation for decades compounded by a newfound violence.

“That’s why all the artists here are part of the diaspora. It’s been fractured for years, and the last 10 years have been the final blow.”

The biennale may be a critical event for visual arts, but – with its national pavilions – it also has inescapable overtones of soft diplomacy. Iraq’s presence is also about trying to change perceptions of a dictatorship-scarred and war-wounded country.

Azad Nanakeli left his home city of Arbil in Kurdistan aged 23 to study in Baghdad and then Florence – and stayed in Italy. He has created a film work and a sculptural installation exploring the pavilion’s water theme.

It is, he says, “a great thing to have a space here. In 1976 Iraq was present at the biennale but it was more political and belonged to the regime”.

The curator, Mary Angela Schroth, agrees. “I want people to see the work of these artists and see that there are some untold stories. And I want people to see Iraq not as a 30-year conflict zone but like any other country.

“We have deliberately got away from the war – we want to give it an identity, an identity that it has lost since the Saddam dictatorship.

“In two years it could be more than a reality to show Iraqi work made in Iraq. But at the moment young Iraqis can’t leave the country. It is very difficult for artistic practice – the country is essentially destroyed.”

The pavilion is funded by the Iraq government and a handful of private sponsors including Total, the oil company. Zaha Hadid, the Iraqi-British architect, is its patron.

The artists argue that culture is necessary as a means of expression after a traumatic period in its history.

According to Nanakeli, after the war: “We thought we’d get freedom. Now we have a big problem when we speak about contemporary culture. The government doesn’t give a lot of space for art, theatre, cinema and that is terrible for Iraqis.

“If we are to grow as a country we need to think about all areas of life. My hope is that there will be a future for artists, poets and writers.”

Sahakian adds: “People have been silenced for so long. Art is a crucial tool for talking about what’s happened, for self-expression, for the documenting of personal experience.”

The London-based Walid Siti, who left his native Duhok in 1976 to study in Baghdad and then Ljubljana in Slovenia, has created a pair of linked sculptural installations which look at the rivers of Iraq.

“To have a show in Venice is important – to say that there is something positive. The water metaphor, it can bring us together.”

He talks about the subject of one of his pieces: the river Azab, which rises in Turkey, flows through Kurdistan and then flows “like a vein – a kind of symbol of life and continuity” to the Tigris.

“In Iraq it is very hard for artists. Religious groups are pressurising the government to close to close down art, theatre, dance organisations.

“But people are coming up with ideas. For better or worse, what Iraq has been through is a source of ideas.”

The Iraq pavilion is at Gervasuti Foundation, Castello 995, Venice, from Saturday until 27 November

Interview with Ali Assaf (in Italian), http://www.blarco.com/2011/06/il-fascino-del-padiglione-delliraq-alla.html

http://haunchofvenison.com/films/ahmed_alsoudaniwounded_water/

Ahmed Alsoudani:
Wounded Water

Film

Wounded Water: a short film with Ahmed Alsoudani from Haunch of Venison on Vimeo.

14 June 2011

Ahmed Alsoudani talks about his participation in ‘Wounded Water’, the Pavilion of Iraq, at the 54th Venice Biennale.

After a 35-year hiatus, 2011 marks Iraq’s triumphant return to the Venice Biennale. In an exhibition curated by Mary Angela Schroth, the 2011 Iraq Pavilion will present to the world six internationally celebrated Iraqi artists, including Haunch of Venison’s Ahmed Alsoudani (b.1975), an emerging artist whose paintings of war and human conflict have garnered him international attention and broad critical applause. The artists in the exhibition span two generations: Ali Assaf, Azad Nanakli, and Walid Siti were born in the 1950s and experienced periods of vast cultural richness and creativity in the country despite political turmoil; Ahmed Alsoudani, Abel Abidin and Halim Al Karim grew up during the Iran-Iraq War, the Invasion of Kuwait and daily life under intense UN sanctions and the tyrannical Ba’athist regime. The exhibition, entitled Acqua Ferita/Wounded Water, revolves around the six artists’ interpretations on the theme of water loss in the region through diverse mediums including painting, performance, video, photography, sculpture and installation art. According to Schroth, “The pavilion, through its artists and collaboration with the new government, is one small, but significant step.” The Iraq Pavilion will open on 2 June 2011 and is located at the Gervasuti Foundation, Fondamenta S. Ana (Via Garibaldi), Castello 995, between Giardini and Arsenale.

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  • Haunch of Venison © 2011

The New York Times, 3-6-2011,  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/05/fashion/middle-eastern-artists-at-the-venice-biennale.html?_r=3&ref=middleeast

The Art World’s New Darlings

Jessica Craig-Martin for The New York Times

AFLOAT Ahmed Alsoudani, left, poses for Adel Abidin.

By JULIA CHAPLIN
Published: June 3, 2011

//

Adel Abidin and Ahmed Alsoudani, the young artists who represent Iraq at the 54th Venice Biennale, were sitting on the terrace of the Bauer Hotel here at dusk on Wednesday, studying their elaborately hand-written invitations to a private dinner given by François Pinault, the French billionaire. How would they cross the water to San Giorgio Maggiore Island?

Jessica Craig-Martin for The New York Times

NETWORKING Ahmed Alsoudani, left, with Isabelle de La Bruyère at a Venice Biennale party.

It is the first time since 1976 that Iraq has participated in the prestigious art gathering. With Egypt, Syria, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia all showing there (a first for Saudi Arabia), Middle Eastern art was Topic A among the gaggle of oligarchs, aristocrats and movie stars who gathered for three days of frantic partying and private viewings before the fair’s official opening on Saturday.

So it wasn’t surprising when Yvonne Force Villareal, a founder of the Art Production Fund in New York, offered them a ride on her private water taxi, along with the photographer Todd Eberle, the socialite Anne McNally, and Bruno Frisoni, the shoe designer. They piled in, a tangle of gowns and glitter, and sped across the choppy waterways, which were clogged with other party commuter craft.

When they docked at the Cini Foundation, an opulent former Benedictine monastery, Mr. Pinault himself stood at the arched entrance shaking hands with a long line of about 1,000 guests that included Anna Wintour, Charlotte Casiraghi, Jeff Koons and Dasha Zhukova.

Mr. Abidin, 38, is the less active networker of the two artists. He seemed to defy Mr. Pinault’s cocktail-attire dress code, wearing Vans, striped ankle socks and a scarf over a pink button-up shirt. He was coming from a scrappy, laid-back party for a pan-Arabian exhibition, held in a sprawling old salt storage facility, and was eager to return to his friends there.

Mr. Alsoudani, 36, on the other hand, was in his element, and seemed to know every other curator and collector. His abstract paintings, which touch on themes of violence and war, are collected by Charles Saatchi and Mr. Pinault, a frequent visitor to his studio. “François said he liked my pants,” said Mr. Alsoudani, who wore a pair of snug-fitting Dior trousers, a white vest and a hat.

The two — the youngest of six artists who represent the Iraq Pavilion’s exhibition, “Wounded Water” — came of age during the Iran-Iraq war, the invasion of Kuwait and the rule of Saddam Hussein. Both now live in the West (Mr. Abidin in Helsinki and Mr. Alsoudani in New York City), but their works reference a collective memory of strife and hardship — in Mr. Abidin’s case, with a touch of humor. They had met for the first time that evening and seemed to inhabit opposite spectrums of the art world, one bling, the other purist, although they agreed about the changing Middle East.

“The revolution in the Middle East has made me believe that we still have the capacity for believing in our dreams,” Mr. Abidin said, referring to the Arab Spring. “Change is beautiful.”

The two artists had been sought after in Venice, receiving invitations to palazzo dinners and a decadent reception hosted by Ms. Zhukova, Neville Wakefield and Alex Dellal at the Bauer.

Inside the monastery, Mr. Pinault’s party was in high gear, extravagant even by Biennale standards: more candles than a Sting video, banquet tables piled with basil risotto and sparkling rosé, and long tables stacked with exotic cheeses.

Young aristos flitted about the gardens in Balenciaga and Lanvin. Seated at one table were Isabelle de La Bruyère, a regional specialist from Christie’s, and Sultan Sooud al-Qassemi from the Emirate of Sharjah. “Come sit with us!” they called to Mr. Alsoudani and Mr. Abidin, who was chatting with Lisa Phillips, the director of the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York.

“Middle East art is definitely trendy right now,” Mr. Alsoudani said. “But the truth is there is no Chinese art scene, or Indian art scene or Middle East. It’s easier to categorize it that way. The world is getting smaller and all art is judged by the same international standard.”

By 11 p.m., about two hours in, the crowd had mellowed and the BlackBerry typing began. Maurizio Cattelan was hosting a party for his magazine Toilet Paper on San Servolo Island. Others were heading to the Bungalow 8 pop-up club at Hotel Palazzina Grassi and others back to the Bauer.

Mr. Abidin refilled on red wine but seemed disillusioned by all the glitz. “I don’t like Venice,” he said. “I got divorced here and then had two breakups.” He returned to the pan-Arabian party on a boat with a D.J. and no dress code.

Mr. Alsoudani stayed behind. He hit the cheese table and his dealer, from Haunch of Venison, invited him to a party on a yacht hosted by the French collectors Steve and Chiara Rosenblum. “Isn’t Venice fantastic?” he said, contemplating all his choices.

A version of this article appeared in print on June 5, 2011, on page ST1 of the New York edition with the headline: The Art World’s New Darlings.

An exhibition of Halim al Karim in the Darat al-Funun, Amman, 2010

May 2010
Halim Al Karim’s work is a response to the artist’s own unimaginable experiences and his ongoing observation of the turmoil in Baghdad. Al Karim’s artistic approach is as an outward projection of his inner-consciousness and an expression of spiritual awakening. This exhibition presents a series of triptychs with blurred faces. Some are well known figures; others are film stills, artworks, or artifacts from his homeland. The identities of the figures seem immaterial with Al Karim’s out of focus photography technique; blurring their identities to emphasize the un-kept promises of freedom. In the series Witness from Baghdad, the artist highlights the non existence of a passive witness in times of war. Their striking, life-like eyes which reference Sumerian sculptures are proof that these quiet intangible faces are alive and well aware of what is happening around them. The works on show witness the evolving mentality of urban society in present day Iraq

Unveiled (Saatchi-Collection): http://www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk/artists/halim_karim.htm?section_name=unveiled

SELECTED
WORKS BY Halim Al-Karim

 

Click on the images to
enlarge
Halim
Al-Karim

Hidden War

1985
Lambda print

138 x 324 cm

Hidden War

Iraqi artist Halim Al-Karim underwent a harrowing experience
during the first Gulf War. Opposing Saddam’s regime and its compulsory military
service he took to hiding in the desert, living for almost 3 years in a hole in
the ground covered by a pile of rocks. He survived only through the assistance
of a Bedouin woman who brought him food and water and taught him about gypsy
customs and mysticism. Al-Karim has since emigrated to America, however, these
events have had a profound effect on his life and form the basis for his art
practice.

Halim
Al-Karim

Hidden Face

1995
Lambda print

138 x 300 cm

Hidden Face

In this body of work, Al-Karim presents a series of triptychs,
each comprised of three faces. Some are well known figures, such as Saddam
Hussein in Hidden Face, others are film stills, artworks, or artifacts.
Presented as enlarged panels their distortion is compounded,
raising the
question not of what they represent but of their deeper meaning and
interconnectivity. Hidden Face was made in 1995, years before the
famous photo of Saddam in custody; the figure is in fact made up, based on how
Al-Karim imagined the dictator would look in the future. The two flanking out of
focus figures are suggestive of world leaders – still in power – whose support
of Saddam’s regime has been forgotten. Al-Karim has blurred their identities to
show the duplicity of their motives, scripting them as anonymous accomplices who
will never stand trial.

Halim
Al-Karim

Hidden Prisoner

1993
Lambda print

158 x 369 cm

Hidden Prisoner

In this series of work, photography is used for its
non-physical qualities: a medium which quite literally creates an image from
light, capturing the transient and interwoven nature of time and
memory. The
Sumerian artifacts featured in Al-Karim’s Hidden Prisoner and
Hidden Goddess were photographed in the Louvreand the British Museum;
Al-Karim describes seeing them internedbehind glass, far away from their home,
as a painful reminder ofvisiting his friends and family who were held as
political prisonersat Abu Ghraib during Saddam’s
regime.

Halim
Al-Karim

Hidden Theme

1995
Lambda print

138 x 300 cm

Hidden Theme

Al-Karim’s Hidden series is a response to the artists
own unimaginable experiences and his ongoing observances of the turbulences in
his homeland. With pieces titled Hidden War, Hidden Victims, Hidden
Witnesses
, Al-Karim raises the awareness of not only the devastating
effects of violence, but its many manifestations – both physical and
psychological – from the political to the economic and domestic. His works adopt
a skewed sense of scale and resolve to conceptually shift between the macro and
the micro, the societal and individual, physical and emotive, offering a
tranquil and meditative pause and space for reflection and
catharsis.

Halim
Al-Karim

Hidden Victims

2008
Lambda print

186 x 372 cm

Hidden Victims

Al-Karim merges aspects of Sufism – such as the belief in
Divine Unity – with obsolete traditions, especially those of ancient Sumer, the
grand empire which ruled in what is now Iraq from 6000-4000 BC. Sumerian symbols
often appear in his images, and his photographs
of women are in part
inspired by a ritual which could elevate girls to the status of
goddesses.

Halim
Al-Karim

Prisoner Goddess

1993
Lambda print

124 x 372 cm

Prisoner Goddess

Al-Karim’s approach to image-making is as an outward projection
of his inner-consciousness and a visual manifestation of spiritual awakening and
serenity. His evasive dream-like images evoke a range of instinctual emotive
responses, the ability of true perception existing as a preternatural power
within each of us, which can be understood and harnessed through the pursuit of
metaphysical enlightenment.

Halim
Al-Karim

Hidden Witnesses

2007
Lambda print

138 x 300 cm

Hidden Witnesses
Halim
Al-Karim

Hidden Doll

2008
Lambda print covered with white
silk

200 x 360 cm

Hidden Doll

In pieces such as Hidden Doll, Al-Karim presents his
photographs beneath a tautly stretched layer of white silk fabric that operates
as both a physical veil masking the portraits and a metaphorical filter or
screen. This ‘barrier’ between viewer and image can be conceived as a liminal
space, a transcendental portal between being and becoming, where the mystical
properties of change take place.

Halim
Al-Karim

Hidden War 2

2003
Lambda print covered with white
silk

200 x 330 cm

Hidden War 2

Themes of reconciliation are central to Al-Karim’s work, both
emotionally and in relation to Sufi tradition, where faith is inwardly focused
and strives for unity between consciousness and God.
Contradictions and
juxtapositions occur within his photos, but rather than creating tension, they
have harmonious effect. As faces line up: beautiful and garish, monstrous and
innocent, wizened and puerile, they form single conglomerate portraits, each
segment completing the next, contributing to the understanding of the whole. In
Hidden War 2, Al-Karim has covered his images with a transparent layer
of cloth, urging the viewer to consider the hidden agendas behind the
legitimising rhetoric of those who support the war

Halim Al Karim, Ashbook, porcelain and ash, 1999 (made in the time he lived in Amsterdam)

earlier work of Walid Siti

http://www.walidsiti.com/work/installation/constellation/constellation.htm

Constellation 2009

PlanetK, The 53rd International Art Exhibition, Venice

Board, emulsion paint, plaster, thread and nails.

Constellation is a large wall-based installation comprising the contours of a white mountain surrounded by constellations of black threads. The connections between the mountain and the black threads draw a parallel with an imagined cosmic world with many associations and metaphorical references to the memory of a physical landscape. The white mountain top in the centre of the work acts as a magnetic force that energises and coordinates the movements of the other elements, suggesting a network of dynamic links between the constituent parts. Constellation is an attempt to go beyond a superficial understanding of the physical elements of the work and to aspire towards an ideal landscape.

Constellation incorporates ideas and forms from ‘Precious Stones’ and ‘Family Ties’ – series of my drawings and paintings that preoccupied my work for over ten years. Both series focus on the significance of various symbols and forms such as stones, fire, cubes and circles, which both characterise the collective cultural identity of the Kurdish people and highlight the universal plight of the exile – physically distant though always emotionally close to home.

The work also plays metaphorically on the astrological meaning of constellation, allowing different readings and interpretations. The four arbitrary sets of constellations within the work are fragmented and incomplete, reflecting a state of contradiction and conflict in reality. This gives the work a new perspective and invites the viewer to contemplate and interpret it within a new context.

Walid Siti , London 2009

 

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Walid Siti, Suspended Mountains 2010, 400x400x600cm, Canvas tube, wire, pols
Serdem Gallery, Suleymania

From the very beginning, mountains, rocks, and stones—in all their  diverse forms and shapes—have been a constant source of inspiration for my  work. I use them as metaphors, visual forms that convey my ideas about and  associations with political, social, and cultural topics as well as issues of  identity. These are the themes that concern me and that have shaped and  influenced my art and my life.

      

Earlier works of Ahmed Alsoudani

http://www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk/artists/ahmed_alsoudani.htm

We Die Out of Hand

Ahmed Alsoudani

We Die Out of Hand

2007
Charcoal, pastel and acrylic on paper

274.3 x 243.8 cm

During the first Gulf War, Ahmed Alsoudani fled to Syria
before claiming asylum in America. Through his paintings and drawings he
approaches the subject of war through aesthetics. Citing great artists of the
past such as Goya and George Grosz whose work has become the lasting
consciousness of the atrocities of the 19th and 20th centuries, Alsoudani’s
inspiration comes directly from his own experiences as a child, as well as his
concerns over contemporary global conflicts. In We Die Out Of Hand, the
earthy background sets the stage for dreary prison gloom, while hooded figures
are obliterated through mercilessly violent gestures, insinuating the horrors of
Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay with exquisite and torturous beauty.

You No Longer Have Hands

Ahmed Alsoudani

You No Longer Have Hands

2007
Charcoal, pastel and acrylic on paper

213.4 x 274.3 cm

Alsoudani executes his works with a raw physicality, using
materials such as paint and charcoal in an unorthodox way, often painting over
drawing and vice versa. You No Longer Have Hands is spread over two
large pieces of paper, the seam down the middle operating literally as a divide.
Like many of Alsoudani’s images, there are no people in this work, rather the
concepts of violence are presented as something too large and abstract to
comprehend. Instead a graffiti strewn wall provides a hint of humanity against a
raging black mass, torrential, abject and bereft.

Untitled

Ahmed Alsoudani

Untitled

2007
Oil, acrylic, ink, gesso on canvas

182.9 x 213.4 cm

Untitled

Ahmed Alsoudani

Untitled

2008
Oil, acrylic, charcoal gesso on canvas

213 x 184 cm

Alsoudani’s Untitled is barely recognisable as a portrait.
Mixing charcoal with paint, the surface evolves as a dirty corporeal mass, as
pure colours become tinged by sooty dust and paint drips down the canvas in
contaminated streams. Describing what might be a head, Alsoudani offers up an
anguished abstraction combining organic textures with geometric forms. Rendering
carnage with an almost cartoon efficacy, Alsoudani summates the base instinct of
destruction as a volume of fleshy fields punctuated by industrial rubble;
hard-edged circles and arcs lend an absurd consumerist familiarity suggesting
windows and bullet holes in the cold pictograph motifs.

Baghdad I

Ahmed Alsoudani

Baghdad I

2008
Acrylic on canvas

210 x 370 cm

“The falling statue of a despot in the centre of Baghdad
I
recalls the toppling of the statue of Saddam. The rooster-like figure
symbolizes America. Here the rooster is not only a figure of control but is
injured as well and constrained. The basket of eggs to the left side of its neck
represents ideas – unhatched ideas in this case; an armory of fragile potential.
Alsoudani’s fascination with molecules and cellular references are apparent in
the central egg-shaped object in the center of the rooster’s belly. The flood
bursting through on the bottom center of the canvas carries Biblical
associations and references the fractured nature of daily life in Baghdad –
nothing works, pipes burst, the city is tacked together, evoked by the large
nails depicted in different parts of the canvas. A figure on the upper right of
the canvas bursts forth in a flourish of pageantry, representing the new Iraqi
government, sprung forth from the chaos, compromised, bandaged and standing
precariously on a teetering stool.” Robert
Goff

Baghdad II

Ahmed Alsoudani

Baghdad II

2008
Acrylic on canvas

250 x 380 cm

Baghdad II depicts a “typical” Baghdad scene: on
the left side of the canvas a car has crashed into an American-built security
wall – another suicide bombing attempt or an act of pure desperation. Stylized
licks of red flame come up from the ground, an eyeball has rolled to the center
of the painting on the bottom. The eyeball plays a role in terms of content and
form but also alludes to Lebanese poet Abbas Baythoon. On the lower right hand
side of the painting a head lies behind bars – this is a reference to a statue
in Baghdad, which here Alsoudani has decapitated and, ironically, brought to
life as an imprisoned figure. One way to read this is that under Saddam’s
dictatorship art was constricted and imprisoned and this idea of censorship is
continually evoked through a layered approach in this work. The female figure in
the center right side of the painting is deliberately drawn in as opposed to
painted, a martyr-figure both carrying and giving birth to change.” Robert
Goff

Untitled

Ahmed Alsoudani

Untitled

2008
Charcoal, acrylic and pastel on paper

270 x 226 cm

Alsoudani’s Untitled mesmerizes with the power and chaos of
an explosion, combining artistic references with combustive force. Reminiscent
of cubist dynamics, Alsoudani approaches his theme of war from every angle,
broaching the incomprehensibility of combat and its repercussions through his
fragmented and turbulent composition. Drawn in charcoal and pastel Alsoudani’s
gestures convey raw passion and intensity with a rarefied elegance, his subtle
shading and ephemeral acrylic washes simultaneously evoking the detailed etching
in Goya’s Disasters of War and the hyper-violent media graphics of Manga
illustrations. Alsoudani negotiates these terrains with unwavering authority,
responding to current events with commanding hindsight to develop contemporary
history painting that’s both high-impact and enduring.

Earlier works of Adel Abidin

Cold Interrogation

Mixed media installation, 2004

A video installation dealing with the dilemma of being an Arab, Muslim and Iraqi individual living in a western society in this period of time.“Since I left my home country Iraq in 2000, I am dealing daily with different questions about my identity”.The work creates an interactive atmosphere, by inviting the viewer to take part in the interrogation.

Examples of the questions:

How did you end up in Finland?How is the situation in Iraq right now?What do you think of Osama bin Ladin?How does it feel to ride a camel?Are you with the war, do you support it?What do you think of the suicide bombers?What do you think of the Americans?And so on…
The viewer can hear to the loud audio of the questions coming from inside the fridge, and see the video through the security peephole fixed on the fridge.

Details:

Country of production: Finland 2004
Duration: 01’00’00 min. (Looping)
Aspect ratio: 4:3
Sound: Stereo
Original Format: mini dv
Screening format: DVD- all / Pal

Images: / 1

Installation view
Installation view

/ 2

Instalation view
Instalation view

/ 3

Installation detail
Installation detail

/ 4

Hopscotch

A video installation, 2009

Hopscotch is a game children play the world over. In Abidin’s work, the squares lead to a gate – into another, unknown world. Abidin associates the work with the Iraq he experienced as child: “In this game, the players are being watched by people who have the power to terminate much more than the game. In a police state, children are taught the ‘rules of the game’ very early on.”

Video details:

8 meters * 4 meters built gate in the museum/ consists of: wood and Plexiglas

duration : 00’02’00 (looping)
Shooting format: Mini DV
Screening format: DVD- all
Aspect ratio: 4:3 (round)

Images: / 1

Installation detail
Installation detail

/ 2

Installation view
Installation view

/ 3

Installation view
Installation view

/ 4

Installation view
Installation view

/ 5

Installation view
Installation view

http://www.abidintravels.com/

I’m Sorry

Sound installation including a light box, 2008

During a recent trip to the US, I met many people from different kinds of educational and social backgrounds. Yet, surprisingly, they all reacted in the same way when I mentioned that I was Iraqi”.

Details:

Country of production: Finland 2008
Sound installation including a light box
Computer programs the sync between the sound and the lights.

JihadVideo piece, 2006

Jihad

Video piece, 2006

http://www.levantinecenter.org/levantine-review/articles/consumption-war-–-adel-abidin-2011-venice-biennale

“Consumption of War” – Adel Abidin at the 2011 Venice Biennale

      posted June 10, 2011 – 1:26pm by Editor
Subtitle:
five Iraqi artists represent their homeland for first time in 35 years

By Lina Sergie AttarIn Consumption of War, the latest installation by Iraqi-Finnish artist Adel Abidin, one stands in a room, between projection and reality, watching an absurd “war” break out between two corporate figures. The film leaves us in physical and metaphoric darkness, questioning not only the artist’s intention but also our implication within the narrative. Throughout his work over the last decade, exploring issues of identity, memory, exile, violence, war and politics, Abidin has harnessed the power of ambiguity.

Iraqi-Finnish artist Adel AbidinIraqi-Finnish artist Adel AbidinThis year, Abidin is one of five Iraqi artists chosen to represent their homeland at the prestigious 54th annual Venice Biennale. It is the first time in 35 years that a pavilion has been dedicated to Iraq. He represented his “other” home, Finland, in 2007 at the Biennale with his acclaimed installation, Abidin Travels, a mock travel agency that advertised the pleasures of visiting war-torn Iraq. The “agency” was complete with all the materials needed to “sell” an exotic locale: glossy brochures with catchy tag lines, “Baghdad: much more than a holiday” and a brightly-colored faux booking website. In the promotional video, Abidin juxtaposes a cheery, female voice with an American accent describing idealized scenes of Iraq’s famous antiquities and architecture against the footage of looted museums and taped executions. Abidin challenges the typical “Western” tourist’s immunity to the images of war by framing the grim reality within the fake packaging of imagined perfection.

"Consumption of War"“Consumption of War”The Pavilion of Iraq’s theme is Wounded Water. Severe water shortages and pollution in Iraq compete with the ongoing war as the deadliest threat to civilian life. The local plight is also a universal one as global corporations encourage consumption on a massive scale for maximum profit, disregarding the obscene amounts of water needed to produce “necessities” such as a pair of jeans or cup of coffee. Abidin is concerned, “In Iraq, major corporations have signed the largest free oil exploration deals in history. Yet while every barrel of oil extracted requires 1.5 barrels of water, 1 out of every 4 citizens has no access to clean drinking water.” Consumption of War explores this environmental crisis from the perspective of the competitive corporate environment.

The work occupies two adjacent spaces, the first a decrepit room with broken plaster exposing a brick structure and unused fixtures jutting out of a tiled wall. We enter, facing a white, bare wall with a stopped office clock. The disorienting light flickers in bright flashes. Between the flickers, we see a filing cabinet and a large poster of a parched landscape. In the second space, we face an office with the same clock projected onto the back wall and a vivid, lush landscape in the background. Two men, almost identical in height, weight and coloring, as typically corporate as the room, begin a duel using the florescent lights as swords. The camera shots oscillate between the main view and extreme close-ups of feet crunching glass, of furniture sliding across the room, of fingers grasping the light tubes, and of mock menacing facial expressions, with fuzzy, black and white surveillance shots sliced between. Everything in the room becomes a prop for the fight, cabinets become platforms, lights become swords, at one point a binder is used as a shield. The childish battle is an exaggerated slow-motion dance, referencing pop culture movies such as Star Wars and The Matrix. The light dims darker as the “light sabers” are shattered one by one, until we are left in darkness.

Abidin constructs a visual interpretation of a modern power struggle within the glorified corporate environment, its immaculate furnishings and model-like workers symbolize the pinnacle of global aspirations. Even the playful way they fight is idealized and sanitized. But these seemingly innocent actions are not without consequence; for every light bulb shattered in vain, resources are lost to the majority of people shut out of the power structure.

In Consumption of War, a room within a room changes scale to become a world within a world, representing the present and the absent, what is now and what will come in the future. Abidin strategically places the viewers in between an unclear future and a weary present. The viewers become participants in a game with no winners. As they leave the darkness back into the flashing alarms of light, the lush landscape dissolves into an illusion, a dream, replaced with the reality of a parched, depleted world. He leaves them with a choice: to idly watch as precious resources are sucked dry or to play a different game and stop the madness.

The Pavilion of Iraq opened as part of the 54th Venice Biennale on June 2nd, 2011 and runs until November 2011. Other artists presented in the pavilion are Halim Al Karim, Ahmed Alsoudani, Ali Assaf, Azad Nanakeli and Walid Siti. Info here.

Lina Sergie Attar is an architect educated in Aleppo, Syria, with graduate degrees from RISD and MIT. She has taught architecture, interior architecture and art history courses in Boston and Chicago. Lina is co-founder of Karam Foundation, NFP, a charity based in Chicago. She blogs at tooarab.com. This is her second article for the Levantine Review.

Azad Nanakeli, Destnuej (purification), video-installatie, 2011

earlier works of Azad Nanakeli

Azad Nanakeli, What is the Question? video-still, 2007

Azad Nanakeli, A Perfect World, 2009

Azad Nanakeli, Destnuej (purification), video-installatie, 2011

Earlier works of Ali Assaf (http://www.aliassaf.com/works.html )

 This image of Head of Nuisance (1983), by Ali Assaf can be found alongside numerous works created by Iraqi artists on the Iraq Memory Foundation website. (Ali Assaf/Iraq Memory Foundation)

Ali Assaf, Head of Nuisance, 1983

Ali Assaf, Him, just Him, everywhere Him, 1985

Ali Assaf, Belsem, installation (mixed media and sound), San Marino, 1991

Ali Assaf, Feet of Sand, performance, 1996

Ali Assaf, I wonder if your barber would agree, object of rubber, glue and human hair (translation of the German text: ‘A Dutch hairdresser once told me the hair of the Europeans has become more and more thin since the last thirty years, but if they mix with migrants of the south of the earth, (their hair) certainly will become strong again’

Ali Assaf, Mujaheed, cibachrome on foamcore, plastified, 1997

  

  

  

Ali Assaf, The obscure object of desire, installation, 2002 (details, click on picture to enlarge)

Ali Assaf, The obscure object of desire, installation, 2002 (overview)

Ali Assaf, Greetings from Baghdad, 2004

Ali Assaf, I am her, I am him, video, 2008

Floris Schreve, Amsterdam

فلوريس سحرافا

(أمستردام، هولندا

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