Mijn hersenspinsels en gedachtekronkels

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

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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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.

Back to Films

  • 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

 

<< Back

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

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Installation view
Installation view

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Installation detail
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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)

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Installation detail
Installation detail

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Installation view
Installation view

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Installation view
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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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Modern and contemporary art of the Middle East and North Africa

http://onglobalandlocalart.wordpress.com/2011/12/07/modern-and-contemporary-art-of-the-middle-east-and-north-africa-2/

الفن المعاصر في العالم العربي وإيران

Since the recent developments in Tunisia and Egypt and probably to follow in other Arab countries, even the mainstream media have noticed that in the Arab world and Iran there is a desire for freedom and democracy. While in the Western World  often reduced to essentialist clichés of the traditional Arab or the Muslim extremists the recent events show the opposite. The orientalist paradigm, as Edward Said has defined in 1978, or even the ‘neo-orientalist’ version (according to Salah Hassan), virulent since 9 / 11, are denounced by the images of Arab satellite channels like Al Jazeera. It proofs that there are definitely progressive and freedom-loving forces in the Middle East, as nowadays becomes  visible for the whole world.

Wafaa Bilal (Iraq, US), from his project ‘Domestic Tension’, 2007 (see for more http://wafaabilal.com/html/domesticTension.html )

Since the last few years there is an increasing interest in contemporary art from that region. Artists such as Mona Hatoum (Palestine), Shirin Neshat (Iran) and the architect Zaha Hadid (Iraq) were already visible in the international art circuit. Since the last five to ten years there are a number of names added, like Ghada Amer (Egypt), Akram Zaatari and Walid Ra’ad (Lebanon), Fareed Armaly and Emily Jacir (Palestine), Mounir Fatmi (Morocco), Farhad Mosheri ( Iran), Ahmed Mater (Saudi Arabia), Mohammed al- Shammerey  and Wafaa Bilal (Iraq). Most of these artists are working and living in the Western World.

Afbeelding49

Walid Ra’ad/The Atlas Group (Lebanon), see http://www.theatlasgroup.org/index.html, at Documenta 11, Kassel, 2002

Mounir Fatmi (Morocco), The Connections, installation, 2003 – 2009, see http://www.mounirfatmi.com/2installation/connexions01.html

Yet the phenomenon of modern and contemporary art in the Middle East isn’t something of last decades. From the end of World War I, when most Arab countries arose in its present form, artists in several countries have sought manners to create their own form of international modernism. Important pioneers were Mahmud Mukhtar (since the twenties and thirties in Egypt), Jewad Selim (forties and fifties in Iraq), or Muhammad Melehi and Farid Belkahia (from the sixties in Morocco). These artists were the first who, having been trained mostly in the West, introduced modernist styles in their homeland. Since that time, artists in several Arab countries draw inspiration from both international modernism, and from traditions of their own cultural heritage.

Shakir Hassan al-Said (Iraq), Objective Contemplations, oil on board, 1984, see http://universes-in-universe.org/eng/nafas/articles/2008/shakir_hassan_al_said/photos/08

Ali Omar Ermes (Lybia/UK), Fa, Ink and acryl on paper

The latter was not something noncommittal. In the decolonization process, the artists often explicitly took a stand against western colonialism. Increasing local traditions here was used often as a strategy. From the late sixties also other factors play a role. “Pan-Arabism” or even the search for a “Pan-Islamic identity” had an impact on the arts. This is obvious in what the French Moroccan art historian Brahim Alaoui  called ‘l’ Ecole de Signe’,  the ‘school of sign’. Abstract calligraphy and decorative traditions of Islamic art, were in many variations combined with contemporary abstract art. The main representatives of this unique tendency of modern Islamic art were Shakir Hassan al-Said (Iraq, deceased in 2004), and the still very active artists as Rachid Koraichi (Algeria, lives and works in France), Ali Omar Ermes (Libya, lives and works in England) and Wijdan Ali (Jordan). This direction found even a three dimensional variant, in the sculptures of the Iranian artist Parviz Tanavoli.

Laila Shawa (Palestine), Gun for Palestine (from ‘The Walls of Gaza’), silkscreen on canvas, 1995

What is particularly problematic for the development of contemporary art of the Middle East are the major crises of recent decades. The dictatorial regimes, the many wars, or, in the case of Palestine, the Israeli occupation,  have often been a significant obstacle for the devolopment of the arts. If the arts were encouraged, it was often for propaganda purposes, with Iraq being the most extreme example (the many portraits and statues of Saddam Hussein speak for themselves). Many artists saw themselves thus forced to divert in the Diaspora (especially Palestinian and Iraqi artists). In the Netherlands there are well over the one hundred artists from the Middle East, of which the majority exists of refugees from Iraq (about eighty). Yet most of these artists are not known to the vast majority of the Dutch cultural institutions and the general public.

Mohamed Abla (Egypt), Looking for a Leader, acrylic on canvas, 2006

In the present context of on the one hand the increased aversion to the Islamic world in many European countries, which often manifests itself  into populist political parties, or conspiracy theories about ‘Eurabia’ and, on the other hand, the very recent boom in the Arab world itself, it would be a great opportunity to make this art more visible to the rest of the world. The Middle East is in many respects a region with a lot of problems, but much is also considerably changing. The young people in Tunisia and Egypt and other Arab countries, who challenged their outdated dictatorships with blogs, facebook and twitter, have convincingly demonstrated this. Let us  have a look at the arts. There is much to discover.

Floris Schreve

Amsterdam, March, 2011

originally published in ‘Kunstbeeld’, nr. 4, 2011 (see here the original Dutch version). Also published on Global Arab Network and on Local/Global Art, my new blog on international art

Ahmed Mater (Saudi Arabia), Evolution of Man, Cairo Biennale, 2008. NB at the moment Mater is exhibiting in Amsterdam, at Willem Baars Project, Hoogte Kadijk 17, till the 30th of july. See http://www.baarsprojects.com/

Handout lecture ‘Modern and Contemporary art of the Arab World’

محاضرة الفن الحديث والمعاصر في العالم العربي

Diversity & Art,  Amsterdam, 17-5-2011, at the occasion of the exhibition of the Dutch Iraqi artist Qassim Alsaedy

Click on the pictures to enlarge

Short introduction on the history and geography of the modern Arab World

  • The Ottoman Empire
  • The  Sykes/Picot agreement
  • The formation of the national states
  • The Israeli/Palestinian conflict

  

                       

Ottoman Empire 1739                  Ottoman Empire 1914                   The Sykes/Picot agreement

              

The modern Middle East       The modern Arab World

                         

 Palestinian loss of land 1948-2000    The current situation (2005)

The early modernist pioneers:

            

Mahmud Mukhtar            Jewad Selim

             

Jewad Selim                    Faeq Hassan

Farid Belkahia

The ‘School of Sign’ (acc. Brahim Alaoui, curator of the  Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris):

                   

 Shakir Hassan al-Said               Ali Omar Ermes                              Rachid Koraichi

 

Other examples of ‘Arab Modernism’:

                   

  Mohamed Kacimi                           Dhia Azzawi                                   Rafik el-Kamel

The Palestinian Diaspora:

                        

Mona Hatoum                                    Laila Shawa                                       Emily Jacir

Recently emerged ‘international art’:

                                

 Walid Ra’ad/The Atlas Group           Mounir Fatmi                                     Ahmed Mater

Art and propaganda:

  • Iraq (monuments, Victory Arch, Babylon, portraits of Saddam Husayn and Michel Aflaq, the founder of the Ba’thparty)
  • Syria (portrait Havez al-Assad)
  • Libya (portrait Muammar al-Qadhafi)

      

Victory Arch                               ‘Saddam as Saladin’

                                                

Statue of Michel Aflaq                    Statue of Havez al-Assad                 Muammar al-Qadhafi

The art of the ‘Arab Spring’ in Egypt:

          

Mohamed Abla                                Ahmed Bassiony

  

Iraqi artists in the Diaspora:

 

              

Rafa al-Nasiri                             Hanaa Mal Allah                         Ali Assaf

          

Wafaa Bilal                           Halim al-Karim                         Nedim Kufi

                               

Hoshyar Rasheed                            Aras Kareem                          Ziad Haider

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Qassim Alsaedy, Shortly after the War, mixed media (installation) Diversity&Art, May 2011 (see here an interview with Qassim Alsaedy at the opening-in Arabic)

Selected Bibliography

• Brahim Alaoui, Art Contemporain Arabe, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, 1996
• Brahim Alaoui, Mohamed Métalsi, Quatre Peintres Arabe Première ; Azzaoui, El Kamel, Kacimi, Marwan, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, 1988.
• Brahim Alaoui, Maria Lluïsa Borràs, Schilders uit de Maghreb (‘Painters of the Maghreb’), Centrum voor Beeldende Kunst, Gent (Belgium), 1994
• Brahim Alaoui, Laila Al Wahidi, Artistes Palestiniens Contemporains, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, 1997
• Wijdan Ali, Contemporary Art from the Islamic World, Al Saqi Books, London, 1989.
• Wijdan Ali, Modern Islamic Art; Development and continuity, University of Florida Press, 1997
• Hossein Amirsadeghi , Salwa Mikdadi, Nada Shabout, ao, New Vision; Arab Contemporary Art in the 21st Century, Thames and Hudson, London, 2009.
• Michael Archer, Guy Brett, Catherine de Zegher, Mona Hatoum, Phaidon Press, New York, 1997
• Ali Assaf, Mary Angela Shroth, Acqua Ferita/Wounded Water; Six Iraqi artists interpret the theme of water, Gangemi editore, Venice Biennale, 2011 (artists: Adel Abidin, Ahmed Alsoudani, Ali Assaf, Azad Nanakeli, Halim al-Karim, Walid Siti)
• Mouna Atassi, Contemporary Art in Syria, Damascus, 1998
• Wafaa Bilal (with Kari Lydersen), Shoot an Iraqi; Art, Life and Resistance Under the Gun, City Lights, New York, 2008
• Catherine David (ed),Tamass 2: Contemporary Arab Representations: Cairo, Witte De With Center For Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, 2005
• Saeb Eigner, Art of the Middle East; modern and contemporary art of the Arab World and Iran, Merrell, Londen/New York, 2010 (with an introduction of Zaha Hadid).
• Aida Eltori, Illuminations; Thirty days of running  in the Space: Ahmed Basiony (1978-2011) , Venice Biennale, 2011
• Maysaloun Faraj (ed.), Strokes of genius; contemporary Iraqi art, Saqi Books, London, 2002 (see here the presentation of the Strokes of Genius exhibition)
• Mounir Fatmi, Fuck the architect, published on the occasion of the Brussels Biennal, 2008
• Liliane Karnouk, Modern Egyptian Art; the emergence of a National Style, American University of Cairo Press, 1988, Cairo
• Samir Al Khalil (pseudonym of Kanan Makiya), The Monument; art, vulgarity and responsibillity in Iraq, Andre Deutsch, London, 1991
• Robert Kluijver, Borders; contemporary Middle Eastern art and discourse, Gemak, The Hague, October 2007/ January 2009
• Mohamed Metalsi, Croisement de Signe, Institut du Monde Arabe, Parijs, 1989 (on ao Shakir Hassan al-Said)
• Revue Noire; African Contemporary Art/Art Contemporain Africain: Morocco/Maroc, nr. 33-34, 2ème semestre, 1999, Paris.
• Ahmed Fouad Selim, 7th International Biennial of Cairo, Cairo, 1998.
• Ahmed Fouad Selim, 8th International Biennial of Cairo, Cairo, 2001.
• M. Sijelmassi, l’Art Contemporain au Maroc, ACR Edition, Paris, 1889.
• Walid Sadek, Tony Chakar, Bilal Khbeiz, Tamass 1; Beirut/Lebanon, Witte De With Center For Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, 2002
• Paul Sloman (ed.), with contributions of Wijdan Ali, Nat Muller, Lindsey Moore ao, Contemporary Art in the Middle East, Black Dog Publishing, London, 2009
• Stephen Stapleton (ed.), with contributions of Venetia Porter, Ashraf Fayadh, Aarnout Helb, ao, Ahmed Mater, Booth-Clibborn Productions, Abha/London 2010 (see also www.ahmedmater.com)
• Rayya El Zein & Alex Ortiz, Signs of the Times: the Popular Literature of Tahrir; Protest Signs, Graffiti, and Street Art, New York, 2011 (see http://arteeast.org/pages/literature/641/)

Links to relevant websites of institutions, manifestations, magazines, museums and galleries for Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa:

An Impression of the lecture, 17-5-2011, Diversity & Art, Amsterdam

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On the screen a work of the Iraqi artist Rafa al-Nasiri

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Three times Qassim Alsaedy’s Shortly after the War

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In front: The Iraqi/Kurdish journalist Goran Baba Ali and Herman Divendal, director of the Human Rights Organisation for Artists AIDA (Association Internationale des Défence des Artistes)

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Me (left) with the Embassador of Iraq in the Netherlands, H.E. Dr. Saad Al-Ali, and Qassim Alsaedy

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Floris Schreve
فلوريس سحرافا
(أمستردام، هولندا)

photos during the lecture by Hesam Hama

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Lezing ‘Moderne en hedendaagse kunst van de Arabische wereld’, 17 mei 2011

محاضرة الفن الحديث والمعاصر في العالم العربي

De Handout van mijn lezing van 17-5-2011, gehouden ter gelegenheid van de tentoonstelling van Qassim Alsaedy in Diversity & Art, met toevoeging van een selectie van de afbeeldingen, die ik in mijn lezing heb besproken (klik op afbeelding voor vergrote weergave). Verder heb ik bij de namen van de meeste individuele kunstenaars een link geplaatst naar hun persoonlijke website, of naar een achtergrondartikel dat voor die kunstenaar relevant is. Voor een introductie en een literatuuroverzicht verwijs ik naar mijn bijdrage in Kunstbeeld, ook op dit blog gepubliceerd

 

Lezing moderne en hedendaagse kunst uit de Arabische wereld

Diversity & Art, 17-5-2011

 

 

Korte inleiding geschiedenis en geografie van de moderne Arabische wereld

  • ·        Het Osmaanse Rijk
  • ·        Het Sykes/Picot accoord
  • ·        De vorming van de nationale staten
  • ·        Het Israëlisch/Palestijnse conflict

       

Vroege modernisten:

     

 

De ‘School van het teken’ (naar Brahim Alaoui):

  

 

Andere voorbeelden van ‘Arabisch modernisme’:

   

Kunst van de Palestijnse Diaspora:

   

Recent opgekomen ‘internationale kunst’:

  

 

Kunst en propaganda:

    • ·        Irak (monumenten, Victory Arch, Babylon, portretten van Saddam Husayn en Michel Aflaq)
    • ·        Syrië (portret Havez al-Assad)
    • ·        Libië (portret Muammar al-Qadhafi)

     

‘Kunst van de Arabische lente’ in Egypte:

  

Iraakse kunstenaars in de Diaspora:

  

       

  

 

Floris Schreve

17-5-2011

Enkele impressies van de lezing:

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Ikzelf pratend achter mijn laptop (powerpointpresentatie). Achter mij het werk van Qassim Alsaedy ‘Shortly after the War’. Zittend achter mij de Iraaks Koerdische journalist Goran Baba Ali

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Tweede rij links ZE Dr. Saad Al-Ali, Ambassadeur van de Republiek Irak in Nederland. Naast hem Qassim Alsaedy.

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Een dia van de kaart van het delingsplan van het Midden Oosten door Engeland en Frankrijk, eind WO I

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Qassim en ikzelf, voorafgaand aan de de lezing

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Op het scherm een werk van de Iraakse kunstenaar Rafa al-Nasiri

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drie keer Qassims installatie Shortly after the War (de slotdia)

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Na afloop met de Iraakse ambassadeur, nog een diplomaat van de ambassade en Qassim Alsaedy

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Qassim Alsaedy met de ambassadeur en twee andere diplomaten

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Goran Baba Ali met Herman Divendal (AIDA)

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Rechtsvoor (achter Goran Baba Ali): Brigitte Reuter (die samen met Qassim het keramische werk maakte) en Peggie Breitbarth, die eerder de tentoonstelling van Persheng Warzandegan opende

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Floris Schreve

فلوريس سحرافا

(أمستردام، هولندا)

Foto’s bij de lezing: Hesam Hama en Frank Schreve

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Iraakse kunstenaars in ballingschap (verschenen in Zemzem, tijdschrift over het Midden-Oosten en islam, 2006, nr. 2) – الفنانين العراقيين في المنفى

Mijn artikel, zoals het is gepubliceerd in Zemzem, met een enkele aanvulling, twee extra afbeeldingen, een aantal weblinks en een uitgebreide literatuurlijst. Dit artikel verscheen in het themanummer ‘Nederland en Irak’. Het nummer bevatte onder meer artikelen van Mariwan Kanie (politicoloog), al-Galidi (dichter), Anneke van Ammelrooy (journaliste in Bagdad en echtgenote van de Iraakse journalist en hoofdredacteur Ismael Zayer), interviews met voormalig minister van Buitenlandse Zaken Max van der Stoel, Joost Hiltermann (van Human Rights Watch), Fuad Hussein (politicoloog), Isam al-Khafaji (hoogleraar economie, naar Nederland uitgeweken), maar ook bijdragen over poëzie (Dineke Huizenga), muziek (Neil van der Linden) en mijn onderstaande bijdrage over beeldende kunst.

De Iraakse kunst gedijt ook in ballingschap 

الفنانين العراقيين في المنفى في هولندا

Er wonen zo’n tachtig Iraakse beeldende kunstenaars in Nederland. Hoewel dit aantal spectaculair hoog is, weten maar weinig Nederlanders van hun bestaan.1 De meeste kunstenaars hebben nog niet hun weg gevonden naar de Nederlandse culturele instellingen, en de instellingen nog niet naar hen. Hier zijn tenminste twee redenen voor. In de eerste plaats zijn de meeste kunstenaars in de jaren negentig als politiek vluchteling naar ons land gekomen. Na de vaak lange asielprocedures hebben zij weer van voren af aan af aan moeten beginnen met het opbouwen van een reputatie en een netwerk, in een volstrekt onbekende omgeving. De tweede oorzaak is dat in Nederland het begrip ‘Irak’ vooral wordt geassocieerd met ‘oorlog’, ‘olie’ en ‘dictatuur’. Als dan toch het woord beeldende kunst valt denkt men in regel meteen aan de talloze portretten en standbeelden van Saddam Hoessein. Het besef dat Irak in op zijn minst een groots cultureel verleden heeft drong voor een kort moment door bij een breder publiek, in de grimmige context van de plundering van het Nationaal Museum in Bagdad (april 2003). Dat ook de modernistische en hedendaagse kunst en cultuur van Irak zeer de moeite waard zijn, is vooralsnog onderbelicht gebleven.

Dit laatste is geheel ten onrechte. In de loop van de twintigste eeuw ontwikkelde er zich in Irak een van de meest interessante kunstbewegingen van het islamitische Midden Oosten. De grondlegger van de Iraakse modernistische kunst was Jewad Selim (1921-1961) . In de jaren veertig studeerde hij in Italië, Frankrijk en Engeland, onder meer bij Henry Moore. Teruggekeerd in zijn vaderland koesterde hij het ambitieuze doel om een Irakese moderne kunstscene op te zetten.

Cultureel erfgoed

Vanaf eind jaren veertig ontstond er onder zijn leiding een van de meest vooruitstrevende en originele avant-gardegroeperingen van de Arabische wereld en het Midden Oosten, waarvan de invloed tot op de dag van vandaag voortduurt. Jewad Selim en zijn ‘Bagdadgroep voor moderne kunst’ hadden twee belangrijke idealen voor ogen. In de eerste plaats wilden zij een radicaal modernisme introduceren, om Irak een aansluiting te geven bij de artistieke voorhoede van de twintigste eeuw. In die zin verschilde dit niet wezenlijk van bijvoorbeeld de revolutionaire ambities van de inmiddels beroemde Mexicaanse schilders als Diego Rivera en José Clemente Orozco uit dezelfde tijd. Aan de andere kant verwezen Jewad Selim en zijn geestverwanten bewust naar het rijke culturele verleden van Irak, zoals Mesopotamië, maar ook de grote tijd van het Abassidische Kalifaat (van onder andere Haroun al-Rashid). Dit om het Irakese volk een nieuw sterk nationaal zelfbeeld te geven, na de eeuwenlange Osmaanse overheersing. Centraal in zijn werk stond het begrip turath, dat het beste uit het Arabisch te vertalen is als ‘cultureel erfgoed’. Veelal baseerde Selim zich op de beeldtaal van de oude Sumerische beschaving, zoals het hier getoonde voorbeeld duidelijk laat zien. Een opmerkelijk detail zijn de proportioneel grote ogen, een element dat duidelijk ontleent is aan de manier waarop in deze oude cultuur het menselijk gelaat werd weergegeven.2 ( vergelijk met dit voorbeeld)

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Jewad Selim, Children playing, olieverf op doek, 1953-54 (bron:www.enana.com)

Antikoloniaal

Vanaf het eind van de Eerste Wereldoorlog was Irak een monarchie, maar werd achter de schermen min of meer koloniaal bestuurd door de Britten. Hoewel voor de huidige westerse kijker tamelijk onschuldig ogend, droegen Jewad Selim en zijn geestverwanten een felle antikoloniale boodschap uit, die qua intentie overigens weinig verschilde van de avant-gardistische kunst uit andere (voormalig) gekoloniseerde landen.

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Shakir Hassan Al Sa’id, writings on a wall, acryl op doek, 1977. Bron: Mohamed Métalsi, Croisement des Signes, Institut du Monde Arabe, Parijs, 1989. Zie ook dit interessante artikel van Nada Shabout (van de University of North-Texas), Shakir Hassan Al Said A Journey towards the One-dimension, over deze, voor de moderne kunst van de hele Arabische en islamitische wereld, zeer invloedrijke kunstenaar: http://universes-in-universe.org/eng/nafas/articles/2008/shakir_hassan_al_said

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Dhia Azzawi, zonder titel, olieverf op doek, 1985. Bron: Brahim Alaoui, Mohamed Métalsi, Quatre Peintres Arabe Première ; Azzaoui, El Kamel, Kacimi, Marwan, Institut du Monde Arabe, Parijs, 1989

In 1958 kwam de lang verwachte revolutie. De kunstenaars van de Bagdadgroep stonden aanvankelijk op de barricaden en Jewad Selim ontwierp zelfs het grote Vrijheidsmonument, na zijn dood voltooid in 1962, thans nog een van de belangrijkste en meest gekoesterde monumenten van Bagdad. De revolutie zou echter een heel ander karakter krijgen. Gedurende de jaren zestig volgde de ene na de andere militaire junta elkaar op. In 1968 leidde dit tot de staatsgreep van de Ba’thpartij, die tot voor kort aan macht was ( de ideologie van de Ba‘th, dat in het Arabisch herrijzenis betekent, kan worden gezien als de Arabische variant van het Europese fascisme. Het gaat hier om een seculiere, ultrarechtse nationalistische stroming. De oprichter en ideoloog van de Ba’thpartij, de christelijke Syriër Michel Aflaq (1910-1989), had zich, na zijn studie aan de Sorbonne in Parijs in de jaren dertig, in hoge mate laten inspireren door het gedachtegoed van Hitler en Mussolini 3) . Irak maakte een evolutie door van een koloniaal overheerst land naar een militaire dictatuur, werd vervolgens een eenpartijstaat, om te culmineren in een eenpersoonsstaat, na het aantreden van Saddam Hoessein in 1979.

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Jewad Selim, Nasb al Hurriyya (Freedom Monument), 1958-1961. Monument ter gelegenheid van de Iraakse onafhankelijkheids- revolutie. De revolutie maakte een einde aan de monarchie en de Britse dominantie, maar was het begin van een reeks militaire dictaturen, totdat Irak een totalitaire eenpartijstaat werd onder de Ba’thpartij

Kentering

Ondanks deze turbulente ontwikkelingen, maakte de Irakese moderne kunst in de eerste twee decennia van de Republiek een grote bloeiperiode door. Kunstenaars als Shakir Hassan al-Said (1926-2004) en Dhia Azzawi (1939) waren toonaangevend en van grote invloed in het hele Midden Oosten en de Arabische wereld. Belangrijk waren ook de, later door het regime van Saddam Hoessein minder gewaardeerde Mohammed Muhreddin en de zelfs vermoorde kunstenaars Shams Eddine Faris en Ibrahim Zayer.4

Vanaf midden jaren zeventig kwam de geleidelijke kentering. Kunstenaars moesten bijvoorbeeld verplicht lid worden van de Ba’thpartij. Ook werd er steeds meer van ze gevraagd om bij te dragen aan de verheerlijking van de ‘17 juli revolutie’, de machtsgreep van de Ba’thpartij in 1968. Deze ontwikkeling nam ongekende vormen aan toen Saddam Hoessein alle macht naar zich toe trok, zijn concurrenten elimineerde en zich stortte in de heilloze oorlog met Iran. Bagdad veranderde van aanzien; er moest een nieuwe revolutionaire stad ontstaan voor de nieuwe revolutionaire mens, gedomineerd door groteske monumenten. Het hoogtepunt (of dieptepunt) van deze ontwikkeling culmineerde in de kolossale overwinningsboog, het monument van de gekruiste zwaarden, voltooid in 1989. De immense armen die de zwaarden vasthouden, zijn uitvergrote afgietsels van de eigen armen van de dictator, tot in de kleinste details. Deze buitenproportionele en bizarre ‘ready made’ domineert nog steeds het stadsbeeld. Hoewel uitgevoerd door de prominente beeldhouwers Khalid al-Rahal en Mohammed Ghani Hikmet, werd dit ‘object’ ontworpen door Saddam zelf. ‘Neurenberg en Las Vegas in een’, schreef Kanan Makiya, Iraks bekendste dissidente schrijver, over deze creatie.5 Zie voor meer dit fragment van de vroegere Iraakse staatstelevisie, hoe Saddam zich laat toejuichen door een stoet van veteranen, marcherend of in rolstoel onder de Victory Arch paraderend.

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Saddam Hoessein (uitvoering Khalid Al Rahal en Mohammed Ghani Hikmet), The Victory Arch, 1989. Bron: Samir al Khalil (pseudoniem van Kanan Makiya), The Monument; Art, Vulgarity and Responsibility in Iraq, André Deutsch, Londen, 1991

Ook het culturele erfgoed van Irak was niet veilig in de handen van het Ba’thregime. Saddam besloot zelfs om het historische Babylon te reconstrueren en te herbouwen, geheel in zijn stijl. Op het herrezen paleis van Nebukadnezar prijkt tegenwoordig het portret van de Iraakse dictator. Het omgekeerde van Jewad Selims toepassing van de notie van ‘turath’.

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Babylon (Babil, al-Hilla, Irak), het nieuwe ‘gereconstueerde’ paleis van Nebukhadnezar, met Saddam als ‘nieuwe heerser’ van Mesopotamië aangebracht in reliëf.

Vanaf deze tijd werden er steeds meer kunstenaars opgeleid aan de kunstacademie van Bagdad. Binnen tien jaar verachtvoudigde het aantal studenten (en dit is nog een voorzichtige schatting). Het doel was echter om zoveel mogelijk ‘propagandakunstenaars’ op te leiden. Ieder die weet hoeveel portretten en standbeelden van Saddam er in de loop der tijd zijn gemaakt, kan zich enigszins voorstellen wat voor legioen kunstenaars er nodig was om dit alles te kunnen produceren. Het was trouwens niet zo dat de modernistische of abstracte kunst geheel verboden werd, zolang deze maar niet kritisch was naar het regime. Zelfs in de meest donkere periode hebben docenten aan de kunstacademie ervoor gevochten om hun studenten toch een goede opleiding te geven en bleven kunstenaars in hun eigen stijl door werken, al zat het tij nog zo tegen. Hier zijn talloze voorbeelden van. Wel werd de ooit zo rijke experimentele Iraakse kunst steeds verder in de marges gedrukt.

Overigens was het niet zo dat kunstenaars echt gedwongen werden om propaganda-materiaal voor Saddam of de Ba’thpartij te produceren. Het zat iets subtieler in elkaar. Het waren wel klussen die je niet kon weigeren. En om carrierre te maken was enige loyaliteit aan het heersende systeem wel noodzakelijk. En disloyaliteit deed je snel op een zwarte lijst belanden. Dat was in het Irak van de Ba’thpartij al gevaarlijk genoeg.6

Berucht waren de grote massa-exposities van soms meer dan tweehonderd deelnemers. Deze vonden vaak plaats gedurende ‘Pan-Arabische’ culturele manifestaties, waar Irak zich trachtte te profileren als het gidsland van de Arabische wereld. Voor de massatentoonstellingen werd van de kunstenaars gevraagd twee werken in te zenden: een vrij werk en een portret van Saddam Hoessein.7 Dus hoewel de moderne kunstraditie, begonnen met Jewad Selim en de zijnen, bleef voortbestaan, werden de kunsten steeds meer ingekapseld in de propagandamachine van de Ba’thpartij.

Voor een werkelijk vrije expressie zagen vele kunstenaars zich genoodzaakt om in ballingschap te gaan. Ook waren er veel kunstenaars politiek actief, met name in de illegale oppositie ter linkerzijde, waar de Ba’thpartij uitermate vijandig tegenover stond. Om deze reden zijn er zoveel Irakese kunstenaars in Nederland terecht gekomen, hoewel dit ook voor een aantal andere Europese landen geldt, met name Italië en Oostenrijk, waar in het laatste geval vooral veel Koerdische kunstenaars hun toevlucht hebben gezocht. Maar ook Frankrijk, Engeland, Zweden, Finland, Spanje en Zwitserland kennen een aanzienlijke populatie Irakese beeldende kunstenaars, waaronder zeker een aantal grote prominenten.8

Ballingschap betekent echter wel eenzaamheid en isolement, in een land vol onbegrip en onwetendheid. Het heeft van deze kunstenaars enorm veel wilskracht gevergd om de oorspronkelijke individualistische traditie van de Irakese moderne kunst voort te zetten en om zich bovendien verder te ontwikkelen in een nieuwe omgeving. De vier te bespreken kunstenaars zijn hier goed in geslaagd. ‘Het gevecht zit in mij’, verklaarde Aras Kareem al in 1995, toen hij nog maar voor twee jaar in Nederland was.9

Alsaedy

Een kunstenaar die steeds meer aan de weg timmert is Qassim Alsaedy. Alsaedy (Bagdad, 1949) studeerde begin jaren zeventig onder Kadhim Haider, Shakir Hassan Al Sa’id en Mahmud Sabri. Tijdens zijn studententijd werd hij gearresteerd en zat hij negen maanden in Al Qasr an-Nihayyah, het ‘paleis van het Einde’. Nadat hij onverwacht was vrijgeglaten week hij uit naar naar Libanon. Qassim Alsaedy was een van de weinige Irakezen van Arabische afkomst die besloot om in de jaren tachtig terug te keren naar zijn vaderland, om zich aan te sluiten bij het Koerdische verzet in Noord Irak. Naast dat hij daar als guerrillastrijder actief was, was hij ook werkzaam als kunstenaar. Hij organiseerde zelfs exposities in tenten, om zijn medestrijders en de gevluchte dorpelingen iets mee te geven, namelijk hoop. Qassim Alsaedy schilderde vele doeken in Nederland om de recente geschiedenis van zijn land te verwerken. Overigens gaat zijn zwerftocht door allerlei dictatoriale landen van het Midden Oosten nog iets verder. Nadat hij de zogenaamde ‘Anfal-operaties’ (de beruchte genocide campagne op de Koerden) zelf had meegemaakt, week hij in 1988 uit naar Libië. Voor zeven jaar lang was hij docent aan de kunstacademie van Tripoli. Uiteindelijk werd hem ook de opdracht gegeven om propaganda te produceren voor het Libische regime. Qassim Alsaedy, die de terreur van Saddam Hoessein al had overleefd, weigerde om propaganda te produceren voor Kadaffi. Zodoende is hij in 1994 naar Nederland gevlucht.

Over het werk van Qassim Alsaedy valt veel te vertellen. Zijn totale oeuvre kan ik niet in dit kader compleet omschrijven. Wel is het een kunstenaar die een diepgaand filosofisch idee heeft over zijn vaderland, zijn ballingschap en wat voor culturele bagage hij met zich meedraagt. Hij heeft dit in vele geschilderde werken geuit, maar ik zal me beperken tot zijn multimedia werk.. Qassim Alsaedy is zeker tijdens de weken van de afgelopen Irak-oorlog heel actief aan het schilderen geslagen. Zijn abstracte werken, uit deze drie weken, die zonder uitzondering, allen lichtgekleurd zijn, bewijzen dit zonder meer. In een eerder verband heb ik het werk van Qassim Alsaedy vergeleken met het werk van de Nederlandse kunstenaar Armando. Armando maakte een aantal indrukwekkende werken, rond het gegeven ‘schuldig landschap’. In feite gaat Qassim

boven en onder: Qassim Alsaedy, Last Summer in Baghdad,(details van een installatie) gemengde technieken op paneel, 2003 (Bron: collectie van de kunstenaar). Zie voor meer http://qassim-alsaedy.com/.

Alsaedy van hetzelfde thema uit, maar komt hij tot een fundamenteel andere visie. Terwijl Armando in zijn ‘schuldige landschappen’ ervan uitgaat dat het kwaad zijn definitieve stempel heeft gedrukt op een specifieke plek, laat Qassim Alsaedy zien (een kunstenaar die geleefd heeft in het meest ‘schuldige landschap’ dat er maar te bedenken is, zie de chemisch verbrande velden van Koerdistan) dat uiteindelijk de tijd het litteken van het verleden zal wegnemen.

Het hier getoonde voorbeeld toont twee kleine paneeltjes uit zijn installatie Last Summer in Baghdad. Alsaedy baseerde zich in dit werk op zijn laatste bezoek aan Bagdad in de zomer van 2003. Nav zijn bezoek maakte hij ook een reportage voor de VPRO over het artistieke klimaat in Irak, kort na de Amerikaanse invasie en de val van het regime. Alsaedy: “I saw a city of destruction and a city of hope. It was also a city of terror and a city of new life”.10

Kareem

Een andere kunstenaar die in Nederland steeds sterker van zich doet spreken is Aras Kareem (Suleimanya, Koerdistan, 1961). Aras Kareem studeerde aan het kunstinstituut van zijn geboortestad. In 1991 was hij actief in de Koerdische opstand na de golfoorlog, die door het regime in Bagdad met veel geweld werd neergeslagen. Aras moest voor een tijd lang onderduiken. Uiteindelijk lukte het hem om in 1993, met zijn vrouw en twee kinderen naar Nederland te vluchten. Tegenwoordig woont en werkt hij in Amsterdam.

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Aras Kareem, Zonder titel, koffie en inkt op papier, 1995 (bron: http://aidanederland.nl/, zie ook www.araskareem.com)

In het werk van Aras Kareem staat altijd de mens centraal en zijn verhouding tot de omgeving. De ene keer zijn zijn doeken zeer uitbundig, waarin vooral intense roden sterk domineren, de andere keer is zijn werk sober en ingetogen, waarin donkere kleuren overheersen. Aras Kareem in een statement over zijn werk: “Gezichtsuitdrukkingen zijn de kern van mijn werk. De mens en zijn motieven staan centraal. In mijn visie is het leven een cirkel waarbinnen mensen zich bewegen. Beweging is creatief. Ik wil de beweegredenen opsporen die mij, bewust of onbewust, aansturen. Wat beweegt mij, wat beweegt de ander? Ik vind mijzelf geen estheticus. Schoonheid in de pure betekenis interesseert mij niet. Ik zoek een antwoord op de tegenpolen die ik ervaar. Mij intrigeert het contrast dat ik onderscheid. Zoals ik dat contrast beleef. Ik wil geen slachtoffer zijn van mijn eigen denkprocessen. Ik wil uitzoeken wat mijn geest verkent en uitdrukken in mijn werk”.11

Haider

Een Iraakse kunstenaar die een heel bijzondere en eigen beeldtaal heeft ontwikkeld is Ziad Haider (Amara, 1954), helaas recent overleden (Amsterdam, 2006), ook voor de Iraakse kunsten in Nederland een groot verlies. Naast een goed kunstenaar, was zijn huis altijd een belangrijk trefpunt van Iraakse kunstenaars, musici en dichters. Ziad was ook de belangrijkste initiatiefnemer voor het organiseren van het festival ‘Iraakse kunsten in Amsterdam’, in 2004, waar de beeldende kunst, literatuur en de podiumkunsten van in Nederland verblijvende Iraki’s centraal stond.

Ziad Haider, opgeleid door Kadhim Haider (overigens geen familie) en Mohammed Mohreddin, ontwikkelde in Irak al een radicale abstracte en experimentele stijl, zeker gestimuleerd door de laatste. Hoewel hij een succesvol kunstenaar was (zo heeft het zogenaamde ‘Saddam-Artcentre’, het vroegere museum voor moderne kunst in Bagdad, vijf grote abstracte doeken van hem in de collectie, waarschijnlijk weggestopt in de depots of erger), heeft het noodlot deze talentvolle kunstenaar danig in de weg gezeten. Zo moest hij dienen als soldaat in de Irak/Iran oorlog en werd hij later naar Koeweit gestuurd., zinloze oorlogen, die hij diep verafschuwde. De emoties werden hem uiteindelijk teveel, toen hij, met verlof uit het leger in Bagdad over een portret van Saddam Hoessein plaste. Iemand moet dit hebben gezien, want de dag erna werd hij opgepakt. Voor vijf jaar zat hij vast in de beruchte Abu Ghraib gevangenis. Toen hij werd overgeplaatst naar een gevangenenkamp in de westelijke woestijn van Irak, wist hij met een groep medegevangenen te ontsnappen. Hij was uiteindelijk de enige die levend de Syrische grens haalde. Via Damascus en later Amman vluchtte hij naar Nederland.

Ziad Haider, Zonder titel, acryl op doek, 2004. (bron: collectie Paula Vermeulen, zie ook http://www.ziadhaider.net/home.php)

In Nederland heeft Ziad Haider een stijl ontwikkeld, die getuigt van een zeer persoonlijke expressie. Naast dat hij hier als portretschilder actief is (om in zijn eigen onderhoud te voorzien), heeft hij hier een flink aantal abstracte werken geproduceerd, die getuigen van een grote artisticiteit. Zijn kracht ligt vooral in zijn technische beheersing van zijn materiaal, waardoor hij tot zeer sterke werken komt. De abstracte schilderijen van Ziad Haider tonen vormen die soms doen denken aan vloeiend metaal. Vanwege deze techniek is hij soms wel eens vergeleken met Robert Rauschenberg. Het gaat hier echter om een verwerking van wat hij zelf gezien heeft, aan het front van de Irak/Iran oorlog en de bezetting van Koeweit. Op deze laatste gebeurtenis is een van zijn laatste grote werken gebaseerd. Haider putte uit zijn herinneringen aan het beruchte bloedbad van de Mutla Range, toen de terugtrekkende Iraakse troepen werden gebombardeerd door de Amerikanen. Deze gebeurtenis vormde feitelijk het startsein voor de ‘Grote Intifadah’ tegen het regime van Saddam.12 Ook verwijst dit werk naar Haiders indrukken, toen hij begin 2004 weer een eerste bezoek aan Irak bracht. Hoewel de compositie zeer gedegen is opgebouwd toont het ons de totale chaos en destructie. De door het tralievenster zichtbare vormen doen denken aan de rokende puinhopen van een verwoeste stad.

Ali Assaf, Feet of Sand (an immigrant’s prayer), foto nav. de performance, Rome, 1997 (bron: collectie van de kunstenaar). Zie verder http://www.aliassaf.com/index.html. Zie ook dit filmpje op youtube, of deze site (Arabisch).

Assaf

Ook buiten Nederland zijn er veel Iraakse kunstenaars actief, zoals, naast de meeste landen in het Midden Oosten, in Engeland, Zweden, Finland, Zwitserland en Italië. Een van de meest voorbeelden is de in Rome werkzame kunstenaar Ali Assaf (Basra 1950). Assafs complexe en meerduidige oeuvre bestaat uit installaties, performances en video’s. Zijn werk is vaak sterk provocerend van aard, politiek maar zeker ook persoonlijk en poëtisch. Wat uit al zijn werk blijkt,

is een scherp inzicht in de werking van archetypische beelden en materialen, die sterk associatieve reacties oproepen Over de politieke lading van zijn werk schrijft hij zelf onder meer: “For me the art which I have done, and which I think to do, it will be uncompleted if the following elements are not available: Signification: the new presentation of the contemporary subjective world of violence and wars between the people in more than fourty countries, the complication of the tough exile, searching about identity, the increasing number of the immigration from the south to the north, killing the innocent people by fundamentalism, the unbelievable increase of the global population and the social and natural disasters what comes as a consequence, and lastly there is more than three million people infected with HIV and so on, and so on further”.13

Met name het element ‘subjective world’ speelt in het werk van Assaf een belangrijke rol. In een van zijn meest indrukwekkende performances, Feet of Sand uit 1996 (zie afb. 18), zijn een aantal etalagepoppen in chador opgesteld, voor de westerse kijker direct associatief verbonden met de islamitische revolutie van 1979 in Iran. Toch zorgt een kunstmatige wind ervoor dat deze zwarte jurken omhoog geblazen worden (een soort ‘Marylin Monroe effect’ uit Some like it hot). Dan blijkt dat deze vrouwen zijn voorzien van erotische netkousen en glimmend rode hakken, voor de westerse kijker een vreemde contradictie. Over dit werk valt overigens nog veel meer te vertellen, zo rijk is het aan verborgen symbolische elementen en associaties.

De toekomst van Irak is uiterst onzeker. Dat ook hier weer kunstenaars op hebben gereageerd spreekt eigenlijk vanzelf. Zie bijvoorbeeld dit project van Wafaa Bilal in de VS. Wat dat betreft weinig reden tot optimisme. Toch kan er gezegd worden dat vele Iraakse kunstenaars in ballingschap in Nederland en elders geleidelijk aan hun plek hebben veroverd.

Floris Schreve

فلوريس سحرافا

(أمستردام، هولندا)

Voor een meer uitgebreide beschouwing verwijs ik naar mijn artikel uit Leidschrift, het blad van de vakgroep geschiedenis van de Universiteit Leiden, http://www.leidschrift.nl/artikelen/jaargang17/17-3/06%20SCHREVE.pdf, of een bewerking van dit artikel op de site van AIDA (Association Internationale de Défense des Artistes), voor gevluchte kunstenaars.

Zie op dit blog ook Denkend aan Bagdad, het Interview met Qassim Alsaedy, Historisch overzicht Irak en links naar artikelen en uitzendingen over kunstenaars uit de Arabische wereld.

update 2011: zie hier de uitgebreide bijdragen over Qassim Alsaedy, Aras Kareem, Ziad Haider en (oa) Ali Assaf. Andere Iraakse kunstenaars in Nederlandse ballingschap die op dit blog uitgebreid besproken worden zijn Hoshyar Rasheed en Nedim Kufi. Meer over kunst uit de Arabische wereld en de Arabische diapora (waaronder ook Iraakse kunstenaars, zoals Wafaa Bilal), zie Modern and Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa. Zie hier meer over de terugkeer van van Irak op de Biënnale van Venetië in 2011, met aandacht voor, naast Ali Assaf (Rome),  Adel Abidin (Helsinki), Ahmed Alsoudani (New York), Azad Nanakeli (Florence), Halim Al Karim (Denver) en Walid Siti (Londen). Op mijn engelstalige blog On global/Local Art zijn ook een paar bijdragen verschenen over hedendaagse Iraakse kunst, zie hier

Toevoeging 2014: Wafaa Bilal

In 2007 startte de in Irak geboren Amerikaanse kunstenaar Wafaa Bilal (Najaf, 1966) een opzienbarend project. In de Flatfile Gallery in Chicago sloot de kunstenaar zich voor dertig dagen op, permanent in het zicht van een webcam. In zijn leefruimte, naast voorzien van een tafel en bed, bevond zich ook een paintball kanon, dat op afstand te bedienen was. Via de webcam konden bezoekers van een site het paintball kanon op de kunstenaar richten en eventueel een verfkogel op hem afvuren. Ook konden ze wat in het gastenboek schrijven.

Bij Wafaa Bilal zijn zijn kunst en zijn levensgeschiedenis onlosmakelijk met elkaar verbonden. Bilal studeerde kunst en geografie aan de Universiteit van Bagdad, maar werd weggestuurd vanwege de vermeende disloyaliteit aan het regime van een familielid.

Tijdens de Golfoorlog van 1991, toen het Iraakse leger, na de Amerikaanse bombardementen, halsoverkop Koeweit ontvluchtte, brak er in het zuiden van Irak een grote volksopstand uit tegen het regime. Het terugtrekkende reguliere leger (dat grotendeels uit dienstplichtigen bestond) en de overwegend Sjiitische bevolking kwam massaal in opstand. De meeste steden in het zuiden ontdeden zich met veel geweld van het regeringsgetrouwe gezag. Voor korte tijd was ook Najaf, waar Bilal zich op dat moment bevond, in handen van de opstandelingen. Het aan Bagdad loyale leger sloeg echter keihard terug en richtte in het zuiden een immense slachting aan, onder het oog van de Amerikaanse troepen, die slechts toekeken en niet ingrepen. Wel hielp het Amerikaanse leger grote groepen vluchtelingen ontkomen, waaronder Bilal. Zij werden door de Amerikanen naar Saudi Arabië gebracht, alwaar de autoriteiten hen gevangen hielden in de beruchte kampen Rafha en Al-Thawira. De Iraakse vluchtelingen werden behandeld als gevangenen, moesten slavenarbeid verrichten voor de Saudi’s en in enkel gevallen werden ze ook verkocht aan de Iraakse autoriteiten. De in Nederland wonende Iraaakse schrijver Mowaffk al-Sawad, die een zelfde soort geschiedenis heeft, heeft in zijn ‘Stemmen onder de Zon’ (de Passage, Groningen, 2002) uitgebreid getuigenis gedaan van deze gebeurtenissen.

Na jaren werden deze ‘gevangenen’ door de VN ‘ontdekt’ en ‘bevrijd’. De UNHCR verdeelde deze vluchtelingen over verschillende landen en op die manier kwam Wafaa Bilal in de Verenigde Staten terecht. Daar vervolgde hij zijn opleiding aan de Universiteit van Albuquerque (New Mexico) en vervolgens het Art Institute van Chicago, waar hij later docent werd.

Bilals werk bestaat vooral uit performances en multimedia projecten, waar bij hij voortdurend de grenzen opzoekt. Maar ook maakt hij gebruik van andere media, zoals computergames. Zie bijvoorbeeld zijn Virtual Jihadi, waarin hij gebruik maakte van een gehackte computergame ‘Shoot Saddam’ en was omgedoopt tot ‘Quest for Bush’, waarin de rollen werden omgedraaid. Bilal manipuleerde weer de gehackte game Quest for Bush waarin hij een vrituele Jihadstrijder opvoert. Bilal speelt hier vooral een spel met stereotype beelden en stelt vragen over de oorlogspropaganda, die door verschillende partijen in ‘the War on Terror’ wordt bedreven.

Wafaa Bilal (Iraq, US), from his project ‘Domestic Tension’, 2007 (see for more http://wafaabilal.com/html/domesticTension.html )

Domestic Tension (2007) is een verwerking van zijn beleving van de invasie in Irak in 2003. Naast dat het regime van Saddam Hussein omver werd geworpen werd het land in een totale chaotische oorlogssituatie gestort, waarn geen einde kwam. De Amerikanen, die ook onder valse voorwendselen Irak waren binnengevallen, bleken totaal niet in staat om een constructieve samenwerking met de ‘bevrijde bevolking’ aan te gaan. De vele Amerikaanse doden, maar vooral de nog veel meer Iraakse doden spraken voor zich. Ook Bilals broer kwam in de strijd om.

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In Domestic Tension heeft Bilal veel elementen van deze oorlog verwerkt. Allereerst heeft hij de toeschouwer willen confronteren met wat het betekent om als ‘Amerikaan’ op ‘een Iraqi’ te schieten. De vele commentaren die door de bezoekers van de site in het guestbook zijn achtergelaten, verwerkte Bilal in zijn boek ‘Shoot an Iraqi’, dat hij nav deze ‘performance’ publiceerde.

De verschillende bijdragen van de diverse bezoekers van Bilals site, van waar ook met het paintball kanon kon worden geschoten, laten een ontluisterend beeld zien. Het guestbook van de site werd volgeschreven met scheldcanonnades op Arabieren en Moslims t/m bezoekers die het vooral over hun eigen problemen wilden hebben. Maar ook zinnige en begripvolle commentaren. De documentatie rond Domestic Tension is daarmee een soort anthologie geworden van de psyche van de Amerikaanse bevolking in oorlogstijd. Tegelijkertijd was het ook een mentale uitputtingsslag en een zelfonderzoek voor de kunstenaar, zoals Bilal dat uitgebreid in zijn boek heeft beschreven. 14

Domestic Tension, maar ook andere werken van Wafaa Bilal zijn duidelijke voorbeelden waarin de globalisering, maar ook de multimedialisering van de kunsten sterk naar voren komen. Interactiviteit speelt in zijn werk een belangrijke rol, in Domestic Tension, maar ook in Virtual Jiahdi en andere werken. De toeschouwer is participant geworden en geeft mede vorm aan het kunstwerk. In Domestic Tension op een nogal wrange manier. Of soms zelfs onbedoeld, zie de scheldpartijen van sommige bezoekers. Juist de interactie maakt het kunstwerk.

Werken als Domestic Tension zijn mijn inziens veelzeggend en bijzonder relevant voor de huidige tijd. Het Midden Oosten, en alles wat daar gebeurt, raakt ons, los van of of we dat als positief of als neagtief ervaren, direct. Net zo goed als ‘zij’ met ‘ons’ te maken hebben, hebben ‘wij’ dat met ‘hen’, los van alle fricties, dan wel gemeenschappelijkheden die er zouden zijn. Het feit dat er tegenwoordig een kunstenaar een werk kan maken in een land dat met het geboorteland van de kunstenaar in oorlog is en dat dit werk over de hele wereld virtueel bekeken en ook direct becommentarieerd en bediscussieerd kan worden, op een forum dat publiek is voor iedereen, is exemplarisch voor deze ontwikkelingen. De titel Domestic Tension zegt daarmee alles; grote wereldomvattende conflicten zijn zo dichtbij gekomen dat het letterlijk huiselijke spanningen zijn geworden

Floris Schreve

Noten

1 Er bestaat geen volledige inventaris van Iraakse kunstenaars wereldwijd. Wel heeft de kunstenares Maysaloun Faraj in haar boek Strokes of Genius, al-Saqi, Londen 2002, een poging gedaan om zoveel mogelijk namen op te nemen. Qua Nerderland ben ik voor mijn eigen afstudeerscriptie gekomen op zo’n tachtig namen

2 Samir al Khalil (pseudoniem van Kanan Makiya), The Monument: Art vulgarity and responsibillity in Iraq, Londen 1991, p.91

3 Deze ontwikkelingen zijn goed beschreven in Hanna Batatu, The old social classes and revolutionary movements in Iraq; a study of Iraq’s old landed and commercial classes and of its communists, Ba’thists and Free Officers, Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 1978, Samir Al Khalil, Republic of Fear; the politics of modern Iraq, University of California Press, 1989 (repr. 1998) en Jeff Lambrecht, De zwarte wieg; Irak, Nazi’s en neoconservatieven, Houtekiet, Antwerpen, Amsterdam, 2003. In dit verband is ook interessant Peter Wien, Iraqi Arab Nationalism; authoritarian, totalitarian and pro-fascist inclinations 1932-1945, Routledge, Londen, 2006.

4 Uit mijn vele gesprekken met oa Qassim Alsaedy, Ismael Zayer en (in hele algemene zin) met de politicoloog Fuad Hussein. Zie over Shams Eddine Faris (شمس الدين فارسhttp://ar.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D8%B4%D9%85%D8%B3_%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AF%D9%8A%D9%86_%D9%81%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%B3 en informatie over Ibrahim Zayer (ابراهيم زاير) http://www.iraqiart.com/inp/view.asp?ID=1005 (beide in het Arabisch).

5 Samir Al Khalil, The Monument, p. 51

6 Zie voor een aantal uiteenlopende verhalen dit artikel uit Trouw van Minka Nijhuis, dat weer in contrast staat met het artikel van Judit Neurink, Schilder Saddam, of sterf, in ‘Wordt vervolgd’ (Amnesty International), nr. 2, februari 2000, waarin naar Nederland gevluchte Iraakse kunstenaars anoniem aan het woord komen, of het tragische verhaal van Fawzi Rasul in een reportage in het kunstprogramma RAM van de VPRO. Voor zover ik het kan beoordelen (na met vele kunstenaars gesproken te hebben) heeft de waarheid in het midden gelegen. Laten we het erop houden dat het systeem ongeveer hetzelfde werkte als in de voormalige DDR (de Mukhabarat, Saddams geheime dienst is dan ook in de jaren zeventig door de Oost Duitse Stasi getraind), al waren de gevolgen nog veel drastischer als je met het regime een probleem kreeg. Hoewel de Ba’th-ideologie zeker niet communistisch was, werden er om pragmatische redenen in die periode goede betrekkingen met het voormalige Oostblok onderhouden, juist in die periode (en de Iraakse communisten zaten toen nog in het Progressief Nationaal Front). Zie hiervoor Makiya, Republic of Fear, p. 66. Makiya maakt de vergelijking met de Amerikaanse steun voor diverse dictaturen in Latijns Amerika.

7 Ik baseer mij hier op de verhalen van verschillende Iraakse kunstenaars. In eerste instantie is mij dit verhaal echter verteld door twee kunstenaars van Marokkanaanse afkomst die wonen en werken in Nederland. Zij kregen een uitnodiging om naar Bagdad af te reizen om deel te nemen aan zo’n festival. Dit was in de jaren tachtig, toen Irak nog min of meer een bondgenoot was en er de Koeweitcrisis en het daaopvolgende embargo nog niet aan de orde was. In eerste instantie waren zij erg onder de indruk van hoe dit Arabische land de kunsten stimuleerden. De schok was dan ook groot om erachter te komen dat deze manifestatie in dit toen nog bevriende land slechts een grote totalitaire facade was.

Overigens bestaat er ook nog een opmerkelijke Amerikaanse getuigenis. Irak werd gedurende de oorlog met Iran gesteund door het westen en de westerse media waren nog helemaal niet zo negatief over Saddam Hoessein (dat gebeurde pas toen hij in 1990 Koeweit binnenviel). In 1985 publiceerde National Geographic een tamelijk positief artikel, The new face of Baghdad, waarin lovend werd geschreven over Iraks radicale moderniseringsprogramma en zelfs over alle nieuwe monumenten ter meerdere glorie van Saddam, die het beeld van de stad in toenemende mate gingen bepalen. Aan het woord kwamen ook de (zeer regime getrouwe) kunstenaars Mohammed Ghani Hikmet (de maker van de Victory Arch) en kunstenaar (en arts) Ala Bashir, zie ook http://www.alabashir.com/ . Dat deze kunstenaars hecht met het regime verbonden waren werd op geen enkele manier duidelijk. Ala Bashir was zelfs de lijfarts van Saddam (die dus ook schilderde). Hij publiceerde na de val het regime zijn memoires, Getuigenissen van Saddams lijfarts; berichten uit een duistere, krankzinnige wereld, het Spectrum, 2004. In het artikel in National Geographic laat hij zich, itt in zijn latere memoires, vanzelfsprekend en begrijpelijk buitengwoon lovend uit over het Iraakse regime, ook over het artistieke klimaat. Het interessante is dat National Geographic in 1985 alle positieve verhalen kritiekloos overnam, in William S. Ellis, ‘The New Face of Baghdad: Iraq at War’, National Geographic (January 1985), pp. 80-109, artikel The New Face of Baghdad (NG Jan 1985)0001 te raadplegen.

Uniek was dit overigens niet, er werden in die tijd ook goede zaken met Irak gedaan, ook door Nederland, zie de affaire van Anraat, maar ook deze interessante uitzending van het VPRO programma Argos over Frits Bolkestein, die in de jaren tachtig als staatsecrearis van buitenlandse handel afreisde naar Bagdad om er goede zaken te doen, zie link. Zo zijn er nog veel meer voorbeelden. Hiervoor kan ik zeker de Saddam biografie van Said Aburish aanraden, Saddam Husayn; the politics of revenge, Bloomsbury publishing, 2000 en dan vooral het hele hoofdstuk ‘Marching to Halabja’, pp. 129-159

8 Niet iedere Iraakse kunstenaar in Nederland was een daadwerkelijke tegenstander van het regime van de Ba’thpartij. Een flink aantal kunstenaars draaide mee in de propagandamachine, totdat het regime hen in de jaren negentig, vanwege het embargo, waardoor de propaganda industrie niet meer te betalen was, eenvoudigweg in ballingschap stuurde, soms met een vluchtverhaal. Vaak hebben goedbedoelende Nederlanders, die iets met Iraakse kunstenaars wilden organiseren dit niet goed gezien. Zo is het vaak voorgekomen dat er iets werd georganiseerd werd voor uit Irak gevluchte kunstenaars, de kunstenaars op het laatste moment afhaakten, juist omdat er pricipiële dissidenten op een hoop werden gegooid met kunstenaars die loyaal aan de Ba’thpartij waren. Door deze gebeurtenissen, vaak niet goed begrepen door Nederlanders die zich bekommerden om deze kunstenaars, is het verhaal ontstaan dat er met Iraki’s niet te werken valt. De oorzaak is echter primair de geheel begrijpelijke verdeeldheid van de Iraki’s onderling en het gebrek aan kennis van de achtergronden van een aantal van deze goedbedoelende Nederlanders. Over hoe het precies in elkaar zit, hoe verschillende kunstenaars uiteindelijk in Nederlandse ballingschap terecht zijn gekomen en vooral het waarom is door de IKON een keer een interessante uitzending gemaakt, waarin de kunstenaars Qassim Alsaedy, Ziad Haider, Ali Talib, Fawzi Rasul en Iman Ali hun verhaal vertelden, Factor, afl. ‘Beeldenstorm’ 17 juli, 2003. Zie over deze vananzelfsprekend zeer gevoelige materie verder mijn uitgebreidere beschouwing uit Leidschrift, of op dit blog Denkend aan Bagdad.

Een nog extremer geval ken ik uit Italië. Twee Iraakse beeldhouwers, die daar wonen en werken, hebben daar ter plekke opdrachten vervaardigd voor het Iraakse regime. Werp zeker een blik op de website van de bronsgieterij, waar dit open en bloot wordt vertoond, hier en ook hier te bezichtigen. Een inkijk als deze krijg je zelden. En ook in Italië wonen veel Iraakse kunstenaars, die tegenstanders van het regime waren en zijn gevlucht. Deze uitersten bestaan dus ook in Nederland, zij het niet zo openlijk zichtbaar als daar.

9 Francien Coenen, Het gevecht zit in mij, in ‘Onze Wereld’, april 1995.

10 Uitzending kunstprogramma RAM, VPRO, 19 oktober, 2003, http://www.vpro.nl/programma/ram/afleveringen/14421835/items/14495412/

11 Aras Kareem, ‘Ik herinner mij de schaduw van mijn jeugd’, statement, 2000.

12 Robert Fisk, De grote beschavingsoorlog; de verovering van het Midden Oosten, Anthos/Standaard uitgeverij, Amsterdam/Antwerpen, 2005, p. 851-878, of Kanan Makiya, Verzwegen wreedheid; nationalisme, dictatuur en opstand in het Midden Oosten, Bulaaq/Kritak, Amsterdam/Antwerpen, 1994, pp. 34-37. Zie ook deze schokkende beelden uit dit filmfragment

13 Ali Assaf, ‘Who am I?’, statement, Rome, 2002, p. 1.

14 Literatuur: Hossein Amirsadeghi , Salwa Mikdadi, Nada Shabout, ao, New Vision; Arab Contemporary Art in the 21st Century, Thames and Hudson, London, 2009; Wafaa Bilal (with Kari Lydersen), Shoot an Iraqi; Art, Life and Resistance Under the Gun, City Lights, New York, 2008.
Domestic Tension op de site van Wafaa Bilal (met links naar het videodagboek en andere documentatie):
http://wafaabilal.com/html/domesticTension.html

Aan te bevelen literatuur:

Kunst uit Irak en de Arabische wereld (algemeen)

• Brahim Alaoui, Art Contemporain Arabe, Institut du Monde Arabe, Parijs, 1996

• Brahim Alaoui, Mohamed Métalsi, Quatre Peintres Arabe Première ; Azzaoui, El Kamel, Kacimi, Marwan, Institut du Monde Arabe, Parijs, 1988.

• Wijdan Ali, Contemporary Art from the Islamic World, Al Saqi Books, Londen, 1989.

• Hossein Amirsadeghi , Salwa Mikdadi, Nada Shabout, ao, New Vision; Arab Contemporary Art in the 21st Century, Thames and Hudson, Londen, 2009.

• Saeb Eigner, Art of the Middle East; modern and contemporary art of the Arab World and Iran, Merrell, Londen/New York, 2010 (met een voorwoord van de beroemde Iraakse architecte Zaha Hadid).

• Maysaloun Faraj (ed.), Strokes of genius; contemporary Iraqi art, Saqi Books, Londen, 2002 (zie hier een presentatie van de Strokes of Genius exhibition)

• Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, The Grassroots of Iraqi Art, Wasit Graphic and Publishing, 1983 (zie http://artiraq.org/maia/archive/files/1983-jabra-grass-roots_1ba63885c8.pdf )

• Samir Al Khalil (pseudoniem van Kanan Makiya), The Monument; art, vulgarity and responsibillity in Iraq, Andre Deutsch, Londen, 1991

• Mohamed Metalsi, Croisement de Signe, Institut du Monde Arabe, Parijs, 1989 (over oa Shakir Hassan al-Said)

• Paul Sloman (ed.), met bijdragen van  Wijdan Ali, Nat Muller, Lindsey Moore ea, Contemporary Art in the Middle East, Black Dog Publishing, Londen, 2009

Verder wil ik de (MA) scriptie Contemporary art of Iraqis and categorical assumptions of nationality: an analysis of the art and narratives of Hana Mal Allah, Adel Abidin and Wafaa Bilal, van Amanda Duhon, M.A., Louisiana State University, 2004, August 2008, van harte aanbevelen. Zij heeft weer een andere, maar buitengewoon interessante kijk op de Iraakse diaspora (hier te raadplegen)

Kunstenaars uit Irak in Nederlandse ballingschap

• W. P. C. van der Ende, Versluierde Taal, vijf uit Irak afkomstige kunstenaars in Nederland, Museum Rijswijk, Vluchtelingenwerk Rijswijk, 1999. (Abeer Al Khateb, Fadil Al Badri, Hoshyar Saeed Rasheed, Qassim Alsaedy, Yousif Chati Abadi).

IMPRESSIES; Kunstenaars uit Irak in ballingschap, AIDA Nederland, Amsterdam, 1996 (zie ook dit artikel uit de Volkskrant).

• Tineke Lonte, Kleine Beelden, Grote Dromen, Al Farabi, Beurs van Berlage, Amsterdam, 1993. (vijf kunstenaars uit de Arabische wereld in de beurs van Berlage, waaronder Saad Ali en Baldin Ahmad).

• Ismael Zayer, 28 kunstenaars uit Irak in Nederland, de Babil Liga voor de letteren en de kunsten, Gemeentehuis Den Haag, 2000 (zie hier een gedeelte van de tekst)

Dat de Iraakse kunstenaars in Nederland op zijn zachst gezegd een nogal verdeeld gezelschap zijn, is een gegeven waar bijna iedereen die weleens wat met hen heeft willen ondernemen tegenaan is gelopen. Zoals bovenstaand vermeld heeft dit alles te maken met de verschillende relaties van deze kunstenaars met het vroegere Iraakse regime. Dit is door verschillende Nederlanders niet altijd even goed begrepen en er is in de literatuur eigenlijk niets over terug te vinden. Maar het is wel een gegeven dat er nu eenmaal is en dat niet genegeerd kan worden. Voor degenen die precies willen snappen hoe het in elkaar zit kan ik de uitzending van Factor aanraden, aflevering ‘Beeldenstorm’ 17 juli, 2003 (ook bovenstaand genoemd in de noten), waarin vijf Iraakse kunstenaars, waaronder Qassim Alsaedy en Ziad Haider, zelf aan het woord komen en uitgebreid vertellen over hun persoonlijke geschiedenis. Wellicht een must voor iedereen die zich met dit onderwerp wil bezighouden. De kunstenaars leggen het zelf heel duidelijk uit, dus alle reden om hier kennis van te nemen.

Iraakse literatuur in Nederland

• 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.

• Salah Hassan, Slapen in een vreemde taal, dichtbundel, Rijwijk, 2000

• Salah Hassan, Terug naar Bagdad, verschenen in ‘Eutopia, voor kunst, cultuur en politiek’, de Balie, Amsterdam, 7 februari, 2004 (reisverslag, essay).

• 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)

• Ibrahim Selman, Dapper hart gezocht; notities van een gevluchte Koerd, Meulenhoff, Amsterdam, 2007 (essays)

Verder natuurlijk het werk van de in Nederland werkzame schrijver/dichter/columnist Rodhan Al-Galidi. Op zijn website is veel te vinden over zijn dichtbundels en romans, http://www.algalidi.com/

Irak (geschiedenis en algemeen)

• Said K. Aburish, Saddam Husayn; the politics of revenge, Londen 2000.

• Hanna Batatu, The old social classes and revolutionary movements in Iraq; a study of Iraq’s old landed and commercial classes and of its communists, Ba’thists and Free Officers, Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 1978 (reprint Saqi Books, Londen, 2004)

• Bert Cornillie, Hans Declerq (ed.), In de schaduw van Saddam; het Koerdische experiment in Irak, Bulaaq/van Halewyck, Amsterdam, Leuven, 2003

• Marion Farouk-Sluglett, Peter Sluglett, Iraq since 1958; from revolution till dictatorship, IB Tauris, Londen/New York, 2001

• Robert Fisk, De grote beschavingsoorlog;de verovering van het Midden Oosten, Anthos/Standaard uitgeverij, Amsterdam/Antwerpen, 2005

• Samir Al Khalil (pseudoniem van Kanan Makiya), Republic of Fear; the politics of modern Iraq, University of California Press, 1989 (repr. 1998)

• Kanan Makiya, Verzwegen wreedheid; nationalisme, dictatuur, opstand en het Midden Oosten, Bulaaq, Amsterdam, 1994

• Fatima Mohsen, Cultural totalitarism, uit Fran Hazelton (ed.), Iraq since the Gulf War; prospects for democracy , Zed Books, Londen, 1994

• Charles Tripp, Irak; een geschiedenis, Bulaaq, Amsterdam, 2002

• Peter Wien, Iraqi Arab Nationalism; authoritarian, totalitarian and pro-fascist inclinations 1932-1945, Routledge, Londen, 2006

Zie ook de beroemde documentaire Saddam’s killing fields (1993), over de onderdrukking en de moordpartijen op de Koerden, de Shiieten en de Moeras-Arabieren, online hier te zien. Ook zeer de moeite waard ‘Tegenlicht’, afl. Wat moet ik weten om de oorlog te begrijpen, een gesprek met Paul Aarts (UvA), Herman von der Dunk (UU) en Erik Jan Zurcher (UL),VPRO, 30 maart, 2003, aan het begin van de Amerikaanse inval. Absolute aanrader is de uitzending van Zembla, Kanonnenvoer van Saddam, van 5-12-2002. Daarin komt een groot aantal Iraakse Nederlanders aan het woord (waaronder de dichters Mowaffk al-Sawad, Naji Rahim en de politicoloog Mariwan Kanie) over hun mening over de Amerikaanse inval. Duidelijk blijkt dat zij hun eigen geschiedenis met de Amerikanen hebben en dat die verre van positief is, los van hun afkeer van het regime van Saddam. Eigenlijk wordt hier de vraag beantwoord waarom de Amerikanen niet met open armen als bevrijders zijn ontvangen, ondanks het Iraakse lijden onder Saddams bewind.

Over het post-Saddam Irak en de Amerikaanse bezetting

• Anneke van Ammelrooy, Alles is er niet, de mythe van de Iraakse wederopbouw; berichten over het leven in Bagdad, de Papieren Tijger, Breda 2004

• Pim van Harten, Roel Meijer (red.), Irak in chaos; botsende visies op een humanitaire ramp, uitgeverij Aksant, 2007.

• Seymour Hersh, Bevel van hogerhand; de weg van 11 september tot het Abu Ghraib schandaal, de Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2004 (Hersh, wereldberoemd journalist van de New Yorker, bracht als eerste het Abu Ghraib schandaal naar buiten)

• Joris Luyendijk, Het zijn net mensen; beelden uit het Midden Oosten, uitgeverij Podium, Amsterdam, 2006 (gaat niet alleen over Irak, maar ook over Israël/Palestina en Egypte, maar absolute aanrader).

• Rory McCarthy, Nobody told us we are defeated; stories from the new Iraq, Chatto & Windus, Londen, 2006

• Minka Nijhuis, Het huis van Khala, uitgeverij Balans, 2005

• Riverbend, Bagdad onder vuur; dagboek van een jonge vrouw in Irak, Meulenhoff, Amsterdam, 2006

‘Beeldenstorm’, Factor (Ikon, 17-6-2003), interviews met vijf Iraakse kunstenaars, waaronder Ziad Haider en Qassim Alsaedy, over het vroegere Iraakse regime (deel 1, daarna doorklikken voor vervolg)

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