Friday, June 22, 2007

Venice Biennale: A Note on Turkey and Lebanon

For the first time Turkey and Lebanon are officially represented at the Venice Biennale. Those of us who cannot afford to go there can visit the sites online. Turkey is represented by a quirky artist Huseyin Alptekin . Alptekin has been doing offbeat interventions in Europe and Turkey for quite awhile.

In Albania, for example, he hired Kiaja Kiuru from Finland to create a lace covering to cover one of the 500 bunkers left behind by a paranoid dictator.
Here is a photograph of one of her lace covering as shown in a gallery in Istanbul. Kaija Kiuru, originally from Lapland, created “Chamber” in 2002. Using dozens of antique circular tablecloths that the artist collected in secondhand shops, she constructed a temporary domestic shelter from the fruits of thousands of hours of work. Kiuru is concerned with the nature of home and women’s lives and the fact that 80 percent of the world refugees are woman and children. The simultaneous fragility and semi transparency of the tent created a stunning resting place.
I discussed Alptekin's work with Kiuru in
Sculpture , May 2004. Here's a quote:

"Alptekin invited Kaija Kiuru to create a lace cover for a bunker. The lace domesticated these useless shelters. The Bunker Research Group (BRG) connects reality and paranoia, derelict socialist structures and contemporary art, change and stasis."

As for Lebanon, it is one of the hottest places in the world from the perspective of wars, politics, and artists who are actually in the midst of it, figuring out ways to both simply survive and to engage with what is surrounding them as an ongoing reality. The result is a multmedia experimental group of artists who collectively address the insanity of war, suicide bombings, and public pathologies.
Here is Rabih Mroue, a performance artist:
"Searching for a Missing Employee", as performed in 2004 at the Lift Theater Festival. He uses video, news clippings archives, narratives, and a diagram of the information to try to "find" this person who has disappeared (as thousands did in Lebanon during the Civil War 1975 - 91) with only traces left of their existence)

The result is that we realize once again that history is a fabrication based on narratives and procedures that make no sense at all. If that isn't pertinent to our present moment, what is?
Mroue is not showing in Venice, but this gives a little context.
Walid Sadek ,who is showing in Venice, works in texts.
Last year in "Out of Beirut" at Oxford Modern Art he showed labels for landscape paintings by Moustafa Faroukh, a well known Lebanese artist, leaving a space for where the art work would have been and adding a poem of his own which invoked the missing landscape ( both the missing painting, and the landscape that no longer exists because of war).

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Word into Art Artists of the Modern Middle East

These pictures are from a stunning exhibition last summer at the British Museum "Word Into Art: Artists of the Modern Middle East"
second is the entrance to the exhibition with a sculpture Heech in a cage 2005 by Parviz Tanavoli.
first is a column by Dia al Azzawi Blessed Tigris. A poem is inscribed on it by Muhammad Mahdi

I greet you from afar, O greet me back,

O blessed Tigris, river of gardens green.

I greet your banks, seeking to quench my thirst.

Like doves between water and clay aflutter seen.

O blessed Tigris, oft have I have been forced to leave

To drink from springs which didn’t my thirst relieve.

O blessed Tigris, what inflames your heart

Inflames me and what grieves you makes me grieve.

O wanderer, play with a gentle touch

Caress the lute softly and sing again

That you may sooth a volcano seething with rage

And pacify a heart burning with pain. ( translated by Hussein Hadawi).

Homage to Palestine

As the news in Gaza gets worse and worse, I am posting some images of contemporary art from Palestine by way of affirming the fact that many people are working hard to keep Palestine culture and history alive.
This is from an installation of Palestinian art in an exhibition called Made in Palestine
The work in the foreground is by Mary Tuma
Home for the Disembodied 2000
In the background left to right are
John Halaka
Stripped of their Identity and Driven from their land from the series Forgotten Survivors 1997-2003
Samia Halaby Palestine from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River and
Rula Halawani Negative Incursions2002

The exhibition was organized in 2002 in Houston and was shown in New York City in 2006.