Glenn Lowry, former F|S curator of Islamic art and now director of the Museum of Modern Art, talks about contemporary art in the Middle East. In this presentation he looks at how history is constructed, in a region characterized by deja-vu, by the constant return of history. He mentions the Gulf and Levant, and in an expansive definition of Middle East includes also Iran and Turkey, but not North Africa. He frames his discussion using Jalal Toufic‘s The Wthdrawal of Tradition Past a Surpassing Disaster, and spends most of his time discussing Walid Raad’s ongoing series Scratching on Things I Could Disavow but also compares the construction of fictional archives in Michael Blum’s A Tribute to Safiyeh Behar and Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence, as well as looking at the creation of community in Emily Jacir’s Where Do We Come From. He looks at Oraib Toukan’s Remind me to Remember to Forget, and the Newer Middle East which works from the Sykes-Picot map and Ralph Peters’ map and The Equity is in the Circle with its not so absurd proposal to auction off the Middle East to the highest bidder. And he shows a clip of Shirin Neshat’s film, Women without Men.
Watch the video, its well worth an hour of your time!
And for a brilliant review/summary/reflection on Raad’s work, see here.
Instead of the totality of war, Raad fixates on its parts. He lets us know that there were 3,641 car bombs detonated in Beirut between 1975 and 1991. In seven collages titled Notebook Volume 38: Already Been in a Lake of Fire, an invented character named Dr. Fadl Fakhouri presents pictures of cars and Arabic writing. One image reads, “Silver Volvo; August 20, 1985; 56 killed; 120 injured; 100 kg of TNT; 24 cars burned; 11 buildings burned.”…
His art is like a detective report or a communiqué from a secret agent: Facts are related, occurrences indexed, detachment and delusion mingle with obsession.