Huffington Post’s James Scarborough interviews Saudi Arabian artist Ahmed Matar on Arab art “hitting the global art world with the force of a haboob, a summer sandstorm.” Once you’re done wincing at that line, read the whole of the interview here.
On why the “Edge” in Edge of Arabia, Matar says:
We were the first generation in this region to be connected through technology. We were the first Internet generation. We wanted to position ourselves as protagonists in this moment in history. We felt so much on the periphery of the main conversation at that time. For example, Stephen, myself, and a group of friends were discussing a recent edition of National Geographic that had a feature on the Kingdom. On its cover was a sword-wielding Saudi prince, while inside were photos of veiled women in malls, camel markets and the urban youth in fast cars. The article was called “Kingdom on Edge.” I asked Stephen what the word “edge” meant in this context. We began to talk about ways of turning it around and using it in a positive rather than a pejorative sense. Being in Abha, we were on the edge of the country. Contemporary art was at the periphery, or edge, of what you would expect to read about from Saudi Arabia, and so Edge of Arabia seemed to encapsulate what we wanted to do by raising the profile of Saudi contemporary art. Stephen and I committed there and then to build a project under that title.
And on why Arab art is suddenly getting a lot of attention, he had this to say:
Usually art follows social/political tension. This leads to better understanding. International attention after 9/11 led to a big spotlight for the Arab world. 100 years after the colonial carve up of the Middle East and imposed control from outside, there was a need for change. The time was right at the beginning of the 21st century to start something different and significant. The political changes in the region demanded that artists wake up. Many factors changed: the Internet, mobility, links to the outside … but most important the time was right for a break from the past in an attempt to release the full potential of artists as change makers in this society and between this society and the rest of the world. I am working at the center of the Islamic world, in Makkah, every day. The changes in this city will affect every Muslim community across the world. So what the artists are doing is both significant in terms of history but also art history.