New book on cultural institutions in the Middle East

Ibraaz is pleased to announce the publication of our third book in the Visual Culture in the Middle East series, Future Imperfect: Contemporary Art Practices and Cultural Institutions in the Middle East.futureimperfect_cover

Buy the book via the Sternberg Press website and on Amazon.de.

Read the introduction, “Critical Propositions and Institutional Realities in the Middle East” by Anthony Downey, by clicking here.

#FutureImperfect critically examines the role played by cultural institutions in producing present-day and future contexts for the production, dissemination and reception of contemporary art in the Middle East and North Africa.

It offers critical contexts for a discussion that has become increasingly urgent in recent years – the role of culture in a time of conflict and globalization – and an in-depth critique of the historical state of cultural institutions in an age of political upheaval, social unrest, exuberant cultural activity, ascendant neoliberal forms of privatization, social activism, and regional uncertainty.

Organised around three key areas, Future Imperfect draws attention to the specific antagonisms that have affected cultural production across the region, both in historical and more recent post-revolutionary contexts, and offers an in-depth discussion of how cultural producers have developed alternative institutional models through their practices. How cultural institutions operate within the conditions of a global cultural economy, and alongside the often conflicting demands they place on cultural production in the region, is likewise an over-arching concern throughout this volume.

While the politics of contemporary cultural production and institutional practices in the Middle East can tell us a great deal about local and regional concerns, one of the cornerstone ambitions of this volume is to enquire into what they can also impart about the politics of global cultural production, including the multiple ways in which contemporary art practices are being reduced, willingly or otherwise, to the logic of global capital. What, in sum, is needed in terms of infrastructure for cultural production today, and how, crucially, can we speculatively propose new infrastructures and institutions in the context of present-day regional realities?

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Monira Al Qadiri, Myth Busters VIII, 2014.

Future Imperfect contains essays, interviews, and projects from contributors including Monira Al Qadiri, Hoor Al-Qasimi, Anahi Alviso-Marino, AMBS Architects, Stephanie Bailey, Eray Çaylı, Rachel Dedman, Elizabeth Derderian, Anthony Downey, Karen Exell, Reema Salha Fadda, Wafa Gabsi, Hadia Gana, Adalet R. Garmiany, Baha Jubeh, Suhair Jubeh, Amal Khalaf, Kamel Lazaar, Jens Maier-Rothe, Guy Mannes-Abbott, Doreen Mende, Lea Morin, Jack Persekian, Rijin Sahakian, Gregory Sholette, Tom Snow, Ania Szremski, Christine Tohme, Toleen Touq, Williams Wells, Ala Younis and Yasmine Zidane.

The publication is accompanied by a collection of special projects from Leila Al-Shami, Wided Rihana Khadraoui, Lois Stonock, Nile Sunset Annex, Alia Rayyan and Hussam al-Saray. Click here to view the online projects commissioned for Future Imperfect.

 

Other titles in the Visual Culture in the Middle East series, edited by Anthony Downey, include Dissonant Archives: Contemporary Visual Culture and Contested Narratives in the Middle East (2015); and Uncommon Grounds: New Media and Critical Practices in North Africa and the Middle East (2014).

 The production of this book was accomplished through the generous support of the Kamel Lazaar Foundation.

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D-CAF – Downtown Cairo Art Festival 2016

The French Consulate in Downtown Cairo is one of the many D-CAF venues. Image courtesy of D-CAF.
The French Consulate in Downtown Cairo is one of the many D-CAF venues. Image courtesy of D-CAF.

D-CAF launched in April 2011, just months after the uprisings that saw Egypt’s then-president Mubarak step down. The festival points to the turbulent context of its inaugural edition by focusing on public space and performance, with venues this year including Horreya garden, the Egyptian stock market, local cinemas, theatres, shops and cafes. “The festival is about being in the city and bringing art to the urban environment—taking back the space not just politically but also creatively,” El Attar says. The festival’s wide range of venues can in part be attributed to D-CAF’s co-founder and main corporate sponsor, Al-Ismaelia for Retail Investment, which has been buying property in downtown Cairo since 2008.

D-CAF has an ambitious three-week programme this year that spans contemporary music, film, visual arts and, for the first time, literature. Unlike previous years, no events will be taking place in other Egyptian cities, but parallel shows will be held in Lebanon. The performances in Beirut are designed to include Syrian performance artists who are routinely denied entry into Egypt, despite the festival’s efforts to include them in their programming.

Continue reading on The Art Newspaper.

Q&A with eL Seed: Changing perceptions

15. eL Seed
Perception by eL Seed

The Coptic community of Zaraeeb have been given the name zabaleen (or garbage people) because of their profession — collecting and sorting by hand the daily rubbish of Cairo. But the recycling work they carry out is not only highly profitable — it is a vital service in a city that produces around 14,000 tons of solid waste daily. For this reason the people of Zaraeeb don’t see themselves as the dirty ones — the real mess is Greater Cairo. It’s a matter of perception.

“We aren’t the zabaleen, they are — the rest of Cairo is.” This reported sentiment stands out in eL Seed’s discussion of his new self-funded project Perception in the Zaraeeb neighborhood in Cairo’s Manshiyet Nasser district.

Perception is monumental — an anamorphic artwork that covers more than 50 buildings, involved a team of 22 people, and took three weeks to paint. The large circular design, painted in the “calligraffiti” style eL Seed is renowned for, can only be viewed in its entirety from one specific point at the top of the neighboring Mokattam mountain.

As with many of his works, Perception uses a quote as the basis for an elaborate, interlinking Arabic design, this time from Saint Athanasius of Alexandria: “Anyone who wants to see the light clearly needs to wipe his eyes first.” Adding to the visual spectacle of the work, but also demonstrating the importance of the community in the creation of the project, the image was painted with fluorescent white paint that was illuminated for one night only when it was completed — a gift to the neighborhood that has given so much to Cairo.

Continue reading on Mada Masr

How art is keeping alive the memory of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution

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Graffiti artist Leila Ajjawi at WOW Baladak Street Art Festival in Jordan in 2014

The Day of Anger on 25 January 2011 signalled the start of the Egyptian Revolution. After the Tunisian uprisings, protests in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, and across the country paved the way for the so-called Arab Spring, which swept across the region. Today, five years on, many who witnessed or took part in the protests consider it a failed revolution. Although the uprising, in which more than two million people took to the streets across Egypt, ended in the overthrow of then-president Hosni Mubarak, the country has experienced a turbulent transition since. Culturally, the gathering of young protesters in public spaces in 2011 led to an artistic outpouring that included street art, performance, photography and film. Despite the censorship that is increasingly seen within the country, this collaborative creativity has led to a number of art projects that are keeping the revolutionary spirit of the uprising alive.

Here, commemorating the five-year anniversary of the Egyptian uprisings, are five of the best Egyptian art projects that have begun since January 2011.

Continue reading on The Art Newspaper.

Cairo, Actually

Yehya (El-Sherif) in a still from Cairo Time
Yehya (El-Sherif) in a still from Cairo Time

Six multi-generational characters, three interconnected stories, one overarching theme that binds them together… Sounds familiar? New Egyptian film Cairo Time (Betawqeet El Qahira, 2014) is a classic multiple-storyline film. It’s a winning combination that is increasingly used in popular contemporary film, showing a cross section of life in one place, at one time, and the inextricable connectivity of life in our modern world.  It can be found in the seamlessly interwoven British film favourite Love Actually (2003) and in Arab films such as Merzak Allouache’s The Rooftops (Les Terrasses/Es-Stouh, 2013) and the cult classic The Yacoubian Building (Omaret Yacoubian, 2006).  Such an approach to film-making has the ability to highlight the spectrum of a human and societal difference as well as a variety of pertinent issues and concerns.

Continue reading on the Nour Festival blog.