Cultural Initiatives in North Africa and the Middle East
Contemporary Art Practices and Cultural Institutions in the Middle East
Edited by Anthony Downey
Sternberg Press, 2016
Future Imperfect: Contemporary Art Practices and Cultural Institutions in the Middle East, is volume 03 in our Contemporary Visual Culture in the Middle East series.
Future Imperfect: Contemporary Art Practices and Cultural Institutions in the Middle Eastcritically 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?
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.
Read the introduction to Future Imperfect: Contemporary Art Practices and Cultural Institutions in the Middle East, by Anthony Downey, by clicking on the front cover above or by clicking here.
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.
Future Imperfect is available via the Sternberg Press website and on Amazon.de.
Emerging from ‘The Kingdom of Silence’ | Beyond Institutions in Revolutionary Syria
Under the four-decade dictatorship of the Assad family, the arts in Syria were stifled. The totalitarian police state ruthlessly suppressed the expression of dissent and the public space was tightly controlled. The country was, according to leftist dissident Riad al-Turk, 'a kingdom of silence'. Artists and writers had to navigate the strict parameters of the permissible, or face often severe consequences. Permitted art was that which was uncritical, or acting in the service of the regime. It was distanced from the masses, served up for the consumption of a cultural elite.
Mapping the Possible: Syrian Organizations, Movements and Platforms
This project sets out to map just a few of the organizations that have been set up, led, imitated and supported by Syrian artists, facilitators and producers – both in host countries, and in post-revolution Syria. Where possible, I have named the founders, and noted where they are located. However where it is not clear who the founders are, or where those that work on the project don't want to be named, I have left the 'who' and 'where' labels unmarked.
Plotting in Egypt: Art People
For this artist project, Nile Sunset Annex asked 130 contemporary visual arts organizers and artists where and when, in Egypt, they have studied and worked over the past 25 years. By tracing institutional meeting points through talking to people and, as with much of Nile Sunset Annex's work, expanding outwards from a network of acquaintances the project resists any impulse to explain or interpret, prioritizing the visual and the lighthearted over claims of expertise. Although the resulting project is a totally non-comprehensive sample, it gives an idea of the scope of institutions around which artists, artworks and art events have been developing over the years.
The Saudi New Wave | Digital Landscapes and Future Institutions
Vladimir Bukovsky once summarized the Soviet Underground – Samizdat – using the following statement: 'I write it myself, censor it myself, publish it myself, distribute it myself, and spend jail time for it myself.' Indeed, Samizdat literally means 'self-publishing' in Russian. Samizdat existed during the reign of the Soviet Union, so naturally the publishing was executed on paper, and exchanged hands in physical form.
Digitalizing Social Change through Cultural Institutions in Saudi Arabia
Cultural institutions are more relevant and accessible than ever before. In Saudi Arabia cultural institutions using online innovations and alternative platforms have promoted unprecedented level of inclusivity and development. Cultural institutions are expanding their reach and engaging on a grassroots level in the development of the country's creative scene.
In conversation with Ala Younis | A Cultural Encyclopaedia of Iraq
Since 2013, writer and poet Hussam al-Saray has been putting together An Outline of Iraqi Culture 2003–2013, an encyclopaedia that documents forms and characteristics of a decade of Iraq's cultural production in the aftermath of 2003. His research involved traveling to different cities in and out of Iraq, as well as dialogues and reflections with the active practitioners, and a large number of contributions.
Recounting the Past, Present and Future
Jerusalem has never been an easy address but, since the increased tensions and violence of 2014, life has become more difficult. Showing art in these surroundings has its very own rules and framework, especially for a Palestinian organization. Since the building of the wall, Jerusalem has been isolated from its natural hinterland and deprived of economic and cultural exchange with Palestinians from the West Bank.