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Ibraaz Platform 005

005 / 8 May 2013

Ibraaz is pleased to announce the launch of Platform 005, which explores the following question:


How has a globalised cultural economy affected the production of contemporary visual culture in North Africa and the Middle East?


In response to this question, we publish essays, interviews, projects and responses by a number of figures, including Gulf Labor, Walter D. Mignolo, Hans Haacke, Raed Yassin, Nadia Mounajjed, Sophia Al-Maria, Shuruq Harb, Ala Younis, Hanan Toukan, Haig Aivazian, Visualizing Palestine, Ahmad Zatari, Sheikha Hoor Al-Qasimi, Yuko Hasegawa, Mario Rizzi, Cynthia Zaven, Lasse Lau, Simone Fattal, Mirene Arsanios, HG Masters, Adelita Husni-Bey and Anahita Razmi.


We will continue to publish further content surrounding the 005 Platform question during the coming months as part of our monthly newsletter.

Globalisation and the Future of the Future

Editorial by Anthony Downey


The tensions and side-effects produced by globalisation have provided much by way of content for contemporary art. In the context of North Africa and the Middle East, the effects of globalisation can be read not only in terms of cultural production but also in the fast-developing topographies of cities across the region. The task of gauging or recording the long-term effects of these processes on local communities and art practices is a gargantuan one, and yet one thing remains certain: in a globalised cultural economy beholden to the demands of global media outlets, 'soft power' diplomatic initiatives, international market integration, and the culture industry, the ecology of culture across the region is changing rapidly and developing in unexpected ways.


One of the prime ideals guiding and allowing for globalisation is the ascendency of deregulated, precarious labour conditions as the normative mode of employment rather than the exception. Add to this international migratory patterns and so-called 'economic migrancy' and it becomes all the more clearer as to who the winners and losers are in the apparent hegemony of globalisation. It is with these points in mind that Ibraaz's Platform 005 set out to address some of these changes and their impact on how culture is produced, who it is produced for, and who benefits from the work of art.


Saadiyat Island, Museum Construction Site, 2011. © Hans Haacke.
Saadiyat Island, Museum Construction Site, 2011. © Hans Haacke.


In the last decade or so, developments across the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) have presented ample evidence of globalization's impact. If we are witnessing what many refer to as 'Gulf Futurism', a state of being specific to the region and explored here in a project for Ibraaz by Sophia Al-Maria, then the dreamscapes of the future are in constant danger of being usurped by the spectres of the immigrant labourers upon whose abject misery they are being built.


In their report essay for Ibraaz, Gulf Labor, a coalition of international artists, observe continued failings when it comes to equitable labour rights and humane working conditions on Saadiyat Island. Hans Haacke's photographs, presented alongside this essay, present the symbolic and actual disjunction between the dreamscapes of the future and brutal, sordid reality that underwrites their construction. But before we point the finger too forcibly, we should be ready to admit to a broader fact: the global art world is powered by precarious labour, whether it is the intern in a gallery in London or the worker producing an artwork in downtown Delhi or Shanghai. Precarity – as Guy Standing argues in The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class (2011) – is and continues to be the order of the day for a whole new class of working individuals and communities across the globe.


Mario Rizzi, Al Intithar, 2013, film still. Courtesy the Artist & Sharjah Art Foundation.
Mario Rizzi, Al Intithar, 2013, film still. Courtesy the Artist & Sharjah Art Foundation.


Art's 'role' is often imbricated within a process of re-envisioning an imaginative potential – a horizon of potentiality – that negotiates inter alia the political imagination, the configuration of the social, and reductive versions of history. This 'role', for want of a better word, seems fitting when it comes to contesting the effects of globalisation in all their sinuous intricacies and enquiring into a singular question: what is it to live through and endure the effects of globalisation? In so doing, art produces forms of knowledge about globalisation that would not – and possibly could not - otherwise exist. This is the role of the aesthetic, if not poetic imagination: to think otherwise.


Globalisation seems to be offering us, in all its incursions into and reconfiguring of local and regional contexts, a vision of the present and future that remains inescapable if not irremediable. But does that have to be the case? In cities such as Abu Dhabi, Beirut, Tunis, and Cairo, are we seeing other potentialities emerge that could define not only the momentous changes we are witnessing in the present, but also determine future horizons of artistic, social, civic and individual engagement. This is not a region specific issue; on the contrary, it is, fittingly, a global issue and the stakes as they stand could not be higher. They involve the very future of the idealism once associated with culture as an agent of a common rather than an individual or privatised good.

This editorial is a condensed version of an essay written around the subject of Ibraaz Platform 005 by Ibraaz Editor, Anthony Downey. To read the full text, follow this link.



Saadiyat and the Gulf Labor Boycott


Gulf Labor

Walter D. Mignolo

For Platform 005, artist coalition Gulf Labor has produced a collaborative report on the situation on Saadiyat Island in the U.A.E. and the position Gulf Labor has taken as a coalition.

In this essay, Walter D. Mignolo examines how Sharjah Biennial 11 utilised the biennial exhibition format to both appropriate and undo the biennial as an institution.

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One City, Two Guides | An Untimely Collaboration

Dubai’s Mystified Promise of Globalisation

Sara Giannini

Rani al Rajji

Nadia Mounajjed

In Sara Giannini's essay, we find the performative tours of Rani al Rajji interweaved with the writing of Michel De Certeau as we circle downtown Beirut. In the text, Al Rajji and De Certeau guide Giannini through the intertwining of collective memory and private interests shaping the new city centre.

In this essay, Nadia Mounajjed addresses the internal debates about culture as a practice and the logic of late-modernity in Dubai, where the issue of urbanism is observed as a consequence of unprecedented economic, political and technological change for the majority of Gulf countries.

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On Being 'The Other' In Post-Civil War Lebanon

Going Around in Circles

Hanan Toukan

Ahmad Zatari

In this essay excerpt, Hanan Toukan considers the practice, production, exhibition, reception, circulation and sustainability of what has become known as postwar contemporary Lebanese art.

Published in collaboration with the river has two banks, Ahmad Zatari's essay and lecture performance follows unpacks some of the complex transnational influences that informed the music of Jordanian music pioneer Tawfiq Al Nimr.

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Representing Regions

Succinctly Verbose

Sheikha Hoor Al-Qasimi in conversation with Stephanie Bailey

Visualizing Palestine in conversation with Haig Aivazian

In this interview, the president of the Sharjah Art Foundation, Sheikha Hoor Al-Qasimi, notes that in order to successfully negotiate localised concerns against the backdrop of global demand, you have to think about your audience.

In Haig Aivazian's interview with the group Visualizing Palestine, the discussion touches on the use of data and infographics as discursive tools for the communication of information, history and affect.

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Going Both Ways

A State of Exception

Yuko Hasegawa in conversation with Walter D. Mignolo and Stephanie Bailey

Mario Rizzi in conversation with Dorothea Schoene

In this interview, Yuko Hasegawa responds to questions raised by the 2013 Sharjah Biennial 11 Re:emerge, Towards a New Cultural Cartography. From a curator's perspective, Hasegawa talks about art's responsibility.

Mario Rizzi discusses Al Intithar (The Waiting), his most recent film about the life of Syrian refugees at camp Zaatari in the Jordanian desert, which was premiered in the short film competition at the Berlin Film Festival 2013.

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On Automobiles


Sophia Al-Maria talks to Omar Kholeif

Simone Fattal in conversation with Mirene Arsanios

Sophia Al-Maria paints a gripping picture of automobile culture in the Arabian Gulf and beyond, touching on Bedouin life and the loss and rebirth of a mobile society, before moving on to discuss cultural appropriation, boredom and wildness.

In this interview, Mirene Arsanios talks to Simone Fattal, founder of The Post-Apollo Press, a project that traverses different epochs and styles, collating silence, knowledge, and production in a unique way.

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Sonic Diaries

History as Concept

Cynthia Zaven in conversation with Basak Senova

Lasse Lau in conversation with Amira Gad

Talking to Basak Senova, Cynthia Zaven discusses 2012 project Morse Code Composition, a score composed for flute and accordion produced by transcribing a William Faulkner quote into Morse code.

'The past can be seized only as an image which flashes up at the instant when it can be recognised and is never seen again,' wrote Walter Benjamin on 'On the Concept of History'. Lasse Lau talks to Amira Gad about how this relates to his work.

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On Agency

On Curating

Shuruq Harb in Conversation with Omar Kholeif

Ala Younis talks to Omar Kholeif

In this discussion, artist Shuruq Harb talks about the notion of agency. How can artists function as agents – how do they negotiate commitments, spaces, and ideologies?

Omar Kholeif talks to Ala Younis about the dual role of being an artist and curator, considering how curatorial practice shifts and evolves against a changing social and political backdrop.

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Dropping a Yassin Dynasty Vase

Saadiyat Island

Raed Yassin

Hans Haacke

In Raed Yassin's homage to Ai Weiwei's controversial work Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (1995), we see how appropriation continues to open up channels of influence and productive counterpoints in the work of artists across the region.

For 005, Hans Haacke has made a series of images documenting working life on Saadiyat Island available to view online. The images supplement an essay by Gulf Labor on the Saadiyat Island Boycott published in Essays.

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Chewing the Data Fat


Sophia Al-Maria

Adelita Husni-Bey

In Chewing the Data Fat, Sophia Al-Maria sends a message to those 'Gulf boys' - or 'Tetsuo iron boys' and considers the great exodus and mass migration into the virtual world.

Alwan, presented here for the first time, is a 2013 reflection on a journey Adelita-Husni Bey took to a monument in Benghazi, Libya, that was never built. An interview with the artist will be published in June.

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Sound from the Hallways

Morse Code Composition

Lasse Lau

Cynthia Zaven

In this exclusive edit for Ibraaz, Lasse Lau presents an online version of Sound from the Hallways. In the film, the artist challenges concepts of historicism and museology from the early twentieth century.

In this project, Cynthia Zaven presents Morse Code Composition produced for flute and accordion by transcribing a William Faulkner quote into Morse code.

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