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What do we need to know about the MENA region today?

Stephen Wright
1 June 2011

Was there a conceptual art in the MENA?

The project stems from an observation and an attendant question: there is clearly a thriving, politically motivated, post-conceptual art in the MENA area (Walid Raad, Walid Sadek, Decolonizing Palestine, Khalil Rabah, Djamel Kokene, Yto Barrada, Lasserre and Yacoub and so on) which, given its relationship to the territory of art and that of other forms of knowledge production, operates through what might best be described as 'extraterritorial reciprocity'. This begs the following, unanswered and even unposed question: Was there a conceptual art in the MENA?

We begin from the hypothesis that indeed there was, though it remains unknown to itself and unmapped. For otherwise, one would have to conclude that current practices are a pure product of importation from America and Europe – and even in that case, we would want to ask: in what suitcase? With whom? When? Via what stopover? The project will unearth and performatively document and map the trajectories of these avuncular precursors alongside the exhibition of post-conceptual works whose conditions of possibility they guaranteed.

Stephen Wright

is a Paris-based art writer and professor of art theory and history at the European School of Visual Arts.

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A platform is a space for speaking in public. It is an opportunity to express ideas and thoughts. It also suggests the formal declaration of a stance or position on any given subject.

Unique to Ibraaz is a 'platform', a question put to writers, thinkers and artists about an issue relevant to the MENA region. This platform is sent to respondents both within and beyond the MENA region and contributions will be archived every 12 months.