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What relationship does visual culture have to the world we live in?

Alaa Al-Shroogi
1 November 2011

Critique of Middle Eastern art often demands that the relationship between visual culture and our world be overtly socio-political to be relevant.


There is no denying that visual culture is a powerful outlet for peaceful protest. And there is certainly merit in preserving ethnicity and providing an authentic representation of the region and its cultural richness. Nevertheless, artists whose statements veer away from the social and political should not be overlooked.


Artists from the region – already constrained by censorship – are bound even further by trying to please critics. Is an artist’s work still relevant if it does not depict calligraphy, veils, or fallen dictators? Without a doubt, it is. Are artists with innovative and visually striking compositions being dismissed as myopic and detached? In many cases they are.


An understanding of the history of art and its impact on creating new modes of expression is paramount if the region is to produce more than formulaic work that propagates myths about the Middle East. Artists should be wary of falling into such traps in their quest for relevance.

Alaa Al-Shroogi

is the Director of the Cuadro Fine Art Gallery in Dubai.

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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.