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With the benefit of hindsight, what role does new media play in artistic practices, activism, and as an agent for social change in the Middle East and North Africa today?

Nat Muller
2 November 2012

When we talk about media, whether we consider them old or new, and critical practices, whether we label them as artistic, activist or hybrid, we would do well to look at issues of embodiment, and where virtual presence and physical presence intersects. The Arab uprisings have shown that no matter how much presence one can wield on the twitter and blogosphere, one has to physically put one's body on the line – collectively – in order to effect change. Technologies are never inherently revolutionary; they can be used for control and for dissent, and while no one can deny the impact of social media as a tool for rallying support, citizen journalism and globalising a cause, technologies are never in and by themselves substitutes for vision, ideas and courage. Social media are performative media, and are thus never representative of a population or a society. Who has a voice on these platforms and is therefore represented, and who is ignored, and therefore does not exist? We need to critically uncover these dynamics if we are to see past the telegenics of the Arab uprisings, and try to understand the lengthy processes ahead. We should also take heed not to be seduced by the immediacy and easy commodification of web 2.0 technologies in terms of clickable activism, 'I-tweet-therefore-I-am' op eds, and revolutionary art exhibitions. Life cannot be contained in 140 characters, and nor can art.

Nat Muller

Nat Muller is an independent curator and critic based in Amsterdam. Her main interests are the politics of representation, contemporary art from the Middle East, and food. She has written numerous catalogue and monographic essays on artists from the Middle East and has curated exhibitions, screening programs and other projects internationally. www.natmuller.com

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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.