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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?

Ricardo Mbarkho
2 November 2012

Artists have for some time been using new media to investigate and question their mainstream socio-political environments. In Arab countries, the revolutions that took place are a direct expression of this process's shift from the art community to the mass, from the artist to the public. It was a mutation from the creative field to the cultural field. This shift marks a pivotal point for art dealing with new media. In this new configuration, artists faced a new challenge, one that involved avoiding falling into propaganda-stimulated art practices. They had to choose between being a questioning creative or an answering activist. It became much more delicate when artists became involved in the revolution; art that is based on aesthetical judgment values became applied to ethical problems, and this was problematic. In violent contexts, applying such values to people's suffering could be viewed as fascism. To overcome this paradox, many new media artists refrained from making art at all; others became activists and laid on the definition of activism as art strategy, while others oriented art into Utopian models where symbolic and imaginary refuges are reflected.

Ricardo Mbarkho

was born in Beirut in 1974, and is an artist and lecturer living in Lebanon. In his digital images as well as in his time-based work, he investigates multiple questions related to language, communication, and creative industries issues within the socio-political sphere. His work has been presented in several festivals and exhibitions in Lebanon and abroad. Ricardo Mbarkho received his Art Diploma from the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts and École Supérieure d'Études Cinématographiques, Paris, and from the Institut Supérieur des Beaux-Arts, Beirut. He also completed an exchange study programme at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, USA. He is represented by Mark Hachem Gallery. www.ricardombarkho.com

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