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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?

Khaled Alhamzah, Editor-in-Chief, Jordan Journal of the Arts
21 November 2012

The Chair

Some artists in these parts of the world began using new media in their work in the 1990s. This happened for a number of reasons but the most important one, I believe, was that of reaching the general public, which was far from being interested in art. In this respect, fine art finds itself far beyond other arts such as cinema, poetry, and narratives in reaching the wider public. By examining its role and effect in society, art started to look for other ways to better involve the public first in art and afterwards its subjects. This led gradually to a socially and politically involved art that both offers social critique and alludes to the need for change in several aspects of life.


In a 1997 study I was involved in as part of my art project Western Gate, one of its results found that ordinary people in Jordan were much more interested in new art forms than artists and so-called 'cultured people'. Most artists still create traditional art forms and even progressive artists are not using all kinds of  new media, even though they have been used since the 1950s.


In the absence of serious art criticism and studies on contemporary art in Arab countries, the new art forms associated with new media are often neglected. Moreover, these new art forms are not found in curricula of fine art colleges and so graduates have to find their own ways of developing them without either schooling or critical follow-ups. However, there remain artists who are working hard to develop new media practices and the contents offered in spite of many obstacles: finding funds, suitable sites, and technical support.

Khaled Alhamzah

is the Editor-in-Chief of Jordan Journal of the Arts.

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