Platform for discussion 005
How has a globalised cultural economy affected the production of contemporary visual culture in North Africa and the Middle East?
The Future of the Future8 May 2013
Ibraaz Platform 005 Editorial
Thieves of Babylon30 September 2013
Repatriation of Iraq's Looted Heritage under International and Domestic Law and Practice
The Crisis of Art in Tunisia28 August 2013
Farah Makni Hendaoui
Articulating Dissensus28 August 2013
Contemporary Artistic Practice in Iran at a Revolutionary Moment
To the Barricades29 July 2013
Gezi Resistance, Public Space and the Counter-monumental
DISPATCH - Here We Are: The Imagination of Public Space in Gezi Park27 June 2013
Creative Time Reports
DISPATCH - FITNA AND THE IRANIAN ELECTIONS27 June 2013
Creative Time Reports
On Reporting, the Documentary and the Aesthetic in Ursula Biemann and Angela Sanders’ Europlex30 May 2013
Amman’s West Side Story30 May 2013
Is soft power helping or hindering the state of the arts in Jordan?
Saadiyat and the Gulf Labor Boycott8 May 2013
RE:EMERGING, DECENTRING AND DELINKING8 May 2013
Shifting the Geographies of Sensing, Believing and Knowing
Walter D. Mignolo
One City, Two Guides – An Untimely Collaboration8 May 2013
What if Rani al Rajji and Michel De Certeau met in Beirut?
Dubai’s Mystified Promise of Globalization8 May 2013
On Being 'The Other' In Post-Civil War Lebanon8 May 2013
Aid and the Politics of Art in Processes of Contemporary Cultural Production
Opening Up: World Nomads Tunisia28 September 2013
Marie-Monique Steckel in conversation with Fawz Kabra
The public domain has opened up!29 July 2013
Fulya Erdemci in conversation with Basak Senova
NOTES FROM THE RESISTANCE29 July 2013
Özgür Uçkan and Vasif Kortun in conversation with Basak Senova
A Fraction of Experience29 July 2013
Omar Robert Hamilton in conversation with Elisabeth Jaquette
Ex Apartment29 July 2013
Matthias Lilienthal in conversation with Göksu Kunak
Letter to a Refusing Pilot29 July 2013
Seth Anziska in conversation with Daniella Rose King
Daniella Rose King
Speaking as Witnessing29 July 2013
Hera Büyüktaşçıyan in conversation with Basak Senova
Common Grounds and Common Cultures17 July 2013
Kamel Lazaar in conversation with Anthony Downey
New Kids On The Block27 June 2013
Randa Mirza in conversation with Amira Gad
The Many Metamorphoses of Mounira al Solh27 June 2013
Mounira al Solh in conversation with Nat Muller
A Mobile Agent30 May 2013
Adelita Husni-Bey in conversation with Stephanie Bailey
A DREAM: The Iraq Pavilion at 55th Venice Biennale30 May 2013
Tamara Chalabi, Reem Shather-Kubba, and Jonathan Watkins in conversation with Basak Senova
Errant Propositions30 May 2013
Jeremy Hutchison in conversation with Natasha Hoare
The Activity of Painting and Other Actions30 May 2013
Nadia Ayari in conversation with Haig Aivazian
Succinctly Verbose8 May 2013
Visualizing Palestine in conversation with Haig Aivazian
Representing Regions8 May 2013
Sheikha Hoor Al-Qasimi in conversation with Stephanie Bailey
Post-Apollonian8 May 2013
Simone Fattal in conversation with Mirene Arsanios
Sonic Diaries8 May 2013
Cynthia Zaven in conversation with Basak Senova
A State of Exception 8 May 2013
Mario Rizzi in conversation with Dorothea Schoene
History as Concept8 May 2013
Lasse Lau in conversation with Amira Gad
Going Both Ways8 May 2013
Yuko Hasegawa in conversation with Walter D. Mignolo and Stephanie Bailey
Walter D. Mignolo and Stephanie Bailey
The One That Got Away
The Circus (2)
A Story of an Exhibition
Walter D. Mignolo
The One That Got Away
On the Rooftop
98weeks: Our Lines Are Now Open
A Radio Series on the Poetics and Politics of Language
The Incidental Insurgents
The Part about the Bandits Pt.2
Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme
Codes of Limbo
Basak Senova on Zeren Göktan's Counter (2013)
Chewing the Data Fat
Dropping a Yassin Dynasty Vase
Sound from the Hallways
Morse Code Composition
It stipulates in my working contract as a professor in Middle East history at Leiden University that I must participate in 'media outreach'. This means that I must either seek out media outlets and contribute to a particular conversation about the Middle East, or, if contacted by a media representative, should pursue the request, offering my professional opinion on a given subject.
Firstly, and most immediately, I object to the characterisation of the context in which this question is situated. There is, of course, a marketplace for what we call cultural goods, including artworks, but there's no reason to situate all artworks immediately in an economy. Things that are made solely for the purposes of being bought and sold are design products; things (or events) that are authentic artworks are primarily created for other purposes, namely intellectual or aesthetic interest – even if they end up being sold at a later point. Granted, much of what is called 'contemporary art' in the world is, in fact, in the former category . . . and in that regard you could say that the globalised cultural economy consists primarily in trading counterfeit goods, under the name of Art, making it a kind of grey market (that is, one is that secretive, unregulated, and full of knockoffs).
The excited chatter about unrest and uprisings in the western world has focused particularly on a number of countries in North Africa and in what we here refer to as the Middle East (meaning anything between eighteen to thirty-eight countries according to Wikipedia). In the UK, we have received a deluge of reductive media accounts on the subject of these conflicts: alarming images taken by photojournalists, questionable politicians' opinions and statements, analyses from the military, and a stream of reports from aid agencies and human rights organisations. Wittingly and unwittingly these have combined to produce banal stereotypes.
Demonstrations by Palestinian villagers against Israeli colonisation has been described by non-local media sources as 'theatrics' and 'spectacle.' Such categorisation positions Palestinian acts of protest in the realm of 'acting'- a visual 'show' for the cameras, complete with homemade props, a soundtrack of chants performed to the rhythm of Israeli ammunition being fired, resulting in a magnificent display of falling tear-gas that sets fire to the villagers' olive trees. Then there are the spectators that can choose how close they want to be to the action: the tickets are free but there is no insurance if you get hurt during the performance.
A few Middle Eastern and North African countries having a strong control over means of expression are now present in some major artistic international events such as the Venice Biennale. The concept of national pavilions provides a vivid example demonstrating how international relations and diplomatic issues can influence artistic productions and their dissemination. While some emerging artists consider biennales as a professional springboard leading towards a possible international recognition, some curators (told or untold) use such events to convey a 'positive' image of their country. In such a case, the main stakeholders of a single event face up to extremely different agendas and the show is the result of a negotiation process encompassing political considerations and forces going far beyond the artistic realm.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but the word 'demand' seems to be the key word of the poll. In relation to a 'globalised cultural economy' it refers to the core term of economics that is used to rationalise the development of prices. Talking about 'demands of news media, journalism, cultural diplomacy and international market integration' in relation to contemporary visual culture in the region of North Africa and the Middle East comes along with a subliminal criticism: the increasing interests in visual production that can tip over into a visual production that responds to certain interests.
Basim Magdy, 13 Essential Rules for Understanding the World, 2011, super 8 film transferred to HD video, 5 min. 16 sec. Courtesy the artist and Newman Popiashvili Gallery, New York.
The globalisation of the modern art world is a fact. The rise of new economic powers has led to a shift in the balance of power in the art world as well. No longer is there one centre. Instead, we are faced with a mosaic of centres spread around the globe, which do not share a coherent, universal art-historical vision. In this situation, storytelling and memory practices are a key to look at the past and the future in the Middle East. The way each artist tells his or her story and remembers the past is intimately tied with power, with state and resistance, not to mention artistic and in collective action.
This is a big question with a lot of big words so I can either try and break down the question and resolve some of the semantic issues with it or simplify the question and try and answer that. Either way my response could be an essay, which I don't have time to write – so I will do my best. The main semantic issue with a question like this is what is meant by 'globalised cultural economy'. I'm specifically interested in what is assumed by the word 'culture' – the language used in discourses around art comes from social sciences and I find this increasingly to be a disease of the art world, where people think it's necessary to dress simple ideas up in complex or fluffy language. 'Culture' does not mean the 'arts' or 'creative practices'. Culture is made up of many things including religion, politics and language, as well as the arts. The phrase 'globalised cultural economy' could mean a lot of things. One interpretation could be the banking system, which would in fact make this question quite interesting.
In the 1990s, it would have been difficult to find an artist in Egypt who thought that any of their contemporaries would sell their work at international auction and for thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars at that. Artists were busy negotiating other, more immediately local, elements of a creeping neoliberal capitalist globalisation, such as the availability of new communications technologies and faster access to knowledge about art in the rest of the world, the decline in standards of living resulting from state pullbacks in healthcare, education, and infrastructure, and the explosion of residential and consumption spaces for the increasingly enriched elite that needed art and décor. The catapult of art from the Middle East and North Africa into global art markets during the 2000s stunned artist communities across the region. In Egypt, suddenly, the stakes of this new form of globalisation became much clearer. And so did its 'globe-hopping' nature.
A new book has surfaced on the shelves of Lebanese and possibly Arab bookstores. The title reads: Pure Nostalgia. As in Exclusive Nostalgia, as in free from this contaminated present. The emergence of this publication is perhaps symptomatic of something larger than a trivial nostalgia quenched by the collected photographs of old Pepsi cans and Lebanese beach resorts, but that confirms British music writer and theorist Simon Reynolds's arguments and stipulations that the state of popular culture and music production in the noughties is now incessantly re-appropriating its past. Pure Nostalgia epitomizes what Reynolds believes to be the summation of what contemporary culture (in the 'West') has been doomed to produce.
In the globalised world we live in, I feel that creating the image of an enemy becomes a difficult task. It becomes difficult to name and make symbols for an enemy – an abstract 'evil' – since things are never abstract, but always and at any time connected and related.
In certain respects, the demands on contemporary artists issued forth by a (purportedly novel) globalised cultural economy are starkly obvious in the Arab world. The concurrent fascination with contemporary art and the region has resulted in the now well-documented - and equally well-debated - critical and curatorial investment in contemporary art of the Arab world. In other ways, the question posed by Ibraaz is disarmingly complex; for there is a dialectical relationship between contemporary art and globalisation for which we must account.
What is a platform?
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.