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Platform for discussion 005

How has a globalised cultural economy affected the production of contemporary visual culture in North Africa and the Middle East?


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30 May 2013
Tsolin Nalbantian

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. 

7 May 2013
HG Masters

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).

7 May 2013
Michaela Crimmin

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.

7 May 2013
Rania Jawad

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.

7 May 2013
Bérénice Saliou

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.

7 May 2013
Nadia Kaabi-Linke

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.

7 May 2013
Basim Magdy

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.

7 May 2013
Özkan Gölpinar

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.


7 May 2013
Haroon Mirza

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.

7 May 2013
Jessica Winegar

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.

7 May 2013
Rayya Badran

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.

7 May 2013
Anahita Razmi

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.

4 April 2013
Sarah Rogers

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.

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