Platform for discussion005
How has a globalised cultural economy affected the production of contemporary visual culture in North Africa and the Middle East?
Are we anxious?
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.
He asks: 'Is nostalgia stopping our culture's ability to surge forward, or are we nostalgic precisely because our culture has stopped moving forward and so we inevitably look back to more momentous and dynamic times?'
The future is, indeed, not what it was supposed to be and as Reynolds puts it we are 'feeling a pang for a future that never arrived'. But in the case of Lebanon, this posits an even more difficult question, not only in terms of the proliferated visual language in mainstream design, media, art or culture, but also on a more intricate and complicated political terrain. If we were to examine this from Lebanese artist and writer Walid Sadek's perspective on the protractedness of the civil war, then what of this desire to reclaim and therefore regenerate one's past and culture (but also that of others') when the past is not yet past? What does it mean, particularly in the case of Lebanon, though not exclusively, to employ irony to struggle against decay?
On the surface level of cultural production, is the employment of this visual language of nostalgia – its commoditized desires and kitsch envy – yet another residual effect of this phenomenon we used to call globalization?
To be continued
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.