Search archive

Platform for discussion005

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

Özkan Gölpinar
7 May 2013

Chasing Ghosts

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.


Artists like Khalil Joreige and Joanna Hadjithomas manage to find a breach in the fence and cross to the other side. They guide us with artworks that show how history – of a personal and broader nature – often oscillates between the realms of forgetfulness and remembrance. They show us how, as an entity, art might hover between the materially tangible and something ephemeral, which disappears like a phantom. With works like The Lebanese Rocket Society, they manage to transform our gaze from something that creates otherness to something that challenges its very creation. For these Artists, re-enactment does not consist of repetition as it is usually understood, but it is an attempt, an experience, to introduce an element of the past into today's reality. The performance may fail, but it aims at creating new situations, new contexts, new meanings and new visual narratives. By doing something that took place in the past anew, they try to fill a gap in history or reconnect with it. It is not about being nostalgic about the past, but about referencing the past and reactivating it in the present, in order to ask questions about where we stand today. They attempt to understand which imaginary we put forward, which one we accept to adopt, and which history we choose to write or to allow to be written about us.


Their work expresses the contradictions faced by artists who must perform multiple roles in societies that are constantly shifting in the manner in which they are mediated, articulated, and presented. Together, they illustrate fragments of the distorted imagination that reflect on works within the contested territory of representation. The imaginary is a spectral and lingering moment between being there and not being there: between absence and presence, between personal memory and the contemporary that the artworks address. Their journey started perhaps as an introspective one, but they have managed to position themselves through the years as part of a universal conversation.


Özkan Gölpinar

(1968, Sivas Turkey) is an art critic, writer and lecturer. Gölpinar lives in the Netherlands, where he lectures at the several Art Academies and Universities.

of 13

Back to platform responses

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.