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What is the future of arts infrastructures and audiences across North Africa and the Middle East?

Nora Razian
8 May 2014

The future of arts looks promising, but it also risks looking stale if we're not too careful. I will concentrate here on what I think are important considerations in the shaping of spaces of encounter; where publics, artists, art and ideas meet.


Here are my two cents.


Think by affinity, not by proximity. Acknowledge the global circulation of artists, ideas and capital that is at the core of any industry and especially that of art. The MENA cannot be taken as an incubated case study. We must acknowledge the circulation of influences and ideas across this region. The MENA has always been a space of exchange and encounter, with some influences being avidly recorded and cherished, while others are strategically relegated to oblivion. The success of an enduring infrastructure is that it must be relevant both locally and globally. In the same vein, thinking outside of regional contexts and looking within networks of affinity will lead to more productive conversations. 


Forget the big brands. There is a tendency to look to established big brand institutions as models of best practice. Institutions in Europe and in the USA come out of specific histories of empire building, civilizing processes and wealth consolidation.  They also perpetuate certain codes of viewing and spectatorship. What is exciting in thinking about the future from the vantage point of now, is that there is space to innovate, to challenge what an arts organization is, who it is for, and how it operates. There are many exciting small-scale initiatives that have proposed new conditions of engaging with artists and art, from the Homeworks Academy in Beirut and Dar Al Ma'mun in Marrakesh to Pist in Istanbul. These are the places we should look to when thinking of the future, not to the institutions of the past, who are themselves trying to shrug off their heavy historical baggage. In line with this turn away from received ideas of model practice, is a creation of nodes of connections through which ideas can travel directly without first being filtered through a Euro-American arts infrastructure.


Think inside the box and away from the building. The consumption of art and the production and exchange of knowledge is increasingly taking place outside of buildings and online. This must be thought of as an increasingly important space of art.


Remember what it's all about. The realm of art is a space for propositional and experimental thinking. Spaces of art can likewise, in the way they connect with publics, artists and ideas, challenge our ideas of publicness, of encounter and of knowledge. 

Nora Razian

Nora Razian is the Head of Programs and Exhibitions at the Sorsock Museum in Beirut, where she curates the museum's temporary exhibitions, public programs, and film programme, and initiates collaborations with other arts organizations. Before joining the Museum in 2015, Nora Razian was curator of public programmes at Tate Modern and Tate Britain (2009–15). She has also taught at Goldsmiths' College Centre for Arts and Learning.

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