Echoes & Reverberations
Foreword: Anthony Downey
Anthony Downey, Editor-in-Chief, Ibraaz
Ibraaz is pleased to publish an online guide to accompany Echoes & Reverberations, the exhibition that launches the Delfina Foundation's international project Staging Histories. Focusing on how history is performed through sound, alongside the performative act of listening and interacting with its ephemeral contexts, this exhibition evokes a contested sense of individual and collective histories. In each of the works presented here, from artists as diverse as Jumana Emil Abboud, Basma Alsharif, Samah Hijawi, Anas Al-Shaikh, Magdi Mostafa and Joe Namy, these multiple, often fugitive, means of recording history are also concerned with how the experience of sound, a gradual informal process of aggregation, becomes in turn historical. This double perception – sound as imminent experience and the future historization of sounds – likewise speaks to the double movement of history as an agonistic form of corroborative, archival accumulation periodically challenged by interrogative forms of oppositional doubt and disputation.
This antagonistic staging and restaging of history through cultural means, as the curators and organizers observe here, involves a detailed history of performance art from and about the so-called Arab world. We were therefore doubly pleased to produce this online guide insofar as it provides a number of productive crossovers with Ibraaz's ongoing exploration of the genealogy of performance art. Throughout Platform 009, which we formally launched in May, our ambition has been to document the multiple histories of performance art and their formative role in the development of contemporary art practices across the region and beyond. This ambition is also clearly a key formative element in this current exhibition and the broader context of Staging Histories.
Given the increasingly precarious nature of cultural practices and the contested sense of national and community-based heritages, the history of performance art today would appear to speak to a specific historical condition: one in which any sense of homogeneous practices and reductive histories are readily questioned and thereafter rendered hermeneutically suspect in critiques of cultural production. One of the more productive issues to be explored here therefore involves the extent to which any history of performance art contests the geographic, ideological and theoretical suppositions attending the prescriptive ideal of the 'Arab world'. Furthermore, performative gestures and practices – in the context of private, public and civic space – have been subjected to forms of aesthetic, ethical and political critique that, to date, see them in isolation from the evolving global contexts that underwrite international developments in performance art. Again, this represents a key shared element across both Ibraaz's and the Delfina Foundation's respective platforms.
Over the coming weeks and months, we will be adding to this online guide with a view to publishing a full catalogue of the show and accompanying events for September 2015. Given the extent and range of the subject matter in hand, and the relative lack of critical analysis available online and elsewhere, Ibraaz's research platform will move, for the first time, from a 6 to a 12 month cycle and an extended reader will be published in 2016 to coincide with a series of conferences on the subject. We would like to take this opportunity to invite our readers and community of supporters to produce feedback and input into this process as it happens across its various physical and virtual sites of production.