Making an exhibition with my students at the Paris School of International Affairs

This year (2014) I asked my students to write their papers as catalogue contributions to an exhibition I made in Paris to coincide with the end of the term.

Here one can find the links to their papers and images of the exhibition, which I made with the help of the Window, an art space in the center of Paris run by a good friend of mine and those that contributed to the crowd funding project I ran – especially my father!

Most of my students: from left to right Alexandre Nawath, Sarah Smail, Anna-Katharina Kraft, Emma Ghariani (hidden), Lily Matras, Kristina Keenan, Kata Pali, Leo Teste, Joice Barbaresco (partially hidden), Mariam Kandil, Lucile Gasber and Malika Touddimte

Most of my students: from left to right Alexandre Hawath, Sarah Smail, Anna-Katharina Kraft, Emma Ghariani (hidden), Lily Matras, Kristina Keenan, Kata Pali, Leo Teste, Joice Barbaresco (partially hidden), Mariam Kandil, Lucile Gasber and Malika Touddimte

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Ibrahim Abumsmar at the Window in Paris

I curated this small exhibition (27-29 September 2013), whose only ambition was to document the two months residency of Ibrahim Abumsmar in Paris – whence the simple title, ‘A Saudi Artist in Paris’. It turned out quite nice.

Ibrahim contemplating his Qiblah kite shortly after it has been installed above the street in front of the gallery

Below are the wall texts (in French) interspersed with some photographs. More information including links to The Window, the artist and his gallery (Athr) can be found on the previous post ‘A Saudi Artist in Paris‘. Continue reading

An Encyclopedia of National Representation: Review of the Venice Biennale, 2013

Alfredo Jaar's iconic installation of the Giardini rising from the bottom of a pool only to disappear again quickly under the waves. Photo & composition by RK

Alfredo Jaar’s iconic installation of the Giardini rising from the bottom of a pool only to disappear again quickly under the waves. Photo & composition by RK

Although I came to Venice to test and explore an artist’s project that fundamentally critiques the system of national representation at the Biennale, I must admit I enjoyed the national pavilions much more than the group show “The Encyclopedic Palace” and some of the collateral events.

Artists and curators asked to represent their country invariably grapple with the question how to ‘represent the nation’ and why they should be the ones called to do it. This intellectual quandary produces some interesting artistic results. Besides, this system does allow for a plurality of approaches to be present in the same event, notably empowering voices from the periphery.

I had my hands full with checking the national pavilions around town and relating what I saw to Jonas Staal’s Ideological Guide to the Venice Biennale. This guide, an app for android and apple-ware, describes each pavilion in detail, providing statistical data for the country, its conflicts and alliances, with a cover piece by an art professional well acquainted with that country, usually a ‘national’ (sic).

It has a navigation system, and although I usually spurn such devices, preferring to rely on my sense of orientation, knowledge of the city map and passers-by, I did use this one. Venice is a labyrinth. The precise GPS pinpointing is more useful than the Biennale’s map. So I managed to see quite a lot in two days, while maintaining the time for long exchanges with the artists and an occasional curator.

What follows are reflections about the national pavilions, interspersed with comments about the Biennale in general and personal perspectives on artists and shows that were not part of the national representation mechanism.

I will be adding the chapters on the national representations as I finish writing them.

China

Azerbaijan

Central Asian Pavilion

Slovenia

Bahamas

All the Middle Eastern national presentations

Afghanistan in Documenta 13

Note: a very different, one-page graphic version of this article was published in the Belgian art magazine A Prior #23; see the article here. I published another article about this subject in the Indian art magazine Take On Art.

Alighiero Boetti: World Map (1971)

With fourteen Afghan artists and at least ten artists whose work reflects on this country, Documenta 13 is strongly flavored by Afghanistan. After Kassel, Kabul is the main location of Documenta (the others being Alexandria & Cairo, and Banff in Canada): 27 Documenta artists will show their work in the Queen’s Palace in Kabul’s Babur Gardens in an exhibition that opens on June 20. Continue reading

A visit to the National Museum of Riyadh

The National Museum of Riyadh is a very interesting museum designed by the Canadian architect Raymond Moriyama (figs 1 & 2). It was inaugurated in 1999. It is located on the grounds of the Murabba Palace that was built by King Abdul Aziz in 1936/37 north of what was then Riyadh, a small and congested walled city. Many of the buildings of this palatial complex that fell into disuse in the early 1950s have been beautifully restored, and together with the gardens that surround them they form one of the only large public spaces in Riyadh (figs 3 & 4). Many people come here to stroll, picnic and watch other passers-by. Continue reading

Exhibition of Mahmoud Dayoub in The Hague

I recently set up an exhibition in the headquarters of the Humanistic Institute for Development Cooperation (Hivos) in The Hague. The works are by the young Syrian artist Mahmoud Dayoub. Hivos headquarters are situated on the Raamweg 16 in The Hague and the exhibition can be seen every weekday during office hours (8am to 6pm) until 7 December 2011.

Mahmoud Dayoub, untitled; oil on canvas, 180 x 140 cm, 2011

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My current exhibition in Amsterdam: The New Middle East

Installation View of the New Middle East

The wave of popular uprisings throughout the Arab world have revealed a new Middle East – young, dynamic, secular, pragmatic and creative – which few people in the West knew about. It did not however come out of nowhere: as this exhibition shows, contemporary Middle Eastern culture has been developing very quickly over these last few years. Continue reading