Organised by curator Fawz Kabra, this exhibition spans over two decades of art from Arab countries, where 25 sculptures, photographs, videos and installations tackle the cultural and socio-political issues that have occupied it in recent years. “Given that contemporary Arab art is still unfamiliar to many in the United States, a student and faculty audience is an incredibly important one, which allows for a unique point of engagement with a receptive public,” said Barjeel director Karim Sultan to The Art Newspaper.
Drawing from 20 artists across the Arab speaking world, which ranges from the Arab League to North Africa and West Asia, the curatorial remit states, “To begin in 1990 is to recall a socio-political landscape characterised by shifting regimes of power following Pan-Arabism, the Cold War, the Kuwait War, and the end of the Lebanese Civil War. Today, while battles in Syria and Iraq continue to rage and people are increasingly displaced, radicalism and neoliberal capitalism thrive.” No to the Invasion builds itself upon this framework.
The title is borrowed from a linocut print by Kuwaiti artist Thuraya Al Baqsami made three days after the start of the Iraq-Kuwait war. Initially intended as a resistance poster, the exhibition expands on the notion of invasion by suggesting it “goes beyond connotations of incursion, trespassing, and violation to include a sudden surge or confrontation. Here, the phrase ‘no to the invasion’ might be a refusal of irruptions by the media, global capital, or regional magnates on one’s space, mind, or body.”
Kader Attia, Yto Barrada, Charbel-joseph H. Boutros, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Mona Hatoum, Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, Walid Raad and Akram Zaatari are some of the participating artists whose works allow viewers to explore biographical, historical, aesthetic, social and political perspectives. Projects of note include Zaatari’s Her + Him (2001-11), which documents a personal encounter examining photographic portraiture and language; Ala Younis’ Plans for Greater Baghdad (2015), where 35mm slides from architect Rifat Chadiri and an imagined urban plan for a Le Corbusier-designed gymnasium named after Saddam Hussein address architecture as an expression of power; and Mixed Water, Lebanon, Israel (2013) by Charbel-joseph H. Boutros, a conceptual work including maps of Lebanon and Palestine with a glass of water between them holding mineral water from both locations that will steadily evaporate to indicate the diffusion of political tensions through an inevitable natural process.
This exhibition follows the Barjeel Art Foundation’s recent collaborative efforts with Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, which showed Modern Middle Eastern art earlier this year, and a plan to work with the American University Museum, Washington DC, to show contemporary works this coming September.
No to the Invasion: Breakdowns and Side Effects runs 24 June-29 October at CCS Bard Galleries, New York, USA. For more information visit bard.edu