Having opened this past September, the often-travelling collection of Sharjah-based Barjeel Art Foundation has put on a special show at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Centre. Curated by Barjeel director Karim Sultan, the show explores violence through modern and contemporary works by artists such as Akram Zaatari, Hayv Kahraman, Mona Hatoum, Sadik Kwaish Alfraji, Samia Halaby, Walid Raad and Zineb Sedira, among several others.
“Rather than looking at violence and conflict in a direct, didactic way, the exhibition aims to explore the holes in meaning and perception where violence takes place,” stated Sultan. “Between two rounds of fire, the exile of the sea focuses on the blind spot that occurs in our understanding of the world – particularly where that violence maintains social structures or yields benefits for others.” Divided into three categories – Territories, Signs and Bodies – each addresses particular ideas of violence. Territories tackles violence in the representation of geographies through map making; Signs considers the effects of and on language, highlighting the inherent fragility of communication and its underlying structures; and Bodies addresses the body as it undergoes the physical traces of violence.
Looking at the dynamics between violence and power, public and private space, and the “representational void” that surrounds violence, highlights include Hatoum’s In Infinity (1991/2001) sculpture which comments on the disposability of soldiers’s lives; Zataari’s archival materials which delve into the relationship between official histories and individual memories by looking at the bombardment of Saida in June 1982; and Ali Cherri’s 2014 Trembling Landscapes, which marks his ongoing investigation into the effects of natural and man-made catastrophes via an aerial map of Beirut that draws parallels between geographical fault lines and sociopolitical unrest.