Sunday, March 22, 2009
More on the Middle East
© Ahmet Ogut detail "Somebody Else's Car", 2005, two-screen slide projection
Since my first trip to Egypt, in 1997, to curate Nancy Spero's participation in the 1998 Cairo Biennial, I have returned to the region almost every year since, traveling to Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Morocco and Turkey for studio visits, conferences and arts festivals. From these experiences I have worked with artists as diverse as Ahmet Ogut (in the work above, Ogut transforms a private white car into a police vehicel, and a red car into a cab, the two ubiquitous vehicles found in Turkey), Halil Altindere, Mona Marzouk and Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige, who represent the dynamic range of artistic practice in the region. Last year I attended Ashkal Alwan's electrifying conference Home Works IV in Beirut, and invited architect Bernard Khoury to Phoenix as a result to speak about his work. The connection? How to balance the development (or redevelopment) of a city core where public good has a place inside of private benefit (a huge issue in downtown Phoenix, while Beirut continues to recover from the schisms of a civil war).
The growth of resources for the artists and institutions in the Middle East has exploded since 1997, and international attention--mostly from Europe--has allowed for an expanded cultural exchange across political and social traditions. As the US tries to undo much of the harm done over the past eight years by the previous administration, I see organizations such as Townhouse Gallery in Cairo as pivotal in creating a platform for meaningful intellectual dialogue.