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Jim Quilty: one immaterial collection, part one: “figures upon landscape”

October 24, 2015 - October 30, 2015 8:00 pm

A seven-day video projection program, featuring:
Jananne Al-Ani. Basma al Sharif. Mounira al solh. Ayreen Anastas. Ziad antar. Nadim Asfar. Vartan Avakian. Yto Barrada. Wissam Charaf. Ali Cherri. Dima El-Horr. Omar Fakhoury. René Gabri. Hala Elkoussy. Fouad Elkhoury. Ahmad Ghossein. Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige. Lamia Joreige. Hassan Khan. Maha Maamoun. Walid Raad. Ghassan Salhab. Jayce Salloum. Roy Samaha. Larissa Sansour. Siska. Rania Stephan. Jalal Toufic. Raed Yassin. Akram Zaatari.

Program schedule:
Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 October 2015, from 2 pm to 5 pm
Tuesday 27 to Friday 30 October 2015, from 5 pm to 8 pm
Saturday 31 October 2015, from 2pm to 5pm

One immaterial collection is a video screening cycle program curated by a different figure of the cultural scene every year. The first edition of this cycle entitled “figures upon landscape” is curated by Jim Quilty.

About “figures upon landscape”
this screening cycle arose from a suggestion and a preoccupation. Beirut art center director Marie Muracciole suggested I assist in assembling a programme of screenings from the works in the BAC’s video archive. The preoccupation has been my curiosity about how artists, Lebanese and otherwise, make use of landscape – location if you prefer, or place – in their work.
It’s useful to think of landscape in broad terms.
Location can indeed be equated to geographical landscape and all the associations that terrain can conjure up. When examining some of the work of Jananne al-ani, for instance, it’s easy to assume that the artist is aware of, and variously utilizing, certain literary-cinematic readings of desert landscapes.
Another aspect of location in this region – any region, in fact – is politics. When the prevailing reality of a country is occupation, segmentation, and dispersal, as it is in Palestine, or institutionalized civil conflict, as it is in Lebanon, it’s not surprising that trace elements of “politics” can be detected in the work of the countries’ artists.
That doesn’t mean that art is a function of communication, of course – let alone subordinate to partisan politics. a great deal of the critically informed artistic practice to emerge in this region in the past decade or more has interrogated assumptions of place and the most engaging work to surface has grown from the development of dialects that are alternative to, subversive of, or simply speak past the spent partisan discourse of national politics.
Happily, the audio-visual dialects evinced in the practices of those artists who work in video are so diffuse and varied that it’s difficult to make useful generalizations about them. Whatever investment an artist has made in location, landscape itself is barren without the individuals that serve as focal points.
Indeed, an examination of the jokey video miniatures of Ziad Antar, say, or Mounira Al-Solh’s amusingly serious explorations of cultural practices suggest a restlessness with place. it’s telling that “Paris without a sea” — one of the more successful pieces in Solh’s “the sea is a stereo” series — abstracts her male subjects from the landscape element that unifies them (the Mediterranean coast) as well as denuding them of their own voices.

Jim Quilty is a Beirut-based Canadian journalist. Over 15-odd years, he has written about the arts, cultural production, and politics of the Middle East and North Africa. He has published work in various magazines, including art review, flash art, bidoun, variety, Middle East Report, and Middle East international and nowadays edits the arts and culture section of an English-language daily in Beirut called the daily star. When not yanking at those oars, he steals time for fiction and nonfiction book projects.