By Fadlabi

do it بالعربي

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Sharjah Art Foundation

23.01.16 – 23.04.16

Bait Al Shamsi

Join in, take part and collaborate as individuals, families, friends – as a community, together in do it بالعربي [in Arabic] – a new project organised by Sharjah Art Foundation. More than 60 artists from across the region have written instructions that anyone can use to make a new work of art.

Co-curated by Sharjah Art Foundation Director Hoor Al Qasimi and Serpentine Gallery co-Director Hans Ulrich Obrist, do it بالعربي is a new iteration of the ongoing do it publication and exhibition project originally founded and curated by Obrist in 1993.

do it بالعربي will be open to the public at Sharjah Art Foundation’s Bait Al Shamsi from 23 January to 23 April 2016.  On view will be a selection of artist instructions, some of which will have been previously realised and others which visitors can use to create art works of their own.  Everyone is invited to join in the workshops, activations, performances and thought-provoking activities on one of the many Open Days, scheduled over the course of the exhibition.

The do it بالعربي bilingual publication will include over 60 newly commissioned artist instructions, a selection of previously published instructions as well as essays that contextualise the project.

This publication will also be the basis for a tour of the project with institutions and organisations across the region, beginning with the September 2016 opening at Darat Al Funun, Amman, Jordan.

At Sharjah Art Foundation, do it بالعربي will be realised through extensive collaborations with schools, universities and communities across the UAE, including Ajman Centre for Rehabilitation, American University of Sharjah, Al Tamkeen Centre, Emirates Fine Arts Society, Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services, Sharjah International Book Fair, and University of Sharjah.

do it بالعربي features art work instructions by artists from ten countries including Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, Hamra Abbas, Mohamed Abdelkarim, Adel Abdessemed, Sarah Abu Abdallah, Etel Adnan, Sophia Al Maria, Jaffar Al Oraibi, Mohammed Al Qassab,  Nasser Al Salem, Mounira Al Solh, Mustapha Akrim, Rita Alaoui, Khalid Albaih, Manal AlDowayan, Rheim Alkadhi, Abdullah Al-Mutairi, Ziad Antar, Samira Badran, Ismaïl Bahri, Lara Baladi, Dia Batal, Taysir Batniji, Doris Bittar, Ali Cherri, Ayman Yossri Daydban, Róza El-Hassan,Fouad ElKoury, Safaa Erruas, Fadlabi, Simone Fattal, GCC, Abdulnasser Gharem, Aya Haidar, Hazem Harb, Mona Hatoum, Susan Hefuna, Khaled Hourani, Hasan Hujairi, Kamala Ibrahim Ishag, Mohammed Kazem, Yazan Khalili, Hassan Khan, Ahmed Mater, Hassan Meer, Amina Menia, Magdi Mostafa,Joe Namy, Nasir Nasrallah, Amir Nour, Khaled Sabsabi, Abdulraheem Salim, Jayce Salloum, Hrair Sarkissian, Zineb Sedira, Sam Shalabi, Hassan Sharif, Suha Shoman, Nida Sinnokrot, Rayyane Tabet, Jorge Tacla, Jalal Toufic, Raed Yassin, Ala Younis and Camille Zakharia,

The exhibition is free and open to the public. For further information on how to get involved please contact info@sharjahart.org.

do it بالعربي is organised by Sharjah Art Foundation and co-curated by Hoor Al Qasimi and Hans Ulrich Obrist.  do it is a project originally founded and curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist in 1993.

To find out how you and your group can get involved contact community@sharjahart.org

Follow the project on social media #doitinarabic

Sharjah Art Foundation would like to thank the do it بالعربي Patrons Circle and Cultural Partners for helping make this project possible: Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Sheikh Sultan bin Saood Al Qassemi, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, British Council, Art Jameel, Sharjah Media Corporation, Al Khaleej Newspaper

Buoyancy

A solo show at Nile Sunset Annex, Cairo. Curated by Dr. Maxa Zoller

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14 Gamal Eldin Abu Almahasin Street, 4th floor, Apt 18, Garden city, Cairo, Egypt

http://www.nilesunsetannex.org

Interview with Fadlabi, by Maxa Zoller

Maxa Zoller: I wanted to begin with a concrete analysis of one of you paintings, The King and the Queen before going into more general issues about the politics of your art. You made this painting for your exhibition Local Heroes at the Kunstnewforbundet in Oslo last year. This show consisted of mostly large scale portraits which depict imaginary characters, your ‘local heroes’.

!Fadlabi: The King and the Queen were the very last paintings I made in the series for the Local Heroes exhibition. I thought the figure on the left should be the queen. I wanted to make her dress look very beautiful, so I painted a flower pattern thinking about stars and galaxies. I thought this way, I could paint both, stars and flowers. The flower pattern I painted could be mistaken for a sky full of bright and faint shaky little stars. The painting is an attempt to communicate something that goes far back into history, somewhere better than now. All my local heroes are like The King and the Queen; they are amazing, infallible people, they are capable of doing heroic deeds.

Most of the time, I name my paintings after having painted them. I never make sketches, but I do spend long time thinking about what I am going to paint.

!MZ: I would like to unravel the art historical nods of The King and the Queen a little bit. Could you tell me about the way in which you use abstraction, especially in the background. Are there any specific influences that we should know about if we were to understand your paintings better? Or in other, more concrete terms, where are the little squares in the background coming from? What about the little grass-green stripes at the bottom and at the right hand side of the painting (the King is placing his arms over them suggesting a space in front of them)? And the bright blue gestural mark behind the king’s head? Are these abstractions from an interior space (as the ‘window’ in the right corner suggests) or is the role they are playing a purely formal one?

!F: The ‘likeness theory’, the theory that a painting is supposed to represent visual reality, is a modern phenomena; ancient Nubian paintings and Ethiopian church paintings, however, are not about capturing the likenesses of the sitter, rather they are about capturing a reality beyond that what the eye can see. That goes as well for the narrative; these paintings do not tell a clear story within a logical time line, a beginning, a middle and an end or a series of events. But that does not mean that they are not accurate records for an event. The best example I can give are the painted barbershop charts in African hairdresser salons. In these charts in the heads are distorted and drawn closer to a pumpkin than a human head. The customers pick a haircut and the barber cuts their hair exactly in this way. The King and the Queen is an attempt to imitate that. The squares you mentioned could be the pattern of the floor, although I don’t need to paint them on the floor. I don’t even need to paint a floor at all. And that goes with all the other details in the painting.

!MZ: Your palette of striking colours ranging from bright yellow to the deepest black, the lack of perspectival depth and three-dimensional modulations in favour of a flatness in the foreground as well as the background (which is also facilitated through the use of acrylic paint) and the exclusive focus on the portrayal of two black subjects places the work art historically into the context of the work of some of the most important American civil rights painters of the 1960s and ‘70s such as Marie Johnson-Calloway, whose ‘naive’

painting style was a result of the political directness that was considered necessary at the time.
There are also references to a return to modernist questions in the work by non-black painters in the 1980s. And of course your ‘fauve’ palette connects the painting to the early modernist movements of the 1910s and 20s.

!F: I like Marie Johnson-Calloway very much. She is definitely an idol, but I find my paintings closer to the American painter Kerry James Marshall. The way he paints touches me more. What I believe we are all doing (knowingly or not) is referring to a long tradition of painting. The flatness you commented on is much older than the Ethiopian church paintings I am often referring to in my work. You can also find it in the old Nubian paintings in the pyramids of Meroe. I don’t always intend to make my paintings flat, but when you think every little detail in he painting is equally important, you end up having everything the foreground. I find that playful and it is also more fun to look at. The spectator will have the freedom and the power to decide himself what is in the foreground and what in background.

!I claim to paint in my own way, my “African” own way, which is of course ridiculous claim to make. I studied at the National Academy of the Arts in Oslo and hence I practice it in a very Norwegian way. Even my methods of research are of course affected by my years of study in Oslo.

When I studied painting in Sudan, my teachers were trained in Eastern Europe and in England. I learned of course through some sort of Sudanese filter, but I found the Sudanese painters as confused as I am right now. The so-called schools of painting in Sudan were merely small movements by groups of friends in the 1960s and ‘70s; they did not develop enough. That however did not stop a certain way of painting to evolve in Sudan. If you look at ten different Sudanese painters today, you will noticed something they all have in common, something that I cannot set my finger on.

!MZ: It sound like you have have created your own, individual art history, your own canon. !F: Absolutely. I would also include the ethnographic drawings by Europeans in the 17th

Century and the cassette covers from the 1980s and ‘90s in Sudan.

!MZ: You take a lot of inspiration from history. Can you say a bit more about the importance of history in your thinking and painting?

!F: I once read that in the in the late 4th Century Alexandria was in turmoil. The persecutions of pagans by newly arrived Christian Romans had reached a new level. Libraries were closed and pagan rituals became forbidden under punishment of death. In 391 Emperor Theodosius ordered the destruction of all pagan temples, and the Patriarch Theophilus complied with his request. One theory, among many others, has it that the great Library of Alexandria and the Serapeum were destroyed at this time. Many people left Alexandria, the capital of civilisation back then.They wondered into the desert where they lived in caves. Apparently many of them turned towards mysticism. People needed something else. They thought the heaviness that they were feeling was not due to political circumstances, but because their souls were trapped inside sinful dirty bodies. Mysticism was away to purify their souls. I feel that nowadays we live in similar circumstances. I find it more comforting to go back in time or to long for the future rather than living in this present moment. I am trying to find this thread that connects me to the thousands of souls in the undocumented history of Africans.

MZ: Earlier you said that your exhibition Local Heroes was about fictional characters – ‘local heroes’ that never made it into the history books. If you allow me I would like to ask you a bit of a provocative question. Are you not running the risk of romanticising ‘Africa’ if you paint Africans’ heroic deeds in this way? Could these paintings be read as a symptom of your diasporic life in Oslo, in which you cannot but resort of fantasies about Africa, in the way that many Afro-American members of the civil rights movement did (I always refer to the closing scene of Spielberg’s ‘The colour purple’, in which the freed Afro-American ex-slave returns from the motherland)? Or, on the other hand, is this your way of ‘balancing the books’, a way to represent the African as a hero rather than the villain (or slave, to speak with Spielberg) à la Hollywood.

F: I have to agree with both your hypotheses and reject them at the same time. Of course living in Europe will get into you. I remember that I used to look at every exhibition invitation with some kind of doubt. I used to ask myself if I was invited just because I am black. I mean, in a country that brands itself as an image of ‘goodness’ per se, you might think that way.

However, I don’t really see a problem in romanticising my ‘local heroes’. Sometimes I actually want to do exactly that. How boring would the portraits be if they were actually real! Some magic around them is needed, some mystery. This a part of building up the figure of any hero or celebrity. But this has nothing to do with the fact that they were Africans. It is very important to get rid of all the labels the world has put on if you want the world to see you for who you are. Although I deal with African history when it comes to painting technicalities, I do not think so much about it when it comes to the subject matter. I want to be able to talk about everything, everywhere. The idea of heroes who never made it into the history books does not belong to geography.

MZ: We first met in Oslo in 2007 when I was giving a workshop about experimental film. In our tutorial I remember you showed me a small drawing of an airplane you had made. You said that you remember those military planes flying over Khartum from your childhood. This drawing, more conceptual than your other work, was part of your search for your own artistic voice. What happened to this drawing? How did you finally ‘find your voice’?

F: I know exactly which drawing you are referring to. I am actually smiling while I am writing this now because you remembered that drawing after all these years. I really liked that drawing. I titled it “Metal Bird”. It was a very simple drawing of an airplane with a skeleton drawn into it, like one in those anatomy drawings you have hanging in your class room in elementary school. It had arrows pointing at its different parts and words written to explain what each part was.
At that time I was very confused about Western contemporary art. I found it very difficult to understand how my fellow students dealt with different topics and how they approached art making in general. I think the first revelation I had was when I decided to think about art the way I think about Arabic poetry. I remember reading The Modernism Manifesto (1980) by Syrian poet Adonis. This really helped me in my thinking. But I think what really made me see things in a completely new way was watching Bassam El- Baroni’s lecture about the difference between contemporary and modern art in Egypt at CalArts on you tube.
I think what makes your voice yours is actually less complicated than what you hoped for it to be. Right now, I think it is harder to fake your voice than to find it.

MZ: You are of the generation who witnessed a radical change in the way in which African art is perceived in the West thanks to curators such as the Nigerian Okwui Enwezor and

your country man Salah Hassan as well as African artists like Beninese sculptor George Adéagbo, but also South African ‘enfant terrible’ Kendell Geers and Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare. You are off the ‘Africa Remix’ and ‘Documenta11’ generation, a generation that sought to change (or correct) the way Africa has been represented since the Magiciens de la Terre exhibition at the Paris Centre Pompidou in 1989. Can you tell us a little bit about the way in which you managed to cut a path through this jungle of exhibitions, curatorial concepts and artistic shifts in the last decade or two?

F: For me personally, the most important moment during the period you just described was the exhibition Unpacking Europe curated by Salah Hassan and Iftikhar Dadi in 2001/02. I have to emphasise that the importance of that moment was very personal, because the efforts of putting this kind of thinking out there had begun long before this exhibition – but this was my moment of revelation. What I liked about Unpacking Europe was how it managed to interrogate the historical and the contemporary meanings of Europe; something I had thought about a lot. Also how Salah and Iftikhar examined the construction of ‘Europeanness’, how in a way they revealed to me the contradictions between homogenising official narratives and everyday realities of urban life, where heterogeneity and hybridity have long been the living norms. Unpacking Europe was one of the biggest motivations for the direction of how I think about my art practice today.

But of course I had to think a lot about Norway since I am based there and that was very challenging. It is like being in a forest among its trees. You can see everything really well; the moss, the texture of the stones and their colours. You know how everything smells, you know the sounds and the names of every little thing. But if you have to describe the place, you need to lift yourself above it and look at everything from a higher vantage point. I think my project European Attraction Limited which I made with my friend Lars Cuzner signifies that lift for me. I don’t remember managing to think and produce a work that was site and time specific to Norway before that. The research process was very long, it took five years. Our project was aimed at tracing the evolution of racism in Norway by reenacting Kongolandsbyen, The Congo Village from 1914, a human zoo that was a part of the Centennial celebration of the Norwegian 1814 constitution.

The project went through many phases, some we controlled, others we intentionally let go of. 16 months before our exhibition was to open, we organised a conference about collective memory loss, public imaginations, different views on modernities, national branding, spectatorship and repercussions of misrepresentations. After that project, I was more confident about the kind of paintings I wanted to make. Saying this reminds me of what I said earlier: “Although I deal with African history when it comes to painting technicalities, I don’t think so much about it when it comes to the subject matter.” We are in a point of history where our identities and our fight for equality should not be trapped in geography, race, gender and systems of believes. Right now, while I am writing this and later on when you are reading it, someone is being subjected to some unjust act by another human being. This is bad enough, but we are so used to this that it does not really matter until it happens to us personally.

Luckily, we have art, imagine if all we did was witnessing all this without having art to respond with.

MZ: Your human zoo created a bit of a scandal in Norway. Although in the end you actually did not ‘exhibit’ Africans but populated the zoo with all kinds of volunteers you were accused of reproducing a form of direct, shameless racism that we thought to have left behind in our modern world a long time ago. For me, however, your project was a way of exploring new methodologies of criticism. This project chimes with a form of critique that

has been discussed at length in the last years: accelerationism. In a way, the Kongo Village intensified the notion of ‘othering’ to such a degree that the position of the spectator, the visitor of the zoo, had to be radically re-negociated. Not only did you position yourself, the artist, on the ‘wrong’ side’ in terms of what you are supposed to do (condemn and critique wrong doings), but you also pulled the rug under the viewer’s feet, ethically speaking. This approach which could be seen as a form of neo-DADA, is of course not an easy position for either, the artist nor the audience.

In your paintings you seem to work in a very different way. Your points of interest, methodologies and aesthetics are different. Your current exhibition at Nile Sunset Annexe Buoyancy presents a body of work that signifies a new direction in your work, which I am very excited about. Can you say a little bit about the concept of Buoyancy?

F: I decided to make this exhibition about the Sudanese society It is site specific in the sense that it is about those Sudanese who are trapped in a limbo between Sudan and the promise of the global North. The title Buoyancy has a double meaning: we associate something really positive with the term and at the same time it refers to the buoyancy life jackets. I remember the term from my studies of nautical navigation in Khartum. For me the pictures of the floating bodies of the so-called ‘boat people’ is like a last act of resistance: these bodies are not sinking, they are still floating to the surface.

 

The African Art Show

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VERNISSAGE: Torsdag 13. aug. 19:00 – 21:00
KUNSTNERE: Sara Christensen, Tobias-Alexander Danielsson, Leander Djønne og Tiago Bom.
KURATOR: Cassius Fadlabi
UTSTILLINGSPERIODE: 13. – 30. aug. 2015

(1)
Few years ago I’ve curated a similar show to deal with the same question, is there African art? Is it really a genre or is it just the art made by Africans? It was no secret that I chose for the last show and this one as well, artists who are not ethnically African. I know a lot of reggae musicians from a none African origins, but I don’t know any none African “African artist”, even when I think about my fellow Africans from European origins, No name comes to my mind!

(2)
In conversation with the Senegalese artist Issa Samb:

Fadlabi: I am not a journalist, so I will ask you about some stuff that I don’t know how to answer myself.
Issa Samb nods.

Fadlabi: Is there African art?
Samb: Yes, there is!

Fadlabi: Is it African art or art made by Africans?
Samb: During my stay in Oslo I noticed some aspects and elements in the Norwegian art scene that one can consider as African. And if we mention music, that is not a question at all.

Fadlabi: Is it just aesthetics then, or is there an ideology to it? I mean, seeing elements is not new, you find the same with Picasso and Modigliani.
Samb: It’s both. It depends on the artist. The elements we see in the work of Norwegian artists should be considered African and Picasso and Modigliani were also creating African art. When Picasso broke away from impressionism and classism and invented cubism, he did that influenced by African sculptures. If it wasn’t for those sculptures, he would have not been able to reach cubism.

Fadlabi: So, you mean there is African art in contemporary art but people don’t call it that?
Samb: Yes. It’s not normal to use African elements and not call what you create African. It doesn’t matter where you come from.

Fadlabi: Do African artists need to come to Europe to make it in the art world?
Samb: An artist doesn’t need to go anywhere. Creating art is being. You can be wherever you are.

Fadlabi: Why do African artists relate to Europe more than Africa then, why don’t Senegalese artists know about Somali artists and Sudanese artists about Senegalese artists?
Samb: It’s not their fault. It’s a matter of means of exchange and meeting. If they don’t meet, they won’t know.

(3)
I don’t really know if Issa is right, but a while back I read something that opened my eyes to a whole new way of thinking. I think the one who wrote it was the Egyptian curator Bassam El Baroni. He was talking about how Picasso wasn’t able to see those african sculptures that he was copying. It was something about your position when you look at something. Picasso naturally had a superior one, he didn’t see in those African artists an equal and there for he couldn’t see their work. He was another
European exploring Africa. uncovering the beauty of the savage.

(4)
Fun fact:
The Congress of Black Writers and Artists in paris 1952, had a picasso drawing on their poster for the event.

(5)
I wanted to show my friend’s Sara Christensen, Leander Djønne, Tobias-Alexander Danielsson and Tiago Bom’s works based on their appearance. Following the advice of Issa Samb to look for the African Art everywhere.

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Local Heroes

Telling Histories, Telling Stories

by Gussai H. Sheikheldin

Narratives of history are stories told. The difference between them and the other types of stories is that there is a significant level of claim to accuracy in depicting events that had significant impacts in peoples’ lives back then with consequences that may still be felt by some of us nowadays. Basically, if the story has a verified claim to depicting actual events that happened sometime in the past, we tend to name that story ‘history’.

Being a story, however, it cannot take you fully back in time. It can only deliver to you what the storyteller(s) saw, perceived, and remembered. In other words, not everything. Storytellers can be worse or better than a video camera. They can only see events unfolding from one angle at a time, just like the camera. They cannot see 360 degrees at once. In addition to that, and unlike raw camera footage, storytellers edit the footage by having them processed through their memory and perception before they deliver the story to you. That can make the story richer or poorer. Memory and perception are woven with language, coloured with biases, and transferred to others in wraps of context. The end product we receive is anything but a fully accurate and comprehensive account, and we shall learn to live with that.

That said, it follows that no one should be surprised that there are many different versions of history out there; as there should be. There may be some dominant versions at given time periods and in most parts of the world, depending on the order of the time, but there has never been a single version of human history since the recording and communication of history – i.e. storytelling – ever began.

We can give brief examples to that. You know nowadays we live in the era of ‘the pristine West’? It is the era when the dominant version of history most people around the world embrace – fully or partially – says that Europe, throughout recorded history, was the center of historical developments of human societies, not just by influencing other civilizations outside of Europe over time, but also by having a continuous line of historical heritage that is almost autonomous of any major influence from outside of Europe. That continuous line is usually depicted as “ancient Greece begat Rome, Rome begat Christian Europe, Christian Europe begat the Renaissance, the Renaissance the Enlightenment, the Enlightenment political democracy and the industrial revolution. Industry, crossed with democracy, in turn yielded the United States [of America], embodying the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…”[i] It is quite a spectacular story, in which the focal point (the hero) is identified throughout thousands of years, and the outcome self-evident in today’s modern civilization. This story also has another name. It is called the Eurocentric version of history. In this version, the storytellers are obviously Europeans. It is the story of the world according to Europeans. In this version there is no denying that other places around the world had their own histories, or that other old civilizations interacted with Europeans (such as Egypt and the Islamic empire), or that European colonization and settlement happened to Africa and Asia, or that there were already human groups in the Americas and Australia when European settlers arrived there. None of that is denied. But the premise is that all of it was not as critical in shaping human history as was the internal, self-motivated and self-generated dynamics of European history.

It should be quite obvious to see that there is quite a number of problems with this version of history, especially if claimed as the most accurate and verified version. For example we now have abundance of evidence regarding how ancient China did many things that together made Europe a dominant force in modern history, before Europe did them! The Chinese invented and used gunpowder first, built large ships that sailed across the big oceans, and had many critical advances in metallurgy and other applied sciences before Europe did. What is more interesting is that the Chinese dynasties of those times did not have the same interests in conquering and exploiting the rest of the world with those powerful technologies as Europe later sought to.[ii] Naturally, different forms of arts and culture, and ways of viewing the world, developed in China. In other words, China must have its own, different, and equally legitimate version of history. For example, the Chinese drew their own version of the world map, centuries ago, with China at the centre of the world, not ‘the far east’. Technically speaking, China could be at the centre of the world map; who decided that Greenwich is the centre anyway?[iii]

In addition to China, the Middle East and North Africa region easily has its own version of history too. Persia, Egypt, and the Islamic Empire have a continuous line of recorded history with many events, developments and major world influences that do not have a major role for Europe in the picture. The same could be said about the history of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and some parts of India. All in all, we don’t have one human history — we have many human histories.

There are some peoples in this world, however, in this post-colonial era, that have lost touch with their own historical narratives. Their own historical developments were severely interrupted, disconnected and mutilated. Their technologies, social structures, arts and memories, were deliberately emaciated.[iv] So they are left now with a bigger task of remembering their own stories. The African proverb says that until the lion learns to speak, the tale will always favor the hunter’s side. It is true indeed. More accurately however, until the lion’s voice is heard, and understood as a voice of another eligible storyteller, the hunter who won that battle will proceed to tell his own bias version of the story of lions everywhere. It should be obvious that if the lion was there, saw what happened, and was even part of it, then the lion has another legitimate version of the story. The late Azanian (South African) musician Miriam Makeba once said, “The conqueror writes history; they came, they conquered, they write. You don’t expect people who came to invade us to write the truth about us. They will always write negative things about us and they have to do that because they have to justify their invasion in all countries.” That in short, ladies and gentlemen, is how many of us – children of post-colonial societies – feel about the ‘pristine West’ (Eurocentric) version of history.

And our arts, and the histories of our arts? They are as critical for us today to excavate and illuminate – to ourselves and to the world – as it is for us to do the same to ‘our’ cultures; for culture is largely woven from the fabric of art, and then it becomes an identity. And the process of finding our histories, re-telling our stories and re-building our authentic identities, is “an act of culture” after all.[v]

i Eric Wolf, quoted in John M. Hobson’s (2004) The Eastern Origins of Western Civilization. Cambridge University Press. pg. 1.

ii Niall Ferguson (2011). Civilization: the West and the Rest. The Penguin Press HC

iii Well, we actually know who decided that Greenwich should be the centre of the map. Hint: it was not a ‘scientific’ choice.

iv Cheikh Anta Diop (1988). Precolonial Black Africa. translated by Harold Salemson (from French). Chicago Review Press.

v Amilcar Cabral (1974). “National Liberation and Culture.” Transitioin, 45: 12-17. (excerpt from a paper presented in 1970, Memorial Lecture Series at Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, under the auspices of The Program of Eastern African Studies. Translated from French to English by Maureen Webster).

Exhibiting an exhibition: A seminar on European Attraction Limited

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Thursday September 11, 2014, 12.15-16.30

Tromsø Academy of Contemporary Art, seminar room 1

«Exhibiting an exhibition: A seminar on European Attraction Limited» will take the art project European Attraction Limited as a starting point. The art project is based on a section of the Jubilee Exhibition held in Oslo in 1914, celebrating the 100 anniversary of the Norwegian Constitution. Named The Congo Village this section housed and exhibited 80 Senegalese for five months.

As a part of the 200 anniversary of the Norwegian Constitution the artists Lars Cuzner and Fadlabi wished to re-enact The Congo Village. By highlighting this historical event they wanted to question the collective loss of memory, the nation building process and celebration of Norwegian smugness.

Since the artists announced European Attraction Limited in 2013, the art project has been massively debated. The project has been criticized for being racist, as well as celebrated for highlighting important issues in Norwegian history.

In «Exhibiting an exhibition: A seminar on European Attraction Limited» the artists themselves will present the idea behind European Attraction Limited , their work with the art project and the «final result» that was presented in Vigelandsparken in Oslo this summer. In addition to the artists’ presentation postdoctoral research fellow Cathrine Baglo will contextualize European Attraction Limited by presenting her research on living exhibitions of Sami and others during the 19th and 20th Century. Moderator of the seminar will be lecturer at Tromsø Academy of Contemporary Art, Hanne Hammer Stien.

12.15-12.30: Introduction by Hanne Hammer Stien

12.30-14.00: Presentation of European Attraction Limited by Lars Cuzner and Fadlabi

14.00-14.30: Break

14.30-15.15: Lecture by Cathrine Baglo

15.15-15.30: Break

15.30-16.30: Questions and discussion

In 100 years, this will be forgotten

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 Fadlabi & Lars Cuzner:

 

While we were building the Congo Village, some passers-by stopped and asked us: “very nice project, but how are you going to show what you want to achieve with it?” Some guy told us: “really nice”. Then he laughed and winked, pointed to the huts and asked: “are you going to sell something there?” The lady on the TV panel show Nytt på nytt said: “I think the point with the project is that 100 years ago, people said: ‘really cool!’ when they saw the village. Now we have to say RACISM! and then in our minds whisper ‘really cool!’ A neo-Nazi wrote to us that this Village, which apparently is intended to pollute Vigeland’s Park, will be burned! And an “anti-racist” group told us the same. A friend told us: “This is the most important art project in years.” Another said: “you know I love you guys, but this is pointless.”

One year ago, we did an installation entitled Forensics of Attraction (2013) at Bergen Assembly, as a part of the research in this project, in which we tried to highlight a contemporary human zoo that exists in Thailand today. We showed how the so-called Long-Necked Tribes, the Paduang (aka Kayan) women, have, since the 1980s, have been displaced to ethnic villages built for tourists, which generate mas- sive revenue and have become the raison d’être, of some northern Thai states. The reactions we got to the Congo Village, were surprising to say the least.

One day, when we were working on the site, getting ready to build the Village, a lady came up to us and told us that her great-grandfather had held one of the highest positions in the making of the 1914 national exhibition. She had grown up with pictures and proud stories of the family’s involvement in an exhibition that helped define the nation’s position in industrialized Europe. And then she told us that no one in her family had ever mentioned the Congo Village. She first heard about it when we introduced this project. She said this with visible sadness.

A class of school kids came by when we were about halfway through building. The teachers had not planned on talking about this par- ticular exhibition, but the kids, who were all nine years old, obviously wanted to. We watched the teachers struggle to explain what had hap- pened here 100 years ago. The adults didn’t want to say it, they didn’t have the tools to say it, so the explanation turned into a uncomfortable non-explanation, and then they had to leave. This is partly how things disappear from history. This is how misconceptions create dishonesty or denial further down the line.

When we write together, we normally don’t use our own voices. A new joint inflection has emerged in the last four years. But I want to tell a story about Lars, so the coming lines are my voice alone. It’s OK, I guess, since I am going to talk about him.

Once, Lars told me that he wanted to prepare his daughter for the challenges of life. After all, it is still a white male-dominated world. Lars told his daughter not to take shit from boys. He said girls are not inferior boys in any way, “so, dear daughter, never let them put you down.” When he said that, he noticed a change in her face. She then asked him: “but why are you saying that? I never thought that boys were better than me.” At that moment he realised that, in seek- ing to protect her from this potential, he had introduced her to it. In a sense he had created the problem, and then tried to shield her from it. I thought a lot about that story when some of the critics of the Congo Village project created imaginary problems associated with it. And now, here we stand – the Village is built – and none of the imagined

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problems has become reality. Yet, they still live on in the minds of those who created them.

The process of building the Congo Village started four years ago, and there is still a long way to go. We are still at the beginning, for the more we learn from our research and the making of this project, the more we realise how little we know. This project took us to different countries, introduced us to different people, libraries, archives, books, sleepless nights, jetlags, joys and anxieties. During the building pro- cess, a strange feeling started to grow inside us: as we were perfecting the details of the buildings, we started to like them the way we like the objects that result from us making art. It is a strange feeling, because we were building what we described in the media as “a monument to mis- representation” and how can any one like that? Sometimes, we hated ourselves for liking the paint job we just finished or for trying to make the structure of a hut stronger. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster.

As much as this project has consumed us on so many levels, it would never have been possible to get to this point without the support of so many people. We want to thank each and every one for their help and the big role they played in the making of this project. Finally, we would like to thank you, who came to see Kongolandsbyen Anno 2014. This wouldn’t be at all possible without you being here.

Forensics of Attraction

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Bergen Assembly, 2013

The poetics of conspiracy conveys an excess of interpretive probabilities, putting extraordinary pressure on the redundant need for answering questions about something that just seems too important not to be answered, but that which also needs to appear ignored, concealed, even persecuted. The problem can’t be known – so we have to solve it and conceal it at the same time. It’s an aesthetic device that replaces the narrative elements it should have contained. The conspiracy narrative is unnarratable.

Our addiction is to the cycle of seeking truth for that which we don’t believe in.

We are aware of its impossibility, still, attracted by the beautiful sadness of the process. We take a pointless trip to Thailand and work as hard as we can to find evidence, find anything that will make us feel that we know better; that gives us the honor of carrying the burden of enlightening the world.

The Paduang (aka Kayan) people first came to Thailand from Burma as refugees and have since the 1980’s been displaced to villages built for tourism. The attractions generate massive revenue. In 1986 tourism replaced the rice industry to become the largest foreign currency earner in Thailand. Ethnic tourism greatly attributes to this success lead by the so-called “Long-Necked Tribe”. Reportedly the Kayan women are under pressure to wear the rings around their necks and are denied exit visas. Tourist who express concerns over the confinement of the women are reassured that the Kayan are paid a salary and are better off in these tourist villages rather than being caught in the cross fire between Burmese and Karenni troops. The tourist industry and the cultural industry merge as entertainment and by making the witness pay-per-view implicates the viewer, and the viewer knows it, which explains the constant unsolicited apologist justification by tourists on travel websites and blogs. The attractions are acceptable because they are culturally recognizable as sufficiently unknown to confuse entertainment for education; it is at the same time historically familiar and dismissible for its aberrancy.

In the distribution of imagery and imaginary and production of justification, the spectator is the accomplice to the crime. Cultural relativism doesn’t suffice as a defence, suggesting our times are radically different from previous times won’t qualify as an explanation and silence and distortion of the past is enough proof to doubt the truth. Furthermore, silence and distortion of the past is enough to suggest that past events were traumatic enough that the spectator feigned accountability, passing it off as forgettable and historically irrelevant.

Fadlabi & Lars Cuzner

I Wish This Was A Song. Music in contemporary art

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14 September 2012–20 January 2013

The Museum of Contemporary Art

“All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music”. (Walter Pater)
Since MTV’s breakthrough on television screens in the eighties and nineties, music videos have become public property among large parts of the population. Many people feel that music programmes resulted in the perfect blend of sound and image, and people are increasingly accustomed to and accepting of films without linear narrative action. The potential to experiment is huge. Music is a kind of collective soul: an expression of identity, image, politics and affiliation. Most people associate certain songs with their lives, with special occasions, emotions or encounters. Music often provides a multisensory experience, and many visual artists see the immediate accessibility of music as an ideal that they strive to express in their own work.

“I wish this was a song” focuses primarily on a younger generation of artists and features works from the late 1990s to 2012, but also leaves room for some historical reference works.

Music is the medium that most often resonates in contemporary art. Music has always been of central importance to humankind, and its influence on visual artists and their work is neither new nor surprising. Gustav Klimt praised Schubert, Arnold Schoenberg was inspired by Wassily Kandinsky’s abstract forms when he developed his atonal system, and Morton Feldman worked closely with Mark Rothko. It was only in the 1950s, however, when popular culture gained entrance to the elitist world of art and museums, that the auditory and visual mediums became so closely bound together. Andy Warhol’s famous “banana cover” for the Velvet Underground’s first album is now iconic in the history of music and contemporary art.

“I wish this was a song” is an international group exhibition incorporating both floors of the Museum of Contemporary Art. The exhibition focuses on the role played by music in contemporary art today. Contemporary artists employ music or musical elements in their art. As well as being visual artists, many of them are also musicians, directors of recording companies, music video producers, band members or composers.

The exhibition comprises works from around 40 artists from the USA, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Austria, United Kingdom, Peru, Turkey, the Faroe Islands, Portugal, Sudan, Iceland, Canada, Ecuador, Denmark, Finland, Poland, Switzerland and the Netherlands.  The exhibits span various forms of expression such as painting, sculpture, video, sound installations and photography.

The sound you do not hear but see, and the visual you cannot see but hear, is the work (Rob Mazurek)

While parts of the exhibition will get the audience moving, other parts will invite contemplation. The music is often the conceptual backbone of the artwork, making the visual invisible and requiring the audience to use their ears to “see”. On the other hand, some artworks are silent instruments transformed into sculptures or installations, requiring the audience to use their eyes to “listen” to imagined music. Another group of works shows the fascination of artists with rhythm as an element of composition in their art. This is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that several works incorporate a drum or drummer. Last but not least, performance is a frequent form of expression in the approach of artists to music. Some transform sculptures or installations into performative objects, making the audience active participants in their own work.

The works in this exhibition are divided into seven themes: Live!Performing sculpturesSynesthesiaGet up and dance!Sing along!Looking to the classics and The sounds of silence.

The exhibition includes a live programme that runs throughout the period of the exhibition, featuring public performances, concerts and other activities. There is also a communication programme tailored to all ages, with and without workshops. German artist Jan Köchermann is building a sculptural stage in the Banksalen Room. Artists, musicians and dancers will be invited to appear and perform here throughout the period of the exhibition. We are working to organise various events with organisations including Ny Musikk, Ultima and TraP. String players from the Norwegian Academy of Music will play several scores by Dutch artist William Engelen, known as Falten, and Escalier du Chant by German artist Olaf Nicolai will be performed by Stuttgart Neue Vocalsolisten.  The largest collaborative project is the Oslo Complaints Choir, which will perform a new Complaints Symphony featuring complaints from Oslo residents and composed by Swedish composer Georg Wadenius. This concept originated with Finnish artist duo Tellervo Kalleinen & Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen. The première will take place on the launch day, 13 September 2012.

Curators: Stina Högkvist and Sabrina van der Ley

Artist list: Nevin Aladağ, Dave Allen, Apparatjik and Autokolor, Fikret Atay, Tim Ayres, Johanna Billing, Christoph Brech, Catti Brandelius, Laura Bruce, Clegg and Guttmann, Sophie Clements, Phil Collins, Malin Elgan, William Engelen, Mohamed Ali Fadlabi, Graham Dolphin, Gilbert & George, Goodiepal, Dan Graham, Rodney Graham, Her Noise Archive, Tellervo Kalleinen & Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen (Complaints Choir), Idris Khan, Ragnar Kjartansson, Stian Eide Kluge, Erkki Kurenniemi, Jan Köchermann, João Ferro Martins, KILLL, Simon Dybbroe Møller, Bruce Nauman, Terje Nicolaisen, Camille Norment, Libia Castro & Ólafur Ólafsson, Susan Philipsz, Adrian Piper, Santiago Reyes, Michael Sailstorfer, Tom Sandberg, Wilhelm Sasnal, Félix González-Torres, Tori Wrånes, David Zink Yi.

Live appearances: Apparatjik and Sølvguttene, Diamanda Galas and KORK, KILLL, Oslo Complaints Choir and Georg Wadenius, Cikada, Olaf Nicolai and Stuttgart Neue Vocalsolisten and Tetine (Brazilian slam-dunk duo), Tori Wrånes, Camille Norment, Catti Brandelius.

Collaboration partners:UltimaNy MusikkNorsk ScenekunstbrukWiMPTrAPCinemateket

Sponsors: Fritt OrdFINNOHenry Moore FoundationMondriaan Fund

– See more at: http://www.nasjonalmuseet.no/en/exhibitions_and_events/exhibitions/museum_of_contemporary_art/I+Wish+This+Was+A+Song.+Music+in+contemporary+art.b7C_wlbI0d.ips#sthash.B65uQufy.dpuf

Uncanny

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Gallery Sound of MU

March 2011

I still remember when I landed at Torp airport as if it was yesterday. It was winter then.. and I hadn’t learn the secrets of the super wool underwear yet.

I had 60 dollars in my pocket, a small book where I painted my journey from Sudan, a handbag with some cloth, a portfolio with some drawings and I was so scared as I walked into the police station at Oslo S to seek asylum. After several interviews and health checks I ended up at a small camp in Hedmark. The camp was called Hovelsåsen. It was some kilometers outside a small place called Flisa. I can’t remember which one was smaller, Hovelsåsen or Flisa.

After some month, I couldn’t take it any more. So I moved to Oslo. I didn’t have a job or a work permit. I spent some nights in Ås with a girlfriend at her little student room. She helped me a lot. But one day she told me that she is moving to Senegal to learn the language and she thought it was better if we broke up. So, we did. And I lost the warm student room and had to move to Oslo.

It took me some nights in different parks and benches..and more nights at ”friends” places.. till one day I got a job. I had to drive and sell some stuff from Asia, at Molde Jazz Festival. When I came back, I got another Job at a small store in Markveien. Selling the same things.Every day, after we closed, I used to come back around 11 o’clock to sleep there. And this made the owner of the store really happy, cause I always “came” early to work. I tried in my free time to show my little drawings and paintings to some galleries, but I had no luck. And eventually the store closed.

One year later The store turned into some cultural cafe/bar thing. As I walked by, I start seeing people installing shows and playing concerts in my little place. They fixed it a bit, removed the back room where I use to sleep and built a nice bar and made a toilet and they named it SOUND OF MU.