History by Art – Abraaj Capital Art Prize, 2012 – Spectral Imprints

(Abraaj Capital Art Prize, 2012 – Spectral Imprints)
I had no idea what would be the experience in working with Art Dubai and Abraaj Capital Art Prize. The week passed quickly as I never expected. I wish to go back in time and spend the same week again and again and again. Since my first interesting interview with Laura Egerton (Curator of Abraaj Capital Art Prize) I knew this experience will be extraordinary.

Spectral Imprints was the name, Abraaj Capital Art Prize was the title, Nat Muller the guest curator and Art Dubai was the place. The ship of history in art set sail there defining new way to show us how some events happened in the Middle East. How these events changed our present and give us an alert of today’s events and how can they change our future. A brother shot by a sniper, conflicts, speech in a church, trade route and scam/spam emails. Personal event can become mass events to thousands of people. Conflicts can affect thousands of people’s personal lives. Speech can move armies and form kingdoms. Trade routes can change cultures and define the face of the political map. Scam emails that can write the history of timeline incidents.

To my brother

The art work made by Taysir Batniji. Hand carving on paper of his brother wedding pictures. Memory of happy times of his brother in 1985. Israeli sniper killed him when first intifada broke out at 1987 (Two years after that). This work is a way to materialize the memory and representing a personal loss of dear person into art work. His art work captivates your eyes, look from far distance you will see white papers. Come close to the art work, you will start seeing carvings in such beautiful way, like you are following a video scenes when you flow with the papers. You will sense a joyful moment with thin traces of pure human feelings that connects the past and the future, the past and the memory, permanent memory and permanent loss.

Maybe from upper view you can say its personal story, but what I see in fact it’s a story of his people (Palestinian people). I can say Batniji’s work is a symbol of a true Palestinian artist. “We are still here” the artwork said that in loud voice that all people could sense it and live with it.

Glimpse of clean history


Wael Shawky’s art work was too way special. A Big brown box with window in the front veiled by curtains. The curtains open after waiting for 2 minutes revealing small art pieces of Pope Urban II and people around him with light spot on the Pope. It’s the glimpse of clean history. The first speech that was the sparkle of bloodshed, moving the armies from Europe to the Middle East and establishing the kingdom of Jerusalem in 1099 (the end of the first crusade). It was followed by the second crusade to the ninth crusade which lasted for less than 200 years. This is how history changed in the Middle East at that time. One speech changed the map.
My view for this piece is way too deep than this. The box for me can be any place. Church, Mosque, Parliament, Round Square, TV, YouTube or anything you can tell speech through. What indicates this piece is the power of media, the power of spoken words. They can change the map, the balance of power in this world. They can move people. They can move armies. Also they can spread peace, hope and better future.

The seven seas


Risham Sayed quilts are telling me a different story every time I look at them. The fabrics, the pictures and every stitch has its own story. The starting point of these quilts is the British Empire cotton trade route through (Turkey, Bangladesh, UAE, Sri Lanka, UK, India and Pakistan). Each quilt has its own map and every map there tells me story of gold, merchants, people, struggle, resistance and life. Each quilt is made by variety of techniques that make me live every story of these maps and the people there. I could sense them in those quilts.
These quilts and the way they are made, made me wonder about the past, the present and the future. After 100 years from now maybe new quilts will be made but with different routes, different maps and different stories, but the only fact that will stay there is that our past made our present and our present will make our future, but who will tell the story at that time and how!
China

There in the middle of the lounge were seven porcelain vases. Raed Yassin wanted to tell his story in different way. Lebanon history had lot of conflicts and struggles. What I see is that Raed wanted to freeze the history and throw it back. The history of these struggles should be a still vase that the maximum thing we can do is decoration. Not to renew them or even make them our present. Cause they are ancient as the Chinese technique that made these vases. These conflicts have no place in the new Lebanon that will sure be alive and colorful with hope and peace.

A letter can always reach its destination

Who of us ever thought of collecting scam and spam emails? Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige spent the last 10 years collecting scam and spam messages. Those emails are telling a story related to some historical and geo-political events. The artists created videos for these emails as narratives performed by non-professional actors. You set and watch them telling the story, begging for money and trying to move your heart. At some moment you will feel it’s real.
These emails like milestones in history. Marked timeline events. I think this is the way these letters reached the desired destination.
At last

I couldn’t help my mind creating new thoughts each time I listened to Nat Muller giving the tour. I was amazed by her knowledge and I felt she did something there she believed in. That this spectral imprints was not just another project, but it was the project.
The team I worked with this week was formed from a very special people. The artists, curators, interns and everybody helped making this dream happen. I am really proud of them and I feel happy. The amount of knowledge and experience I got from working and talking to them. It was invaluable.
I love to write my thanks to Laura Egerton (ACAP Curator), Nat Muller (Guest Curator), Taysir Batniji (Artist), Wael Shawky (Artist), Risham Sayed (Artist), Raed Yassin (Artist), Joana Hadjithomas(Artist), Khalil Joreige (Artist), Rachel Dedman (Intern), Onrie Radovic (Intern), Mariam Rahmani (Intern), Maryam Goodarzi (Intern), Noura Alserkal (Intern), Hanan Alblooshi (Intern) and Haya Jhail (Intern). Special thanks to Ferry Biedermann and Jeroen Kramer too.