Art at the borders: spatial politics and post-colonial strategies in the Middle East. Day One

27 May 2016

Cost of entry

Free admission
The symposium will be held in English.

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Over the last years, following the militarization and the radicalization of Syria’s conflict, the notion of the border, in its expanded definition as both external and internal, physical and mental, has became a major preoccupation in the social, political and artistic fields.


The ongoing violent changes in the geopolitical map of the Middle East and the subsequent refugee crisis uncover the deep political implications of territorial interventions while at the same time revealing the xenophobic stance of Europe which in its large majority defends the return from the “open borders” condition to the nation-state-territory model. Rather than a threshold or a transit zone waiting to be crossed, the border is more than ever today a limit, a margin, a checkpoint, a wall, a fence, a barrier which separates the “insiders” from the “outsiders” bisecting cities and villages, altering landscapes, immobilizing refugees in no man’s land  areas while creating “special economic zones” in the Gulf region.
This two-day symposium –with artist’ talks, screenings, keynote lectures and panels– focuses on the artistic, activist, curatorial and academic practices that reflect the ongoing  conflicts in the Middle East and investigate alternative models of social and political geography. Can cultural spatial practices subvert national politics and oppressing strategies of sovereignty? Can radical art provoke a shift in the dominant territorial attitudes? Can  art imagine a post-national condition that goes beyond territorial thinking? Can cultural activism challenge the labour and internal migration issues inherited from colonial and postcolonial era? Does art have the power to propose counter narratives and new possibilities for critical analysis?

Curated by: Katia Arfara and Massimiliano Mollona
With: Nadje Al-Ali, Brett Bailey, Eric Baudelaire, Tania El Khoury, Amin Husain, Khaled Jarrar, Lamia Joreige, Lara Khaldi, Yazan Khalili, Sophie Nield, Sandra Noeth, Marwan Rechmaoui, Andrew Ross, Nato Thompson, Christine Tohmé, Jalal Toufic (click here to read the speakers bios)
Coordination: Marilena Batali, Vanessa Melissourgaki, Marina Troupi

Friday 27 May
OCC | Upper Stage

Welcome and introduction by Katia Arfara and Massimiliano Mollona

Lecture by Jalal Toufic: ‘Wall-to-Wall Relative Closures, then, Mysteriously, a Radical Closure’
Followed by Q&A

14:15-14:30 Pause

Panel I: ‘The borders within: art and (geo)politics’
With: Lara Khaldi, Yazan Khalili, Sandra Noeth, Marwan Rechmaoui, Christine Tohmé
Moderated by Sandra Noeth

The panel addresses the issue of “internal borders” and of how those (physical or symbolic, fictional or embodied) divisions are performed within the (geo)political context of the Middle East and with the tools of art and culture. A few prominent actors from the scene will investigate artistic and curatorial strategies of challenging existing borders as well as bordering and cross-bordering processes while questioning their impact on the construction of history, identity, nationality but also in the everyday life of the inhabitants.

16:30-16:45 Pause

Artist talk: ‘Performing the border’
Tania El Khoury in conversation with Sophie Nield

17:45-18:00 Pause

Film projection: Infiltrators (70 min., 2012) by Khaled Jarrar
Followed by a conversation of the artist with Nato Thompson (Creative Time)

The checkpoint is closed: "Detour, detour!" shouts a taxi driver, announcing the beginning of yet another uncertain search for a way around the barriers curtailing Palestinian movement in the West Bank. Infiltrators is a visceral "road movie" that chronicles the daily travails of Palestinians of all backgrounds as they seek routes through, under, around, and over a bewildering matrix of barriers. Following this high stakes "game" of cat and mouse with a handheld video camera, Khaled Jarrar’s debut documentary was the standout success at the 2012 Dubai International Film Festival, winning the Muhr Arab Documentary Prize, the Special Jury Prize, and the International Critics Prize.

Saturday 28 May
Bageion | Omonoia sq.

Lecture by Nadje Al-Ali: ‘Body politics and gendered resistance in the MEDA region: A Focus on Egypt and the Turkish-Kurdish conflict’
Followed by Q&A

Panel II: ‘Political economy and artistic labour in the Middle East’
With: Eric Baudelaire, Amin Husain, Andrew Ross
Moderated by Massimiliano Mollona

The panel discusses the issue of artistic labour, both in the specific context of the Gulf Labour campaign and in relation to contemporary art practices. What are the economies involved in the labour of artists? How should immaterial labour be remunerated? How can artists address issues of labour exploitation if not directly, through their own practices?

16:00-16:15 Pause

Artist talk: Brett Bailey in conversation with Katia Arfara and Massimiliano Mollona about Exhibit B

Video screenings: A Journey (41 min., 2006) and Nights and Days (17 min., 2007) by Lamia Joreige

A Journey follows Lamia Joreige’s grandmother Tati Rose, as her personal story meets the collective History of the Middle East. Alternating documents, Super 8mm films, photographs, interviews, landscapes and voice over, Joreige triggers a reflection on history and the conflicts in the region, as well as a reflection on time, disappearance and loss. From the Middle-East in the 30’s, when all the frontiers were open, to the occupation of Palestine, to the Lebanese civil war, during which, Rose’s son was kidnapped, until her suggested death, Joreige interrogates both her mother and grand-mother, raising questions about her own political choices, and revealing the complex relationship between three women of different generations.
Nights and Days uses notes written and filmed in Lebanon during summer 2006 as Joreige’s personal account of the experience of the war. The first part, which resembles yet is not a diary of war, oscillates between day-shots and night-shots expressing the idea of time passing,
awaiting, interrogations and fears experienced in such an unusual time. The second part is a journey to South Lebanon, which was devastated during the Israeli attack that summer. It alternates between peaceful landscapes and ones of ruins and destruction, accompanied only by music, as no words could express this devastation. Nights and Days questions the relation between image and sound and that of ‘beauty’ versus ‘horror’.

The symposium will be held in English.
Entrance is free and on a first come, first served basis.
The distribution of entrance tickets begins one (1) hour before each event.

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