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Contemporary Art in the Middle East

Lara Baladi – Satelite Dish (detail), 2001
© Lara Baladi, Egypt

Recent and ongoing events in the Middle East being a major factor in world politics and ever present in the media keeps many of us concerned and inquisitive. Galleries and museums are investigating this topic through curatorial means and exhibiting work by artists from that region. Two exhibitions showing such work are: "The Promise, The Land” at the O.K. Centrum für Gegenwartskunst in Linz, Austria and "DisORIENTation” at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, Germany.

"The Promise, the Land – Jewish-Israeli Artists in Relation to Politics and Society”, from March 7 to April 27, 2003, is primarily concerned with how Jewish-Israeli artists are reacting to life in contemporary Israel. Israel: founded as the Jewish State, today with a fifth of its population Palestinians, a permanent hotspot of military crisis, is marked by a multitude of conflicts between religious and secular, European and Arabic Jews.

How are echoes of one´s own victim status as a Jewish artist articulated in positions on politics with respect to the Palestinians? How can objections to one-dimensional constructions of identity be formulated without turning a blind eye to one´s own respective position in society? How are criticism, dissidence, resistance, alienation and mental destabilization expressed? Which visual languages are appended or opposed to mass media depictions? The exhibition is accompanied by a symposium "Remapping the Region” (March 7 and 8), which will cover topics Identity/Representation and Political Criticism.

"DisORIENTation - Contemporary Arab Art from the Middle East”, from March 20 to May 11, 2003 is a view at work being produced in the Arab world today. The new generation of artists and intellectuals in the Middle East are breaking the mould in creative circles. They reject all attempts to categorize them collectively and are as critical of the Western conception of the Orient as they are of the social conditions encountered in the region.

The new art is political, one which reflects on moral values and the dominant religious and political codes. Arab artists and intellectuals ponder intensively how to dismantle the West´s image of the Orient. In rising to the challenge posed by notion, the DisORIENTation program aims to design a tableau that makes the diversity and exciting topicality of Arab art in the Middle East more accessible to a western public. Through interdisciplinary workshops and exchanges with German artists, DisORIENTation will also attempt to forge a relationship between Berlin/Central Europe and the Arab world. In addition, the exhibition includes a film series.

For more information, visit the following websites:
O.K. Centrum für Gegenwartskunst
Haus der Kulturen der Welt

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