Framer Framed presents the second chapter of the three-part series Crisis of History by curator Robert Kluijver. In the exhibition Fight History – Strategies of Resistance artists critically relate to historical images and narratives.
In the second chapter of Crisis of History: Fight History – Strategies of Resistance, artists search for strategies of resistance in order to survive historic paralysis. The subversive potential of art is mobilized to rock the boat to the point of capsizing. In their search for a breakthrough, the artists poke holes in the fabric of history by asking deeply disturbing questions. How blinding can the fear of the Western Muslim become? Is the Western dream being sacrificed on the Syrian battlefield? Have we understood the Iraqi population at all? Can we restore the humanity of the refugee traversing Europe? Do we believe romantic love can be in Saudi Arabia?
These artists resist the tendency to uniformity by proposing new cultural forms, mixing old and new, fiction and reality, ‘East’ and ‘West’ in surprising yet compelling ways. The used strategies of resistance include creating alternative histories, role reversal and questioning the aesthetics of violence and militarization. The artists seek, stretch and ultimately fracture the boundaries of a discourse, which considers itself to be universal.
Fight History includes works by artists from the Middle East and beyond. Despite an international career, many of the artists are showing for the first time in the Netherlands; a few of them are making new work for the exhibition.
Nermine Hammam (Egypt & Japan) speaks about the disillusionment in post-revolution Egypt, Shadi Alzaqzouq (Gaza and Paris) about that of the Arab youth between Palestine and the banlieues, Wafaa Bilal (Iraq and Chicago) hacks a videogame to kill Bush and thus avenge the death of his brother, Alain Declercq (France) after impersonating a terrorist is arrested as one, and Tammam Azzam (Damascus) creates flags for the parties at war in Syria (the UN system, Russia and the Islamists). But resistance can also take other forms. Aman Mojadidi (Afghanistan, West) rewrites history by reinventing archaeology – with the help of a 3D printer. This machine is also used by Eric Parnes (New York, Iran) to democratize the drone. In a completely different league is Ayman Yossri (Saudi Arabia, Palestine) who seeks to express his romantic longings, in a society where this is taboo, through his art and performances.
Shadi Alzaqzouq is a Palestinian artist from Gaza, born in Benghazi (Libya) and residing in Paris since 2005. His paintings are intensely connected to his sociopolitical environment. While his work once vented his frustration at being one of many stateless and immobilized artists of Gaza, he now comments caustically on the clash of cultures he experiences around himself in Paris.
During the Arab Spring he started imagining what such a movement could look like in Paris and its suburbs, and put this into large-scale paintings. This series is called ‘National Clothesline’ as he imagined the national identities touted by the powers that be as dirty underwear hanging to dry. In the next series, ‘Muslim Punk’, the artist explores the complex identities he encounters in his immediate environment. In a seeming contradiction, the personalities combine radical contestation with deep spiritual feeling, and crass French popular culture with global Arab revolutionary élan.
Tammam Azzam, born in Damascus in 1980, fled to Dubai with his wife and daughter in 2013. A painter by profession, the absence of a studio in exile encouraged him to experiment with digital art. The Syrian Museum indirectly refers to the vast cultural wealth of this ancient nation, which is being destroyed in the civil war. By placing the icons of Western culture on the ruined landscapes of Syria, the artist asks what remains of the Western ideals of enlightenment and modernity, the same ideals which propelled Syria from the Ottoman period to Arab socialism. His three flags – United Nations, United States and United Russia – show how each external power fighting the proxy war in Syria has carved out a territory for itself. The parties at war are appropriately symbolized by their weapon of predilection: a Kalashnikov for Russia, an M-16 for the USA and the sword of justice for the United Nations, whose flag strangely resembles that of fundamentalist Salafist groups. The name of each group is reproduced in Arabic using Koranic scripts, recalling their pretense to absolute truth, in the same way as religion.
Nermine Hammam is an Egyptian artist born in Caïro in 1967. The works in the Unfolding series were made in the year following the fall of the Mubarak regime and represent attempts by the artist to deal with the pain and violence that surround her, and how such feelings can, or cannot, be relayed by mass media. The images in the foreground have been sampled from the international media: some have become iconic. By transposing them onto delicate Oriental backgrounds (mostly 19th century
Japanese prints) the artist brings them to life again. She states “The aesthetic distance [these backgrounds] provided, that of Japanese good manners and taste, allowed me to gaze at the minute horrors of military rule without feeling robbed of my humanity.”
Imran Ahmad Khan
Imran Ahmad Khan’s sculptures are inspired by the cacophony of Lahore. They conjure up both the city’s tense present and its colonial past. The artist, who was born in Lahore in 1974 and grew up in an area of the city known for its traditional crafts and street industries, recycles found objects in his works as a commentary on the social and cultural fractures he experiences. Muslim Zion (2014) combines a fan from the colonial era with a welded structure familiar in Pakistan’s back alleys. The fan can no longer turn, as a promise unfulfilled, full of drive but blocked by its own structures. The title is derived from a recent book by the political philosopher Faisal Devji, in which he points out the similarities between the creation of Pakistan (1947) and Israel
(1948) as countries whose identity was based not on a common history or sense of community, but on a religious ideal couched in progressive and universal terms. Fire Expander (2015) is a commentary on the militarization of the response to any crisis, as if the only way to fight fire is with more firepower. The work was made specifically for this exhibition.
Other participating artists:
Wafa Bilal, Iraq/USA
Ayman Yossri Daydban, Saudi Arabia/Palestine
Alain Declercq, FranceImran Ahmad Khan, Pakistan
Aman Mojadidi, USA
Eric Parnes, USA/Iran
Ruben Pater, The Netherlands
Framer Framed: Crisis of History #2 – Fight History
February 8 t/m March 8 2015
Wed – Sun 14 – 22 hrs
Framer Framed in de Tolhuistuin
More info here.