Thursday, September 3, 2009

Beyrouth, 6db Underground - Portraits

So Its been awhile... lets just say I was distracted.

A few months ago I was invited by friends to see a 45 minute documentary about the Underground music scene in Beirut. It was screened in conjunction with a photography exhibition by Tanya Traboulsi. The exhibition entitled "Music is Life- Lebanese Sound Stills" provided an intimate view into the different musicians currently involved in the music scene.

The documenary.. or as the co director calls it.. portraits.. is called Beyrouth, 6db Underground. Im still not sure about the title. Beyrouth 6db Underground. I guess it is supposed to give location, theme and Im assuming the underground part references war?
The Basement, a popular club in Beirut had a slogan during the war in 06.. Basement - Its Safer Underground.. but I digress.

I am going to preface this entire rant by saying this 45 minute piece is considered a work in progress. It is a long teaser to get you excited for what is to be a full length documentary.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

NYC the Bronx hearts Gaza

This is a piece that was done in the Bronx...

For those in Gaza ... you are in our thoughts and prayers.

Stay Stong


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Tamer Nafar, DAM and Palestinian hip-hop

A dear friend of A and B living in Beirut had seen Slingshot Hiphop at a screening in the Palestinian Refugee camp Bourj Al Barajneh last August and immediately emailed raving about what an impact the film had made. The film, directed by Jackie Salloum , documents the emergence of Palestinian Hip-Hop and the numerous obstacles everyone within the hip-hop community faces. When I met up with her a few months later she still could only talk about Tamer Nafar from DAM and what a wonderful source of inspiration he had been for her. When things began to feel overwhelming and she needed to look for inner strength.. she would think of Tamer.

Thanks Tamer for inspiring...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tamara Al Samerraei @ Agial Art Gallery

Recently I have noticed, the less an artist can say about their own work, the less likely I am to interact with it. The lack of a well drafted artist's statement leads one to believe that the artist is still not entirely convinced or perhaps comfortable with what exactly they are trying to express through their work. The artist's statement for Beirut based artist Tamara Al-Samerraei's solo exhibition Something White is one sentence long.

Going Back to the catalogue for the 2006 group exhibition of women artists Shu Tabkha ya Mara co-curated by Zena el Khalil and Halleh Founouni, Tamara included a brief blurb mentioning her own inability to describe her work. Instead, there is a paragraph signed Najah Taher

“I wonder who those girls are and how much simile there is between them and the artist. The little girls are fragments of her memory, representations of what could have been a thought or a situation, a teasing temptation. They could be little peter pans, fallen angels, or fickle fairies! They are mere shadows.
There is hesitation and stinginess in the work, as if she is afraid of finalizing a statement, like the fear of finalizing a memory. For memories are like shadows, they should keep changing or else they would fade and die.
How long can these peak-a-boo creatures maintain their posture before they get tired, bored, restless, and leave the set?”

While that description rings true, how much more meaningful would it have been if only the artist had described those emotions using her own voice?

The works exhibited in Something White are surreal moments presented to the viewer as eerie vignettes of possible dreams. These girls are preserved, frozen in a space/ time that is not defined. Depending on the point of view, they are either liberated from notions of time and space or isolated from them. The back ground is minimal and non-discript, thereby adding a crucial element of suspense. In fact that is what is compelling about her work, the way in which she captures the tension found in the pause before the climax.

One example of that is Mouse Trap. Caught just before the impending action, the painting depicts a girl mischievously acknowledging the viewer as she is about to put her hand out to trigger the device. This is a game of tempting fate, and the suspense lies in the moment just before the climax, this will hurt and she knows it will hurt, yet the girl continues to threaten the viewer that she is not afraid to consciously hurt herself.

Looking at these images there is a certain familiarity with the use of iconography. Monkeys, stags, or better yet replace the bike for the wheel chair or the hospital bed and these are all objects present in the paintings of Frida Kahlo. Yet these works lack much of the richness, the detail and the intimacy.

The color palette of faded, washed out pastel pinks, greens, yellows and blues dominate Tamra's work. Traces of crimson red add interest to images of her girls at the age of self-discovery. The tone of these works is consistent, mysteriously haunting and ethereal. Unfortunately, there is an overwhelming feeling of self doubt or a lack of commitment that comes across. Is it fear or hesitation emitted from the subject or is it coming from the artist? Are these youthful figures fading from the viewer or are they hesitant marks on a canvas?

Then there is a work like A love Story to restore faith in the artist. The painting is one of the strongest in the exhibition compositionally speaking. A lone girl, clad in a vivid red dress kneels over a stag type animal that is on its back, legs in the air. Her red dress at the same time appears to almost flow from the animal's body. The viewer's eye circles visually clockwise from the girl's head, to the out-stretched hand, to the red dart in the animal and finally back to the red dress. The scene is contained within a half circle that anchors the image, repeating the circle.

With a piece such as this ... Tamara Al Samerraei is an artist to watch for her haunting portrayal of how we hurt ourselves; bows and arrows, guns, mouse traps, life and love.

Tamara Al Samerraei Something White at Agial Art Gallery from December 4th to December 27, 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

hometown baghdad - 38 webisodes

This post is in support of Muntazer Al-Zaidi ...

Hometown Baghdad is a webumentary. It is a 38 part series that follow the life of 3 college age Iraqis; Adel an engineer student and rock musician, Ausama a student at Med school, and Saif a student in dentistry. Each one is living or barely living in Baghdad. artandblow is a little late in checking it out, but better late than never!
click here to the watch all 38 installments of the webumentary...

Hometown Baghdad was launched in March 2007 and the webisodes were uploaded over a period of 3 months.
The project was a collaboration between Iraqi filmmakers Ziad Turkey, Fady Hadid and New York based youth dialogue media company, Chat the Planet.

Hometown Baghdad is currently included in War as a Way of Life guest curated by Clayton Campbell at the 18th Street Arts Center in Santa Monica, CA.

The Art Museum Toilet Museum of Art submission open call

Hello to all the artists in the Middle East and beyond...
artandblow just received an email about a submission open call
There are many museums out there and they need to be represented...

Art Museum Toilet Museum of Art now accepting images

World-renowned Collection’s First-Ever Call For Submissions
The Art Museum Toilet Museum of Art, the world’s largest collection of images of art museum toilets taken at various art museums around the world, is seeking to add to its unique collection through a call for submissions from other art museum art toilet aficionados.

The site currently houses exclusive images ranging from the prestigious marble lavatory at the Metropolitan Museum of New York, behind-closed-doors shots of the Hermitage’s latrines and the decaying (yet still flushing) pictures of the MongolianArt Museum’s commodes.

“Our collection is one-of-a-kind, yet we realize that in today’s globalized world that it is important to expand our collection of images,” stated R. M. Schlemielle, Director of The Art Museum Toilet Museum of Art. “We are seeking to have an image from every museum on the globe represented in our collection.”

The Art Museum Toilet Museum of Art was officially founded in 2005 and since its inception, staff members have tirelessly been collecting images from around the world. Believed by experts to be the world’s largest, it was built to showcase the forgotten art that can be found in every museum.

By opening its doors and asking the public to add to its collection, the museum is entering an exciting new chapter for both the museum and the art world.
The official submission process includes sending an image to: Museum officials ask that each image be labeled with the name of the museum, the day the photo was taken and the name of the photographer. All will be posted if the image is selected.
"The Art Museum Toilet Museum of Art was founded in the spirit of Marcel Duchamp, who in 1917 produced the sculpture “Fountain” and changed the way we view art," Schlemielle said. "This piece essentially showcased that art may not be hanging in the proud walls of a museum gallery, but in the common objects of everyday life -- even in the restroom. This website is asking some of the same questions about the current art establishment and questions what defines high brow art."

For more information about The Art Museum Toilet Museum of Art please contact:

*Please note all images sent to the museum become property of the museum and can be printed & distributed at will and become property of The ArtMuseumToiletMuseum of Art.

The Art Museum Toilet Museum of Art is a collection that features digital works. All images, text, concepts sent to the museum become property of the museum and can be copied, distributed and utilized for marketing collateral at will. The Museum also sells a catalog, select clothing, postcards, posters, prints and CDs.

Here is an example:

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Je Veux Voir (I Want to See)

Recently I had the chance to see Khiam, a film by Khalil Joreige and Joana Hadjithomas presently at Pratt Manhattan Gallery as part of the Zones of Conflict exhibition curated by TJ Demos. I must admit that when I had received a reminder email about a screening of Je Veux Voir at the MoMA I was hesitant to leave home and make the trek to mid-town, the heart of holiday shopping madness. However, its winter in NYC and what better way to stay warm than seeing a movie. Over several years now I have followed the work of the directors of the film and I was a bit curious. Plus, who could pass up a chance to see the ever elegant icon of cinema Catherine Deneuve acting along side Rabih Mroueh?

After reading some posts about the movie by other writers who had seen the film either in Beirut last month or in France where it was released last week ... I was prepared to come out wishing I had never gone in, even if there were supposedly a handful of memorable moments. Like Rabih Mroueh points out in the film, he wasn't very interested in taking a trip to visit the south because it made him feel like a tourist, I too was apprehensive about watching this trip. Yet the film had gained notoriety at the Cannes Film Festival this year where it was included in the "Un Certain Regard" selection. So maybe it wouldn't be that difficult to sit through.

Entering the MoMA movie theater, almost all the seats were taken so I sat front row center. As soon as the movie began I was positive I would in fact have a good laugh ...and not in a good way. Within the first few minutes however I was drawn in, and excited to participate in this day trip. I wanted to see where they went, experience getting there, and how the story would unfold.

Before continuing any farther, I think it is necessary to make a brief detour. Je Veux Voir brings forth issues of memory that have surfaced in past films by the directors. Autour de la Maison Rose (1999) is one of Khalil and Joana's first full length films whose story line was centered around the re-urbanization project of Beirut following the end of the civil war. The film depicts the debate within a family made refugees during the war as they confront eviction from an abandoned house they had squatted. Members of the local community become involved in their fight to save the house they had made theirs. With the re-urbanization project many old historic homes were torn down to make way for large modern apartment buildings. In reality, this came to be quite a topic of debate for many because of its socio economic impact of the city. Looking back on that film and the issues it raised about rebuilding, erasing the urban landscape and the memories attached, it is interesting to see how these same directors, almost ten years later found a way to discuss the southern suburbs of Beirut and the devastation of the south in 2006. With the climax of the film there is a troubling sensation of disorientation.

What stunned me most about this film is its simplicity. It is exactly what it is, two people meeting for the first time, about to embark on a trip that would bring them closer. During the car ride there are touching moments of intimacy where the two begin to talk about life, and acting yet are brought back to the reality of the situation. They are interrupted abruptly by the sudden noise of Israeli jets flying over head or by land mines under foot. It is as if there is no escaping the war despite its official end. Watching these two actors develop a relationship we see the apprehension and uncertainty in Catherine Deneuve's face. The more uncomfortable she feels the more she stresses the need for fastening her seat belt as Rabih continues with the certain confidence one can only gain through experience.

Having seen the film, the book Le Tour de France par Deux Enfants , written by G Bruno after the annexation of Alsace Lorrain comes to mind. It is an example of what this film achieves. The book followed two children as they enbarked on a year long trip to discover the regions of the country. They were visiting areas of the country that had not been accessible for a period of time. Mandatory reading in French grade school, Le Tour de France par Deux Enfants was a sort of rediscovery of the richness of the country. While Je Veux Voir is by no means intended as a propaganda or instructional tool as was the case of Le Tour de France Par Deux Enfants, there is a common idea of the trip as a way of confronting and renegotiating one's country. Rabih and Catherine with the help of the directors are discovering and at the same time rediscovering an area of Lebanon that had in recent history been occupied as well as being the site of an extremely destructive war. It would seem that the act of making this trip to the south is a type of memory site as described by French historian Pierre Nora. As Nora suggests "fear of a rapid and final disappearance combines iwth anxiety about the meaning of the present and uncertainty about the future to give even the most humble testimony, the most modest vestige, the potential dignity of the memorable." This film blocks the work of forgetting with its willingness not to forget the recent past.

Truly Khalil and Joana have an eye for visually poetic moments. The over all look of the film is visually exquisite. Throughout the film, the moments of silence can at times be more powerful than the dialogue. Like in life, sometimes absence of speech is stronger than words. At other points there is visual relief from the seriousness of the subject matter as the countryside rolls by with its lush greenery and rich colors of the crop fields.

It is interesting to mention Wael Noureddine's July Trip as a contrast. July Trip took the viewer into the heart of the 33 day war. Wael filmed the seemingly endless miles of destroyed shops and houses from his car window. Driving and filming the structures we got a sense of the magnitude of the situation. He chose to show the gruesome effects of violence. Yet Khalil and Joana take us to one village or rather a portion of a village after the cease fire, and in doing so they define the location, it is where Rabih spent his childhood, making the trip intimatly personal. For Catherine Bint Jbeil will no longer a word on a map, it is the familial home of someone whom she would refer to as a friend by the end of the film.

Let it Go by Scrambled Eggs signals the end of the film. It is a wonderful track and a perfect ending to a not so perfect day.

Love dear love just listen to me let it go.. let it go go..

The Trailer:

Interview with Rabih Mroueh:

A selection of scenes from the movie: