Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Word Into Art: Artists of the Modern Middle East

This is an artist's book by an artist now living in Paris. Many Iraqi artists started working with artist books when it was no longer safe to go to their studios. They also wanted to be able to transport their work easily. We all remember the pillaging of the museums and libraries after the US invasion in 2003. The pages of this book are intentionally charred.

This artist's son is wrapped in Arabic poetry.

A refugee's suitcase, on paper. What would you grab if everything you took had to fit in a small suitcase? Text surrounds the silhouettes and appears in the suitcase.

This is a dictionary by a Palestinian artist, opened to the definition of "Philistine," surrounded by actual nails.

Phil·is·tine n. (fĭl'ĭ-stēn', fĭ-lĭs'tĭn, -tēn')
  1. A member of an Aegean people who settled ancient Philistia around the 12th century B.C.
    1. A smug, ignorant, especially middle-class person who is regarded as being indifferent or antagonistic to artistic and cultural values.
    2. One who lacks knowledge in a specific area.

Another artist's book. You can see its accordian shape in the lower right hand corner--above the big head of that person sitting in front of me.

This is graffiti the artist saw and copied onto paper. It says 'the envious shall not prevail."

I went to a slide presentation--at the Virginia Commonwealth University campus in Qatar--of this show; it's opening in Dubai and comprises art from the British Museum--better known for its mummies than controversial collections of Middle Eastern art, said the museum's Middle East curator, Venetia Porter. She's British but spend a good part of her childhood in Lebanon and is fluent in Arabic. After the presentation I told her this show should go to New York. The consensus seems to be that it's too controversial for the U.S.

All of the artists in this show work with transforming text into art--Linda Passman and I are fascinated by the interpaly of text and visuals. We play with a lot of ideas in the visual journal workshop we teach.

A full reception followed this free, open-to-the-public event--with falafel, hummus, chicken and vegetable pastries, grilled meats, dessert pastries, fresh fruit, fresh-squeezed strawberry juice. Quite a spread. "They always have these," my friend told me. Can you imagine such lavish spreads at a free slide presentation in America?

Not served--alcohol. This is a strict Muslim country.


Ali said...

Hi Carol,

I took a class with you about 3 years ago, and am happy to still be on your email list. Can you describe the program you are in? Or, it there a blog entry that does so? I am fascinated by what you are doing and would love to learn more, but couldn't locate a previous blog description.



Margaret C said...

Hi, Carol!
thanks for the big email and link to your blog. It makes me so happy to see your interior shots so I know what it looks like where you are living, sleeping. The secret garden in the desert; . . . all of it just amazing. I didn't see anything yet about the contest (not a contest . . . but) -- where you invited women to write about their lives (you had suggested topics). I'm eager and fascinated to read what comes out of that. Gosh, had I known you were going to be living in such a HUGE place, I WOULD have planned to come for a bit!
Alison - Carol will answer this more fully, but she was invited to teach in Doha (last year was the first time, and not nearly as long as the 6 weeks - I think it's 6 weeks - of this year).
We miss you and await your homecoming in not too very long.
love, love, love, marg

Phoebe said...

Loved reading about what you're doing. You made me homesick for sun, deserts, palm trees and the sound of "allah u akbar" from the minarets. I would give anything to exchange that for the icy roads and freezing temperatures we have here! Sounds like you're having a great time there. Enjoy it all for me too!



Carol Henderson said...

I am here teaching writing under a MEPI grant; that stands for Middle East Partnership Initiative. It is funded through the American Embassy, with Qatar University being one of the sponsors as well. I work with Qatar University students, women, helping them write personal essays about their lives--beliefs, experience, culture, dreams, etc. At the end we will produce a book of their writings. An educational consultant at QU, Mohana Rajakumar, wrote the grant and is working with me on the project.
This is my second trip to Qatar to teach. I was here last March and taugh workshops at many of the universities here. This is a country of universities!

cara said...

Hi Carol,

I loved reading about your days. I especially loved the small things you brought up (cabbage, receptions, walks, neighbors nodding). Those small delicate details make me feel like I am with you the whole time. Thanks for a glimpse into a far away amazing place.

Take care,


Matt Crane said...

Wow, Carol, your blog is awesome!