Brian Kennedy and Victor Sloan: Voices from the Levant
In November last year artists Brian Kennedy and Victor Sloan travelled to Syria and the Lebanon. They videoed interviews with artists and curators allowing them to express their views and aspirations on a diverse range of topics such as feminism, censorship, Facebook and freedom to create art. Since then the situation in Arab countries has become a major news topic and the two artists turned these interviews into a video installation that was seen in Belfast and Dublin.
Since then the artists have used Skype interviews to make contact with artists, writers and filmmakers in Palestine, Jordan and Egypt. They also interviewed an archaeologist and ancient historian who has travelled extensively in North Africa and was in Libya both before and after Gaddafi’s rise to power. This interview gives a historical context to the overall work.
For this exhibition ‘Voices from the Levant’ all these video interviews by Kennedy and Sloan have been brought together as a video installation that allows an insight into the creative aspirations of artists in the Arab world at an important historical moment.
Khaled Hourani was born in Hebron and is an artist, curator and educator. He is the Arts Director at the International Academy of Art Palestine (IAAP) in Ramallah; previously he was General Director of Fine Arts for the Palestine Ministry of Culture. He is currently working on the project ‘Picasso in Palestine’. The IAAP requested the loan of Picasso’s ‘Buste de Femme (1943) from the Van Abbemuseum. The procedures and negotiations to bring about the exhibition, which will take place from 24 June to 20 July 2011, were complex. The film director Rashid Masharawi is making a documentary of the process that lead to the exhibition and the Belgian art magazine A Prior will publish an issue dedicated to project.
Frank Sear is the Professor of Classics at the University of Melbourne, Australia. He is a Cambridge graduate and while completing his PhD at Cambridge he was a scholar at the British School at Rome, he lived in Rome for five years. After completing his PhD he excavated for four years in Libya at Benghazi and Leptis Magna (Lebda). Frank has also directed archeological projects in Jordan, France and Italy and has held various fellowships in Oxford, Berkeley and Rome. His most recent book Roman Theatres: An Architectural Study (Oxford Monographs on Classical Archaeology) is seen as the most comprehensive account of the subject.
Raed Ibrahim was born in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia. He studied at the Fine Art Institute at the Lebanese University, Beirut. Raed is currently living and working in Amman, Jordan. He has exhibited widely in Jordan, Lebanon, Ireland, UK, Holland and the US and has had residencies in Darat al Funun,Jordan; Zurich, Switzerland and Cork, Ireland. He recently had exhibitions at the French Cultural Center in Amman and at Makan Amman’s leading experimental space for contemporary art.
Mais Darwazah is a Palestinian filmmaker based in Amman, Jordan. The core subject of her work revolves around the question of ‘personal’ Arab identity. For her film Take Me Home Mais went to Damascus in Syria where her grandmother lived. There she talked to her grandmother about past times, about how the family had moved from Palestine to Jordan to Syria and how her grandfather and granduncle had left her grandmother there while they traveled onto Turkey because for the third rime they had become political exile. This was around the time of the Second World War and the letters sent back from Turkey were censored. Mais is currently working on her new film My Love Awaits Me by the Sea.
Issa Touma is an Armenian photographer and curator based in Aleppo. He set up the first photographic gallery in the Middle East in 1996 and presents an annual Women’s Festival and an annual International Photographic Festival. Later this year an exhibition of his photographs will be shown in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Issa has also lectured at Tate Modern about artistic activity in the Middle East. He is currently restoring an old electricity plant into a large multi gallery space that he hopes will bring Syria onto the international stage. In June this year he did a lecture tour of Europe talking about the situation in the Middle East.
Nora Murad is an actress, Artistic director of Leish Troupe a Syrian independent Movement Theater company. She was born in Moscow where she lived for the first nine years of her life. She also lived in Paris for two years, yet she feels that it is only in Syria that she can create meaningful work. Based in Damascus, Nora is producing challenging work based on the human body. Muslim art is famous for its abstract and geometric forms but prohibits the depiction of living creatures including humans. Nora speaks about the role of women in Syria and how the west has a totally distorted view, she says, “Gender problems are the same all over the world.”
Nazem Jawesh is a Kurd and was interviewed in the bar of the Baron hotel in Aleppo. The hotel was made famous because people like Agatha Christie and Laurence of Arabia stayed there and also British spies pretending to be archaeologists, spied on the Germans, who were building a railway from Berlin to Baghdad. Oil was important then as well as now. Nazem worked for many years in a factory and during this time he photographed the exhausted faces of his work mates. These photographs have become famous images and have been shown in Europe as well as in the Middle East.
Nasser Omar is an actor, scriptwriter and director. In 1994 he established Pioneer Productions Company (PPC) a company that strives to push the boundaries in film and documentary making by working with a professional technical team, directors, art directors and scriptwriters. Among the many organizations who PPC have worked with are UNICEF, Al Jazeera and the British Embassy in Jordan.
Sonia Farid is a Cairo based writer at Al Arabiya News and teaches English literature at Cairo University. Her Letter from Cairo blog has been published across the world. She took part in the January 25 Revolution and experienced Tahrir Square first hand. She is currently involved in several political awareness campaigns that work towards establishing a civil, democratic state in Egypt as well as promoting the principles of citizenship, tolerance, and peaceful coexistence.