National Pavilion UAE - Lorenzo Tel reviews Arab participation in the Venice Biennale
  • Lorenzo Tel reviews Arab participation in the Venice Biennale

    Saudi Arabia
    Here it is Saudi Arabia with Rhizoma, generation in waiting. A side event that opens the reality of a country ready to contemporary thanks to the new generation of artists. The title has a direct reference to the word rhizome, which comes from the ancient greek and indicates a subterranean root of a plant that develops its roots both horizontally and vertically, as the same new Saudi culture ready to defy the force of gravity. You should therefore stay the proceedings in front of some works of the pavilion of the
    Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Nouf Alhimiary in the photographic series What She Wore emulates the outfit of the day of the fashion bloggers around the world, with the result of a long unfolding of women in abaya, “the unchangeable outfits of Saudi women.” As the artist herself points out, is a group of women who could be seen from a distance look like the same person, and is this the only sketched out in the exhibition attempt to address the issue of individuality in the sense really critical. In front, the works of Eiman Elgibreen tell a different story. Or rather, the same story read with different glasses. A series of small paintings show women in abaya submit to the dancers of Degas, and the courts of x-factor version of Banksy Trials ballet, just painted, waiting for a comment. So far, a well-deserved boost to the attitude towards talent show of Western art system. If it were not for the title of the work: Do not look at me look at my art. A yearning for spiritual inwardness and recognition that would be a provocation indignant
    and effective, by Saatchi or Gagosian. But in a country where the woman’s body is demonized, covered, segregated, punished, and for the way in which political and civil rights begin now to make small but significant improvements, such a task is not only
    controversy, but the all unpopular. Saudi Arabia is a country that has only recently become visible to the system of
    international contemporary art, and it is a country in which the decision to embark on an
    artistic journey, even more so for a young man of talent, remains a complicated choice, a social challenge. The exhibited works are strongly connoted in the sense of nationalism, and pride towards their cultural habitat. The impression is that the intersection of these different and common struggles to emerge, the issue of women has remained virtually strangled. Rather than rejecting their own reality, Eiman Elgibreen makes a banner of pride and belonging.

    On the contrary, in the pavilion of Bahrain, on his first official participation at the Biennale. Except for the presence of the artist Camille Zakharia (Tripoli, Lebanon in 1962 living in Bahrain), the pavilion shows a predominance of women. The other two artists of the pavilion are in fact Mariam Haji (Bahrain 1985) and Waheeda Malullah (Bahrain 1978).The photos from the series A Villager’s Day Out, by Waheeda Malullah, show a girl in her black abaya in the act of wandering and exploring desolate places but attractive in a delicate duality between childlike curiosity and isolation that expresses no screams, but in a totally effective, the existential condition. The photograph is a kind of visual notebook for her, a physical and mental space in which to project his inner world. She does not use the camera to document the reality, then, but as a starting point for creative processing that fully expresses her point of view. The photographic collage c/o, by Camille Zakharia, is a way to connect his various experiences and to propose to the observer in a “cool” to establish a dialogue that the personal becomes collective experiences shared beyond the geographical boundaries and cultural. The first question that the artist asks himself about the meaning that it has had thirty years ago to leave his country – Lebanon – and how this experience has changed his way of being. “His country” is no longer – or better is not only – the homeland, the birthplace and family affections, his country were also the places where he has passed, staying for a certain period. His photographic collage brings together hundreds of images (550 to be exact) taken by the author except those that portray him and his brothers or other family members, who come from the family. Mariam Haji, finally, presents her personal interpretation of the victory. Victory (2013) is a drawing on paper with crayons, charcoal, pigments and other materials along eight meter where the young Mariam Haji, in a furious horse race Berbers, paints the wheel of an attack on a donkey: the rejection of male hegemony is also rejection of its symbols, and its instruments.

    Welcome to Iraq, has a section of works by eleven artists who live and work in the country. The focus is on the nature of everyday life as it is now lived in Iraq. The exhibition space is transformed into a real living room where visitors can sit, read, discuss and learn about the true culture of Iraq too loaded to be unfounded judgments. So, The primary objective is to provide – after decades of repression, censorship and conflicts that have limited the development of culture in Iraq – a cross-section of diverse
    artists working in Iraq: the artists in the exhibition, all Iraqis living in Iraq, represent two generations of artists from all parts of the country.The works on display range from photography to design, from painting to video, sculpture, installation and textiles. Jonathan Watkins and Tamara Chalabi, President of RUYA (Ruya Foundation for Contemporary Culture in Iraq (RUYA) is a non-profit organization Iraq and Iraqi non-governmental organization founded by lovers of art and culture; primary purpose
    of the foundation is to promote the development of culture in Iraq, and to build bridges with the rest of the world), have collaborated with researchers and experts within the country to search for artists. They organized information events for groups of more than 90 artists, and visited studies in Baghdad, in the provinces of Kurdistan and to Babylon, and Basra. The exhibition introduces Iraq in the apartment on the first floor, creating a deliberately drawing-room and an interactive space where visitors can sit, read and learn the culture of Iraq, while drinking tea. The peaceful atmosphere and home building will be maintained through the use of the furniture already present and a slight intervention on the existing architecture.The emphasis is on the artistic nature of everyday life as it is lived now in Iraq, showing a determination to fend for themselves, and inventiveness born of extraordinary historical circumstances.

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