National Pavilion UAE - On Museums and Arab Representation in Venice | By Munira Al Sayegh
  • On Museums and Arab Representation in Venice | By Munira Al Sayegh

    After spending several years visiting and studying ancient and key works from different eras in various museums revolving around different cultures and histories, within this trip I began to find it quite difficult to grasp the fascination I once had surrounding them. Astounded by this major rebelling force, my epiphany in relationship to this difficulty came about whilst walking in Venice and understanding its reachable and highly accessible history. I suddenly did not feel the need to visit a space that institutionalised a movement, barricading it within walls. The city itself mirrored in many ways an outdoor, and endless museum and I believed that I did not want to be told what was important, but instead I wanted to experience it.  I then met with a conflicting thought, ‘what could be greater than this, what is more historically and culturally dense than the day to day life of a Venetian that it needs to be taken care of and homed?” With the strength of the curiosity surrounding that thought I made my way into Museo Archeologico Nationale in San Marco.

    The lifeless walls were adorned with ornaments dating back from the 1st century BC as you walked on through there was silent interruptions of Contemporary Art.  This to me is what brought out this museum mainly. I only began to pay attention to the old through the reflections of the new. These interruptions made me appreciate and revaluate my  understanding of what is now the Contemporary in relationship to the first evolutions of man kind to the present day. The curaiting was done so gracefully, and allowed you to understand  the importance of a museum of such nature in a contemporary and new city. Documenting the now is very important and can be traced to several social, political, scientific, and religious subjects, but the key to that is understanding the roots of these discussions in terms of the past. With the past we are the present, thus having museums of such nature in the UAE is ideal as we are looking to explain the depths of our account through oral histories, and objects, throning a soon gone people.

    With this balance of contemporary, and historically relevant pieces one can argue, the importance in the language of Art. The Biennale usually plays on subjects that touch with the now, for example, the Iraqi pavilion. A highly relevant space, touching on socio and political subjects it roots the problem of now in an in depth manner. Through installations of cardboard ‘house slippers’ and a bed, to the actuality of a vintage desk with the sound of a radio fuzzing out in the background. Although it is highly contemporary it was able to find the depth of history, through the tool of art. It summed up a history that has been on repeat, and then added the level of now through technology but at the same time using that to take you back to a simpler time of sweet Iraqi tea and chatter. It allows you to travel through time, and culture taking you a day into society’s mind, a society almost romanticised to us through western media. This pavilion played on all modes of expression, from shock, to pity, to humor in the darkest of days, to falling through the cracks of the night, it brought to life a reality so mildly correctly personified in the sub-world in which the majority occupy. With that said, as I was exiting the space, I left with the feeling that joins you when you are leaving a loved one’s home.

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