[-empyre-] Welcome to week 2 of February 2020 discussion: Thinking differently in scholarship and curation

Kay Dickinson kay.dickinson at concordia.ca
Mon Feb 10 06:43:37 AEDT 2020

West Asia, you say, Dale? I’ve presented work at a few Asian Studies conferences now and am frequently jarred by how regularly smart, well-educated people who hold university jobs in that discipline remark to me that the countries I study (Palestine, Syria, the UAE…) “aren’t in Asia.”  It would be intriguing to see how many Asian Studies departments actually count “Middle Eastern” specialists within their ranks. We might have a long way to go.  More typically, people whose research springs from or takes them there are housed in either Middle East Studies or Islamic Studies.  The latter betrays how even deliberately secular investigations get circumscribed and stereotyped.  The former designation has always seemed somehow more inclusive.  Personally, I work within frameworks that foreground “Arab” as their regional classification.  That grouping word – amongst other things – brings with it a proud anti-imperialist history that calls out for our attention in an increasingly neo-colonized world.  Not that pan-Arabism or Arab nationalism ever cut ties with internationalism.  In my (main) field of cinema, these movements encouraged radical solidarity between Palestinian and Japanese freedom fighting filmmakers.  Their foundations in Syria saw their roots nourished in film school education in the Soviet Union.  Arab filmmakers wrote manifestos collaboratively with comrades from Latin America and Africa.  In fact, if anything, it was the ties to other Middle Eastern countries like Turkey and Iran that seemed less to the forefront and for evident and shifting geopolitical reasons.  Could a focus on “the Middle East” today, for instance, give us greater awareness of a history of Iranian pro-Palestine films or how Syrian refugees are continuing their art in exile in Turkey?  Might “the Middle East” encourage South-South alignments of all stripes that speak to an independence from the way cinematic culture is often pressurized into routing itself through the gatekeeping institutions of Europe and North America?

On 2020-02-09, 11:24 AM, "empyre-bounces at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au on behalf of Dale Hudson" <empyre-bounces at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au on behalf of dmh2018 at nyu.edu> wrote:

    ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
    Thanks, Beth and Sean, for sharing some of your research on ways that artists in KSA and UAE are navigating the limitations of territory.
    I realized that the numeral dates were aligning with the weekend for many subscribers, so I’m starting week 2 on Sunday evening my time, which hopefully will more closely align with the start of the week in Australia and start of the day in North America.
    This week, I’ve invited Kay Dickinson and Nat Muller to extend the discussion into ways to think differently in our scholarship and curation. 
    I’m pasting their bios below for a sense of the expertise that they bring to the discussion, particularly as it concerns art and media that are labelled as “Middle Eastern” or “in the Middle East.”
    I’m curious how we as artists, scholars, curators, activists, theorists, students, and so forth can make ideas and perspectives visible and legible to broader publics without using terms that are reductive (like the ones Beth mentioned in her last post) or inaccurate (like Middle East) since the structures of publishing and curating are often based on keyword-search-friendly reproduction of these reductive and inaccurate categories.
    There was an article published online in one of the arts/museums journals about an ongoing discussion about replacing Middle East with West Asia or Southwest Asia at a one of the museums in London, I believe. If I find the link, I will share. 
    2—Thinking differently in scholarship and curation
    Scholarship and curation often adopt the nation-state as a category of analysis. Much like art and film are promoted at commercial festivals and art market, our scholarship and curating often under-represent the significance of other aspects of identity and politics. Even museums and educational institutions continue to reduce artists to place of birth and residence.
    This week considers ways of thinking differently, whether the transcontinental, pan-Arab, pan-African, and non-aligned movements of the mid-20th century or the more recent deterritorialized movements that emerge via internet and mobile networks, often using the idea of the nation-state as an oppositional strategy against corruption and nepotism.
    How can we conceive more complicated ways to organize art practices? Are concessions to the logics of film festivals and art markets in our publishing, curating, and programming unavoidable?
    Kay Dickinson is Professor of Film Studies at Concordia University, Montreal.  She is the author of Off Key: When Film and Music Won’t Work Together (Oxford University Press, 2008), Arab Cinema Travels: Transnational Syria, Palestine, Dubai and Beyond (bfi, 2016) and Arab Film and Video Manifestos: Forty-Five Years of the Moving Image Amid Revolution (Palgrave, 2018).
    Nat Muller is an independent curator and writer based between Amsterdam and Birmingham. Her main interests are: image politics and contemporary art from the Middle East. Recent exhibitions include Spectral Imprints for the Abraaj Group Art Prize in Dubai (2012); Adel Abidin’s solo exhibition I love to love… at Forum Box in Helsinki (2013); This is the Time. This is the Record of the Time at Stedelijk Museum/American University of Beirut Gallery (2014/15); the A.M. Qattan 2016 Young Artist of the Year Award at Qalandiya International in Ramallah and The Mosaic Rooms in London; Neither on the Ground nor in the Sky at ifa Gallery Berlin (2019). In 2015 she was Associate Curator for the Delfina Foundation’s Politics of Food Program (London). She has curated film programs for Rotterdam’s International Film Festival, Norwegian Short Film Festival, International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, and Video D.U.M.B.O New York. Her writing has been widely published and she edited Sadik Kwaish Alfraji’s monograph (Schilt Publishing, 2015), Nancy Atakan’s monograph Passing On (Kehrer Verlag, 2016), Walid Siti’s monograph (Kehrer Verlag, forthcoming 2020). Her AHRC-funded PhD project at Birmingham City University researches science fiction in contemporary visual practices from the Middle East. She curated the Danish Pavilion with Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour for the 58th Venice Biennale in 2019. www.natmuller.com 
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