The Darat al Funun Summer Academy 2022

In line with the exhibition Re-rooting, curated by Rana Beiruti, and the investigations that are on display showcasing the depth of the economic, urban, material, and political systems and processes that influence our daily experiences, the Summer Academy 2022, titled Interrogating Earth draws upon some of these critical artistic practices and processes to inquire and build further on local knowledge with regards to our shared geography.

The academy offers participants the space to develop their art practice within a critical setting that encourages experimentation, knowledge-sharing, and communal learning. Using the notion of ‘earth memory’ as a starting point for our investigations, participants of the academy will hone their practices, with a common goal of ‘mining’ through the memory of the earth to uncover or reveal the narratives, stories, and systems that can form a better understanding of our relationship to the land, cities, food, people, and what is on our plates. 

The summer academy will focus on investigative and research-based practices, and unfolds in four chapters; on cities, archives, archaeology, and ecology, each of which we consider a repository of information and knowledge for what we deem ‘earth memory’. 

Through a combination of theoretical learning modules, excursions for field research, and acts of rapid publishing, participants will look at how modern tools of material collection (archival material, citizen journalism, photography, video, oral histories) can be used as fragments of evidence with which to tackle the complicated issues of today.

What do these holders of memory reveal and what events take place that help us better understand our dwellings, our relationships, our land, and what’s on our plates? What relationships do we need to recover or build as new? What narratives, stories, and systems can be uncovered and what can this type of forensic analysis verify or deny in the era of post-truth? Is there one truth or are these tools a means to justify a pre-existing narrative? 

The 2022 faculty for the summer academy includes ‘Foundland collective’, Khalid Bashir, ‘Design Earth’, and ‘A Growing Culture’, and ‘Esmat—Publishing List’ as well as excursions to harvest wheat with the team from Zikra for Popular Learning, to the forest with Deema Assaf (Tayyūn Research Studio), and to a permaculture farming experience with Carob Farms. The acts of rapid publishing will be overseen by Rana Beiruti, who curated this program. 

Summer Academy 2022 Program

Module 1: On Cities
Khalid Al-Bashir
‘Thinking About The City’

If thinking about reality an act of imagination,
And writing about it is a fictionalization of it,
And reality itself is stranger than fiction,
Then how do we even begin to talk about truth?

Urban spaces are complex environments shaped by far-reaching, and often not instantly visible relationships and interactions between materials and ecologies. This makes them cryptic environments, often extending well beyond our perceptions. On the other hand, as urban-dwellers, we are often absorbed and trapped into our own realities, offered little time to think beyond ourselves and lives.

How is it then that we can transcend our perceptions and decode the city? And why is this relevant? In this workshop, we depart from introspections into ‘thinking’ as an act of imagination, and of medium as something we think through and with. We will move between thought and action, truth and fiction, micro and macro, blurring these dualities as we take one as an entry point to the other and vice versa.

Using a series of case studies that range from the arts to political planning, we attempt to understand the act of ‘thinking the city’ as a craft inseparable from reading, practicing and shaping it. Through group discussions, workshops and some field experiments we will also start to speculate on how our own acts of thinking can become access points to decoding the city, revealing it and reimagining it.

Khaled Al-Bashir is a writer and architectural researcher. His practice and reflections sit on the intersection of design, space and politics. He is an Associate Lecturer in Architectural Histories and Theories at Falmouth University and has taught at the Architectural Association summer school.

His work ‘Unforming Zionism’ is exhibited in the re-rooting exhibition at Darat Al-Funun. It is a multimedia visual essay centered on an investigation into the Haifa Governmental Hospital in Palestine, built-in 1938. Through counter-cartographic decoding of the material, economic and political networks complicit in the construction of the hospital, the essay offers a lens through which we can observe and understand colonial Zionist and British collusions that led to the dispossession of Palestinians.

Module 2: On Archives
Foundland collective
‘Politics of plant archiving / The afterlife of plants’

Taking inspiration from the work being done at the Jordanian Royal Botanic Garden in Amman, we dive into the practicalities of digital methods used for the archiving of indigenous plants. In a 3 day workshop, involving a mini screening program, field trip, and discussion sessions with Foundland Collective. We will discuss archiving practices of organic matter, its necessity, complexities, and intertwined connection with colonial histories.

Foundland Collective was formed in 2009 by South African Lauren Alexander and Syrian Ghalia Elsrakbi and since 2014, is based between Amsterdam and Cairo.

The duo collaboration explores underrepresented political and historical narratives by working with archives via art, design, writing, educational formats, video making, and storytelling. Throughout their development, the duo has critically reflected upon what it means to produce politically engaged work from the position of non-Western artists working between Europe and the Middle East.

Foundland was awarded the Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship for research in the largest Arab American archive in 2015/2016 and was shortlisted for the Dutch Prix de Rome prize in 2015 as well as the Dutch Design Awards in 2016. In 2017 their short video, “The New World, Episode One” premiered at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, and in 2018 was screened at the Rotterdam International Film Festival. The duo has lectured and exhibited widely in Europe, the United States, and the Middle East, including at ISPC, New York, Ars Electronica, Linz, Impakt Festival and BAK, Utrecht, London Art Fair, Beursschouwburg, Brussels, Fikra Biennial, Sharjah and Tashweesh Feminist Festival, Cairo and Brussels.

Several of Foundland’s video works are preserved and distributed by the Dutch media art archive LIMA, Amsterdam.

Module 3: On Archaeology
Design Earth

DESIGN EARTH is a research practice, founded by Rania Ghosn and El Hadi Jazairy in 2010. Their work engages the medium of the speculative architectural project to make public the climate crisis. DESIGN EARTH are recipients of the United States Artist Fellowship, Architectural League Prize for Young Architects + Designers, Boghossian Foundation Prize, and ACSA Faculty Design Awards for outstanding work in architecture and related environmental design fields as a critical endeavor.

Module 4: On Earth
A growing culture 

A Growing Culture's workshops will focus on why we can't talk about food without talking about rights. They'll be teaching about the ways in which food sovereignty unifies the struggles of countless peasant and Indigenous communities around the world, why food sovereignty is the only way to guarantee true sustainability, and how it provides a pathway for collective liberation.

A Growing Culture (AGC) is a non-profit organization working to unite the food sovereignty movement. Through storytelling, AGC confronts the root causes of injustice in our food system and centers the communities that are seeding radical hope for a just and dignified future for all. By co-creating new models of knowledge and resource sharing, AGC grows the movement’s capacity to mobilize the masses and reclaim our vital foodways.

The program also includes an exchange session with Esmat—Publishing List 

Esmat—Publishing List (@esmatpublishes) is an independent specialized publisher who works with and alongside cultural workers to harvest and share the unique knowledge and social imaginaries their work generates through books, zines and other printed material. 

Esmat—Publishing List, Dakatra Farm (@DakatraFarm) and Cairo Institute of Liberal Arts and Science (@cilasian) corun an art research residency program titled Locally-Rooted Knowledge: Art Practices, Agriculture & Pedagogy In A More-Than-Human World which centers the experience of small to medium-sized farms to explore the intersection between art practices, agriculture and pedagogy.


Deema Assaf is a Jordanian architect, researcher and urban forester. She is Founder & Director of TAYYŪN, an Amman-based research studio exploring intersections of urbanism, deep ecology, and ethics of place making. Her work focuses on regeneration of urban ecosystems through native forest creation and cross-species architecture. Her work aims to re-weave native ecologies into the urban scene, and to rewild the city as a rich multi-species ecosystem. Deema’s work has been featured on Euronews, Al-Jazeera, and BBC, among others. She received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Architecture from the University of Jordan, and was trained in permaculture design and the Miyawaki method for forest creation. She lives and works in Amman.

Zikra for Popular Learning reclaims local knowledge by liberating learning & local social & economic systems. For hundreds of years, communities in the Arab region & the global south were able to live independent, sustainable lives, building a participatory economy and society, without the need for international development agencies, microfund or employment institutions.

With the shift in peoples’ ways of living and being, this knowledge was lost and with it people lost their ability to live independently & see richness around them. Since 2007, Zikra has been working on inspiring solutions to today’s challenges today from this knowledge and reconnected individuals with it through learning experiences, economic and social projects. When individuals begin to pay attention to the rich knowledge around them, a new awareness of self and place is formed, and self-value is restored from within, a value that does not depend on imported or illusory standards, consequently, people regain their role as active actors in the land and place.

Zikra's work has been inspired by the people's knowledge and the wisdom inherited in the region, hence the name "popular learning", celebrated and extended from communities, branching out from the roots, and free from any forms of authority. We reject all forms of work under conditions of humiliating foreign aid, which plunder our homelands and disperse our people. We are proud that all of our projects are supported by the Jordanian people.

Carob Farms is a small farm that demonstrates the efficacy of ecological farming practices in producing an abundance of nutritious food while building thriving ecosystems. It is run by Rakan Mehyar, an environmentalist at heart and generalist in the profession, currently on a mission to save soil, design resilient farms and grow nourishing food.


The summer academy is open to applicants from Jordan or Palestine. Only 10 participants will be selected. Selected participants from outside Amman are expected to pay their travel costs to/from Amman. For participants from outside Amman, a per diem and shared accommodation will be offered in one of our residency flats.

The program will be bilingual so knowledge of English and Arabic is preferred.


Applicants are expected to submit a letter of intent, a project proposal they wish to develop throughout the academy, a portfolio of previous works, and information on any experience that can be considered an act of publishing. An open studio will be organized at the end of the academy showcasing the output of works.

Link to application

Applications will be accepted through 15 May 2022, (23:59 Amman time).


The Summer Academy program will take place from 1 June- 31 July, 2022. Participants are expected to commit to the conversation by attending all sessions. Sessions will be mostly held on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays of each week, from 10 am to 5 pm. Precise schedule to be shared with accepted students.


Darat al Funun is a home for the arts and artists from the Arab world. We trace our beginnings to 1988 and are now housed in six renovated historical buildings from the 1920s and 30s, with a restored archaeological site in the garden. We aim to provide a platform for contemporary Arab artists, to support art practices and artistic exchange, to stimulate critical discourse, and to research, document, and archive Arab art.

The 2022 Summer Academy takes its inspiration from the 1999-2003 Darat al Funun Summer Academy which was established on the occasion of our 10th anniversary to provide a key opportunity for emerging artists to study and work under the supervision of the late Berlin-based Syrian artist Marwan. Over the course of four years, over 60 artists from Jordan, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Iraq attended the academy.