Visual Culture in a Changing Middle East
Workshop by Reema Salha Fadda

Sunday 19, Wednesday 22, Sunday 26, Wednesday 29 June 2016
11:00am – 2:00pm
Library (Main Building)

Darat al Funun Ph.D. Fellowship recipient Reema Salha Fadda runs a series of workshops exploring readings and films highlighting the potential of visual culture to reclaim and represent alternative narratives to state-controlled media and image production, and the potential for art to speak new forms of truth to power. With reference to key artists, case-studies and visual artefacts, this workshop series seeks to introduce participants to key themes and debates around new forms of visual representation from the Middle East, and to explore the role culture for providing an alternative narrative to state discourse.

Session 1: Visual protest: on signs, symbols and cinema during the revolution

This session focuses on the visual aesthetics of protest movements and the “cultural turn” in the MENA region that has emerged over the past five years. We will consider a wide-range of citizen media, online artistic expressions, subversive street art, site-specific interventions, and visual protest, to explore how artistic practices are engaged with socio-political and economic realities (re)shaping the Arab region.

Session 2: Cultures of conflict and resistance: Reading Israel and Palestine through the image

This workshop will focus on contested sites of representation and ongoing narratives of conflict as tackled by artists working in the region. The lecture will briefly touch upon the internal dynamics of culture-making in the region, through the work of several Palestinian artists who are working to revive a lost or destroyed archive, as well as imagine new futures.

With reference to the films of Kamal Al Jafari, a Palestinian from Jaffa, this workshop seeks to explore notions of identity, history, and spatial politics in occupied Palestine. We will consider the role of cinema in re-visualising contested histories by reclaiming a buried cultural past as a way to reassert a cultural presence against erasure.

Session 3: Between control, commodification and co-option

How do artists and state officials alike, (re)imagine and (re)image the state? This workshop considers the role of visual production in Palestine/ Israel and how it has been used by different audiences and consumers - from the local, to the global – to assert competing representations of national identity.  As such, this lecture examines ‘politics as a visual performance’ by artists, citizens and state officials.  We will consider how both the Israeli state and the Palestinian Authority adopt visual techniques to reimagine national narratives. Students will examine visual artefacts ranging to better understand how images circulate to assert national rights to cities across occupied Palestine is our goal. Alongside these discussions we will also consider the internal dynamics of state-building enterprises, the role of political and economic elites and how artists work to reclaim images and public space from domination by state power and neoliberal agendas.  

Session 4: Critical art writing

This session will build upon the content touched upon on the previous sessions, and review key debates facing culture today.  With reference to key visual artefacts - drawing specifically on Darat al Funun’s collection and visual archive - as well as close reading of art reviews, essays and commentary on the cultural field of production we will collectively produce critical writing on visual cultures from the Middle East.

Image: Amal Kenawy, Silence of Sheep, 2010.