Shifting Sands Conference

This two-city Conference is an ambitious project focusing on recent cultural developments in the MENA region and in comparison to those in Australia. It will be presented Friday 23 August, at Artspace Visual Arts Centre, in conjunction with Campbelltown Art Centre, Sydney; and Sunday 25 August, at the Art Gallery of SA, Adelaide. Free event, bookings required.

Art Exhibition previously on at Contemporary Art Centre of SA in South Australia, Australia.
From Sunday 25 August 2013 to Sunday 25 August 2013

Shifting Sands Conference image

Published by anonymous on Wednesday 14 August 2013.
Contact the publisher.

The context for this Conference is the comparison that it seeks to present, of the collective current socio-cultural, historical, political issues emanating from the MENA region, with those of Australia. Australia might have some small connectivity through its multicultural/migrant/refugee socio-historical construct (for example, the 30,000 “Australian citizens” caught in Lebanon during the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel; Australia’s military participation in Iraq and Afghanistan, Australia as UN Security Council member abstaining from voting for Palestinian territories being granted observer status at the United Nations, “Australian citizens” fighting in the Syrian civil war, and so on) but realistically the art and cultural world in Australia (despite some indigenous and Asian-neighbour influences) remains predominantly focused on the Euro-American ideal.

Whereas contemporary art in Australia can be seen through the commercial and publishing sectors to be essentially career-focused and not underscored by such issues and concerns that are currently evident in the Middle East and neighbouring countries, current art practices from the MENA region have as their catalyst and determinators multiple layers of historical and ongoing socio-political concerns that on the surface, and from removed perspectives, would seem to deny or query the pursuit of art making. Yet within this dynamic of regional and national turmoil artists continue to make art and organisations continue to present art.

This project has been assisted by the Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council, and the Council; for Australian-Arab Relations (CAAR), dept Foreign Affairs & Trade.

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The Shifting Narrative of Images: Arab Uprisings 2011

Looking back at the Arab uprisings of 2011 now feels like
a flash of euphoric self-determination, a time when all
possibilities were open and in the hands of the everyday
person. All throughout this indefinable amount of time, people taking part in the protests on the streets were documenting actions through hand held and mobile phone cameras. There was a continuous instant feed of imagery, both still and video, flowing into people’s computers and phones. This type of documentation and dissemination altered the role of so-called official news media, gave a new meaning to social and media
networks, and galvanised a new aesthetic. We witnessed
an interesting exchange between what media, image and
political expression. Sheyma’s exploration seeks to look at the trajectory of deliberating images of revolution that, on one hand, communicate a vanity, on the other hand, indicate a preoccupation with the image rather than the act they are imaging or a desired end.

SHEYMA BUALI is an independent writer and researcher based in London. Her interests include popular relationships with social and political visual documents; urban studies of the Arab Gulf; and Arab cinemas. She is a Culture Correspondent for the pan-Arab daily newspaper Asharq AlAwsat and an Editorial Correspondent for online visual culture forum Ibraaz.Her work has appeared in publications
including Harpers Bazaar Art Arabia, Little White Lies, The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, AlArabiya and a number of artist and exhibition catalogues. Buali holds an MA in Critical Media and Culture Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Prior to this, she worked for 10 years in a range of roles in TV, film and documentary production in Boston, Los Angeles and her native Bahrain.


Saturated Intolerance: Resistance in Turkey in Different

This presentation focuses on the phenomenon of intolerance by considering the authoritarian direction of the government in progress—Internet filters, various forms of censorship in the media, and irrational criminal accusations against online platforms for alternative voices. Starting with the Gezi Park Protests against its demolition in Istanbul on 28 May 2013, the resistance towards this intolerance took its own shape across Turkey.

The suppression of freedom of expression and assembly,
control of the mainstream media and the government’s
violation on Turkey’s secularism and law system, have become internationally visible. Now, this civic upraising
designates a transition period in the Turkish society. In this context, as a curator what is at stake is that the tactical moves of artistic practices, which could constitute statements and diverse voices without being trapped by the limitations of this suppression. Instead of recording the ongoing disasters and repeating them as silent witnesses and victims, the crucial question is the investigation of the mechanisms behind these traps. Therefore, this paper navigates through some of the artistic practices of Zeren Goktan, Hera Buyuktasciyan, and Burak Arikan, to illustrate some diverse artistic approaches and methodologies that shows different viewpoints to seize the ongoing situation.

BASAK SENOVA is a curator and designer. She has been writing on art, technology and media, initiating and developing projects and curating exhibitions since 1995. Senova is the editor of art-ist 6, Kontrol Online Magazine, Lapses book series, UNCOVERED and Aftermathamong other publications; and an editorial correspondent for Ibraaz. Senova was the curator of the Pavilion of Turkey at the 53rd Venice Biennale (2009) and lectured as assistant professor at the Faculty of Communication, Kadir Has University, Istanbul (2006-10). Currently, she co-curates “UNCOVERED” (2010-2013) project in Cyprus and the 2nd Biennial of Contemporary Art, D-0 ARK Underground (2013) in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Recently, she has been appointed as the Art Gallery Chair, (ACM) “SIGGRAPH 2014”, Vancouver.


Bones of Contention: Notes on the Mediated Body,
Performance and Dissent:

This presentation looks at embodied, and in some cases
disembodied, practices that comment in a performative
manner on a range of social and political issues specific to
the MENA region. Of particular interest are projects that probe the limitations of representation and mediation of the body through physical and technological means. Drawing on the work of amongst others Rabih Mroue, Emily Jacir, Mona Hatoum and Tania el Khoury she will explore how and to which extent these bodies can speak. NAT MULLER is an independent curator and critic based in Rotterdam.

Her main interests include the intersections of aesthetics, media and politics; media art and contemporary art in and from the Middle East. She is a regular contributor to Springerin and MetropolisM. Her writing has been published in Bidoun, Art Asia Pacific, Art Papers, Canvas, X-tra Majalla, ARTPulse, Daily Star, De Gids, De Volkskrant, Art Margins and Harper’s Bazaar Arabia. She has also written numerous catalogue and monographic essays on artists from the Middle East. In 2012 she curated Spectral Imprints for the Abraaj

Group Capital Art Prize 2012. Nat Muller is editorial correspondent for Ibraaz and most recently was a speaker on BBC World’s awardwinning program The Doha Debates.


“Cultural exchange” is a much-touted yet often rarely
examined concept. Over the last six years, Delfina
Foundation has been developing international collaborations with the Middle East & North Africa. In the context of Delfina Foundation’s work, several complex implications and questions will be explored about cultural exchange and the point at which it creates more harm than good.

AARON CEZAR is the founding Director of Delfina Foundation,
where he develops and oversees its interrelated program of
residencies, exhibitions and public platforms. Over the last six years, he has positioned Delfina Foundation as a meeting point and incubator of creative talent, forming partnerships with leading institutions internationally. Independently and through Delfina Foundation, he sits on numerous boards, committees and advisory groups such as All Change Arts, Shubbak, the Young Arab Theatre Fund, the Marrakech Biennale, the Jarman Award 2012, among many others.


Her presentation will look at the role that an institution like the Palestinian Museum, and to a lesser extent, a biennale-type art event like the 2012 Qalandiya International, can play in the current Palestinian arts and culture scene, which is strongly influenced by ongoing political and socio-economic instability and uncertainty. The establishment of the Museum and the biennale expands the role that art and culture can play in political terms by working in defiance of political fragmentation
and physical separation of Palestinians in their own land and beyond. In a sense, then, art and culture do not serve to merely reflect current political conditions; rather, the Museum and the biennale are political acts in themselves that work toward creating a new embodiment or understanding of what the Palestinian nation can be.

DIANA ABOUALI is head of research and collections at the Palestinian Museum in Ramallah, Palestine (opening Autumn 2014). Previously, she was assistant professor in the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Languages and Literatures at Dartmouth College, where she taught courses on Middle Eastern culture and civilisation for eight
years. Diana’s research interests include the social and cultural history of Palestine in the Ottoman period. She has published in Crusades, Journal of Palestine Studies, and in the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern World. Since moving to Ramallah, her research interests have broadened to include the nexus between art, culture and politics in Palestine, and the role museums can play in giving expression to national identity in the absence of a national state. She is a graduate
of Wellesley College (BA) and Harvard University (PhD).


Founded in 1998 in five rooms of a downtown Cairo
apartment building off of Tahrir Square, Townhouse opened its doors with a mission of providing an exhibition space for local artists who were disenfranchised by governmental and commercial spaces. Over the past 15 years, Townhouse has withstood political and social pressures, economic vagaries and multiple regime changes, all while rapidly expanding both in terms of space an programs (the institution now encompasses three floors in the main building, an abandoned factory and garage that were converted into an exhibition and
theater space, and a nearby rooftop that was converted to 10 studios for local artists). Now, like a microcosm of Egyptian society at large, Townhouse finds itself in a jarring moment of transition. Since January 2011, we have been confronted on a daily basis with the same fundamental questions: what are we doing, and why are we doing it? As we’ve increasingly turned our spaces over to programs and projects that are political in nature, we ask ourselves, should an arts institution operate outside of its mandate in such a context? In this talk, Townhouse curator Ania Szremski outlines how navigating the past two years of political and social upheaval led the institution to critically reexamine itself and investigate new modes of organizing and operating.

ANIA SZREMSKI is the chief curator at the Townhouse, where she has been based intermittently since 2009. Her writing has appeared in art21, Bidoun, Egypt Independent and other publications. She has a dual masters in modern art history, theory and criticism and arts policy from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she wrote her thesis on the technoparanoiac drawings of Abdel Hadi al Gazzar and
science fiction in early 1960s Egypt.


Collaboration forms a big part of my practice: In 2011, Ala Younis had made the decision to produce in a way that would speed up an understanding of what was happening, for herself and others, only to be overwhelmed with all the things that one could know. In National Works, Kuwait’s first pavilion at Venice Biennale (2013), an image of an artist standing next to a statue of a Sheikh twice his size illustrates an alternating power between an artwork and its maker, and a State and its subject. “A Ruler” in the nomadic Museum of Manufactured Response to Absence takes the shape of a golden time line that begins and ends with two absent Palestinians. Every one of the museum’s exhibits is either an impossibility or an exaggeration, so is collective history unmade and rewritten with shapes imposed and disfigurements tolerated, while personal narratives are inherited, lent and borrowed across epochs and generations.

ALA YOUNIS is an artist and curator based in Amman. Collaboration forms a big part of her practice, as does curating and joint book projects. Using objects, film and printed matter, Younis often seeks instances where historical and political events collapse into personal ones. Her work was shown at Institute du Monde Arabe (2013), 9th Gwangju Biennial (2012), Museum of Modern Arab Art, Doha (2012),
New Museum Triennial (2012), 12th Istanbul Biennial (2011), Home Works 5 Beirut (2010), The Jerusalem Show (2009) and PhotoCairo 4 (2008). Younis curated National Works for Kuwait’s first national pavilion, 2013 Venice Biennale, Covering One’s Back, Gezira Art Center Cairo (2013), Museum of Manufactured Response to Absence, Museum of Modern Art Kuwait (2012), Maps, Timelines, Radio Programmes, La Galerie, Noisy-le-Sec (2011), Out of Place, Tate Modern (London) and Darat al Funun (Amman) (2011

In a world of screens and speeds so great, theatres are
padlocked and threatened with demolition. Live public
dialogue, as a literary and artistic practice, remains a
luxury—if not an impossible cultural phenomenon—in
the Arab Middle East. Decades of invasion, occupation,
and internecine conflict have ruptured the intangible
and tangible infrastructure requisite for theatre. In this
talk, Doomed by Hope editor Eyad Houssami narrates
the emergence of alternative infrastructures of and
for theatrical artistry, highlighting the work of Masrah
Ensemble and Doomed by Hope contributors as case

EYAD HOUSSAMI is a Beirut-based theatre director, writer, and researcher. He is the founder and director of Masrah Ensemble, a nonprofit theatre organisation, and managing editor of Portal 9: Stories and Critical Writing about the City, an Arabic-English journal. He recently edited Doomed by Hope: Essays on Arab Theatre (Pluto Press and Dar Al Adab 2012), a collection of Arabic-English essays on contemporary theatre and performance that brings together the cultural and intellectual expressions of the vast and nuanced field of Arab theatre.


Cairo-based Lara Baladi will present her experience as
an artist during the Egyptian Revolution and how she cofounded Tahrir Cinema, and her long term project, Vox
Populi, a collection of videos downloaded from youtube,
articles, photos, tweets, graffiti, accumulated over a
period of two years from 25 January 2011 to 25 January

LARA BALADI is an Egyptian-Lebanese artist born in Beirut, raised in Cairo and Paris, and educated in London. She has lived in Egypt since 1997. Baladi publishes and exhibits worldwide. Her body of work encompasses photography, video, photo collages and digital montages, installations, architectural constructions, tapestries, sculptures and perfume. During the 2011 Egyptian uprising, Baladi
co-founded two media initiatives: Radio Tahrir and Tahrir Cinema. Both projects were inspired and informed by the eighteen days that toppled Mubarak’s leadership. Tahrir Cinema served as a public platform to build and share a video archive on and for the revolution.

Baladi is a member of the Arab Image Foundation since its creation
in 1997.


In recent years, the “Archive” as both a concept and object
has been undergoing a transformation. The increased
availability of still and video cameras, first analog and then
digital, has led to a wide spread of indexical documents
outside of official archives. With over 72 hours of video uploaded every minute, it is safe the say that Youtube
constitutes today the largest video database for mankind.
But can we consider Youtube an archival database? How
does actuality footage become a document? By looking at the Arab uprisings and the increasing hours of footage it has been producing, Ali Cherri discusses how Youtube
holds the promise of an archive.

ALI CHERRI is a visual artist and designer working with video,
installation, performance, multimedia and print based in Beirut.
Cherri is a graduate in Graphic Design from the American University in Beirut (2000).His recent exhibitions include Bad Bad Images, Galerie Imane Farès (Paris, 2012), Dégagements, Institut du Monde Arabe (Paris, 2012), Exposure, Beirut Art Center (Beirut, 2011), Southern Panorama, VideoBrasil (Sao Paolo, 2011), Beirut, Kunsthalle (Vienna, 2011) and A Fleur de Peau, Gallery Regard Sud (Lyon, 2011). Cherri’s work has been presented at various venues and festivals including
Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris), Delfina Foundation(London), Rotterdam International Film Festival (Rotterdam), Modern Art Oxford (Oxford), Tate Modern (London), HomeWorks (Beirut), Contemporary Image Collective (Cairo), Festival Paris Cinéma (Paris), Makan Art Space (Amman), Arnolfini (Bristol), Raster Gallery (Warsaw),
KunstFilmBiennale (Cologne), Darat El Funun (Amman-Jordan),
Medien und Architektur Biennale (Graz, Austria).

23 August, Sydney 10am–5pm
Presentation venue: Artspace Visual Arts Centre
43-51 Cowper Wharf Roadway, Woolloomooloo NSW 2011
Phone: (02) 9356 0555

Studio and Public Programs Co-ordinator, Tracy Burgess
In conjunction with Campbelltown Arts Centre, Sydney
Director, Michael Dagostino

25 August, Adelaide 10am–5pm
Presentation venue: Ron Radford Auditorium, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
North Terrace, Adelaide SA 5000


The Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia Inc. (CACSA), Adelaide
14 Porter Street, Parkside
Adelaide SA 5063
Phone : (08) 82722682
Executive Director, Alan Cruickshank