Posted tagged ‘knowledge’

Gender, War and Chadors – by Canvas magazine at the British Museum

October 20, 2009

This panel discussion on the topic of ‘Gender, War and Chadors’ in relation to Contemporary Middle Eastern Art, took place on Monday 12th October.

The panel consisted of three professionals with relevant experience and interest in this genre of art: Saleh Barakat (Curator and Gallerist, Lebanon), Rose Issa ( Independent Curator, Lebanon and Iran) and Dr Venetia Porter (Senior Curator of Islamic and contemporary Middle Eastern Art at The British Museum). This panel was moderated by Dr Anthony Downey (Programme Director, MA in Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s Institute of Art).

For official information andbackground into on the panellists please view this link from the Canvas Magazine site: http://www.canvasonline.com/gwac2.htm

The audience was an interesting mix of curators, researchers, critics and artists.

The talk lasted an hour and addressed issues that have cropped up for me during my research in the last year. Some of the issues mentioned were the lack of investments in Middle Eastern Art, it’s identity and how it is different to Islamic Art, why it is not considered as contemporary art when it should be and why it is usually grouped as ‘Middle-Eastern’ and sometimes ‘Islamic’ art when this is sometimes clearly a confining label or even a mistaken label for the work in question.

Here are a few notes I took. Some of this may be direct quotes or my own extension of what was said by one of the panellists:

– Defining the Middle-East as a region is becoming the subject being discussed rather than the work itself. It seems to be a Western pre-occupation. Whereas people within the Middle-Easter don’t think about it that much and sometimes not at all.

– There seems to be a problem with the local and regional infrastructure in the Middle-East which is causing a slow movement of work and communication. The knowledge is not travelling. Whether this is in terms of publishing work/writings or in trying to set up an exhibition – it takes much longer and much more effort compared to London and other European or US cities.

– Middle-Eastern art is not being taught anywhere as a comprehensive subject. You can learn the European classics anywhere, but there is no recognised institution where you could say straight off your head, for example for  ‘where a PhD in Middle-Eastern art’ should be completed, there certainly is nowhere to do this in the Middle-East. Dr Venetia Porter said that she is approached by many students asking where she would recommend they continue further studies in this subject. SOAS was mentioned as a good place as it covers the languages and culture studies.

Once the talk was finished I managed to grab some apple juice, munch some olives and a few minutes of Dr Venetia Porter’s time. A very nice and friendly lady, she was very encouraging about further studies in the contemporary Islamic art field. I mentioned my project for the Visual Arts MA I am doing and she was glad to hear that I had found a way to combine contemporary art practice with traditional creative methods from the Islamic world. As she had mentioned the lack of postgraduate courses that suit this area I was able to say that this is my way of dealing with that problem. As it happens I think my situation could not be more ideal. I have managed to set the objectives of my project to suit both the learning outcomes of the course syllabus as well as my own goals of producing contemporary Islamic art.

I departed with a smile on my face and the encouragement from Dr Venetia Porter spurring me on.

Justification

December 14, 2008

This is a bit of a difficult one to express.

I will make random statements here but they will be relevant to the main title in some form or another so bear with me.

In my first tutorial with Andy (Course Leader) I was encouraged to express and relate to my religious and cultural background within my project. At first I didn’t think I would do this and definately not in an obvious way. I wanted the subject of my work to be a subtle hint to the viewer or anyone reading up about my work. But then I thought ok let’s just see where this goes. I won’t try hard either way to make it obvious or unobvious.

Progression in life, as a person, is very important. You don’t want to look back at yourself 5 years down the line and realise you are the same person you were then. Not having learnt anything. Not bettered yourself. Not improved in some way. For some people it might be as simple as having a better job, be earning more money, being married, having a family. For me it’s to be a better person and to do something to help others. This has a religious significance.

I think I have progressed – at least I hope I have. I’ve been doing a lot of reading, researching and learning. Not just for this project but for myself. One of the tenants of a Muslim’s belief is to gain knowledge. It is only through this seeking and gaining that one can then say they believe in God, as they cannot know what God is until they learn who God is. Once they have gained this knowledge they are required to act upon that knowledge. Which leads me to my next point(s):

I believe in One God and I believe he sent us Messengers to guide us and I believe that Muhammad was the last of those messengers. I believe the Qur’an is the word of God (the holy book revealed to the Prophet Muhammad). The Qur’an (in God’s words) tells us that not only is it important to believe in one God and that He created everything but that we must worship Him and one form of worhip is to do good. For this we shall be rewarded.

To put it simply – One of my mottos is that ‘there is a reason for everything and everything has a reason’.

So basically I want to do good and encourage others to do good. Not just because I need to get to heaven but because I want to be a good person and also because I want it to be rewarding for everyone who is inspired by that goodness.

Why am I telling you all this?

I find that through all this my priorities have slightly changed. I now feel that if something isn’t helping me make progress in my life in a good way then there is no room for it. I need to do good so that others can be influenced by it. They might not even want to do ‘good’ but maybe I can subconsciously influence them.

Subliminal messages? I don’t think so. I prefer to make things more open and clear and fair. Not like some secretive hidden agenda.

I want to make it obvious now. I want my work to be striking and I want someone to know that it was a Muslim that created it. A Muslim who was inspired by the teachings of their peaceful religion (not the violent one it is portrayed as). That a Muslim created something that anyone of any religious or non-religious background can appreciate. It would just be an added bonus for me if it works. At least my intentions would be good.

So this is my justification. I needed to justify the purpose of my project. I needed to justify my MA. Not for anyone but myself I guess. To know that my intention is to do something good with this.

I can only hope it has the right effect. I can only ask for God’s help and leave it to him in a way, and try my best in the meantime.

But this doesn’t change the project’s theme or line of enquiry. It may have influenced the journey though.

We’ll see.