new photography from the middle east

3 December 2012 § Leave a comment

Western artists have got it easy, and they should visit this exhibition to see just why.

New Photography from the Middle East is an excellent concise exhibition giving an overview of some of the very best in contemporary photography from the region. Given the politics from the region the work here is deeply imbued with suffering, death, repression and anger.

Ahmed Mater

What you will not find here is dull and pretentious art – like the silly constructions of household objects (Isa Genzken at Hauser & Wirth) or bored students walking around with mirrored sandwich boards (Josiah McElheny at White Cube) that I saw in recent days.

Tal ShochatThe exhibition is separated in to three key themes; Recording, Reframing  and Resisting. In the opening section we see that the photograph is a powerful tool for recording people, places and eventsAhmed Matyr at the same time questions its reliability by using a magnet and iron filings to create an image that looks like pilgrims at Mecca (above) whilst Tal Shochat selects ‘pefect’ trees, washes them down and adds a fake background. He questions photographic reality.

Hassan HajjajThe second section reframes and reworks existing styles or images. Hassan Hajjaj takes inspiration from fashion photography to create fascinating collisions between Western consumerism and Middle Eastern ideals (above) whilst Taysir Batniji brilliantly takes inspiration from the Bechers’ water towers with a series of watchtowers on the West Bank. Taysir Batniji

In Resisting artists undermine the authority of the photograph. Joana Hadjithomas and Khalili Joreige present images from the burned negatives of an imagined photographer.Joana Hadjithomas & Khalili Joreige

The best come right at the very end with a series of three photographs from the wonderful Nerdine Hammam. Taken from the series Uphekkh (2011) Egyptian soldiers are found transported in to idyllic landscapes – perhaps places they imagine or would prefer to be. Brilliant.Nerdine Hammam

Ultimately this exhibition is not depressing, as one might have imagined, but is inspirational and uplifting. Photography – and art – is a power for optimism, hope and good. Perhaps some Western artists can be inspired to produce work that is more meaningful and interesting? I hope so.Nerdine Hammam

Light From the Middle East: New Photography is at the V&A until 7 April 2013. Free entry.

Nerdine Hammam

Related articles

josiah mcelheny at white cube masons yard

30 November 2012 § Leave a comment

This exhibition is entitled Interactions of the Abstract Body and is where Josiah McElheny apparently explores how ‘constantly shifting forms of fashion can reveal the core beliefs and assumptions of a given era’. Sorry, not here and not for me.

Upstairs cabinets containing rather beautiful and elegant hand-made glass objects crafted after modernist styles are held in vitrines to represent for example The Space-Age Body (2012) or The Uniform Body (2012). These are impressive works individually and collectively within their vitrines.

However, downstairs are eight carefully crafted wooden sandwich-boards with variously shaped mirrors where, according to White Cube, by “combining a continuous flesh-and-blood performance with static sculpture in the same gallery space McElheny radically fractures the distinction between performance and exhibition”.

Sadly I have news for White Cube – it doesn’t, it’s not radical and anyway it has been done many times before. Lots, and better. This is the sort of thing that you wouldn’t have been surprised to see in 1918 Zurich, 1930’s Paris, 1960’s New York or London Art School graduate shows anytime in the last 20 years. Furthermore the ‘constant presence of a performer’ was a solitary embarrassed student who perfunctorily strolled around with a mirrored sandwich-board for a couple of minutes whist we were there. This supposedly created a ‘shifting other-worldy space’. In your dreams.

On the walls are a few flat, shaped reflecting glass shapes ‘based on designs by Delaunay and Stepanova’ (and Homebase), representing strong women, previously often overlooked in the history of art and fashion. True, and in theory the reflected images of modernist mirrored moving shapes I suppose sounds quite elegant. Unfortunately in the large space that is the ‘Lower ground’ (or ‘basement’ to you and I) gallery the reflections are too distant and space to large to create any meaningful reflections or invoke any sort of ‘complex, intangible sense of space’ that the artist/Press release promises.

Interactions of the Abstract Body  is at White Cube Mason’s Yard until 12 January 2013

Images with no figures courtesy of artist and White Cube.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with josiah mcelheny at a kick up the arts.

%d bloggers like this: