OXFORD – Out of Beirut
Modern Art Oxford
May 13 – July 16, 2006
Over the course of 2006 and into 2007, the UK is ostensibly celebrating a Festival of Muslim Cultures via a packed calendar of literary, academic, film, art and museum events (muslimcultures.org). Glasgow City Council is even giving its traditional May Day bank holiday an “Islamic theme.” While obviously well intentioned, the overarching gala spans all disciplines, several continents and a fair few religious bents in its quest. It’s like the 1990s-the decade that for some debunked the notion of cheesy smorgasbord multiculturalism-never happened. We look forward to attending a Festival of Christian Cultures in Baghdad someday soon.
Incidentally, up now are several shows that may be geographic in nature but nonetheless attempt a more specific and significant curatorial inquiry. Modern Art Oxford’s ‘Out of Beirut’ has been in development for over a year. MAO curator Suzanne Cotter, working in collaboration with Ashkal Alwan’s Christine Tohme, has included the usual suspects-Walid Raad, Akram Zaatari, Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, Tony Chakar, and Rabih Mroué and Lina Saneh-plus some newcomers, such as sculptor Ziad Abillama and young filmmaker/ performance artist Ali Cherri, who shone at Beirut’s Homeworks III (October 2005). Starchitect Bernard Khoury is slated to join some of the artists in a symposium, titled “Travelling and Translation” (May 25-26). In addition to subjects synonymous with postwar Beirut, such as an examination of the role of city space in reconstructing the social sphere, the daylong talkfest intriguingly turns inward, examining “international and geographically focussed exhibitions from the perspective of the curator and the artist.” Discussion should fly at the session titled “Curating Out of Context,” chaired by Bidoun editor Negar Azimi, which pits Christine Tohme, artist-curator Akram Zaatari, Irish artist Phil Collins and curator Catherine David against one other. Combined with a program of performances and film screenings at other venues around Oxford, and the publication of an accompanying book, the exhibition is perhaps the most high profile outing for Beirutis in the UK to date.