Advertisement

The Nation and Its Artists: Contemporary Khaleeji Artists Between Critique and Capture

  • Nesrien Hamid
Chapter
  • 7 Downloads
Part of the Contemporary Gulf Studies book series (CGS)

Abstract

In an article much circulated and contested, Emirati writer Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi argued that Gulf cities have become the cultural and intellectual centers of the Arab World. Regardless of whether Al-Qassemi’s contention is accurate, his piece sheds light on the recent profusion of world-class museums, galleries, and film festivals in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states that are increasingly playing a commanding role in the global art scene. GCC presence in the world of contemporary art is not restricted to providing a forum for showcasing artwork and film or offering generous endowments. Artists from the Gulf, such as Ahmed Mater, the GCC collective, and Farah Al Qasimi, are garnering world attention and exhibiting their art in some of the world’s most prestigious galleries and museums. This proliferation of modern artists from the Gulf indexes a more substantial Khaleeji presence in spheres hitherto uncharted by many Gulf citizens. More importantly, and what this chapter seeks to explore, the increasing prominence of a number of Khaleeji visual artists raises the question of the role they play in shaping ideas of self, national identity, and citizenship in the region. GCC governments have their distinctive goals and means for creating productive and, to quote miriam cooke, “tribal modern” citizens. Artists, however, are neither limited in their conceptualizations nor burdened by the exigencies of nation building. The art they produce, therefore, communicates ideas of nation and citizenship that may dovetail with, diverge from, or altogether subvert what is officially sanctioned by the government. To that end, this chapter will examine the artwork of three contemporary visual artists from the Arab Gulf to explore how they articulate ideas of nationhood and contest state-sanctioned narratives on its past, present, and future. Furthermore, by analyzing their discourse in written and video interviews as well as public talks and lectures available on YouTube in addition to the ways they engage with state institutions, the discussion will illustrate the tension between their professed cosmopolitanism and their nation-oriented artistic and discursive practice.

References

  1. 1000 Words: GCC. (2015). Retrieved May 15, 2018, from Art Forum: https://www.artforum.com/print/201507/1000-words-gcc-54494
  2. Abukhalil, A. (2013, October 9). Gulf Cities as the New Centers of the Arab World? Retrieved from The Angry Arab Blog: http://angryarab.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/gulf-cities-as-new-centers-of-arab-world.html
  3. AlDowayan, M. (n.d.-a). Esmi-My Name. Retrieved May 15, 2018, from Manal AlDowayan: http://www.manaldowayan.com/my-name.html
  4. AlDowayan, M. (n.d.-b). Sidelines. Retrieved May 10, 2018, from Manal AlDowayan: https://www.manaldowayan.com/sidelines.html
  5. al-Maktoum, H. S. (2013, February 11). Mohammed bin Rashid yuḥāwir al-muwāṭinīn wa al-ʿarab fī al-qima al-ḥukūmiyya. Retrieved May 16, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgHFt43vef0
  6. Al-Yasin, Y., & Dashti, A. A. (2009, March). Foreign Countries and U.S. Public Relations Firms: The Case of Three Persian Gulf States. Journal of Promotion Management, 14(3–4), 355–374.  https://doi.org/10.1080/10496490802637713.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Anderson, B. (1983). Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  8. Art Dubai. (2015, March 26). Global Art Forum 9: Heritage Engineering: A Conversation with GCC. Retrieved May 15, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CcmDPfgdkv4
  9. Aziza, S. (2016, March 1). In Search of the Saudi Artist Putting Women Centre Stage. Middle East Eye. Retrieved May 18, 2018, from http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/growing-art-scene-saudi-finally-making-space-women-artists-790671651
  10. Beyond Borders Scotland. (2013, November 18). Beyond Borders Int’l Festival Sunday Session 5—Manal Al Dowayan. Retrieved May 16, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJ6REdh8pSY
  11. Blair, E. (2015, September 18). For Arab Artists With Something To Say, This Sheikh Is a Loudspeaker. NPR. Retrieved May 10, 2018, from https://www.npr.org/2015/09/18/440850284/for-arab-artists-with-something-to-say-this-sheikh-is-a-loudspeaker
  12. Chandrik. (2013, January 18). Saudi Artist Manal Al Dowayan interacting with the Public. Retrieved May 16, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7m_aH_JyRYM
  13. cooke, m. (2014). Tribal Modern: Branding New Nations in the Arab Gulf. Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  14. Demerdash, N. (2017). Of “Gray Lists” and Whitewash: An Aesthetics of (Self-)Censorship and Circumvention in the GCC Countries. Journal of Arabian Studies, 7(sup1), 28–48.  https://doi.org/10.1080/21534764.2017.1352162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Derderian, E. (2017). Authenticating an Emirati Art World: Claims of Tabula Rasa and Cultural Appropriation in the UAE. Journal of Arabian Studies, 7(sup1), 12–27.  https://doi.org/10.1080/21534764.2017.1352161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Downey, A. (2015). Contingency, Dissonance and Performativity: Critical Archives and Knowledge Production in Contemporary Art. In A. Downey (Ed.), Dissonant Archives: Contemporary Visual Culture and Contested Narratives in the Middle East (pp. 13–42). London: I.B. Tauris & Co.Google Scholar
  17. Dresch, P. (2005). Debates on Marriage and Nationality in the United Arab Emirates. In P. Dresch & J. Piscatori (Eds.), Monarchies and Nations: Globalisation and Identity in the Arab States of the Gulf (pp. 136–157). London: I.B. Tauris & Co.Google Scholar
  18. Faʿāliyyāt qariyyat rijāl almaʿ al-turāthiyya. (2016, November 30). Rijal Alma Cultural Council. Majlis almaʿ al-thaqāfī – al-fanān al-tashkīlī al-doktor/Ahmed Mater al-almaʿī. Retrieved May 16, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFNBIGMDvUE
  19. Fahim, K. (2018, January 10). As Saudi Arabia Relaxes Its Controls on Culture and Entertainment, Artists Dream—And Worry. Washington Post. Retrieved May 18, 2018, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/as-saudi-arabia-eases-controls-on-culture-and-entertainment-artists-dream%2D%2Dand-worry/2018/01/10/d480874c-e42c-11e7-a65d-1ac0fd7f097e_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.7c2588fce707
  20. Foley, S. (2016, March 29). Dispatches. Retrieved from Culturerunners: http://culturunners.com/dispatches/symbolic-cities#
  21. Gell, A. (1998). Art and Agency: An Anthropological Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Gray, L. (2017, August). Contemporary Art and Global Identity in the Arabian Peninsula and Azerbaijan. Journal of Arabian Studies, 7(sup1), 65–83.  https://doi.org/10.1080/21534764.2017.1356034.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Holes, C. (2005). Dialect and National Identity: The Cultural Politics of Self-Representation in Bahraini Musalsalat. In P. Dresch & J. Piscatori (Eds.), Monarchies and Nations: Globalisation and Identity in the Arab States of the Gulf (pp. 52–71). London: I.B. Tauris & Co.Google Scholar
  24. Hubbard, B. (2016, December 2). A Physician-Turned-Artist Offers a Diagnosis for Islam’s Holliest City. New York Times. Retrieved May 15, 2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/02/world/middleeast/saudi-ahmed-mater-islam.html
  25. Kesting, P. (2017, May/June). Ambassadors of Art. AramcoWorld. Retrieved May 18, 2018, from http://www.aramcoworld.com/en-US/Articles/May-2017/Ambassadors-of-Art?page=7
  26. Khalil, N. (n.d.). Opposites Attract. Bespoke Magazine. Retrieved May 16, 2018, from http://www.bespoke-magazine.com/33/Article/Opposites-Attract
  27. Mater, A. (n.d.). Evolution of Man. Retrieved May 15, 2018, from Ahmed Mater: https://www.ahmedmater.com/evolution-of-man
  28. Maziad, M. (2016). Cultivating the Citizen of the Futuristic State. In V. P.-M. Pamela-Erskine-Loftus (Ed.), Representing the Nation: Heritage, Museums, National Narratives and Identity in the Arab Gulf States (pp. 123–140). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  29. Mishkhas, A. (2006, June 22). Mind Over Mater at the British Museum. Arab News. Retrieved May 10, 2018, from http://www.arabnews.com/node/286619
  30. Mishkhas, A. (2014, February 9). Forest of Family Trees. Asharq Al-Awsat. Retrieved May 10, 2018, from https://eng-archive.aawsat.com/a-mishkhas/lifestyle-culture/a-forest-of-family-trees
  31. Misk Art Institute. (n.d.). Retrieved May 16, 2018, from Misk Art Institute: https://miskartinstitute.org/
  32. Mounajjed, N. (2017). Reflections on Public Art in the Arabian Peninsula. Journal of Arabian Studies, 7(sup1), 84–98.  https://doi.org/10.1080/21534764.2017.1357362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mourtada-Sabbah, N., al-Mutawa, M., Fox, J. W., & Walters, T. (2008). Media as Social Matrix in the United Arab Emirates. In A. Alsharekh & R. Springborg (Eds.), Popular Culture and Political Identity in the Arab Gulf States (pp. 122–139). London: Saqi Books.Google Scholar
  34. Nuqat. (2017, October 25). Nuqat 2014—Day 3—Lecture 9—Ahmed Mater. Retrieved May 16, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdxIsZYmb4o
  35. Petersen, A. (2016). Building the Past: Archealogy and National Development in the Gulf. In P. Erskine-Lotfus, V. Penziner Hightower, & M. Ibrahim Al-Mulla (Eds.), Representing the Nation: Heritage, Museums, National Narratives and Identity in the Arab Gulf States (pp. 95–108). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  36. Qassemi, S. A. (2013a, October). Thriving Gulf Cities Emerge as New Centers of Arab World. Retrieved May 13, 2018, from Sultan Al Qassemi: http://sultanalqassemi.com/articles/thriving-gulf-cities-emerge-as-new-centers-of-arab-world/
  37. Qassemi, S. A. (2013b, November 22). Correcting Misconceptions of the Gulf’s Modern Art Movement. Retrieved May 13, 2018, from Sultan Al Qassemi: http://sultanalqassemi.com/articles/correcting-misconceptions-of-the-gulfs-modern-art-movement/
  38. Salamandra, C. (2005). Cultural Construction, the Gulf and Arab London. In P. Dresch & J. Piscatori (Eds.), Monarchies and Nations: Globalisation and Identity in the Arab States of the Gulf (pp. 73–95). London: I.B. Tauris & Co.Google Scholar
  39. Up and Coming: GCC Is Outing Racism Against the Rich in a Way That’s Good for Everyone. (2016, April 13). Retrieved from Artsy: https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-up-and-coming-gcc-is-outing-racism-against-the-rich-in-a-way-that-s-good-for-everyone
  40. Vartanian, H. (2016, December 1). A Saudi Artist Hoists Flags at Standing Rock to Bring Attention to the Environmental Crisis. Hyperallergic. Retrieved May 10, 2018, from https://hyperallergic.com/342042/saudi-artist-ahmed-mater-standing-rock/
  41. Winegar, J. (2006). Creative Reckonings: The Politics of Art and Culture in Contemporary Egypt. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nesrien Hamid
    • 1
  1. 1.Independent ResearcherNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations