Tuesday, January 21, 2014

SKLN and Nomadic Exhibitions: Updating the Gallery Format

First published on THE CULTURE TRIP

In Bogota, a number of exciting artists displayed their work at SKLN, a nomadic project that intended to bring a new horizon to Latin American art; this ‘nomadic exhibition format’ has been gaining momentum and popularity for decades. Arie Amaya-Akkermans explores the nature of SKLN, the changing contextualisation of art works, and the future of the art gallery as we know it.

The gallery format is in for an update, and this is hardly news. Since the 1980s, a number of projects emerged, particularly in the United States, claiming a nomadic nature and traveling between different public sites and private venues with tropes of artists and translating works from one context to another. This strategy, though now a commonplace in certain circles (particularly installation and performance), has not merged with the gallery system in a particularly successful way. This perhaps gives a number of clues about the nature of art in the specificity of the white cube, bringing to mind a story about a prestigious art dealer and expert in New York, who, when asked about her thoughts on the so-called Instagram galleries, responded with the question ‘what on earth is Instagram’?
However, the radical shift in the art market through the last decade has also brought shifted tendencies in the gallery’s relationship to its own space, particularly in relation to the rise of dozens, if not hundreds, of new and satellite art fairs worldwide. Some savvy dealers have opted for maximising their brand exposure at the expense of locality, working from their offices and showing their pieces mostly in art fairs and in the format of off-site projects. This format has come under harsh criticism by many, but it is important to remember that some world-class galleries such as Rodeo (Istanbul) began in this format, or that seasoned dealers like Suzanne Egeran (Istanbul) and Nicole Klagsbrun (New York) closed down their prestigious galleries, turning recently to the nomadic format.
In Bogota, one of the emerging cities in global art, a nomadic project opened its doors – or rather its wings – in October 2013, roughly coinciding with the 9th edition of ArtBo, Colombia’s international art fair. SKLN, the brainchild of three young but experienced dealers was based on two things: an itinerant project committed to bring a new horizon to Latin American art, and a roaster of regional artists across generations and formats. The project had its inaugural exhibition Umbral at a lush loft in the Continental Suites, a recently renovated hotel in the historical downtown, now being transformed into a new financial and commercial hub. Part of their curatorial approach towards site-specific projects involves the use of locations in transformation or locations that are about to be transformed, stressing the itinerant nature of their vision.
There was not a specific curatorial practice deployed in this show, but their intention was to present – in a space both public and intimate – a rather impressive selection from their portfolio, dominated by contemporary painting but also including video, installation, sculpture and mixed media. While the selection was diverse and open-ended, Umbral was characterised by a solid aesthetic balance between different compositional styles and approaches. The exhibition presented works by Antonio Castles, Byron Reza, Claudia Robles, Francisco Camacho, Gabriel Silva, Ivan Castiblanco, Liliana Gonzalez, Luis Orozco, Nestor Andres Peña, Raul Marroquin, Robert Otto Epstein, Rodrigo Echeverri y Venuz White.
The nomadic and transnational nature of the project was accentuated by the presence of some international artists alongside Colombian practitioners that are either bi-national or have been exhibited overseas, blending their practices in with global concerns, post-colonial aesthetics and modified forms of consciousness which are often lacking in local galleries. The art scene in Bogota, for all its ambitions and positive reviews, is often trapped between the residual effect of modernist art and rushing too fast into the art fairs circle, leaving a singular empty space of historical and conceptual transition that often translates into a lack of unity between concept and execution. Umbral, on the other hand, was fresh but sober, appealing to a diversity of audiences and unambiguously located in contemporary discourse.
The most arresting piece in the exhibition was the large diptych Terra Incognita, by Gabriel Silva, a versatile and widely exhibited Colombian painter, working across oil, acrylic and installation. His landscapes, abandoned and dystopian, bordering on science fiction, are grounded on a shadow world of archetypes and primal forms, apparently disjointed but coming together as introspections. Antonio Castles, a very young local artist, was present with the mysterious work ‘Contra la Maquoina’, an installation-like light box of negatives, deploying the analog resources of traditional film and photography, as a critical reading of mass culture. Blurring the boundaries between painting, photography and performative installation, the young artist profiles as a cutting-edge practitioner.
It was surprising to find in the exhibition work by Raul Marroquin, a Colombian artist based in the Netherlands, who has pioneered in European video art since the 1960s. The work of Sair Garcia, one of those rare painting-based artists exploring political reality through a definite aesthetics of subtle realism, was also present in the exhibition with the mesmerising work ‘Realidades Paralelas’, a stunning large painting. The exhibition was complemented by video screenings by a number of leading video practitioners. The project’s curatorial practice, largely informed by critical theory, is not a closed curatorial framework or even a reading but a soft parsing of contemporary consciousness through a number of works that reveal themselves simultaneously as global, contemporary and local.
SKLN’s itinerant platform, however, was reinforced by their participation in a number of art fairs, including Bogota’s younger fair Odeon, Miami’s Scope during Art Basel Miami Beach and then more recently, the newly inaugurated Art Cartagena. Showing different corners and aspects of their portfolio in these venues, continuously expanding, they emerge as a critical force in Colombian art and with the potential of becoming one of the region’s leading dealers and curators. They have also incorporated into their portfolio the work of Adriana Ciudad, a Peruvian-German artist recently transplanted to Bogota, and who, living between Bogota, Lima and Berlin, embodies well the mission of SKLN in her practice, stretching across painting, installation and sculpture, reading different cultures.
The team of SKLN brings together an assemblage of expertise and local knowledge. Fernando Barrera and Lina Castañeda both studied at the Universidad de los Andes, Bogota’s top liberal arts college, and went on to pursue different careers in art and curating. Fernando is an artist and philosopher with experience in curating and previously involved with private collections; Lina, on the other hand, has been active in the local arts scene since 2008 as former director of Christopher Pascall Gallery. Madrid-born Caridad Botella accumulated extensive experience in the auction house sector and as former director of Witzenhausen Gallery in Amsterdam/New York. She contributes regularly to international art publications. The three of them act as founders and directors of the project.
Expanding their operations at present, looking into art fairs in Mexico and Peru and brainstorming their upcoming site-specific shows, SKLN is a project and a format to watch, and whose trajectory in the art fair circle might quickly propel them to more international waters, where the expectation for high-quality Latin American art remains consistent but critical. It might set the trend for a fresh transnational and nomadic approach for Latin American art which, though in the make, has been constantly marred by repetition and poor curatorial choices. With ARCO Madrid slightly over a month away and many regional galleries present, it will be interesting to keep track of SKLN’s direction and the process of established artists working closely with young emerging dealers with curatorial backgrounds.

Umbral, SKLN's inaugural exhibition was on show at Continental Suites, from October 17 through November 29, 2013. They were present in Odeon Art Fair (October 26 - 29), Scope Miami (December 3 - 8) and Art Cartagena (January 9 - 12).
By Arie Amaya-Akkermans

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Istanbul’s 13 Best Contemporary Art Exhibitions in 2013

First published on THE CULTURE TRIP

2013 was a significant year for Turkish art as Istanbul continues to rise above its neighbours as one of the leading players in art in the Middle East and Europe. Art in Istanbul has blossomed in the past few years, with dozens of internationally acclaimed exhibitions held in 2013; a much discussed biennial and a new art fair were only some of the highlights of the busy year. These are, in chronological order, the most significant exhibitions of 2013.

Envy, Enmity, Embarrassment at ARTER (January 24 - April 7)

The second exhibition in a series focusing on new productions by the leading Turkish artists Selim Birsel, Hera Büyüktaşçiyan, CANAN, Aslı Çavuşoğlu, Merve Ertufan & Johanna Adebäck,Nilbar Güreş, Berat Işık, Şener Özmen, Yusuf SevinçliErdem Taşdelen, Hale Tenger, Mahir Yavuz, Envy, Enmity, Embarrassment presented a variety of works along the underlying thread of cultural, political and social memory in Turkey across different generations and tropes. Empathy is explored in the universality of conflict as a site of both trauma and reparation, particularly embedded in the transformation of cultural objects as the location of both meaning and transition, both emotionally and historically. Highlights of the exhibition included the large installation I Know People Like This III by Hale Tenger, which dealt with the photographic memory of recent violence in Turkey, and Hera Büyüktaşçiyan’s The Island, which focused on the cynical disregarding of conflicted memory and the debris the process leaves in the consciousness of the community. The exhibition was curated by Emre Baykal.
ARTERİstiklal Cd 211, Beyoğlu 34433, Istanbul, Turkey, +90 212 243 3767

Murder in Three Acts by Asli Çavuşoğlu at Galeri NON (March 1 - April 24)

Originally rehearsed, performed and filmed at Frieze Art Fair 2012, Murder in Three Acts was commissioned by Frieze Projects in partnership with Delfina Foundation and produced in association with Manifold Projects. Asli Çavuşoğlu resorts to a professional crew of actors and producers to stage a real-time performance in which, following the modus operandi of televised crime drama, she questions how truth can be extracted from physical artefacts, as well as the role of expertise in story-telling and story-building. The artist’s work is known for exploring cultural and historical tools that influence the shaping of social and political readings. In this project, Çavuşoğlu compared the methodologies of forensics with those of art historians, opening a field of research in which archaeological artefacts become complex cultural constructs subject to change in meaning.
Galeri NONTomtom Mh, Nur-i-Ziya Sokak 16, Beyoğlu 34400, İstanbul, Turkey, +90 212 249 8774

Aeolian by Emre Hüner at Rodeo (March 9 - May 11) and Nesrin Esirtgen Collection (March 15 - June 15)

Emre Hüner’s solo exhibition Aeolian, running parallel in two different locations, sets out to investigate the architectural imaginary of modernity as a site of the primitive, in which a negotiation occurs between artefacts and subjectivity. The modern metaphor of exotic and remote landscapes is an inverted reflection on industrial processes, blurring the line between the forces of nature and manmade spatial and cultural architectures. The abetted ruins of modernity, found in abandoned tropes, confront us with the question of the manmade world as an internalised process of civilisation, in which it is hard to differentiate between the geological forces that have shaped the earth and the traces of human history, and thus construct another reading of utopia and dystopia. The ceramic installationAnthropofagy, displayed at Rodeo, presents us with a model of spatiality, which is an architectural, geological and historical ruin.
RodeoSiraselviler Cd 49/1, Yeni Hayat Apt., Taksim 34437, Istanbul, Turkey‎, +90 212 293 5800

Shirin Neshat at Dirimart (May 10 - June 15)

This long-awaited Istanbul exhibition of Shirin Neshat, Iran's most important contemporary artist, presented works from different projects. The white cube space at Dirimart was covered with Neshat’s ‘Mourners’ from her series The Book of Kings, inspired by Persian epic, and drawing on portraits from slums in the Middle East; it highlighted the regional struggle against violence and hegemony, gave a voice to the colonised through story-telling. At the Santralistanbul exhibition area of Bilgi University, Neshat presented some of her most famous video installations, questioning the role of women in Islamic societies and transgressing cultural power through a deconstruction of gender that emphasises the role of language and representation in the formation and transformation of cultural identities. The exhibition was curated by Hans Peter Schwerfel.
DirimartAbdi İpekçi Cd 7/4, Nişantaşı 34367, İstanbul, Turkey, +90 212 291 3434

In Situ by Hera Büyüktaşçiyan at PIST (May 22 – June 15)

Set in the traditional Istanbul neighbourhood of Pangalti – now an island of urban history among an ocean of gentrification where PIST is located – Büyüktaşçiyan’s installation is an attempt to relocate mental space not as an abstract construct but as a site associated with three-dimensional palpable experience, which remains altogether emotional. Looking at the modern archaeological artefact and thinking of how, in classical archaeology, in situ, referred to the object not torn off from its original context, Büyüktaşçiyan re-staged the famous Pangalti hamam, once located a stone’s throw from her installation, based entirely on hamam soap. She shifts from mental into mnemonic space by opening the possibility of exploring relationships based on spatial memory. A week after her installation was finished, the Gezi Park protests set off nearby, investing her work with a particular temporal meaning.
PISTDolapdere Cd, Dere Sokak 8 A/B/C, Pangalti 34375, Istanbul, Turkey

Sign, Symbol, Image by Selim Birsel, Mel Bochner, Frank Nitsche, Ilhan Koman, Charles Sandison at Egeran (May 23 – July 19)

One of the last shows held at Egeran featured five different artists whose work is centred on the formal qualities of line, form and colour. Across a wide range of formats, the artists examined the boundaries between representation and meaning, based on abstraction. Highlights of the exhibition included a photography work by Selim Birsel, presenting a far and distant view of Turkey taken from Cyprus, obscuring in its rather clean aesthetics, the isolation of Cyprus and the strong political implications of images. Mel Bochner, one of the leading American conceptual artists since the 1980s, presented his text installation paintings in which the formal qualities of painting precede over the text as essential and defining.Ilhan Koman’s sculptures, inspired by kites and formally drawn from Minimalism, explore the infinite possibilities (and readings) of simple structures, stretching into infinity.
EgeranKemankeş Mh, Tophane İskele Cd 12, Beyoğlu 34425, İstanbul, Turkey, +90 212 251 1 251

Transition at Yapi Kredi Cultural Center (August 1 - April 15, 2014)

One of the most ambitious projects of the year in Istanbul, and more than an exhibition,Transition is an extended ongoing project exploring the boundaries between video and performance as a temporal break, through which public and personal spaces re-emerge and merge in a continuum of streamlined rupture. Selecting a number of leading performers and video artists, from all latitudes – including Ana PrvackiAnahita RazmiAnna KonikGuido van der Werve, RemDans / Tuğce Tuna, Harold OffehJesper Just, Lida Abdul, Lucy Beech & Edward ThomassonNicoline van HarskampNigel Rolfe, and Victor Alimpiev – the curators have brought together an impressive map-in of the present human condition, as the site of a discontinuous narrative in which the relationship between images and the self is not dialectic but one of mutual construction and disclosure. Highlights of the project include the performance Give Me A Body Then by Ali Cherri presented live in August, as well as works byBjørn Melhus, Maria Jose Arjona and Fatma Bucak. The project is curated by Basak Senova and Fatma Bucak. The final exhibition and book launch will take place in February 2014.
Yapi Kredi Cultural CenterTomtom Mh, İstiklal Cd 161, Istanbul, Turkey, +90 212 252 4700

A Book of Songs and Places by Maxime Hourani at 5533/13th Istanbul Biennial (September 2 - October 20)

The most remarkable project within the much criticised 13th Istanbul Biennial was the Lebanese artist-cum-architect Maxime Hourani’s The Book of Song and Places, a project of collective authorship combining relational aesthetics with documentary, research, performance and music. Consisting of a number of workshops spread across different sites of rural life, urban transformation and axes of central power in the city, professionals from different fields mapped the imaginary of the city through story-telling, examining and documenting traces of the physical transformation as potential narrative vehicles. Sound surveys of the sites, coordinated by sound designer Korhan Erel, provided the performative element in this complex exploration of the relationship between site and historicity. The project was curated by Fulya Erdemci, curator of the 13th Istanbul Biennial.

A Book of Songs and Places by Maxime Hourani.
A Book of Songs and Places by Maxime Hourani. Courtesy of the artist.

Prototype for a Nonfunctional Satellite (Design 4; Build 3) by Trevor Paglen at Protocinema (September 12 - October 25)

Fulfilling its commitment as a transnational nomadic organisation between Turkey and the United States, Protocinema brought to Istanbul a new work by the American artist and geographer Trevor Paglen, whose work, at the intersection between technology, aesthetics and politics, has extensively mapped the obscure sites of surveillance and the technological colonisation of public space. In Prototype for a Nonfunctional Satellite, Paglen aims to subvert the means-ends orientation of technology by producing a satellite based on aerospace engineering. The ultimate goal is to redirect the essence of military technology from a tool of political control into a techne, bringing down to earth a critical artefact, questioning the colonisation and privatisation of airspace. The simultaneous weightlessness and large size of the satellite function as a critical reading of globalisation; throwing us onto new spaces both open and closed.
Protocinema, Various Locations, Istanbul, Turkey, +90541 468 0214

Despair & Metanoia by Şükran Moral and Valie Export at Galeri Zilberman (September 12 – October 26)

Şükran Moral and Valie Export have been two of the most influential names to shape the contemporary understanding and perception of performance, long before it became an established format, through unconventional works amalgamating activist and feminist strategies. In this duo exhibition, Moral presented her single-channel video ‘Despair’, confronting us with the realities of illegal immigration from the East toward the West, without adjusting to filter to any narrative, and clean from tragic pathos. Export, one of the most important Austrian living artists, presented the work Metanoia, an installation-format compilation of twenty-nine of her video performances from the 1970s until today, highlighting her pioneering role not only in feminist and activist art, but also her pioneering role in video art as a surveyor of power mechanisms.
Galeri Zilbermanİstiklal Cd., Mısır Apt. 163, Beyoğlu, Istanbul, Turkey, +90 212 251 12 14

Bodies That Matter at Galeri Mana (October 10 - November 16)

Drawing on artworks by Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, Jumana Emil Abboud,Bashar Alhroub, Mustafa Al Hallaj, Jeremy HutchinsonJawad Al Malhi, and Olivia Plendercommissioned for Points of Departure – a collaboration between the Delfina Foundation, ArtSchool Palestine, London's Institute of Contemporary Arts and the British Council, focusing on Palestinian and British artists – the exhibition tackled Palestine as a laboratory of modernity where the constraints of bio-politics can be grasped with extreme urgency. The lack of sovereignty and unbound extension of power have turned Palestine into a body politic – a surface in which political powerlessness is not a metaphor but a living reality of the state and the self. Highlights of the exhibition included Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme’s video installation Lost Objects of Desire, exploring the transformation of the Palestinian resistance movement into a body of authority, and the late Mustafa Al Hallaj’s engravings that turned Palestine folklore icons into a narrative of resistance. The exhibition was curated by Rebecca Heald.
Galeri ManaKemankeş Mh, Ali Paşa Değirmeni Sokak 16–18, İstanbul, Turkey, +90 212 243 66 66

Karin Kneffel at Dirimart (October 24 - November 23)

Perhaps the most significant painting exhibition in Istanbul in 2013, Karin Kneffel, one of the most influential German painters of the generation, brought to Istanbul a series of her iconic paintings, inspired entirely by Turkey. Attracted to Istanbul because of the work of Bruno Taut, a German modernist architect who was forced out of Germany during the Weimar period and spent his final years in Istanbul, Kneffel constructed her architectural paintings, ambiguously warm and cold on the motto ‘I need a wall behind me’, blurring the lines between exteriors and interiors, producing a body of work in which the viewer needs to traverse the oil paintings in time in order to become fully aware of her syntactic procedure. Reality becomes hypostasised in almost cinematic frames that are simultaneously located in different temporal junctures and expand far beyond the canvas.
DirimartAbdi İpekçi Cd 7/4, Nişantaşı 34367, İstanbul, Turkey, +90 212 291 3434

Interpretation of Cage / Ryoanji by Sarkis at ARTER (November 15 – January 12, 2014)

Sarkis, the grandfather of Turkish contemporary art, returns to Istanbul with this exhibition,Interpretation of Cage / Ryoanji, in which the artist finds inspiration in the famous Ryoanji Zen garden in Japan, by-product of his encounter with John Cage’s flute scores, presented here as Flute Partition Ryoanji / Cage according to Sarkis. The 96 watercolours, conceived as fingerprints on blank paper, resemble calligraphy, examine and apply the dot and the line as universal vehicles of meaning in both Western and Eastern culture, and blend remote locations as visible soundscapes. Musicians Kudsi Erguner and Jean-François Lagrost performed a live interpretation of Sarkis’ watercolours on traditional instruments, adding a fourth dimension to both Cage and Sarkis. Thus, Sarkis’ ‘sound-trails’ become a physical document in which the rough contours of parallel expressions can coexist without merging. The exhibition was curated by Melih Fereli.
ARTERİstiklal Cd 211, Beyoğlu 34433, Istanbul, Turkey, +90 212 243 3767
By Arie Amaya-Akkermans

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Invisible Wars

First published on THE MANTLE 
["Lost Objects of Desire", Basel Abbas & Ruanne Abou-Rahme, 2010, installation]
“War is no longer declared,
But rather continued. The courageous
Has become the everyday. The hero
Is absent from the battle. The weak
Are moved into the firing zone.
The uniform of the day is patience,
The order of the merit is the wretched star
Of hope over the heart.” –“Every Day”, Ingeborg Bachmann
That first night in East Jerusalem, those nine or ten years ago, seemed like a slumber bathed in a thick haze. High-heeled ladies clad in fur coats tiptoed on the stone-paved alleys of the Old City at night, threading along the Via Dolorosa in the direction of the majestic colonial building, under the inspecting and almost invisible gaze of the local residents. At the Austrian Hospice, an elegant New Year’s cocktail awaited, in which locals were absent except for the waiters clad in bow ties and a few important dignitaries of the Palestinian Authority blending in with Israeli academics and European officials. Press photographers crowded in the ball room as the Upper Austria Military Band performed – without the slightest irony – for the audience.
The walk might have taken some fifteen minutes from the American Colony Hotel, in the lush garden of which during the afternoon, a conversation ensued between two diplomat wives about how crass and vulgar everything was, tasteless and exaggerated, folkloric and savage; “the food is so much better in Kurdistan”, noted one of them, amidst laughter. At midnight, champagne bottles were cracked open on the roof, overlooking the rest of the colonial mansions in the proximity: the Lutheran Augusta Victoria on the side of Mt. Olives, the Scots House in Abu Torand around the corner the Templar House, now converted into a hostel. A young priest from Virginia, clad in his black cassock, remarked how peaceful it all seemed, how Godly, as he sipped another glass. Other guests nodded in agreement.
A faint sound of fireworks could be heard as we drove that night into Beit Haninawith James, then the vice-consul of Britain in East Jerusalem, and made ourselves comfortable in his apartment with gin and bitters, chatting in the large balcony behind thick bullet-proof glass. Not a single noise from near or far as the Oxfam workers, residents of the adjacent buildings, had gone home for the holiday and all what one could see from behind the glass were the sparse and titillating lights of the Palestinian houses. “Yes, George Elliot wrote something about the Jews, yes.”In this time warp of white marble, hours passed frolicking between the best Victorian novels and reminiscences of Catholic theology from school days: “Milbank’s book on the New Testament I will never understand. He’s a bloody Marxist.”   
["Lost Objects of Desire", Basel Abbas & Ruanne Abou-Rahme, 2010, installation]
In the morning, by contrast, the profound cartographic abyss of Palestine opened its gates to swallow the entire visual field; it became inescapable. There was nothing particularly exotic about it as much as it was logically implausible; there were no rows of houses or a skyline. The most arresting aspect of this urban sprawl without continuity or shape is that it operates with the grammar of a city and embedded in the inexorable demands of everyday life, and going about its own business. In between the half finished structures, separated by plots of barren land and demolition debris, inner roads are carved manually, small shops and cafes open daily and large billboards are placed between houses and empty plots and derelict structures, advertising cell phones, clothes, home appliances and soft drinks.
Destruction is a metaphor that more often than not refers to an episodic transformation that changes structures (and societies) from one state into another, in the same sense that solids are liquefied and liquids are gasified. This, however, fails to account for the realities of colonialism in which a modification of consciousness occurs haphazardly but continuously, through varied mechanisms of power, by means of which the colonized are ought to come to regard the state of emergency as an apolitical fait accompli that overtime blends in together both the human condition and the everyday. The on-going reality of colonization can hardly be described as destruction, even though there are physical traces thereof, but rather as a construction in which the real is replaced through value abstraction.
The work of Palestinian artists Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme stands out in the landscape of politically engaged practices, in that the Ramallah-based duo refuses to adopt the reification of the status quo of colonization – via images of violence, poverty and abeyance – into a grammar of representation, and why not say it, resistance. Social realism, one of the driving forces behind the globalization of art, particularly in cinema, conflated the aesthetics of redemption with both melancholy and ethics; henceforth, politically engaged art in the particular case of Palestine could be no other than documenting and structurally analyzing – even from a narrative point of view – the conditions upon which the Israeli occupationexists as an objective reality.
["The Zone", Basel Abbas & Ruanne Abou-Rahme, 2011, installation]
Nevertheless, it is this same reality which was created by the conditions of occupation what is being represented and both past (as melancholy) and future (as hope, disaster, and liberation) are filtered through its undialectical lens. The symbolic order of the Israeli occupation is imposed (and then later self-imposed) not only on artists but on the specter of representation across media, television and narrative, as a binary code in which everyday life becomes a fetish: “Precisely because of the analogical cloak with which we garb the pragmatic structure of everyday life, everyday thinking is often fetishist: it accepts things and institutions as they are, in ready-made form, and brackets off their origins.1 Abbas and Abou-Rahme want to turn our sense-direction towards the political production of the everyday.
Overlapping dream and ruin, they deploy across a variety of formats (video, performance, sound) the dream-world of commoditization that depoliticizes the real and inverts the order of representation, making the illusory world of allure and image not dependant on the real but on a mimetic relationship between absence of referents and the creation of a temporary site for production of desire in which objects become mobile, “global”, and cut off from the conditions of production.2 Built as an immersive environment, The Zone (2011) is a dissonant multi-channel video-installation in which this desire for normalcy emerges as a discourse firmly anchored in the possibility of another world, but yet using the currency of the present in order to simulate a parallel mechanism of power.
This strategy is distinct and develops a critical reading of the real as a series of simulacra, in which the devaluation of the world of objects – and of whatness in general – as allegory is outdone by the world as a commodity, and hence as an unstable cycle of biological insignificance, unable to sustain the public domain.3 Nonetheless, their investigation expands and maps out the contours of Palestine not only as a laboratory of political Modernity in which the immanent relations between knowledge, power and desire break down into a reified surrealism. They turn to the anatomy of the body politic which underlies this process, parsing the transition between liberation and authority that characterizes the post-colonial process. How is a radical imaginary transformed into a body of power?
["Lost Objects of Desire", Basel Abbas & Ruanne Abou-Rahme, 2010, installation]
In Lost Objects of Desire (2010), a 3-channel video-installation, they question the possibility of a Raum for politics and polity through different layers of overlapping linguistic, sonic and visual story-telling. Occupying an entire room in the gallery, conceived not only as an immersive but also as an abysmal site, the different narratives in this jarring large-scale installation are sewn together through the stories of Hassan Shatter, a mythical figure in Palestinian folklore whose stories – once recorded – were passed orally through grandparents and great-grandparents, as a modern form of fairy tale in which characters were always augmented, invented and inverted, depending on when or by whom was the story told. Constantly shifting orders, symbols and modalities.
In the absence of stable boundaries and a political space, orality became for Palestinians coeval with homelessness and boundlessness (Modernity is essentially anti-home, the love of the new and exceptional, a new type of globalization which is only imagined and part of the desire discourse because the borders are not open to everyone), as a particularlist cosmopolitism not unlike that of European Jews in the late 19th century. Hassan the smart becomes elsewhere becomes a metaphor for Palestine: In Mahmoud Al Massad’s film Hassan Shatter (2001), staged in Utrecht, the director chases a homeless man for weeks, finding him sometimes, losing him at others, depicting what it means to be lost, to forget your identity, to be bereft of destination while the spectacle of life continues unmolested.  
The open-ended fairy tale serves as the vehicle of re-making the self under the duress of uncertainty, but also as a platform to undistinguish between reality and fiction, between object and desire, between subject and body politic. In Abbas and Abou-Rahme’s installation, the unfulfilled stories serve as the background for Palestinian nationalistic songs from the 1970s and a woman’s recounting the violent events at a demonstration in present-day Ramallah. Their narrative however is not one of simultaneity and confusion, but rather the subterraneous procedure of appearing and disappearing in a loop, creating not only a dialectical relation between images and sounds but a synthesis independent of its constituting elements. It becomes a temporal break of intensity turned towards itself.
["Lost Objects of Desire", Basel Abbas & Ruanne Abou-Rahme, 2010, installation]
The Messianic movement in Abbas and Abou-Rahme’s installation is not the rational internalization of institutional critique, but turning their backs on the empty homogeneous time of Capitalism which relies on biological processes and eternal recurrence to assert its dominion over life and the body through a cycle of need and survival which prevents the world from becoming a network of relationships and stays at the level of mere exchange of objects. In their view, the catastrophe is not the ultimate collapse of the colonial system but the continuation of things as they are.4 They are searching for a horizon of freedom in which power can break from the helm of authority and provide a space for latency: The re-awakening of an image so primal that it had, until then, remained unimagined.
Or, in the words of Palestinian filmmaker Rashid Masharawi“Jaffa is always present in my subconscious. It is true that I love Jaffa, but I do not have to mourn it in a blatant and acrimonious way. It won’t help if I shout all the time ‘I’m from Jaffa and this is my house!’ The tedious repetition of my story as a refugee would only diminish its strength and significance. It would also lessen its reliability and would cast doubts on my beliefs and on the justice of my claimss."5 Reimagining a radical imaginary is not articulated in the structures of prevalent forms of authority but overcoming the disenchantment with Modernity of the generation of the 1967 war and presenting the Palestinian struggle as a chapter in global transnational concerns, connecting colonialism and power to the global economy.
Redemption is here not an apocalyptic hysteria but a reconfiguration, a modification of consciousness that permits the submerged to become present as an open space of representation rather than a worship of the idol of the past, passed as ethical impetus. This reconfiguration implies the awareness that the everyday under colonialism is a political production and another chapter in the history of bio-politics, when understood as an absence of boundaries located in temporality, spatiality and modality: Repetition, geography and habit are the primary apparatus of repression, by grounding everyday life outside history and thus, beyond the possibilities of Modernity.6 Reclaiming the agon is, for Palestinians, allowing the everyday an authentic access to realness, and therefore, to critical forces.  
["Lost Objects of Desire", Basel Abbas & Ruanne Abou-Rahme, 2010, installation]
“It is awarded
When nothing more happens,
When the bombardment is silenced,
When the enemy has become invisible
And the shadow of eternal armament
Covers the sky.”
Thus continues the second stanza of Ingeborg Bachmann, establishing a relationship between war and the everyday grounded on the invisibility of conflict, shaped by the illusion of liberation engineered into systematic power by authority, reproducing the everyday as the hologram of a colonial reduction. Arendt was keen to make a distinction between a body politic and a politic of the biological body:“Obviously not every form of human intercourse and not every kind of community is characterized by freedom. Where men live together but do not form a body politic –as, for example, in tribal societies or in the privacy of the household –the factors ruling their actions and conduct are not freedom but the necessities of life and concern for its preservation.”7
In their practice, Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme recreate an agonistic moment which is not that of revolutionary violence. While there is a rupture or an interruption in the flow of the present, as a resonant metaphysical symbol, the tense is not built in linearity or simultaneity. It is a series of intense singularities submerged between the local and the spatial, the narrative and the oral, the temporal and the repetitive, foaming to the surface as a negotiation between objects of desire and subjects of power, at the end of which, a symbolic order is restored not as an archive but as an endless expanse of possibility. Yet their writing on the wall, though hopeful, is still clear: “Hell is not something which lies ahead of us, but this life here.”8
["Lost Objects of Desire", Basel Abbas & Ruanne Abou-Rahme, 2010, installation]

1. Agnes Heller, Everyday Life, Routledge & Kegan, 1984, pp. 52
2. Philip Goodchild, Deleuze and Guattari: An Introduction to the Politics of Desire, SAGE, 1996, pp. 3  
3. Walter Benjamin, “Central Park” in New German Critique, No. 34 (Winter, 1985), pp. 34
4. Walter Benjamin, Illuminations, Shocken, 1968, pp. 255-256
5. Nurith Gertz & George Khleifi, Palestinian Cinema: Landscape, Trauma and Memory, Edinburgh University Press, 2008, pp. 101
6. Rita Felski, “The Invention of Everyday Life” in New Formations, No. 39, 1999, pp. 16-23
7. Hannah Arendt, Between Past and Future, Penguin Classics, 2006, pp. 147
8. Walter Benjamin, “Central Park”, Ibid, pp. 50
"Lost Objects of Desire" was on show at Galeri Mana, Istanbul, October 5th - November 11th, in the context of the exhibition "Bodies That Matter", in collaboration with Delfina Foundation, curated by Rebecca Heald. Their video piece "Collapse" (2009) will be on show at Carroll / Fletcher, London, January 17th - February 22nd, in the context of the exhibition "Now Showing: A Group Exhibition of Artists Films". Photography courtesy of the author.