Centre for the Arts of Doing Something about It

Exhibition

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“I Spy with my little eye… A new generation of Beirut artists”.

Exhibition, Short read

Margaux Portron, Research and Communications Associate, Artraker.

 

Yesterday I visited the exhibition “I Spy with my little eye. A new generation of Beirut artists”, at the Mosaic Rooms, in London. It ends tomorrow, so if you can make the time, go and see it.

“I Spy” struck me for two reasons.

The first is the content of the exhibition. As discussed in last week’s post with Yahya from P21 Gallery, we expect artworks from warzones or postconflict zones to talk about war. This is the opposite here.

 

Photo of the Mosaic Rooms with three different artworks. Source: Margaux Portron

Photo of the Mosaic Rooms with three different artworks.
Source: Margaux Portron

Here you can see a lamp hanging from a chandelier. The artwork by Stéphanie Saadé is part of a series called Re-enactment LB /Chandelier, “a scenario seen in a traditional Beiruti house –  a lamp used only as a support for another lamp”.

The phone is part of the installation Let it ring, by Charbel-joseph H. Boutros, where three phones were dialled – the three phones are displayed throughout the Mosaic Rooms. “the installation/performance employs disappearance as a mode of visual suggestion, conveying historical and intimate meanings, finding poetic lines that extend beyond the realm of existing realities”.

The series of photographs by Georges Awde depict Syrian boys living in Lebanon, certainly, but they’re more about coming of age for boys than about fleeing a warzone:

His passing cover, by Georges Awde Source: http://www.georgeawde.com/

His passing cover, by Georges Awde
Source: http://www.georgeawde.com/

His passing cover, by Georges Awde Source: http://www.georgeawde.com/

His passing cover, by Georges Awde
Source: http://www.georgeawde.com/

For some curatorial reason, however, the photographs were hung quite low on the wall, and because they were displayed in the halls I couldn’t really take a step back (literally), to look at them. It is a pity because these are really powerful pictures (as the comments left in the gallery book also suggest).

Which brings me to the form of the exhibition.

I liked that there was no info on the artworks on the walls: you had to take a brochure and find the artist in there. There are so many artworks there that I feel like info on the wall would have disrupted their message. Instead, the pieces work with the space without the museographic codes.

For instance, this is not an artwork:

The Reeds, by Lara Tabet (in collaboration with Michelle Daher) Source: Margaux Portron

The Reeds, by Lara Tabet (in collaboration with Michelle Daher)
Source: Margaux Portron

The Reeds corresponds to the photos, it is not the whole installation. I absolutely loved this set up, because it engaged me physically with the artworks: you have to dig into the box, the photos will not stay in the same order, etc. But even more so, because it comprises “photographic shots of a sexual cruising ground tucked away ine one Beirut’s iconic waterfronts”. Very graphic images indeed. This set-up transforms us from spectators to actors – you do not simply walk past.

 

 


The Mosaic Rooms

Free Admission
Opening times: Tuesday – Saturday, 11am-6pm
A.M. Qattan Foundation
Tower House, 226 Cromwell Road
London SW5 0SW

http://mosaicrooms.org/ | https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Mosaic-Rooms/125931740810008 | Twitter @themosaicrooms | https://instagram.com/themosaicrooms/

T. 020 7370 9990

Nearest tube: Earl’s Court

Kites from Kabul

Exhibition, Short read

Margaux Portron, Research and Communications Associate, Artraker.

 

Today I went to the exhibition “Kites from Kabul” at the V&A Museum of Childhood.

It consists in a display of kites and photos of kite-flying in Afghanistan. It is a strong tradition in this country, even in times of war. Kite-making and kite-flying are both about craft and art, skill and creativity. Children and adults put so much passion into them it actually is more of a combat sport, as you can see in this video:

It was a forbidden practice under the Taliban regime, for a reason I couldn’t find anywhere.

Maybe because of the colours and the sheer fun?

Handmade kites displayed at the V&A Museum of Childhood

Handmade kites displayed at the V&A Museum of Childhood. Source: Margaux Portron

I find it interesting that such practices take place in countries where the airspace is (or was, in the case of India under the British colonisation) otherwise constantly occupied by bomber planes and drones. As kites have been flying over Afghanistan for a century, it looks like what could be a reappropriation of the airspace.

Wonder Years, by Tabby.  Source: http://tabbythis.com/?page_id=2255

Wonder Years, by Tabby.
Source: http://tabbythis.com/?page_id=2255

However, I couldn’t help but notice the total absence of women and girls in the photos. I was suprised the curatorial text didn’t mention it was a masculine practice in Afghanistan (in India, from what I understood, girls participate). It is unfortunataly a rather tiny exhibition which lacks in historical and social context. It is nevertheless worth seeing for the beautiful photos and handmade kites.

Photos taken in 2014 and 2015 by Andrew Quilty

Photos taken in 2014 and 2015 by Andrew Quilty. Source: Margaux Portron


“Turquoise Mountain has been working in Afghanistan since 2006 to revive historic areas and traditional crafts, and has restored over 100 historic and community buildings in the Murad Khani district of Kabul. It has also set up the Turquoise Mountain Institute for Afghan Arts and Architecture, which trains hundreds of young Afghans in traditional arts and crafts. The kites in this display are the result of a collaboration between the children of Murad Khani and students from the Institute.” 

V&A Museum of Childhood, Cambridge Heath Road, London E2 9PA Admission free. Open daily: 10.00 – 17.45, last admission 17.30 Nearest tube: Bethnal Green. Tel: 020 8983 5200 http://www.vam.ac.uk/moc


Also on the subject: The Kite Runner, a book by Khaled Hosseini, adapted into a film by Marc Forster.