Antoine-Ignace Melling's engraving ‘Inside the Harem of the Sultan’ (c 1810) depicts women's everyday life and their relationships, rituals and spatial practices in the Ottoman harem. Two centuries later, İnci Eviner, one of the leading contemporary artists internationally acclaimed for her solo and group exhibitions as well as for her contribution to numerous biennials, animates the same anonymous women in her video ‘Harem’ (2009) by displacing the spatio-temporal nexus of Melling's work and exposes, in the manner of a visual parrhesia, the desires, the revolting gestures and the violence inherent in the harem. To discuss the nature of this displacement, we open with a few initial remarks on Melling’s ‘Harem’. Then we focus on Eviner's ‘Harem’, elaborating on the forms of subjectivity and spatiality it evokes. In this discussion we pay special attention to the role of becoming, sacrifice, resurrection and the virtual in Eviner’s work. The power relation specific to the harem, that of between the despot and the female slave, plays a pivotal role in this context. To end with, we turn to another significant work by Eviner, ‘The Parliament’, which, rather unexpectedly, relates the subjective and spatial nexus of the Oriental harem to Western politics.
3D scanners and printers offer a relatively inexpensive means of preserving threatened, destroyed or lost cultural artefacts. At the same time, the digital reproduction of this heritage (which now increasingly results in physical replicas) resonates with a public that wants to experience historical monuments and objects firsthand. This article examines recent artistic projects that use this technology to produce 3D scans of highly charged artefacts and monuments that originate from the Middle East. Through the unauthorised and open dissemination of this data, these works critically intervene in cultural heritage discourses. As I will argue, these practices offer a productive space to explore questions of colonial dispossession, the commodification of heritage, and public access that go beyond a more narrowly legal argument about the restitution of cultural property.
In the last two decades, collaborative art praxes, sometimes categorised as participatory art, have become a staple of the global contemporary artworld. Some might consider them the trending modus operandi in artistic practices today. This kind of production prompts artists to step outside of normative studio situations to create socially engaged projects connected to audiences typically beyond the microcosm of art. Curator and scholar Salwa Mikdadi points out that these kinds of works are a hallmark of art in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). She writes about their potential: ‘In the case of the Arab world, they undoubtedly serve to bring young people together under the banner of art, in the process giving young artists a renewed sense of purpose.’ This article discusses the significance of experimental institutions in the MENA in initiating, producing, espousing and promoting participatory or collaborative art projects. It highlights three arts centres in the region – Cairo, Sharjah and Amman.
This article examines German filmmaker Philip Scheffner’s 2007 film 'The Halfmoon Files: A Ghost Story' about the Halfmoon Camp, a German WWI colonial prisoner-of-war camp. Extensive anthropological research was carried out upon its prisoners, and the camp was also the subject of popular colonial representations. Scholars and others made sound recordings, photographs, films and drawings, and recorded details of prisoners, documentation now located in German archives. The film considers intertwined histories of German anthropology and colonialism at the camp by means of such documents and is also drawn to traces and mediated presences of individuals held there, evoked especially through sound recordings. Moreover, it looks searchingly at contemporary landscapes for traces and repression of this colonial history. Overall, the film is characterised by a sense of incompleteness of the archive, a layering of visual and aural techniques of display and absence, and metaphors of haunting, producing a ‘ghost story’.
Between 1979 and 1984 São Paulo was the centre of a veritable boom in xerographic experimentation. The ardent turn to the photocopier on the part of many São Paulo-based artists was the culmination of a neo-avant-garde scene that had crystallised there since the beginning of the 1970s, during the most brutal years of the military dictatorship. Working individually, they coalesced in their appropriation of technologies of mass print media to create, in the midst of censorship and repression, dispersive and democratic works. However, these artists singularly harnessed the photocopier to simultaneously attack the parameters of canonical art and the oppressive measures of the regime that facilitated access to this very technology. This article materialises a significant and largely overlooked chapter of the conceptual turn in Brazil. It also maps a vital transition, from artists using xerography solely for its pluralising capability, to developing xerography as a visual language in its own right – re-orientating the machine’s function, and altering how viewers would approach these haptic works.
Like many artists since the Renaissance and Baroque, Oscar Muñoz (Popayán, Colombia, 1951), has been intrigued throughout his career by reflective devices. I discuss selected drawings, installations and videos from the 1970s to 2010. I argue that in their portrayal and embodiment of ephemerality and entropy his works act as surrogates for the human conscience and body. His art is thus imbued with both an existential and a social significance. Metaphorically, the physical processes to which he alludes evoke an unfulfillable human need to visualise and comprehend our own existence, identity and fate. His works also assert a need to concern ourselves with fellow humans’ lives and their memorialisation within a social and historic context – as in Colombia in the last sixty years – that has often thwarted people’s abilities to acknowledge each other’s suffering and loss. When confronting Muñoz’s art, we are literally and symbolically reflecting on the temporal and entropic character of images, objects and life.
This article is an attempt to define a new paradigm of body use in the medical performances of the Slovenian body artist Ive Tabar. By profession Tabar is a medical technician. Between 1999 and 2007 he enacted four political body art performances in the Kapelica gallery in Ljubljana and Loža in Koper entitled 'Evropa I', 'II', 'III' and 'IV'. At first sight these were body art performances of ‘the older type’, in which the body is the site of the performance and which Tabar invasively subjected to various medical instruments and processes. But in actual fact Tabar has enacted a crucial shift in his performative practice related to his attitude to pain: instead of endorsing pain as an ontological condition of the body art practice, he offers us the body as a tool for the political message of the performance.
THIRD TEXT is published in print and online by Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group