Here and Elsewhere
Hassan Sharif included in Here and Elsewhere, curated by Massimiliano Gioni, at the New Museum, New York.
In the past ten years, the work of artists and cultural spaces in cities such as Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Dubai, Doha, Marrakesh, Ramallah, and Sharjah, among others, have established critical points of global access. However, despite a growing international interest in contemporary art from across North Africa and the Middle East, there have been few presentations of art from these regions in New York. Here and Elsewhere is the first museum-wide exhibition in New York to bring together more than forty artists from over twelve countries in the Arab world, many of whom live and work internationally.
The exhibition borrows its title from a 1976 film-essay by French directors Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Pierre Gorin, and Anne-Marie Miéville. Their film, Ici et ailleurs [Here and Elsewhere], was conceived as a pro-Palestinian documentary, but developed into a complex reflection on the ethics of representation and the status of images as instruments of political consciousness.
Taking inspiration from Godard, Gorin, and Miéville’s film—which has had a strong impact on an entire generation of artists in various Arab countries—the exhibition pays particular attention to the position and role of the artist in the face of historical events. Through different methodologies, an unconventional form of lyrical documentary and personal reportage emerges in works in which the artist is vested with the responsibility of revising dominant historical narratives. Other artists in the exhibition undertake experimental approaches to archival material, rewriting personal and collective traumas, and weaving fragments both real and imagined into their work. For others, traditional mediums like painting, drawing, and sculpture record subtle and intimate shifts in awareness, using images as tools for self-discovery, chronicles of current events, or registers of personal histories.
A reflection on what is at stake in the act of representation characterizes many of the works in the exhibition, as many artists reconsider the task of witnessing and chronicling social and political changes. In addition, a number of pieces initiate a reflection on images as sites of conflict or spaces of intimacy, while others develop a critique of media representation and propaganda.
In keeping with the New Museum’s dedication to showcasing the most engaging work from different parts of the world, Here and Elsewhere joins a series of New Museum exhibitions that have introduced urgent questions and new aesthetics to New York audiences.
Following the critical discussions that have animated contemporary art in recent years, Here and Elsewhere does not propose a fixed definition of Arab art or a distinctive regional style. With the renegotiation of location and perspective evoked in the exhibition’s title, the show calls attention to specific cities and art scenes while emphasizing the importance of international dialogues that extend beyond the Arabic-speaking world. Further, the exhibition illuminates similar insights and affinities as well as dramatic differences, revealing multiple social and aesthetic landscapes rather than a fictional sense of unity.
Combining pivotal and under-recognized figures with younger and midcareer artists, Here and Elsewhere works against the notion of the Arabic-speaking world as a homogenous or cohesive entity. Through the original and individualized practices of this multigenerational constellation of artists, the exhibition highlights works that often have conceptual or aesthetic roots in the Arab world, yet extend well beyond. Emerging from the works of a particularly strong and diverse group of artists are less the contours of an “imagined geography”—to use the words of Edward Said—than new critical attitudes toward art and images that encourage us to look “elsewhere” in order to understand our “here.”
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue coedited with Negar Azimi, Kaelen Wilson-Goldie, and Babak Radboy of Bidoun magazine, and featuring roundtable discussions with artists as well as critical essays by scholars and critics.
Here and Elsewhere is organized by the New Museum’s curatorial department, led by Massimiliano Gioni, Associate Director and Director of Exhibitions, with Natalie Bell, Curatorial Associate, Gary Carrion-Murayari, Curator, Helga Christoffersen, Assistant Curator, and Margot Norton, Assistant Curator.