*The geographical term Middle East is not neutral, but Eurocentric and has its origin in colonialism.
Exhibtion, films, talks & events
Between Reality and Fiction
19 September 2020 — 3 January 2021
Eye presents a group exhibition that explores landscape with some of the Arab world’s most prominent artists who work with film and video.
Landscape is a charged notion in the Middle East.* On the one hand, representations of landscape engage with a heady mix of national and natural borders, tussles over resources and territory, and (colonial) history. On the other hand, it is a rich source of identity, tradition and imagination.
The artists relate to landscape in various ways. They do not shy away from interrogating how beauty, folklore, ideology, colonialism and violence are ingrained in how landscape is understood, conceptualised, visualised and imagined.
Watch the exhibition trailer:
In this exhibition, the participating artists challenge and reshape views of the region by drawing on a host of complex and entangled issues, ranging from geography and conflict to belonging. Including works by Basel Abbas & Ruanne Abou Rahme, Heba Y. Amin, Jananne Al-Ani, Ali Cherri, Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige, Mohamad Hafeda, Larissa Sansour, Hrair Sarkissian, and Wael Shawky.
What binds these artworks together is that they explore landscape as a versatile trope for telling stories about the past, present and future, whether rooted in reality or fiction.
Guest curator Nat Muller takes you on a virtual tour around the exhibition:
For Sewing Borders, Lebanese artist Mohamad Hafeda collaborated with people who have experience of being displaced, for example, because they had to flee their country. They set new boundaries on maps with sewing machines. In this way, countless unofficial, personal boundaries are made visible. In this interview, Hafeda explains what fascinates him so much about borders.
What could peace between Israel and Palestine look like? Artist Larissa Sansour uses science fiction to comment on years of negotiations surrounding the conflict. In her film Nation Estate, we see a Palestinian state in the form of a gigantic, futuristic skyscraper. Sansour tells Eye about the background of the work. She also shows how her identity as a Palestinian woman influences her art.
Hrair Sarkissian built a scale model of the apartment complex in Damascus where he grew up. The artist has since left Syria, but his parents still live in the same building, where they are threatened by war daily. In the film Homesick, you can see how Sarkissian destroyed the model. Did that act offer relief? He speaks to Eye about it.
During the Gulf War, Iraq's landscape was portrayed on TV as little more than an empty desert. For artist Jananne Al-Ani, who grew up there, this one-sided representation was astonishing: it is one of the most fertile areas in the world and the landscape is full of traces of ancient civilizations. In her work Shadow Sites she shows what lies behind the apparent emptiness that Western media showed.
Heba Y. Amin
Artist Heba Y. Amin travelled from Nigeria to Europe for five months, along trade routes described as early as the eleventh century in the text “Kitab al-Masalik wal-Mamalik” (Book of Roads and Kingdoms). The routes are widely used today by migrants travelling from Africa to Europe. Amin recorded the journey using a theodolite, a tool used for land surveying. In this interview, she talks about the project, which takes a critical look at the way in which migrants are portrayed in the media.
Geological fault lines converge under Lebanon, the homeland of artist Ali Cherri. This can lead to severe earthquakes. In his film The Disquiet, the artist makes a connection between natural disasters and political unrest. After much of Beirut was destroyed by an explosion in August of 2020, the work took on an unexpected new meaning. The title of the exhibition - Trembling Landscapes, after another work by Cherri - was suddenly painfully topical.
The inhabitants of the Egyptian village of Al Araba Al Madfuna strongly believe in supernatural powers, which they use to find pharaoh gold and other treasures in the ground. Artist Wael Shawky visited the village and experienced miraculous things, such as children suddenly speaking in a different voice - just like in The Exorcist. His fascination with the place, where the spiritual and the terrestrial merge seamlessly, led to the film trilogy Al Araba Al Madfuna. The second part of this trilogy is part of the exhibition.
Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige
In their short film Waiting for the Barbarians, artists Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige combine panoramic shots of Beirut with a poem by C.P. Cavafy. The poem poses that a common enemy can serve as a solution to social unrest. But what if the barbarians don't come? Hadjithomas and Joreige created the work in 2013, in response to xenophobia and emerging nationalism. It hasn't lost any of its urgency since.
Take a virtual tour through the exhibition:
Films, talks & more
The exhibition is accompanied by a programme of films, discussions and other activities.
The exhibition is curated by guestcurator Nat Muller in collaboration with Jaap Guldemond and Marente Bloemheuvel.
The exhibition title is borrowed from Lebanese artist Ali Cherri’s series of lithographic prints Trembling Landscapes (2014-2016).
Director of exhibitions / Curator
Claartje Opdam, Elise Breukers
Joseph Plateau, Amsterdam
Rembrandt Boswijk, Indyvideo, Utrecht; Martijn Bor
BeamSystems, Amsterdam; Eidotech, Berlin; Indyvideo, Utrecht; Vidi-Square, Pulle (B)
Syb Sybesma, Amsterdam
Studio Warmerdam, Amsterdam
Support Eye. Join the Eye Society.