OrienteeringArab American Artists at the 12th International Cairo Biennale
December 12, 2010 - February 12, 2011
1 Kafour street Orman Post, Giza Egypt
The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) has selected the Arab American National Museum (AANM) to organize the United States’ representation of American artists at the 12th International Cairo Biennale, to be held in Egypt from December 12, 2010 through February 12, 2011.
The United States pavilion will feature the work of American artists Annabel Daou, Dahlia Elsayed, Rheim Alkadhi and Nadia Ayari. Ranya Husami curated the group exhibition, entitled Orienteering.
“The Cairo Biennale gives the AANM the opportunity to present the work of some of our most important contemporary Arab American artists in an international forum, to promote their role both domestically and internationally, and to foster an important new dialogue between Arab American, Arab and international artists,” says Museum Director Dr. Anan Ameri.
“It will demonstrate America’s support for and pride in its Arab American artists and citizens. The Biennale represents a unique opportunity for the Museum, for the artists and for the nation.”
“Art needs no translation – it bridges barriers and connects people of all cultures. The Cairo Biennale will feature the talent and diversity of Arab American artists,” said Ann Stock, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs.
ECA’s Cultural Programs Division supports and manages the official U.S. participation at the Cairo Biennale. U.S. representation at this global event ensures that the excellence, vitality and diversity of the arts in the United States are effectively showcased abroad and provides an opportunity to engage foreign audiences to increase mutual understanding.
Since its inception in 1984, the Cairo Biennale has become one of the most important cultural events in the Middle East. Conceived and initially designed to explore contemporary art in the Arab World, the concepts of the successive artistic directors expanded the interest to the international arena. The Biennale is produced by the Sector of Fine Arts at the Egyptian Ministry of Culture and exhibited primarily in its Palace of Arts. Continuing success in sustaining the event has had a direct impact on contemporary art practices arising from Egypt and other Arab World nations in the past two decades. Further information is available at http://www.cairobiennale.gov.eg/.
The four Arab American artists exhibiting in Cairo are remarkably diverse and complex in terms of their styles, subjects, and approaches to imagery. Some of this work may at first blush appear simple, accessible, easily grasped. Yet all of these artists somehow subvert, critique, or complicate simplistic readings of their ideas in their work.
Daou has created a site-specific, time-based installation entitled from where to where, which throws into confusion concepts of time and place—indicators essential to how art is traditionally selected, organized, identified, contextualized, displayed, and understood. In New York and Beirut, Daou asked strangers: Where are you now? Where are you coming from? and Where are you going to? and “mapped”/wrote down the responses she received. The piece is accompanied by a sound installation, created by Daou and Greta Byrum, which incorporates the same answers to the same questions, in the same languages, recorded simultaneously. The piece’s title makes it an inquiry into how identity is asserted, undermined, and/or reconstructed through the ongoing exchange between “location” and state of mind.
Annabel Daou is of Lebanese descent and is based in New York, New York. Click HERE for further information.
The art of Dahlia Elsayed also, upon first impression, resembles a map. Since childhood, Elsayed has kept journals, incorporating images overlapped with text. These have evolved into large-scale paintings, some in diptych form, that use image and text to create detailed, visual narratives of locations and experience. Part data-tracking and part typography, the paintings examine the aesthetic surfaces and ephemeral cultural markers of recent immigrant populations, of which Elsayed is a part; political strife has caused each of the last three generations of her family to immigrate to a new continent. The paintings are depictions of both external and internal geographies, neither of them rooted in the physical world. Elsayed has come to believe that cities are shaped less by architecture than by the social experiences and memories that occur there; it is these experiences and memories which are depicted in her work.
Dahlia Elsayed is an Egyptian American from Palisades Park, New Jersey. Click HERE for further information.
Rheim Alkadhi has used found objects to construct her work in two parts:Domestic Floor Covering and Conference of Flies. The first, an Oriental rug caked with dirt, evokes a domicile that has been soiled and corrupted. Circular portions of varying sizes have been extracted or replaced with the statistical and geographical accuracy of a map, in direct reference to Iraq's displacement crisis. The second element, Conference of Flies, presents these insects as material manifestations of a sweltering atmosphere, an absurdist representation of the perpetual state of indeterminacy that hijacks both public and private spaces.
Rheim Alkadhi, of both Iraqi and American background, is based in Los Angeles, California. Click HERE for further information.
Nadia Ayari grew up in the religiously tolerant culture of Tunisia. She did not begin depicting Middle Eastern subject matter in her paintings until she came to the U.S. and began confronting notions of cultural heritage and identity. Her work involves the deliberate positing of opposing ideals and expectations. She sometimes depicts threatening, violent characters in absurd, comic scenarios. These are rendered in sensuously textural impasto paint and bright candy colors, negating and poking fun at their subject matter. The cartoon-like subject matter, simplistic imagery and bubblegum palette belie a deeper meaning. Ayari employs these means, as well as icons of Western Art history like surrealism. She deftly manipulates Western notions of how contemporary “Arab” art should look, turning such notions squarely on their heads. Her Biennale works are entitled Camo, Wild Flowers and Blue Domes.
Nadia Ayari was born in Tunisia and now resides in New York, New York. Click HERE for further information.
Curated By Ranya Husami
Independent curator Ranya Husami recently obtained an M.A. in Modern Art and Curating at Columbia University. Her master’s thesis, The Dog Ate My Framework: The Originality of the Post-War Lebanese Avant-Garde and Other Post-Modernist Myths, examines the formation of narratives and origin stories that have crystallized around conceptual art practices in post-war Lebanon She is currently a researcher and writer at an art advisory firm in New York, which curates the private collections of some of the top modern and contemporary art collectors in the U.S. She specializes in conceptual art, with an emphasis on art from the Middle East.