The representation of conflict and its effect on cultural production is a global concern. The increasingly digitised substance of such images, in terms of both dissemination and reception, has also given rise to a series of interpretive dilemmas: what are we looking at in these images and how do we archive them?
These concerns have come to define, albeit to varying degrees, significant elements in the work of artists as diverse as Akram Zaatari, Khalil Rabah, Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, Ruanne Abou-Rahme and Basel Abbas, Lamia Joreige, Roy Samaha, and Jananne Al-Ani. Whilst not necessarily residing in the Middle East, these artists produce work that specifically engages with regionally-defined, historically localised conflicts and how they are produced as archival forms of knowledge, be they photographic, art historical, cultural, sociological, anthropological, textual, institutional, oral, or digital.
In an era defined by digital forms of reproduction, this talk will suggest that these modes of cultural engagement not only utilise and disrupt the function of the digital archive in relation to the representation of conflict but, in doing do, they simultaneously highlight a systemic and perhaps irrevocable crisis in institutional and state-ordained archiving across the region.
Anthony Downey is an academic, editor and writer. Recent and upcoming publications include Art and Politics Now (2014); Uncommon Grounds: New Media and Critical Practice in North Africa and the Middle East (2014); Mirrors for Princes: Both Sides of the Tongue (2015); and Archival Dissonance: Contemporary Art and Contested Narratives in the Middle East (2015). He is the Director of the Master’s Programme in Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London, and the Editor-in-Chief of Ibraaz.
This event is organised in partnership between Arts Cabinet and Edinburgh College of Art with the generous co-operation of the Royal Norwegian Consulate in Edinburgh.