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Hermeneutic Suspicion: Digital Archiving, Conflict and Cultural Production in the Middle East by Dr Anthony Downey

  • Main Lecture Theatre Edinburgh College of Art (map)

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.

Dr Anthony Downey is an academic, editor, and writer. He is Professor of Visual Culture in the Middle East and North Africa within the Faculty of Arts, Design and Media at Birmingham City University. He is the series editor for Contemporary Visual Culture in the Middle East (Sternberg Press) and sits on the Editorial Board of Third Text. Since 2011, he has been the Editor-in-Chief of Ibraaz, an online research platform for cultural producers in the Middle East.

This event was organised in partnership between Arts Cabinet and Edinburgh College of Art, with the generous co-operation from the Royal Norwegian Consulate in Edinburgh