AMCA-Sponsored Panels at the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) Annual Meeting 2016, November 17-20, 2016, Boston Marriott Copley Place, Boston, MA | AMCA | Association for Modern + Contemporary Art of the Arab World, Iran + Turkey

AMCA-Sponsored Panels at the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) Annual Meeting 2016, November 17-20, 2016, Boston Marriott Copley Place, Boston, MA

  • The Art Salon in the Middle East: Migration of Institutional Patronage and its Challenges, Friday, Nov. 18, 2016, 10:00am
  • Examining the role of the auteur in the Arab world, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016, 2:00pm

The Art Salon in the Middle East: Migration of Institutional Patronage and its Challenges

Friday, Nov. 18, 2016, 10:00am

Organizers: Monique Bellan and Nadia von Maltzahn

Discussant: Kirsten Scheid

Salons, art academies’ official exhibitions, started in France under Louis XIV. The academies of art in Paris and London and their annual salons soon became the most powerful institutions in the European art world of the time, patronizing art and directing public taste. Only in the 19th century did artists start to oppose the monopoly of the academy, resulting in the creation of new exhibition forums or independent salons. In the Middle East, a School of Fine Arts was established in Cairo in 1908 by Prince Yusif Kamal, who believed that the fine arts could be a means for Egypt to engage with modernity. Several salons sprung up across the region in the 20th century, such as the annual Cairo Salon of the “Society of Fine Art Lovers”, the annual exhibition the “Friends of Art” started in Baghdad in the 1940s, and the Salon d’Automne of the Sursock Museum in Beirut that was launched in the 1960s. Institutional forms of art clearly migrated from Europe to the Middle East in the late colonial and early post-colonial context, while artists circulated between the two regions. This panel aims to explore the role of the art salon in the Middle East, examining to what extent it had an impact on the formation of public taste and debates on art in the Middle East, as well as to look at knowledge transfer and cultural interactions between Europe and the Middle East. Was the art salon considered just an import from Europe, a fringe phenomenon lacking the historical development of institutional patronage and competing with other more rooted exhibition forms? Who initiated salons in the region? Was the rejection of the salon a driving force for the historical avant-garde in the region? Were there any alternative or informal forums, which defied the aesthetic and political values of the salons? Finally, how are state, art market and salons related?

The Egyptian Avant-Garde Defying the Salon, Monique Bellan, German Orient Institute of Beirut

The Baghdad Avant-Garde’s Unofficial Salons, Nada Shabout, University of North Texas

Guiding the Artist and the Public? Salon d’Automne at Beirut’s Sursock Museum, Nadia von Maltzahn, German Orient Institute of Beirut

Discussant: Kirsten Scheid, American University of Beirut

Examining the role of the auteur in the Arab world

Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016, 2:00pm

Organizer: Samirah Alkassim

In the 1950’s French film critics (who later became filmmakers) defined the auteur as a director who uses the language of cinema as a writer uses the pen, to break from conventional usages of cinematic language and national industries of production, and to say something that challenges the status quo. Auteur theory developed from this point and split into different interpretations of the term. Over time, critics and scholars came to question the over-valorization of the role of the director in the total production of a work of art, rightly pointing to the influential and determining contributions by scenarists, cinematographers, actors, sound designers, editors, etc.

Yet while auteur studies in film studies scholarship has fallen out of vogue, in film scholarship of the Arab world (and other area studies and humanities disciplines), it remains a significant portal of entry to “diverse” cultures and their lesser known art forms in the non-western world. While auteur theory was meant to address a distinct kind of art-house cinema, the role of the national always hovered as a determining shadow. This panel proposes a re-examination of the place and value of auteur studies within Arab film studies by offering original and groundbreaking research on Arab cinema through the lens of individual directors, all of whom fall within the precise definition of a film auteur. Our panelists offer in-depth discussions about filmmakers’ works that help expose the English-speaking world to significant cultural productions, recent and old, from Syria, Palestine, and the Maghreb, while we reject the canonization of any particular form, mode or director. Our panelists also transcend the boundaries of film studies to highlight the political, social and gendered issues that each auteur presents in their roles as activists and intellectuals. We argue that auteurs are and have been important pubic intellectuals in the Arab world and beyond. We propose a meaningful re-examination of the auteur whose works are either variously “accented” within their own countries of origin, or contribute to our understanding of the intersection of transnationalism and filmic media.

Dead Auteurs and their Legacies in the Post-Cinematic Age, Samirah Alkassim, Independent Film Scholar / Program & Communications Manager, The Jerusalem Fund, Washington DC

Intertextuality and Trauma:  Muhammad Malas as the Transnational, Syrian, and Arab Auteur, Nezar Andary, Assistant Professor of Film & Literature, Zayed University, Abu Dhabi

Skeptical Auteurism in the Arab World, Peter Limbrick, Associate Professor of Film & Digital Media, University of California Santa Cruz, California

Landscapes of Erasure and the Cinematic Language of Kamal Aljafari, Najat Rahman, Professor of Comparative Literature, University of Montreal, Quebec, Canada