Two AMCA-sponsored panels at the 2012 Annual Meeting – Middle East Studies Association | AMCA | Association for Modern + Contemporary Art of the Arab World, Iran + Turkey

Two AMCA-sponsored panels at the 2012 Annual Meeting – Middle East Studies Association

Sunday November 18, 2012

In the Shadow of the Cold War: Modern Art in the Arab World

Organized by Sarah Rogers  (Darat al Funun) and Saleem Al-Bahloly (UC-Berkeley)

The convergence of Middle East studies and Cold War studies in recent years has brought the region’s strategic importance to bear upon a conflict conventionally conceived as a duel between capitalist fantasies and communist ideologies. Yet this scholarship has not thus far taken account of the role of the visual arts in the struggle, nor how that struggle bore upon the visual arts in the Middle East, despite the fact that both Cold War studies and American and European art history have documented the ways in which art, and particularly certain styles of painting, namely American abstract expressionism, was a site of ideological investment.

Scholarship on the visual arts in the Middle East has acknowledged the function of art in forging political alliances, which resulted in traveling exhibitions, artists’ residencies, cultural exchanges, and the establishment of university art departments, cultural centers, and publications that have been central to the region’s art scenes. However the current paradigms in this scholarship rely upon analytic conventions, themselves a product of the Cold War, that in overemphasizing national style and autonomy, fail to adequately situate the arts in the more general political context set by the Cold War, and thus fail to deal with the complexity of the artistic encounters that took place in the name of ‘cultural diplomacy’ as well as the often unintended and novel aesthetic shifts that resulted. This panel reframes the relation between art and politics in the 1950s and 1960s by considering that relation in a broader international context.

Sarah Rogers (Darat al Funun) American University of Beirut and the Formation of the Modern Lebanese Artist

Saleem al-Bahloly (UC-Berkeley) The Politics of the Modern Artwork in Cold War Iraq

Jessica Gerschultz (University of Kansas) Mutable Form and Materiality: “Interweaving” Art and Politics in the New Tapestry of Safia Farhat, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Maria Laskiewicz, and Jagoda Buic

Monday November 19, 2012

Arab Spring, Artistic Awakening? Art, Resistance and Revolution

Organized by Jennifer Pruitt (Smith College) and Dina A Ramadan (Bard College)

Since the early weeks of the “Arab Spring,” critics and commentators have been eager to assert that in something of an awakening, artists from the region are finally being allowed the freedom to express themselves after decades of repression. Exhibitions and symposia soon followed, primarily concerned with the unique and specific role played by artists in the groundswell of grassroots activism, as well as how artists are directly tackling political upheaval in their work.

This panel would like to engage in a more nuanced examination of the relationship between art and politics, one that recognizes the limitations of prescribing a role for artistic expression based on anachronistic understandings of contemporary revolutions. Given the evolving nature of the “revolutions” we have witnessed over the last year, what is the changing place for artistic production and how do we move beyond the temptation to assign artists the responsibility of representing the revolution.

Papers on this panel will propose possible paradigms through which to understand the complicated relationship between art and revolution from a range of disciplines. Two of the papers will consider artistic production in Egypt since the revolution, the first addressing the role of the artist, particularly the artist as martyr and the relationship that develops to our understanding of the work, while the second examines the explosion of graffiti art across the walls of Egypt. Continuing the interest in art in public spaces, the third paper will look at the Libyan context, and specifically the representations of Muammar al-Gaddafi, the so-called “King of Kings of Africa,” in which the opposition sought to degrade Gaddafi through the use of a variety of “BlackFace” visual stereotypes. The final paper uses the Syrian documentary film collective, Abounaddara, to problematize the characterization of art during the Syrian uprising as a ‘new’ genre and the uprising as an event with predetermined meaning.

Chair/Discussant: Elliott Colla (Georgetown University)


Christiane J. Gruber (University of Michigan) “King of Kings of Africa”: Racializing Gaddafi in the Visual Output of the 2011 Libyan Revolution

Jennifer Pruitt (Smith College) The Global Street: The Rise of Cairene Street Art, 2011-2012

Dina A Ramadan (Bard College) The Artist and the Martyr: Egyptian Art in the Time of Revolution

Anne-Marie McManus (Yale University) Demanding Images: Documenting Revolution in Syria