Monday, 7 January 2013

If Walls could Talk Exhibition [ repost from تقلبات عشوائية blog ]

Firstly, before i talk about the exhibition i wanted to thank the wonderful and talented Rana Jarbou and Yasmin rasool for dedication so much time and love to make this exhibition happen.
This post is originally copied from Rana Jarbou's blog , and wanted to repost it here to expose her magnificent photography and blogging from her worldwide adventures street-art all around.

if your in bahrain or interested in visiting , the exhibition would be up until the 10th of Jan 2013.
The space is inside Bahrain financial Harbor and pretty easy to find once asked the security at the lobby.
it closes at 7 pm everyday. 

If Walls Could Talk

Yasmin Sharabi is an inspiring artist who has taken her artistic spirits to a new level by providing a platform encouraging discourse through art for the likes of me and 10 other artists who participated in the "If Walls Could Talk" exhibition last week at the Bahrain Financial Harbour. Yasmin is also a dear friend, and has been aware of my struggle in discovering my inner-artist along with my wariness of when, where, and how to deliver the never-ending documentation I have been doing the past few years. When I came to visit Bahrain only six weeks ago, she informed me of her exhibition theme and asked for my willingness to join. Though I am in the completion stage of the "Arabian Walls" project, I could not help but respond to Yasmin's call for participation. The context could not be any more perfect, and as it turned out, my work was complimented by all the artworks and their respective branched out themes and sub-categories. There was amazing synchronicity, as there was a smooth blend and overlaps of the participating artists' expressions. Together we drew, built, identified, decorated and wrote on walls, if not tore them down. If you are in Bahrain, I encourage you to have a look. For more info on the exhibition, check out the If Walls Could Talk blog, and here is artBahrain's interview with Yasmin, who made it all happen. 

Karima Sharabi - "In Search of the Simorgh"

As you enter the space, you are greeted by Karima's work, and there could not have been a better introduction to the exhibition. Having already been familiar with some of Karima's work and styles, I was still pleasantly surprised to see her work in this exhibition's context. Inspired by the Sufi poem by Farid Uddin Attar entitled "Conference of the Birds", Karima illustrates a journey of every self and the many walls from ego to fear that come in the way. I was personally very moved by both her beautiful paintings and their source of inspiration. Though a journey has a starting point and final destination, this spiritual one is ongoing, as truth and enlightenment are not fixed entities and are rather eternal. Karima paints the poem beautifully and invites the spirit of an awakening self-reflection. I almost start to hear music in my head and envision the gently moving subjects in her paintings to start dancing in a trance. Every time I passed by her work I felt this sort of enchantment. This was a beautiful opening and had set the tone for the show. 


Yasmin Sharabi - "The Centre"

A perfect way to follow Karima's work. Yasmin's "The Centre" is a three-part reflection of her self-awareness, which is different from a journey into the self, though they go hand in hand. Knowing and awakening truth that is within is momentous, but such awareness needs to be sustained and continuously addressed. Yasmin's three pieces, 'Ouroboros', 'Echo', and 'U-turn' are all different reflections of the many different means of renewed self-reflection. All three patted me on the back and told me "it's ok", and to welcome these cycles with open arms, as they are only natural. Having been easily and extremely distracted, this not only moved me, it made me immediately detect the walls that Yasmin had depicted within the context of my own surroundings and environment. Art has always been incredibly timely. Standing in front of Yasmin's "The Centre" was therapeutic to say the least. I particularly liked 'U-turn', and I feel like I didn't give that piece the time and attention it deserved.


Dalia El Mardi - "Distorted Space"

Each and every single artist offered an expression and perspective to which I could relate. Having been a full-time flaneur the past few years, it is only natural for me to develop an increased spacial awareness and newfound curiosity into the field of architecture. So I am already a fan of and familiar with Dalia's graphics of buildings, but I was not expecting them to be grouped and positioned together for this exhibition. Unfortunately I did not get to see her work until after the opening, and so I missed the chance to have a close long look and discussion over it. Unlike Karima and Yasmin's works were more emotive and self-reflecting, Dalia's 'Distorted Space' was distinctly a more physical portrayal or delineation of themes within and beyond functionality and designated space. It was the kind of work that I want to look at while also feeding my curiosity. There is plenty of perspective being offered there, and only an expert or architect can evaluate the function and practicality of the different dimensions and materials used in building these structures, let alone how they are placed in the public space. I frequently found myself relating one structure to another across various terms. Is functionality, or alternatively aesthetic appeal and external standard acting as a wall in such space? I need to have a chat with Dalia.

      For some reason, this one in particular stood out.            

Fran Stafford - "The Barriers of Culture"

Fran's work looks smart both at a first glance and as you keep noting the details. I loved her work. Though it was personal, I found endless details which provoked thoughts and emotions to which I could instantly relate. These details disclose the depth and multilayered messages in her expressions, while revealing a process that I would consider great fun. All I could think of while looking through was how I would enjoy her company the next time I plan on using my hands and being 'craftsy' in articulating myself! Information, knowledge, experience, and perspective -- all made artistic. As an aspiring documentarian, getting lost into Fran's work made me feel at home. I've used some of the techniques and materials she used, particularly tracing paper and mirrors, which allowed me to appreciate the progression and unfolding of what she calls 'barriers'. What 'barriers'? Fran in fact manifested complimenting cultures and seamed harmonious meeting points. Stepping away from her work, her observation and remarks on the Arabic short film I made for this exhibition demonstrated her deep exploration and reflection of culture. Her perspective was notable and it made her truly understand and be even ahead of an Arabic-speaking audience. I know I would love talking to Fran about this stuff, but I think I would much rather just get right into it and collaborate with her on something. I'm curious to see what we could come up with, she's very quick! *snapping fingers*

"A Not So 'Comfy' Quilt" 
(though I felt very comfortable)

Jenine Sharabi - "Beyond Decoration"

Though I didn't make it to last year's "Out of Place" exhibition, I remember Jenine's PDA illustrations being powerful enough to make a lasting visual impact. This year she has managed to leave a space for her cultural norms illustrations in my memory through her 'Beyond Decoration' wallpaper designs. Aside from the 'Domestic Disturbence' part of the wallpaper, It's hard not to smile or giggle when looking at her work. New visuals of familiar realities are not merely 'funny' or 'cute', they're rather powerful. The details of the 'Lovers' wallpaper illustrates a relationship between lovers in a particular society by portraying available forms of interaction and communication tools in that society, which can be in Bahrain and beyond. The context of having such a depiction of the reality is brilliant and symbolic of Jenine's style in using design to reveal a social norm. If any of the artists in this exhibition was to use wallpaper, I would have guessed it to be Jenine. While we express our different types of walls and how we address them, Jenine will express and address by designing on the wall itself. From what I've seen in her work, she thinks beyond inside or outside the box. She makes the box itself look pretty! And then you wonder why did we ever need to run away from it or think outside it. I think Jenine would be the perfect hire target at both an advertisement company or activist group, simply by her power to influence or deliver a message through strong visualsSorry to tease you, but you'll need to physically go to see the details of this wallpaper.

Here is another work that makes you instantly smile. Mercedes' work was a big nice surprise while we were getting everything up and ready for the opening. Visually appealing and very well placed in the space. TMI TMI TMI TMI TMI TMI TMI (too much information) she might be trying to tell you. But "TMI" is also symbolic of a complaint and frustration some of us info-junkies often feel. Personally, I felt that we are currently living in a new and changing era that it makes us all children again, even the experts. Like children, we will try to resist, we will whine, and we will also try to get away with stalling. But the fact of the matter is, and whether we like it or not, 1+1 = 2. To me, the information age feels that although we are bombarded with too much information, it is perhaps the price we are paying for having more truths becoming universally factual and accepted. Perhaps I am too much of an optimist, but I see this as a step up in the evolution of humanity, despite the ironic alternative of a step up in additional and faster means to rid us of it. The thin line, in my humble opinion, is the potential for miscommunication, misunderstanding, and losing a real sense or focus - which is not so thin. To me, this thin line is a wall which has existed long before we became children, and will continue to exist even as we grow older. With all the new and efficient tools and technology designed to facilitate communication, its failure will never cease to exist. It is a wall we can never fully tear down or demolish, as the next generation will have the very same wall built. The difference lies in how and where it is being built. The children will decide. But either way, homework will be homework!

Details of "Homework"

 Leon D. - Arabesque Street Art

A Bahraini street artist? You can never know enough about any city's graffiti scene. Having closely studied the graffiti scene in Bahrain over the last five years, I have rarely come across apolitical and mere artistic expressions aside from the very few here and there. It was delightful to meet with Leon and talk about graffiti and street art, and its potential in Bahrain (or rather how much more of his work we need to see). I know how much one person can make an impact on a city as some street artists have made cities their canvases. Cities have been redefined to me through aesthetically appealing and communicative expressions by just one person. Bahrain can afford such impactful street art, and I believe Leon has the potential to disrupt the already existing narratives with his ideas. More on his work (on street walls) later in another post, but for this exhibition, I really liked 'Fault Image' and begged him to replicate it on the street. There's so much going on in there, and it deserves a street audience.

"Fault Image"
"A Part of You"

Hanin El Mardi - Self-Conscious

By now, it is noticeable how the different works are contemporising in sync under the "talking walls" theme. From physical and metaphorical barriers to confrontations, self-awareness and identity. Ironically a wall seems more like a block or dead-end, but when you go through the exhibition you start noticing how everyone's interpretation of a wall is yet another exploration and discovery of both reality and imagination. This is particularly the impression that Hanin's 'Self-Conscious' paintings left on me. And having it follow (on the other side of the wall of) Mercedes' work, it was in the right place. It is difficult to describe this work, let alone describe my own interpretation of it. The feeling I get when looking at the three paintings is a recognition of a state of abstraction, which in my own application is not necessarily absent of reality. Or perhaps my means of addressing reality goes hand in hand with having room for imagination. "Wake up and dream!"Indeed there are walls to be torn when following such motto.


Khalil Rasool - "Kayakoy - City of Ghosts"

I am already a fan of Khalil's photography and was happy to have participated with him in this exhibition, but especially honoured to have his photo series displayed right before mine. His exploration of the narrative of the city offers yet another perspective on physical walls representative of metaphoric ones. Khalil's 'Kayakoy' series may seem like mere abandoned or crumbling physical structures. Their symbolic significance, however, cannot be understated. Like a distant past or history, these structures lay there quiet, as if they have literally surrendered. Though I was particularly reminded of similar physical images from Lebanon after looking through these photos, I also started remembering the abandoned buildings I came across in the city of Kuwait which had stood there since the 1990 Gulf War. It is quite deep when a physical structure can take on human characteristics and thus revealing an untold or forgotten narrative.

"Hole in the Wall"

Arabian Walls

Then there were my photos and short film. In a nutshell they were a glimpse of an expedition aimed to explore different people's motivations in self-expression using walls. Identifying, redefining and thus addressing underlying political strifes in this process was inescapable in the context of both the recent and distant past. I was in search for an identity, but I found none. I found countless stories, and each was written, told, or narrated through a wall. 

"If Walls Could Talk" was a suitable context to display a vague and perhaps unfair summary of an intense long journey. 'Arabian Walls' was depicted simply in a few sample photographs positioned at the end of the space, an apt link to the closure of the exhibition. On the way to the exit, there is a room where the 'AW' film was being looped on one wall opposite an interactive one on which people wrote something spontaneous on their way out. Yasmin is planning to organize a screening for the film followed by a Q&A session soon. The 'AW' film is meant to reveal the wall of communication and thus understanding in the current struggle across the Arab world. Any wall being built in undermining, overlooking, or silencing a voice is ultimately the only channel through which this voice will ultimately be heard. 

Arabian Walls documents graffiti across 12 Arab countries to give voice to society's silent cries. This ongoing project visualizes a journey capturing a transitional period while it aims to redefine the Arab world through a different lens, through its walls. will be launched soon and the "Arabian Walls" book will be published in 2013.

This post was originally written by Rana Jarbou