If you haven't seen it yet, I recommend a visit to the new online project Art Territories, available in both Arabic and English. The founders Ursula Biemann and Shuruq Harb state that:
AT is "an independent platform for artists, thinkers, researchers and curators to reflect on their art practice and engage in critical exchange on matters of art and visual culture in the Middle East and the Arab World."
The format is interviews, done in chains so that themes and ideas can be elaborated. I like that the interviews are somewhat rambling.
So far AT has published interviews with Ahmad Hosni, Michael Kennedy, Rheim Alkadhi, Yazid Anani, Bilal Khbeiz, and Youmna Chalala.
Hosni talks about putting together his book Go Down, Moses, about tourism in the Sinai featuring his photographs plus essays by various contributors. He explains how he saw this project as opening up a critical dialogue about development in the Sinai.
Hosni's photos do not depict the Bedouin residents of Sinai as noble keepers of picturesque traditions as a tourism promoter might wish. He instead focuses on the ways in which tourism has affected (maybe afflicted) the southern Sinai's landscape (both natural and artificial) through a dispassionate, somewhat distanced vantage point. He seems drawn to the spaces in between destinations and to the views most tourists' eyes would pass over.
Michael Kennedy, an anthropology graduate student at Columbia University, asks, "how can visual techniques lead to new and critical insights into the conflict?" He has been studying the experience of poltical prisoners in the West Bank and started photographing the al-Fara'a detention center where the Israeli military interrogated Palestinians from 1982 to 1995. He asks:
"can we produce images that offer political commentary but do not easily lend themselves to established political rhetoric?"
The questions might not have answers, but the struggle to address them is certainly important.
Another great interview is with Yazid Annani (professor in the Department of Architecture at Birzeit University) about urban transformations and public space. Among other topics, he explains his project with Emily Jacir, Al-Riyadh, which was installed as billboards in the central square of Ramallah, in the West Bank, and then quickly removed by the municipality (despite prior permission).
"The billboards propose two fictional projects to the public. On the one hand, you had Al-Riyadh Tower; a modern Dubai-style tower promoting a clean business environment and spaces for foreign trade exchange, which would replace the old vegetable market in al Biereh.
Al-Riyadh Villas, on the other hand, proposed an Israeli settlement-style gated community that threatens to wipe out the architectural heritage of the historic centre of Ramallah. The gated community depicted, complete with walled borders, surveillance cameras and private security personnel emulates the proliferation of housing projects around Ramallah. Such projects both segregate Palestinian society by restricting these housing provisions to rich and upper middle class Palestinians, while copying colonial style architecture without exploring solutions and modifications that could preserve Palestinian social and cultural values.
I want to stress that we see urbanization as an important component of state building. Our aim, here, was to draw attention to already existing concerns, and vocalize the need for the regulation of economic and political policies around urban planning, with the hope of helping to produce a city structure unique to Ramallah and Palestine."