Galleries 173, 178, 179, 223, 259, and 288, main building
Live Cinema/In the Round features the works of Ziad Antar, Inci Eviner, Gülsün Karamustafa, Hassan Khan, Maha Maamoun, and Christodoulos Panayiotou, six artists from the Eastern Mediterranean who, in varying ways, explore how the moving image informs representations of reality. Responding to the 'live' reference used in the program title Live Cinema, video and sculptural works create a dialogue around the shift from the live performance of theater to the suspension of reality of cinema. The artists appropriate and recompose the conventions of film to consider how personal expectations, desires, and memories are shaped through cinematic strategies.
More enlivened than a simple projection program... var f_divname="mp3player"; var f_width=133; var f_height=80; var f_file="November Paynter The East Mediterranean,November Paynter Selection of Artists,November Paynter Exhibition Title"; var f_filetype="exhibitionMinutes"; var f_title="East Mediterranean,Selection of Artists,Exhibition Title"; Listen to or download Curator November Paynter's 3-part Podcast Available in The title of the exhibition, In the Round, takes its cue from the practice of "theater in the round," in which the audience surrounds the stage, allowing for a more intimate experience for the viewer and a more realistic performance from the actors. Inspired by this theatrical technique, the works in this exhibition are not simply projected on a two-dimensional plane; they surround the audience and also migrate to other galleries within the museum. In each work, the actors (or sometimes the blatant absence of an actor) play out a specific role that invites the audience to imagine other possible narratives for the backdrops that host them.
British curator, November Paynter has been based in Istanbul since 2002 where she worked as a Curator at Platform Garanti Contemporary Art Center until the end of 2006. She was one of two Assistant Curators of the 9th International Istanbul Biennial in 2005. In 2003 she was the recipient of the Premio Lorenza Bonaldi per L'arte – EnterPrize and the first curator under the age of 30 to be recognized with this award. In 2007, Paynter took the temporary position of Consultant Curator at Tate Modern for the exhibition Global Cities, before moving back to Istanbul the same year to work as Director of the Dubai trust of the Artist Pension Trust and as a freelance curator. In addition to writing texts for exhibition publications and artist monographies, she has written for art periodicals including Artreview, ArtAsiaPasific, Bidoun, and Artforum.
Ziad Antar, born 1978 in Saida, Lebanon; lives and works between Paris and Beirut. Ziad Antar received a degree in agricultural engineering in 2001. Since 2002, he has been working with photography and video, often investigating the world marked by war and violence without being overtly political. Recent exhibition include Place Beyond Borders, Cittadellarte, Pistoletto Foundation, Biella Italy (2009), The Generational: Younger Than Jesus, New Museum, New York (2009), and She doesn't think so but she's dressed for the h-bomb, Tate Modern, London (2008). He has also participated in biennials, namely the Sharjah Biennial, United Arab Emirates (2009), and the Taipei Biennial, Taiwan (2008). In 2002, Antar directed his first documentary on the French photographer Jean-Luc Moulène and has since filmed several documentaries for the Arabic news station al-Arabiya.
Inci Eviner, born in 1956 in Polatli, Turkey; based in Istanbul. Inci Eviner's paintings, works on paper, installations and videos often deal with the balance between traditional and contemporary life in and out of Turkey. A graduate of the Painting Department of the National Academy of Fine Arts, Eviner pursued a PhD from the Fine Arts Faculty of the Mimar Sinan University, receiving her degree in 1992. Solo presentations include HAREM, Galeri Nev Istanbul (2010), Nouveau Citoyen, MAC/VAL Musée d'Art Contemporain du Val-de-Marne, Vitry-sur-Seine (2009), ARCO Art Fair, Solo Projects, Galeri Nev, Madrid (); Don't Worry You'll Not Get Hurt, Galeri Nev, Istanbul (2005), Hold, Mizuma Gallery, Tokyo (1996). Selected group exhibitions include, Art in the Auditorium, Whitechapel Gallery London (2009), Istanbul Traversée, Curator: Caroline Naphegyi, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Lille (2009), Translocalmotion, 7th International Shanghai Biennial, Shanghai Museum (2008), Affinities: New Acquisitions, Deutsche Bank Collection, Deutsche Guggenheim 1997-2007, Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin (2007).
Gülsün Karamustafa, born 1946 in Istanbul; based in Istanbul. Using a variety of media, Gülsün Karamustafa has long engaged with the socioeconomic and political changes within her home country. Educated in painting at the Academy of Fine Arts, Istanbul, Karamustafa's recent works employ video to explore stereotypes surrounding the role of women. Solo exhibitions in 2006 were Works by Gülsün Karamustafa, Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany, and PUBLIC/PRIVATE, Durkers Kulturhus, Helsingborg, Sweden. Karamustafa has exhibited in group exhibitions internationally among which are IstanbulEindhoven, VanAbbe Museum, Eindhoven (2005); How Latitudes Become Forms, Walker Art Center, Minnesota; and Utopia Station, Venice Biennale (2003); Kwangju Biennale, South Korea (2000); and Orient/ation (Vision of Art in a Paradoxical World), 4th International Istanbul Biennial, Turkey (1995).
Hassan Khan, born 1975 in London; based in Cairo. Hassan Khan has performed as a musician in various international venues, including Melkweg, Amsterdam, SESC São Paulo, São Paulo and HAU, Berlin. Selected solo shows include I am a hero/you are a hero, Gezira Art Center, Cairo (1999); The Hidden Location, A Space Gallery, Toronto (2005); KOMPRESSOR, Gasworks, London (2006), Le Plateau, Paris (2007) and Evidence of Evidence, Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen, St. Gallen (2010). Khan has also participated in numerous biennales including: the Istanbul Biennial, Turkey (2003); Zones of Contact, 15th Biennale of Sydney, Australia (2006) Heterotopias, First Contemporary Art Biennale of Thessaloniki, Greece (2007); and the 7th Gwangju Biennale, South Korea (2008) as well as The Pantagruel Syndrome: 1st Turin Triennale (2005) and the Yokohama Triennale (2008). Khan's work will be included in Manifesta 8 held in 2010 in Spain.
Maha Maamoun, born in 1972. Lives and works in Cairo. Maha Maamoun works primarily in photography and video. She often takes Cairo as her subject, investigating representations of the city to explore how it becomes characterized by cinema and media outlets, as well as how it becomes negotiated on a personal level. In recent years, she has participated in several international exhibitions and biennials, including Homeworks 5, Beirut (2010), Sharjah Biennial 9 (2009), Global Cities, Tate Modern (2007); Snap Judgments: New Positions in Contemporary African Photography, International Center for Photography, New York (2006); Dak'Art 2004, Dakar, Senegal (2004).
Christodoulos Panayiotou, born 1978 in Limassol, Cyprus; based in Paris. Trained in dance, performing arts, and anthropology in Lyon and London, Panayiotou's training motivates his visual investigation of how culture is produced and perceived. He has recently exhibited in: The Museum of Modern Art Oxford, UK, 2006; The National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens, 2007; Platform Garanti Contemporary Art Center Istanbul, 2006; Taipei Biennale, Taipei, 2008; Busan Biennale, Busan, 2008; Bethanien, Berlin, 2009; MoCA Miami, Miami, 2009; The Athens Biennale, Athens, Greece; Artists Space, New York; Witte de With, Rotterdam, Netherlands; and Kunsthalle Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland.
includes video, installation, and performance works by six artists—Ziad Antar, Inci Eviner, Gülsün Karamustafa, Hassan Khan, Maha Maamoun, and Christodoulos Panayiotou. Over the course of the last decade the contemporary art institutions and initiatives in the countries of the East Mediterranean have created more opportunities for mutual cultural exchange and dialogue. A number of artistic residencies and funds now exist that encourage artists to travel between cities such as Cairo, Istanbul, Beirut, and Nicosia. The artists selected to participate in this exhibition often present their work in this part of the world and are known to the curator due to this proximity. The East Mediterranean region encompasses countries east of the Mediterranean Sea and situated on a continuous landmass. The Anatolian region of Turkey shares a border with Syria and from there the Mediterranean coastline leads to Lebanon, Israel, and Egypt. The island of Cyprus lies within the horseshoe of the Mediterranean formed by these countries. Historically this region was known as the Levant, a term applied to an understood cultural way of life and trade relations, rather than a specific geographically defined area. Each of the artists in the exhibition responds differently to aspects and tropes of cinema, often using backdrops and scenery to compose a stage for their works. The title, In the Round, takes its cue from theater-in-the-round, in which the audience surrounds the stage, allowing for a more intimate experience for the viewer and a more realistic performance from the actors. In terms of this exhibition, "in the round" refers to the exploration of a broader understanding of the development of cinema, one that stems from live theater to the suspension of reality of cinematic presentation and to cinematically inspired practices in contemporary art. It also hints at the physical presentation of this exhibition in multiple spaces in the Museum—five of the artists' works can be found in the galleries of modern and contemporary art, and three works by Inci Eviner are installed in areas dedicated to the arts of Europe and Asia.
Hassan Khan's video installation G.R.A.H.A.M. (2008) is essentially a portrait. Its classical exploration of the individual seems an appropriate fit for the context of the Museum. Portraiture has a long-established tradition in the history of art, one that is well represented in the Museum's galleries. Among the most illustrious examples are Jean-Antoine Houdon's Bust of Benjamin Franklin in gallery 284, Louise-Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun's Portrait of Madame du Barry in gallery 283, and Édouard Manet's Le Bon Bock in gallery 161. G.R.A.H.A.M. consists of a continuous, ten-minute real-time shot of the artist's friend Graham sitting, slowed down to last fourteen minutes to subtly enhance every detail. Despite the fact that Khan is interviewing the subject about his life, the piece is silent as Graham was asked not to answer the questions verbally, but to maintain continuous eye contact with his interrogator. Khan has worked on ideas related to portraiture throughout his practice and he sees the portrait as a "site where it is possible to make a statement on the nature of what is general, which he proposes to be both productive and dangerous." 1 The isolation of this work in gallery 179 presents G.R.A.H.A.M. as a distilled version of his own reality, or, as Khan describes it, "Graham as a corporation….The idea of a corporation here has nothing to do with the banal understanding of the term (as a socioeconomic unit) but rather comes from the Latin root corporare, ‘to combine or form into one body.' Separation, distance, and unity are the elements of this portrait. An understanding of what an individual is. At the end, [Graham] was actually very gracious after these pretty uncomfortable ten minutes of Graham sitting there being Graham. Ten minutes can be a very, very long time." 2 G.R.A.H.A.M. is a reflective piece that presents a portrait as both subject and audience. At one point during the video, Graham lights a cigarette in the most perfect of cinematic gestures; this stands out as a key moment during his "incorporation" within a dialogue that shifts the positions of mutual authority and submission between the artist and his muse. Khan is well known for his live music and video concerts. To enhance the live element of this exhibition he was invited to perform INCIDENCE at the Slought Foundation on the opening evening of Live Cinema /In the Round. INCIDENCE is a seamless, continuous stream of Khan's improvisational pieces and musical compositions accompanied by video sequences specially shot by the artist, such as a monochrome red that slowly shifts in color, vertiginous dreamlike tracking/crane shots of solitary public lamps at night, and the portrait of G.R.A.H.A.M. (this time accompanied by music), so linking gallery 179 to the live performance.
Gülsün Karamustafa's Beklediğimiz Günler (The Days We Have Waited For) (2007), is a very different portrait, that of a time and a place: Istanbul. Originally produced for an exhibition presented in the Yapi Kredi Gallery in the Beyoğlu district in Istanbul, Karamustafa's work refers to the old-fashioned film theaters that once existed in this area of the city. The gallery has an impressive archive of documentary films dating from the 1950s on, and Karamustafa delved into this depository in the hope of bringing some of them to life again. Beklediğimiz Günler is composed of newsreels from the 1960s and 1970s, which, at the time they were made, were screened after the advertisements and before the programmed fiction films that played in local cinemas. In Karamustafa's condensed version, the promotional clips make up the entire work and the film proper never begins. Instead, a pack shot (an advertising term for a close-up image of a product) divides each sequence, creating a rolling chain of material that connects a series of historical events that occur over a period of several years. The films speak about a liberal time, when Istanbul was a paradise of sand and sea. Important events such as the 1971 visit by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and the opening of the first bridge to link Europe and Asia across the Bosphorus Strait are the main subjects of some clips, while others focus on weather, lifestyles, and fishing. Today the films appear strangely self-promotional as they describe to Turkish audiences how, for example, their own "country is a paradise." By bringing these clips together Karamustafa makes clear how powerful the use of cinema was considered as a social tool of communication. Through the title of her work she suggests the idea of looking both back and forward in time, as if this past period of pride stands at once as a memory of something lost and something deeply desired again. In a similar vein, an earlier work by Maha Maamoun, Domestic Tourism II (2009), "looked at the various ways in which [the Egyptian pyramids] are reappropriated from the timelessness of the touristic postcard, and reinscribed into the complex and dynamic narratives of the city," as described by the artist. For Maamoun, the "minimal" pyramids have come to appear bizarre in juxtaposition to Cairo's chaotic city structure. For years they have been festishized through their distinct separation from the urban confusion as objects of touristic splendor and cinematic imagery. Maamoun's most recent work 2026 (2010), on view at the Museum, considers the pyramids' setting sixteen years from now. Based on a passage from the recent Egyptian novel The 2053 Revolution by Mahmoud Uthman, and referencing a related scene from Chris Marker's iconic 1962 film La Jetée, 2026 presents a vision of the pyramids' plateau, and by extension of Egypt, looking back from the future to the year 2026. Like the character in La Jetée, the protagonist of 2026 > has the ability to mentally travel backward and forward through time. What he encounters is a dystopian future staged against the same historic background. As time collides, so do the filmic genres and the historical structures that Maamoun has taken for inspiration, yet what she presents in the arena of a contemporary gallery can only ever be understood in the vocabulary of our present. For Maamoun, 2026 attempts to express "how the symbiotic relationship between the pyramids and the megalopolis at their feet is weaved and re-weaved across time."
(Untitled) Act I: The Departure (2007) and (Untitled) Act III: The Glorious Return (2008) by Christodoulos Panayiotou consist of two scenes, the first an act of arrival, or introduction, and the latter of return, or finale, for the Museum's exhibition. (The middle act of the series, (Untitled) Act II: The Island, is concurrently on view in the exhibition Hydrarchy: Power and Resistance at Sea at Gasworks in London.) Panayiotou's two works on view at the Museum each present a found, renamed, and folded theater backdrop with a small reference photograph of their unfurled images as they would look when hung onstage. Imagined together, the backdrops unfold several possible synopses for a play, but they exclude speech or actors. Panayiotou commonly omits the actors from the scenes made to host them, which entices viewers to imagine their own gestures, iconography, and sounds as accompaniment, symbolically redefining their own position relative to the production of culture. Panayiotou's backdrops, which assume a sculptural dimension once installed, intimate the moment when the theatrical backdrop became redundant to developing strategies of cinema. At the same time, they remind us of the potential of live performance, as these backdrops seem to be waiting for a story and script to be written. The negative presence, or absence, of what may come to be is an important concept in many of Panayiotou's works. In the Museum, Panayiotou's two backdrops are presented in different galleries (173 and 178) to allow viewers to encounter them as if in a theatrical scenario, first seeing one scene and later the other.
Located in galleries 223, 259, and 288 are three video works from INCI EVINER'S project Nouveau Citoyen (New Citizen) (2009). The term "new citizen" (novus civis), has historically defined the first member of a family to serve in the Roman Senate. Eviner uses it to refer to the movements of immigration that have begun to, as she says, "change the definition of ‘European culture' from within." Eviner's new citizens inhabit three decorative backdrops, lifted from wallpapers, fabrics, and tiles that now adorn touristic postcards. In the videos, moving female protagonists and their disconnected body parts play out set choreographies that deconstruct the patterns that surround them. By means of their content, color, and motifs, these scenes are recognizable designs plucked from particular cultures and periods. The Çintemani tile design, for example, is now a common touristic image of Turkey. Eviner here frees the blue, symbolic symmetry from its status as an innocent ornamental pattern, allowing it to move within the medium of video, while angry, youthful faces spin and dance, blurring and replacing the traditional decorative motifs. In the other two videos, awkward feminine gestures dwell atop a European ruin and a Chinese floral design. Just as each postcard presents one section of a repeating pattern, a common feature of these applied ornamentations, their alien inhabitants can be imagined infinitely replicated across the surfaces they occupy. Eviner's videos have been specifically installed in Museum galleries that contain tapestries, tiles, and wallpapers, where their display encourages the audience to more closely scrutinize patterned materials that are often considered nothing more than decorative backgrounds.
ZIAD ANTAR creates short, precise videos that defy clear definitions or explanations of their content and meaning by offsetting obvious expectations and conclusions. In this sense it is only because of the medium used that they can indeed be considered videos; it may be more precise to define these works as translations of Antar's ideas in the realm of the moving image. Usually either the artist himself or one or two protagonists perform a simple activity. These performances are not intended to be read as narrative stories, but rather they simply delineate the systematic progression of each role Antar has requested to be played out in front of the camera. In La Souris (2009), a toy mouse is wound up by the artist and directed at a real mousetrap over and over again. The scene is a simple, empty stage where the mouse is the only performer. As the tension builds, the toy appears luckier and luckier in its escapes, until inevitably the final act closes with the trap snapping shut. The mouse manages to cheat death, however, by remaining outside the trap, and quite incredibly, ends up sitting parallel to it, in apparent complicity with its former enemy. While the artists in In the Round hail from the same geographic region, their inclusion in the exhibition was motivated primarily by their interest in performance-based practices and in particular the cinematic references in their work. This is clear for those videos that make use of found footage or reconstruct known film scenes, whereas for others it becomes apparent in the dialogue created between them and other works in the Museum. While Khan's G.R.A.H.A.M. acts as a steady, contemplative platform for the exhibition that refers back to the genre of portraiture, it is offset by the dense content and clear film references of Karamustafa's and Maamoun's works. Panayiotou's backdrops appear to open and close a conversation between all the works in the exhibition as well as remind us of the defining role of the actor or narrator in a film, or the lack thereof. Eviner's videos have escaped the borders of the official video gallery to spread virally throughout the Museum. These short loops enliven static, historical imagery and hint at the problem of labeling by nationality or, in the case of the Museum, by medium and period. Finally, Antar's video La Souris prompts the audience to question what it is they respond to and then choose to see within a work of art. Notes
1. Quoted from the artist talk "I Am Not What I Am" by Hassan Khan 2. Quoted from "Thinking through Images #2" by Clare Davies and Hassan Khan in Triple Canopy
Live Cinema is a series of programs in the Video Gallery of the Museum that explores the vast production of single-channel video and filmwork by a diverse group of local, national, and international artists. In the last decades an ever-increasing number of contemporary artists have appropriated these mediums as an artistic outlet, in a dialogue with the early video and Super 8 practices of the sixties and the tradition of experimental filmmaking. Each program of the Live Cinema series focuses on a specific aspect of this work, in order to both map and analyze this important facet of contemporary art production. Certain Live Cinema programs are accompanied by a brochure in which writers and curators discuss the works exhibited, and also by public lectures given by the participating artists.
This exhibition is made possible by The Women's Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, by the Turkish Cultural Foundation, and by the Cyprus Ministry of Education and Culture, with additional funding from the Turkish Embassy. Public events were supported in part by the University of Delaware Interdisciplinary Humanities Research Center and by the Slought Foundation.
November Paynter, Guest Curator
Adelina Vlas, Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art
Barbara Kutis, Curatorial Intern, Department of Modern and Contemporary Art