Kaelen Wilson-Goldie


    EARLY IN JANUARY 2007, the artists Shaina Anand and Ashok Sukumaran hung a battery-powered remote control from a tree across the street from their apartment in Mumbai, along with a sign informing passersby (in Hindi and in English) that this was a public switch, which, when pressed, would turn lights on and off in apartment 23 of the building behind them. Whenever people operated the remote control and turned to locate the apartment, Anand or Sukumaran (or whoever happened to be over at the time) would walk to the windows and wave.

    After thirty days, a counter attached to the receiver had recorded

  • diary September 19, 2010

    Break a Lag

    JET LAG IS BORING, it really is. And it has become such a common feature of the biennial experience that the mere mention of it feels obvious, embarrassing, and trite. Still, three sardine-can flights and twenty-four hours of bleary-eyed, every-airport-is-uncomfortably-the-same travel for the opening of the Tenth Taipei Biennial on September 7, and I felt an irrepressible need to reread the first page of William Gibson’s novel Pattern Recognition, on which he lays out his (or his character’s) memorable theory of jet lag: “that her mortal soul is leagues behind her, being reeled in on some ghostly

  • Walid Raad: Miraculous Beginnings

    This show, and its accompanying catalogue, will create an intriguing echo chamber for reflections on art, politics, and the ruthless economy of culture.

    In his 2007 book, Undeserving Lebanon, theorist Jalal Toufic writes that, in the aftermath of wars and invasions, the process of working through what has happened must not be left to the perpetrators and victims alone. Walid Raad’s practice not only speaks to Toufic’s challenge but complicates it. In an exhibition that juxtaposes a decade of key works by Raad’s Atlas Group (investigating the history of Lebanon’s civil wars) with a selection from A History of Modern and Contemporary Art in the Arab World (another Raad project, exploring the creation of infrastructures

  • Cengiz Çekil

    Born in 1945, Cengiz Çekil is widely regarded as a founding father of Turkish contemporary art. Perhaps because he has spent most of his life outside Istanbul, however, the art establishment in the country’s most cosmopolitan city has mostly overlooked or ignored him. René Block and the curatorial collective WHW skillfully inserted a few of Çekil’s more incontestably brilliant works into the fourth and eleventh Istanbul biennials, respectively. But according to the curator and critic Necmi Sönmez, who wrote the text for the artist’s only existing monograph, “Cengiz Çekil remains the least known,

  • diary May 09, 2010

    Home Improvement


    NINE PERFORMANCES, seven panel discussions, eleven lectures, four artists’ talks, two walking tours, one museum visit, ten film and video screenings, and a six-hour colloquium: The fifth edition of the Home Works Forum on Cultural Practices in Beirut ran people into the ground for eleven days in a row, finally ending last Sunday.

    Directed by Christine Tohme of the arts organization Ashkal Alwan, Home Works is the closest thing Beirut has to an international biennial, though since its inception in 2002, it has always managed to avoid the excesses and limitations of the format. Home Works happens

  • Walid Sadek

    Walid Sadek’s first solo exhibition, “Place at Last,” came relatively late in the career of an artist and writer who has been active, if not exactly prolific, for more than fifteen years. In the mid-1990s, Sadek produced a number of fiercely influential and foundational works that helped set the tone and agenda of Beirut’s then-fledgling contemporary art scene. Many of those early pieces were text-based interventions—posters, postcards, diminutive publications, a few delicate broadsheets—and most were conceived either for a series of public projects initiated by arts organization Ashkal Alwan

  • diary March 24, 2010

    March in Time


    THE UNSUSPECTING STAR of the third annual March Meeting in Sharjah was a young performance artist named Barrak Alzaid. With a lot of sass and two little handwritten-in-pink-highlighter signs—one reading TWO MINUTES, the other reading PLEASE STOP!—he kept immaculate time over the course of three days, fifty lightning-quick presentations, and two keynote lectures by literary scholar Abdelfattah Kilito (on translations) and curator Okwui Enwezor (on archives).

    Seated in the front row of a sterile conference room, with a staff badge looped around his neck and a laptop balanced perilously on his knees,

  • Haris Epaminonda

    The work of Haris Epaminonda consists primarily of found material. Her early videos are excerpts from Egyptian soap operas and fragments from Greek films. Her objects are relics from antique dealers and curiosities from flea-market stalls. Her images are pages from antiquarian books that have been carefully cropped, photographed, or used as the base layer of lacelike collages. The work hums with the nostalgia surrounding such archaic stuff. Here, framed images, found sculptures, custom-made plinths, a low-slung wooden table, a glass-topped box with a book inside, an earthenware bowl, a lump of

  • picks January 03, 2010

    “Assume the Position”

    For an exhibition exploring various expressions of distraction, “Assume the Position” is remarkably (and perhaps paradoxically) focused. Featuring works of seven disparate international artists and a cache of archival photographs from the collection of Amgad Naguib (whose ramshackle junk shop in downtown Cairo is as wondrous and illuminating as David Wilson’s Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles), the show, the first by curator Nikki Columbus, is both elegant and concise in its conception and execution. It is also a serious, far-reaching, and provocative rumination on the ethical and


    AKRAM ZAATARI’S ELEVEN-MINUTE VIDEO Nature Morte, 2007, opens with two men seated in a drab, white-walled room. One of the men—older, with a weathered face and sad, sunken eyes—fills the foreground on the right-hand side of the screen. The other—healthier, more alert—appears, slightly out of focus, in the background to the left. The dramatic depth of field exaggerates the distance between them and accentuates the incongruity of their tasks: Both men are working silently with their hands, but the older one is wrapping explosives in cardboard and tape, while the younger, with

  • Wael Shawky

    In the mid-1970s, the game show Telematch began an eight-year run on West German public television. The show was based on a formula borrowed from other similar shows such as Intervilles in France and It’s a Knockout in the United Kingdom; the idea was to pit residents of two different towns against one another in contests that often involved outrageous costumes. At the end of each season, the winners of Telematch would advance to Jeux Sans Frontiers (Games Without Borders), a show created in the ’60s, allegedly at Charles de Gaulle’s request, to foster pan-European friendship. But the popularity

  • picks December 31, 2009


    With seminal, historic works by Joseph Beuys, William Eggleston, and Martha Rosler alongside more recent efforts by Ziad Antar, Mounir Fatmi, and the duo of Julia Meltzer and David Thorne, the latest exhibition at the Beirut Art Center is eclectic almost to the point of incoherence. The title, “America,” is also totally misleading. This is neither a survey nor a statement about the art, history, or politics of the United States. The accompanying curatorial text may ape the attitude of Jean Baudrillard’s America (1989), but it articulates little in terms of tangible themes. In fact, the show

  • “Hanging Fire: Contemporary Art from Pakistan”

    The Asia Society’s survey of contemporary art from Pakistan features fifty-five works by fifteen artists based primarily in Karachi and Lahore, urging its audience to forestall judgment based on what they know of those cities from the daily news.

    Taking its title from an idiomatic Urdu expression that means “to delay decision,” the Asia Society’s survey of contemporary art from Pakistan features fifty-five works by fifteen artists based primarily in Karachi and Lahore, and urges its audiences to forestall judgment based on what they know of those cities from the daily news. While structured by a few predictable binaries—East and West, tradition and modernity, the religious and the secular—the show will also emphasize the specific impact of cosmopolitan Lahore’s artistic hothouse, the National College of Arts. At

  • “A Fantasy for Allan Kaprow”

    The Contemporary Image Collective is located on the upper floor of a dilapidated villa that dates back to the 1920s. To get there, one climbs an elegant old staircase illuminated by a skylight and smoky glass windows. During the exhibition “A Fantasy for Allan Kaprow,” curated by Mai Abu ElDahab and Philippe Pirotte, the light in the stairwell was refracted by a metallic blue sculpture hanging pendulously from the ceiling. The shape of the sculpture, Homage to Roudah Island (The Result of One Month Listening to Oum Kalthoum While Building an Unfoldable Portable Nilometer) (all works 2009), by

  • picks August 06, 2009

    Fouad Elkoury

    For many years, the photographer Fouad Elkoury was regarded, without much exaggeration, as the Henri Cartier-Bresson of Lebanon. He chronicled the destruction of Beirut during its civil war in pictures that balance tough reportage with a delicate touch for the tragedy, absurdity, and difficulty of living through times of violence. He looked to the past by retracing the steps of Gustave Flaubert and Maxime du Camp in Egypt and to the future by traveling to Palestine to capture the fleeting optimism that followed the Oslo Accords in 1993. Then, in the summer of 2004, Elkoury said in an interview

  • picks July 01, 2009

    “The Road to Peace: Paintings in Times of War, 1975–1991”

    Through the works of artists such as Walid Raad, Akram Zaatari, and Rabih Mroué, the contemporary art scene in Beirut has become known for grappling with history, violence, memory, and lived experience in relation to Lebanon’s civil war, a fifteen-year conflict that ended two decades ago. These critical and conceptual practices, however, date back only so far as the postwar period. Less visible are the more visceral and emotionally piercing practices of a previous generation of Lebanese artists who worked, quite literally, under the bombs and believed, however fitfully, in art’s capacity, even

  • Tamara El Samerraei

    Tamara El Samerraei’s first solo exhibition in Beirut featured just twelve paintings, all dated 2008. While this could have made for a rather thin debut, “Something White,” as the show was called, introduced a confident, self-contained series of new works and signaled the start of more a focused phase in the artist’s career. Born and raised in Kuwait, Samerraei studied art in Lebanon and has been based in Beirut for more than a decade. She has shown flashes of brilliance in the past—notably the moody installation Red Balloons, 2001, which was shown briefly in the now-defunct Beirut art space

  • picks March 13, 2009


    Lisa Steele bares her naked body to share twenty-seven years’ worth of scars and defects. Jill Magid writes letters to a former lover asking him to describe her face so a forensic artist can sketch her from his memories. Akram Zaatari unearths the journals he kept as a teenager to recall his experiences during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. The eleven artists featured in “Closer,” an exhibition which marks the impressive inauguration of the Beirut Art Center, explore the liminal zone between private experience and public expression. The exhibition, in turn, raises a number of questions.

  • picks March 06, 2009

    “In the Middle of the Middle”

    For more than a decade, the curator Catherine David has been working in close collaboration with a number of artists, writers, and thinkers from the vast and variable region that is known, for better or worse, as the Middle East. But for all the critical reverb of “Contemporary Arab Representations,” a long-term project that David initiated in 1998, none of the exhibitions, lectures, or discussions involved was ever presented in the Arab world, even though Beirut and Cairo were the cities anchoring the entire affair. Counterintuitive as it may seem, “In the Middle of Middle” is David’s regional

  • Mona Hatoum

    A barrier of coarse gray sandbags spouting tender shoots of green grass. A wooden tabletop strewn with fifty grenades made of pastel-colored ceramics. Silhouettes of armed soldiers snipped from wispy white tissue paper. Mona Hatoum’s exhibition at the Jordanian arts foundation Darat al Funun presented numerous pairings of brutality and fragility. She took a series of images and implements of war—such as troops, ammunition, boulders, barbed wire, and bomb sites indicated on maps—and translated them into precious objects rendered in delicate materials, including a draped scarf, a cage of bent