Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

  • 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

  • OPENINGS: AKRAM ZAATARI

    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

    “America”

    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

    “Closer”

    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

  • Walid Raad

    Since 1999, the Lebanese artist Walid Raad has been better known as his collective alter ego the Atlas Group, an imaginary, anonymous research foundation in whose name he has produced an intricate series of videos, installations, and performances. This fictional entity has been devoted to an accounting of Lebanon’s contemporary history, maintaining an archive of notebooks, photographs, videotapes, films and other materials supposedly culled from the country’s visual culture. Raad’s work with the Atlas Group has delved into episodes from Lebanon’s long history of civil wars (always plural, never

  • Lamia Joreige

    Lamia Joreige’s Je d’histoires, 2006–2007, is a small, room-size installation that consists of an LCD screen, a control pad, a table, and an armchair. The viewer enters, sits down, and begins to play. (The title translates literally as “I of Histories,” but it toys with the similarity between the words je, “I,” and jeu, “play.”) The control pad offers a grid of options, and the viewer can choose from six videos, three texts, and five sound tracks to create a single work. There is a finite number of permutations, and part of the fun of the piece lies in figuring out all the possible combinations,

  • “Less Roses”

    Of all the many students of Bernd and Hilla Becher who have gone on to earn critical acclaim in the art world, Elger Esser is arguably the most romantic. Where the photographs of Andreas Gursky or Candida Höfer are cool and clinical, Esser’s are infused with warmth. Esser has traveled to Lebanon several times and created a series of landscapes capturing salt flats in the north, archaeological ruins in the south, and strangely poetic views of Naqoura, a town better known as a political hot spot and the headquarters for UNIFIL, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, which since 1978 has been

  • Oraib Toukan

    Oraib Toukan’s first solo exhibition, at the Jordanian arts foundation Darat al-Funun, delved into a dialectic between memory and amnesia that has become almost overbearing in contemporary art practice from the Arab world. But Toukan’s depiction of memory as process, and her tethering of memory to the body, marked a promising change from the now ubiquitous strategies involving imaginary archives and historical documents.

    In the split-screen, single-channel video Remind Me to Remember to Forget, 2006, the tip of a makeshift pen is seen on the left side spitting out and sucking in a seemingly

  • Sharjah Biennial 8: Still Life

    The organizers of the eighth edition of the Sharjah Biennial set themselves a formidable task by using an exhibition of contemporary art to address environmental degradation in the United Arab Emirates. One of seven small emirates constituting the UAE, Sharjah is a Persian Gulf rentier state whose export of fossil fuels has made it the world’s fourth-wealthiest nation. To mitigate the foreseeable exhaustion of oil and gas reserves, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and to a lesser extent Sharjah have engineered a massive construction boom to create additional sources of income through tourism, financial services,

  • picks August 06, 2007

    “Past Over”

    By writing off summer group shows as low-season rummage sales for leftover stock, one risks missing out on adventurous curating and the testing of new talent. “Past Over” at Steve Turner Contemporary features six artists (and one collective) who range from relatively unknown to firmly established. The gallery’s inaugural outing, the exhibition is thematically tight and full of discovery. The works are daring and diverse, but they all divulge dirty secrets that have been sanitized by dominant historical discourses.

    Following the lead of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, Mary

  • picks July 08, 2007

    “Identity Theft: Eleanor Antin, Lynn Hershman, Suzy Lake 1972–1978”

    A blond wig and a polka-dot dress. A driver’s license, a residential address, and a bank account. Romantic interludes, physical insecurities, and an impending emotional breakdown. These were elements in the “Roberta Breitmore” project in the mid-1970s, in which artist Lynn Hershman went far beyond creating an image; she constructed a full-blown identity. At around the same time, Suzy Lake adopted the personae of her friends and colleagues, documented through painstaking photographic progressions, while Eleanor Antin became a monarch, a ballerina, and a nurse, oscillating between sexpot and saint.

  • Youssef Nabil

    One of the largest and most mysterious of Youssef Nabil’s hand-painted photographs is a portrait of the artist tucked into the woods of Vincennes, an English garden in the eastern part of Paris. Foliage crowds the corners of the composition, a lily pond catches the reflection of surrounding trees, and there, set back and centered, the artist’s arm slips out from beneath a blanket of leaves to expose the curve of his back and the nape of his neck.

    Self-Portrait, Vincennes, 2003, was one of forty-five photographs included in Nabil’s solo show “Portraits Self-Portraits.” One of his most substantial