Critics’ Picks

Nile Sunset Annex, Dreams Duplicates and Display Paraphernalia, 2013–17, mixed media. Installation view.

Beirut

“Meeting Points 8: Both Sides of the Curtain”

Beirut Art Center
Jisr El Wati Building 13, Street 97, Zone 66
April 12 - June 4

At the heart of this iteration of the biennial exhibition Meeting Points is a black-and-white marble-tiled dance floor with a working water fountain, some great gaudy curtains, a few plants, several empty plinths, and amphitheater seating—all part of the stage, a staircase, the dance floor, a fountain, the curtain, a door, some plants and music, 2017, a single installation by Joe Namy. It also includes music when the time is right. Four colorful and deceptively exuberant textile collages from the 1980s by the pioneering feminist Gülsün Karamustafa punctuate the space throughout the lower floor of the show. The upper half is a seeming explosion of pastel plush toys and aluminum foil, called Dreams, Duplicates and Display Paraphernalia, 2013–17, which is in fact a huge installation by Nile Sunset Annex of works by close to thirty artists, including Doa Aly, Mahmoud Khaled, Sarah Samy, and Take to the Sea.

“Both Sides of the Curtain” marks a radical change in the style and ethos that has characterized Meeting Points more or less consistently since its founding by the Cairo- and Brussels-based curator Tarek Abou El Fetouh, under the umbrella of the Young Arab Theatre Fund (YATF), in 2004. Gone is the emphasis on touring performance and dance works throughout the Arab world meant to reestablish the cultural links that had been broken by bad politics. Gone too is the idea of representing what a rather large region in the east or south wants to say to the north or west. This is not to say that Meeting Points was ever naive, just that the current environment is tougher, more cynical, and demands more work. Visitors might see this show as pretty or lite, but that’s only because they are not looking hard or long enough.