If you are looking for a guide to enrich your understanding of artistic production in the Middle East, look no further than Nat Muller. She is an independent curator, critic, organizer, and cultural adviser in the EU. She is the author of countless articles and publications, her work informed by years of working with artists and organizations throughout the Middle East and Europe. She introduces audiences to new artists, ideas, aesthetics, and movements, giving a knowledgeable, sensitive, insider’s-point-of-view to an area of study that is plagued by preconceived, and often untrue political/historical baggage, and an overall ignorance of art/history.
I appreciate her work so much because it is through her devotion to artists and sharing information that we have the opportunity to view art from the region with a more authentic perspective and proper knowledge in mind.
She was chosen by the Selection Committee as guest curator for the Abraaj Capital Art Prize for 2012 and is working closely with the artists in supervising the production of the artworks, their display at Art Dubai, and the publishing of an annual catalogue which will be designed by renowned designer Huda Abi Smitshuijzen Fares, Director of the Khatt Foundation, Center for Arabic Typography, The Netherlands.
Getting To Know You: Works by Nat Muller
Select 2012 Works
Egyptian Timelines, Power Cuts Middle East at the International Film Festival Rotterdam
Egyptian Timelines, curated by Muller, was a special program of the International Film Festival Rotterdam in January 2012, taking its inspiration from “the year of revolutions across the Arab world.” Muller curated a selection of films comprised of 20 works varying from a few minutes to feature length, under three programs called “Egyptian Timelines” and a fourth called “Egyptian Frame.” Click the image below to view the PDF program and read Nat Muller’s curatorial statement for Egyptian Timelines.
Below, a preview of the internationally acclaimed film, The Three Disappearances of Soad Hosni, a film by Raina Stephan, featured in “Egyptian Frame” program.
Lacoste’s Act of Censorship: Interview with Larissa Sansour
Note: Larissa Sansour is an artist Muller has written about and worked with over the past several years. You can read about the scandalous censorship of her work in December 2011, with well-detailed explanation of her current projects, including Nation Estate, a sci-fi photo series conceived in the wake of the Palestinian bid for nationhood at the UN, the “too pro-Palestinian” project censored by Lacoste Elysée Prize, below, as well as in a discussion about her work and practices in the context of mobility, time and power, in the 2010 piece Tampering with the P(e)ace of Stasis : Artistic Practices of Trespassing in the Work of Larissa Sansour, later in this post.
Muller’s introduction to the piece: “On December 20th Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour issued a press release that her nomination for the prestigious Lacoste Elysée Prize awarded by the Swiss Musée de l’Elysée was revoked on grounds that her work was ‘too pro-Palestinian’. Regretting Lacoste’s censorship, the Musée de l’Elysée had offered Sansour a solo of her work. Following a barrage of articles in the art and mainstream press, the Musée de l’Elysée caved in and cancelled the whole prize. Nat Muller caught up with Larissa Sansour now the dust has slightly settled.”
Click the image below to read the rest of the article…….
Select 2011 Works
Lost in Translation: Reading the Arab Spring from the Streets to the Arts.
As the world scrambles to make sense of post/trans-revolutionary state happening in parts of the Middle East, Muller looks at the Arab spring from multiple angles. She shares an enlightened point of view about the Arab Spring’s immediate appropriation by local and international art organizations and artists, and how art was part of the movement in the streets.
This piece also looks at the 2011 Sharjah and Venice Biennials in light of political events. Muller reminds us that the Sharjah Biennial Curators Suzanne Cotter, Rasha Salti and Haig Aivazian “dedicated the biennial to the winds of change in the region, but also expressed skepticism and reservation towards the role of art in turbulent times. They stressed the importance for art to reach the streets and reach out, without becoming outreach, a veiled warning to all cultural institutions capitalizing on the revolution. In other words, they posed the thorny question of how and when art and politics relate to one another, and when that relation becomes skewed. “
Muller’s Introduction to the piece: Similar to the media, the art world loves a good revolution. It provides fuel for a well-oiled machine, always on the lookout for the new, always searching to interpret or translate. In times of revolt, upheaval, global political and economic duress, the idea of »patience« is not a particularly popular one. In art as in diplomacy, it seems immediate action is the most adequate response to societal urgencies. Enter the Arab Spring.
Click the image below to read the rest of the article……
The Inner World of a Post Civil War Generation
In this piece, Muller reviews the work of Mounira Al Solh and her alter-ego, Bassam Ramlawi at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.
Muller’s Introduction to the piece: In the past decade, Lebanese artists known as the post-civil war generation, have made a furore in the international art world. These include the likes of Walid Raad, Akram Zaatari, Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige, Lina Saneh, Lamia Joreige, and Rabih Mroué. In their work these artists, who all came of age during the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war, have been predominantly occupied by an individual and collective history, memory and amnesia, and the politics of representation.
Recently a younger generation of Lebanese artists, all in their early 30s, have stepped in. Building on the thematics and visual language of their slightly older colleagues, these artists bring humor, pop culture, and a saviness of the expectations and pressures of the contemporary art world into the mix.
Click the image below to read the rest of the article……
Select 2010 Writings
Tampering with the P(e)ace of Stasis : Artistic Practices of Trespassing in the Work of Larissa Sansour
In this piece, the second on Sansour by Nat Muller in this line-up, she discusses Sansour’s work in-depth and discusses themes, practices, and theory around Palestinian art and artists.
Quote from the article: Larissa Sansour’s video art pieces rely on a mechanism of saturating the viewer with a hyperreality. As Hamid Dabashi points out in relation to Palestinian filmmaking : “What happens when reality becomes too fictive to be fictionalized, too unreal to accommodate any metaphor?” The only way of affecting the viewer comes by way of hyperbole.
Click the image to read more….
I love Larissa Sansour’s video work. She has a few videos posted on Vimeo. Here are two of my favorites:
‘Rabih! Rabih!’ Rabih Mroué in BAK
If you’ve been following my Abraaj Capital Art Prize writing, then you’ve already been introduced to the Rabih Mroué in the work of Joana Khajithomas and Khalil Joriege, I Want to See. Rabih is a very exciting artist/actor/director/etc, in this piece Muller reviews Mroué’s exhibition, I, the Undersigned.
Quote from the article: I, the Undersigned, Mroué’s first solo exhibition as a visual artist, brings together four existing and two newly commissioned works, installed over BAK’s two floors. It addresses, as many of his plays and performances do, the issue of responsibility within larger artistic and historical-political frameworks.
Select 2009 Works
In the Middle of What Exactly?
In the Middle of the Middle was a 2009 show by French curator Catherine David in Lebanon for the Lebanese/French gallery Sfeir-Semler, Beirut.
Introduction to the article: Exhibition titles are always interesting indicators to assess a show. Ideally they express or capture the curatorial gesture, and give a hint of the show’s flavour. Titles are in that respect bearers of expectation: soft signifiers of what there is to come. What then to make of as opaque a title as “In the Middle of the Middle”? And how to position the show within its temporal and geo-political coordinates:
- a show of artists from the Middle East region
- in a commercial German-Lebanese white cube gallery
- located in Beirut’s Karantina area, the site of multiple massacres during Lebanon’s 15-year long civil war (1975-1990)
- seizing the moment when all things Mid-East or Arab are en vogue within the international art world
Read more by clicking on the image below…
Nafas provides this description of the work:
Similarly engaging with the relationship between memory and history as well as how both enter representation, the Iranian-American author Ashkan Sepahvand led a series of tours in the National Museum of Beirut under the title Other than someone, there was no one. Supported by a professional museum guide and a local theater group, Sepahvand developed a narrative thread throughout the museum in which a selection of exhibited objects acted as departure points for individual associations, moving beyond their standard perception as objective witnesses to a past reality. Such a mixing of fact and fiction not only made the construction of history evident, rather it allowed for dynamic discussions spanning a range of topics to open up – on, for example, how a nation identifies itself vis-à-vis its cultural heritage.
Read the interview by clicking the image below:
Select 2005 Work
This is one of my favorites pieces of the bunch. Muller shares her thoughts and experiences on visiting Beirut in 2005.