I do want to do something.

The Third Mind (me reading)
October 4, 2010, 6:43 am
Filed under: Learn me how to read, New York Notes

I have read and recorded some of the exhibited pages of the Third Mind manuscript at Brion Gysin’s show at the New Museum. I usually indicate the page of the book before the reading.

intro burroughs


Idea as Intuition
August 4, 2010, 6:52 pm
Filed under: Learn me how to read

I have noticed that while writing, only an idea is capable of animating my words. I cannot write for the sake of writing, as I find no pleasure in that. I write when intrigued, shoved, or excited by an idea, only then my words can take new meanings, through the juxtaposition of the mind, before the formality of words. I do not want to define a point of departure, but I observe the moment of action; taking up a pen, opening a words document. What is it that moves your fingers, and mostly, what keeps them moving?

I was reading a really inspiring late interview with Kathy Acker by Sylvère Lotringer, published in Semiotext(e), Hannibal, my Father, a collection of Acker’s early writings.

I am posting two pages where Acker describes her relation to inspiration, writing and concept.

A conversational space. Reviewing Walid Sadek’s exhibition, PLace at Last.
April 11, 2010, 12:10 pm
Filed under: Art stuff, Beirut notes, Learn me how to read

W: “The only place where conversation can happen is the space of art”

M: “Place at Last” your first solo exhibition in Beirut, suggested a certain relief. Perhaps from the restlessness of having to imperatively and ethically think forgiveness, mourning and violence in post war Lebanon? At last resonated as an equivocal acceptance with a touch of resignation, or as a discovery of something that might have already always been there. Place shifted the problem of how to address mourning in Lebanon to a geographical and spatial solution. Place implies a locality, an identifiable space where meeting is in fact possible.

M: I would personally like to understand the politics of the encounter and if this encounter is possible. Can art be that meeting place?  What do we know, not know, learn from by convening precisely there ?

M: What is the meaning of shared in “shared space”? You mentioned repeatedly the space of the encounter in a post-traumatic war context; how can stand next to one another

W: rub shoulders

M: As you once said. Bare a presence we are inevitably and often unwillingly bond to? With no claims of forgiveness nor unity, but simply appear to one another with no further political or moral implications (Harendt’s space of appearance). Your first suggestion was to meet around the presence of a corpse, because such presence, you argued, could delay the advent of naming and of language hijacking grief (can mourning be possible without language?).

M: A wall separated your show from the entrance of the Beirut Art Center, with a passage marking the entrance. A border that once trespassed would immerse us in a lawless and white room, a sort of sate of exception reconfiguring its boundaries and perspectives. Traditional orientation marks pertaining to the exhibition space such as captions, walls, images, texts, were radically reinvented through gestures meant to destabilize the space of representation. The room’s engulfing whiteness broke a sense of perspective. And the body, at last, perhaps, could find a space outside of it. (Or was it, paradoxically the very space of representation, an art center? Was white the white night in Blanchot’s The Writing of the Disaster or was it the white industrial paint of Beirut Art Center’s white walls?)

M: In Love is Blind, captions are placed on the wall indicating the name of a painting, its author, date of execution and collection, but the paintings were missing. The space corresponding to the dimensions of the painting is left intact, without its object, the painting. What does maintaining the space of representation while erasing is object produce? The structure is maintained through the demarcating frame (the space supposedly occupied by the painting) and through its referent (the caption).

M: Is that missing painting somewhere else? Did you eat it? Do we have to be precisely in that specific place to be able to see? Objects would then become invisible if displaced. Is that your understanding of Place? Is your dream the one of absolute equivalence between what is said and what is seen, between what is seen and where it is seen? Is the space of the encounter the back of a canvas or google’s browser? Amsterdam, Kiel, Paris, Bordeaux, Dole, Mr amd Ms Boshali living room?

M: Above each caption you placed a wall text- another caption- in Arabic whose translation was in the visitor’s guide. The Arabic texts all referred to classical paintings depicting the Roman allegory of Cimo and Pero; Pero, just having had a child, secretly breast-feeds her father who is sentenced to death and starvation in a roman prison.

Faroukh, Cimo and Pero, private collections, Love is Blind. Are you drawing a parallel between generosity and the lost of sight? Filial love in Cimo and Pero and the lost genealogies of Lebanese Modern Art? Cannibalism and nurturing?

(It is said that the cannibalistic person has a strong desire for milk and is fixated on sucking. It devours the lost object in the impossibility of letting go, making the mourning  melancholic and bodily.  Such cannibalistic device implies the suppression of the other. How do you envisage the encounter here? )

M: Do you think that conversations make for an encounter? Is my own form of address unanswerable?

M: In Infinite Conversations, Blanchot talks about one particular form of exchange implied in the master/ student relation and how such space is translated through dialogue. It is the opposite of the cannibalistic devouring since it is  the space of infinite distance;

“ le maitre n’est pas destine a applanir le champs des relations, mais a le boulverser, non a le faciliter les chemins du savoir, mais d’abord a les render non seulement plus difficle, mais proprement inefrayable…”

“Le maitre ne donne rien a connaitre qui ne reste determine par “l’inconnu” inderterminable qu’il represente, inconnu qui ne s’affirme que pas pas le mystere, le prestige, l’erudition de celui qui enseigne mais de la distance infinie entre A et B…”

M: Is the space of encounter the space of an infinite distance ? The infinite distance as a space for conversation, but also the infinite distance that is implied in my relation to others.

M: What do we know or do not know when we are in that space? She said that some people could not live without knowing (without knowing where their sons and daughters are). You said asked how can we live while knowing.

W: “How can you live on when you know that people have committed such acts of violence. What do you do with that excess knowledge?”

M: What you mean here is that we know because we have the ability to understand the distance;  The one that perpetrates the crime can’t question his act, while not having perpetrated the crime, I am also complicit because I know that something happened. It is a knowledge that shakes any identitarian affirmation.

M: How can the excess knowledge be redistributed or belong to the economy it was produced through? The excess knowledge that paradoxically wants to deconstruct identitarian affirmations also produces the unreachable other. (I know, while the other doesn’t).


Worse Editorial Experience
March 25, 2010, 12:29 pm
Filed under: Art stuff, Beirut notes, Learn me how to read

My worse editorial experience was with the Arab Studies Journal.

The story goes like this

I am contacted to write a review on the two books Contemporary Art in The Middle East and New Visions for Arab Studies Journal’s issue on Visual Arts. I receive the two books with a “contract”, which I have lost but that states all the rules and regulations of proper academic conduit, of citation modes ect ect. All of which establishes the tone of the relation; standards are academic and rigorous based on free thought, argumentation and content of the review.

Ok, why not, I am somehow slightly intimidated. I have never received such as a letter, I decide to take it romantically.

The other conditions is that I have a deadline and that the review is not paid. I end up writing 3000 words and have it review by friends with a PhD ( I got caught by some sort hysterical and unhealthy fear of not fitting into the standards. A fear that I assimilate with all the bad bad things that academia provokes and continues willingly  to implement due to its fear of disintegrating if not supported by such institutional apparatus)

I send the review and receive an email

Your review will go through a blind refereeing process after which I will get back to you with editorial comments.

As for the formatting, there are some changes that need to be made, but they will be easy enough to deal with…

Again, the evaluation process…

Almost 6 months pass and do not receive an answer, not withstanding my mails of inquiry.

Yesterday, I receive an email saying that

Your review is still in the refereeing stage with our team of editors. Unfortunately, this means it will not be included in the upcoming visual arts issue. If you would like to withdraw your review from consideration in order to take it elsewhere, we certainly understand. Please let me know if that is the case. Otherwise, I will be in touch with you as soon as it has passed through the refereeing stage to let you know whether it has been accepted for publication in the 2011 issue...”

At that point I wish to withdraw my review. Not such much because of their delay in answering but because I do not wish to be subjected to their procedures.

I do respect their work, but what I have experience through this work relation embodies precisely what I  fight against, precisely because I love academia. When it gets professionalized, standardized and works by subjecting you to a system of evaluation, failure, approval. The work can get done is other ways, and it can be as rigorous (and more fun).

Viva Self Publishing.

Arab Studies Journal – Review
Mirene Arsanios
Knowledge is Sweeter than Honey
Words: 3085

Contemporary Art in the Middle East published by Black Dog Publishing and New Visions. Arab Contemporary Art in the 21st Century, published by Thames & Hudson were both released in 2009. The fact that thematic volumes presenting art in the Middle East were not common until very recently is avowedly stressed in both publications; “Nothing on this scale has never been attempted before…” , “…the first survey of its kind…” . But besides strategic mottos or cover choices , what “kind” of literature and information is the reader being offered through such products in terms of our understanding and knowledge of art practices the Middle East ?
To date, surveys, writings, and critical thought concerning art in the Arab World have circulated via magazines, journals, exhibition catalogues or conferences. These heterogeneous platforms reflect a fragmented cultural production and often focus on specific cities stressing their differences: Beirut is not Dubai, Dubai is not Cairo. If more in depth information is needed, curators and researchers would travel to their target destinations, interview local cultural practitioners and, access a scene through informal conversations and phone numbers written between two coffees on a torn piece of paper.
Large books with corresponding long titles to question will not prevent similar scenes from taking place. However, these reference volumes do hold another approach to the region. Their attempt is to frame and coherently represent the current development of an artistic infrastructure in the Middle East, from Abu Dhabi to Tangier.
Questioning what motivates this book production may lead to unsatisfying speculation – is it merely a tool for Western curators, collectors and institutions interested in the region for obvious political, professional and commercial reasons? Books whose main outcome is to further enhance the art market and reinforce professional exchange?
Although attempts to decode the workings of an art system, gossips and para-institutional critique play an important part in shaping debate, I will follow another thread in this review and outline two problematic; how to render the region’s heterogeneous artistic production without flattening its diversity, and, secondly can the publications we are addressing be catalysts for knowledge production? If so, what constitutes such knowledge?

Mind the Map

“There is of course another implicit premise in the title of this volume: that the Middle East actually exists as a defined geographic area” . Contemporary Art in the Middle East opens with a map representing the region, from Algeria to Afghanistan, Turkey to Yemen. Although a slippery construct and an area whose definition an territory is contested daily, the map of the Middle East, as sketched in the two discussed volumes, is symptomatic of the heterogeneous agendas at play in shaping the current cultural production in area.
While New Visions. Arab Contemporary Art in the 21st Century addresses, as its names indicates, Arab art, distinguished in the forward by Hossein Amirsadeghi, from Iranian or Turkish art, Contemporary Art in the Middle East has a looser geographic understanding of the area; 18 artists out of the 45 profiled in the book are Iranian, proportionally representing the largest number of featured artists. Politically, the constructs are also divergent since Israel is included in Contemporary Art’s Middle East with the artist Dani Karavan and with an interview by Andrew Renton, curator of Art Tel Aviv.
Networks of professional relations also have a part in outlining different maps of the region; New Visions is edited and compiled by Iranian, Hossein Amirsadeghi, together with Salwa Mikdadi and Nada Shabout. The editors’ personal and grounded knowledge of the region enables them to formulate questions responsive to local contexts such as the role of art education or the relation between the private and the public sphere in the Arab world.
The editorial voice in the Black Dog book is less articulated, with an anonymous forward and with the name of the editor, Paul Sloman, only appearing in the closing colophon and in the acknowledgement note. Contributors are mostly Western scholars and curators having developed an interest in and worked on projects on the Middle East. Critical essays generally revolve around single practices already benefiting from major exposure in the West, such as TJ Demos with an essay on Emily Jacir or Susan Cotter with an essay on Akram Zaatari and Walid Raad. “Contemporary” in Contemporary Art in the Middle East, presumes a curatorial understanding and is closely linked to the international art world, while New Visions apprehends the contemporary through a historical understanding of the present, of Arab Modernity, and issues of broader cultural production such as vernacular culture, featured in the book with Tarek Atrissi’ essay The Transformed Vernacular New Design Language.
Other than professional milieus and affiliations, imagined audiences also play a role in drawing the region’s cartography. As Lindsey Moore rightly points out “An English-language publication such as this presupposes a cosmopolitan audience” ,can be further nuanced and broken down. New Visions’ concerns are to offer both scholarly standards to the reader and simultaneously appeal to a larger audience;“Create a book with sufficient academic depth and scholarly rigour …while at the same time having the visual impact to appeal to art lovers everywhere…” . Contemporary Art in the Middle East could be seen as an navigational tool for a more amateur and possibly Western reader, combining a variety of essays, interviews with professionals in the field, as Negar Azimi, Rose Issa, Andrew Renton, Wijdan Ali, and a passage of Edward Said’s Orientalism and its critique by Zachary Lockman.
If the maps outlined in each volume do not converge, different configurations of the region are also present within a same book. For instance, Nat Muller’s agile introduction in Contemporary Art frm the Middle East surveys the region geographically and thematically, focusing on individual practices along the axis Beirut, Cairo, Ramallah. An introduction with no continuation or further unfolding in the book since most of the artists Muller mentions are absent from the artists plates :
Missing artists, discrepancies and divergences, between and within the two volumes, embody to a greater extent the cracks and different forces at play in the region. Whatever sets in motion the tectonics of these geographies is uncanny (how, for example, can Akram Zaatari, not be represented as artist in both books ?).
Notwithstanding the different and perhaps complementary Middle Easts mapped out in the two volumes- New Visions gravitates along the axis Beirut, Ramallah, Cairo while Contemporary Art is closer to Iran and London- both are products of a larger editorial projects  and share a similar partition system; forward, introduction, essays, artists plates. The appendix with since Black Dog including a series of interviews and a passage from Edward Said’s Orientalism and New Visions inserting a chronology of significant events in the history of Arab Art. The books’ topography, through its editorial articulation and geographic configuration render apparent different poles and politics within a same region. These differences, however, are ramifications within the current development of the region, and as in any other war, the art wars act at the expenses of singular practices.
In her introductory essay, Muller transitions from her survey on geographic cities to “Cities as metaphor”. Quoting Tony Chakar in a conversation with Stephen Wright, “Could art find its territory in these uncharted territories of differences?” ,  she questions if art can depart from social, historical and political contexts to finally speak for itself; “[I]n other words, let the social political and historical undercurrents speak from the art and not the other way round” , thus relegating identitarian and geographical readings to the background in an attempt to bring individual practices to the forefront. How to envisions such desire in the light of the “kind” of publications being discussed? Alternatively, is it precisely because of these classifying systems and all-encompassing appellations that we should be drawn to learn from the practice rather than to make use of it?

Diaspora and Exile

I have mapped out, geographically and professionally the ways in which the publications under discussion are structured, and my attempt is to see if such configuration can afford spaces for “uncharted territories”.
Geographic displacements, the diasporic and exilic are shared topics in both volumes. Contemporary Art in the Middle East features an essay by Lindsey Moore on “Migration, Diaspora, Exile and Return in Women’s Visual Media”, followed by a an essay by TJ Demos on Emily Jacir, “Desire in Diaspora” and New Visions features an essay by Sarah Rogers, “Imagined Geographies: Diaspora and Contemporary Arab Art”.
Departing from Said’s Orientalism and its interpretation in the works of Fran Lloyd or Reina Lewis, Moore’s problematizes feminist artistic production in the Middle East. Exile and diaspora are entangled and fertile conditions, from where to question traditional binary constructs such as self/other, here/there, colonizer/colonized, exotic/familiar, East/West. Moore proposes to revisit these partitions through Derrida’s concept of hyphenated identities or Abdelkebir Khatabi’s articulation of the chiasmus. Subject formation is linked to artistic production through strategies such as autobiographical and familial narratives. Moore analyses at length Zineb Sedira’s work and her intergenerational and autobiographical approach to exile through stories of departure and interruptions. In her film Mother Tongue, Sedira converses with her mother in Arabic and French, while she cannot communicate in these same languages with her Anglophone daughter. Moore sees in Zedira’s work as the embodiment of chiasmic experience through the artist’s use of the a split screen, recounting simultaneously different journeys, confusing the relation between the here and the there, arrivals and returns.
If Lindsey Moore’s stance on migration and diaspora is pervaded by the melancholic, TJ Demos’ essay on Emily Jacir’s work, “Desire and Disapora”, focuses on the possibility of desire and, consequently of agency, on disempowerment and impossible life conditions; “Where any site latched onto, it appears, the attachment would too easily be exposed as compensatory or nostalgic…Consequently, Where we Come From, like much of Jacir’s work, concerns the (im)possibility of movement, rather than the plausibility of sidedness.”
Diaspora’s confused relation between the “here” and the “there”, are, in Jacir’s work performed through exchange and loss. In her piece, From Texas with Love, Jacir displaces the experience of the impossibility to drive a car in Palestine without being arrested at Israeli checkpoints and border controls by driving uninterruptedly on a Texan. Rather than reading Jacir’s work through an overarching theme, Demos allows the work to guide his analysis on diaspora. To the extent that his reading romantically borders the exotic, when assuming, for instance, that diasporas have to maintain a level of intensity and desire; “The sometime bureaucratic tone of descriptions reveals the fact that even diasporic desires can become routine, after so long, which is yet another tragic element: the banality of exile.”  (What presuppositions assume that exile must equate excitement or commotion?).
Neither vivifying romanticism nor disempowering melancholy, Sarah Rogers offers an astute take on diaspora and art in her essay, “Imagined Geographies: Diaspora and Contemporary Arab Art”. Rogers circumspectly links artistic production to the economical, curatorial and political circuits to which such production participates, “As the scholarly interest in the presence of Diaspora communities coincide with the global turn of the international art world…”  and, a bit further, “Certainly a peculiar dependency seems to exist between the continuing violence that plagues the region and an international investments in the arts”  The directions and economy of these relations are not explicitly discussed,  suggesting to the reader a shared interest. Rogers analyses the case of postwar Lebanon and the return to the country of Lebanese artists having studied abroad, such as Ziad Abillama, Walid Sadek or Lamia Joreige. She bridges these returns with previous historical examples such as the Lebanese painter George Corm whose career was launched by two Italian Jesuit priest and who was sent to Rome to train in classical art and later returned to Lebanon to establish an art market. Diasporas are composed of intricate webs of relations linking the international and local in ways that reconfigure both. More than a transaction from here to there, Rogers sees diasporic experiences as sites for encounters between co-nationals and as situations where interregional ties are developed.
Roger concludes her essay by reminding use of the persistent Euro-American tendencies to classify and categorize artists related to the Middle East through identitarian and geographic lenses. But could diasporic readings of art practices also be a detoured identitarian reading and contribute in establishing categories rather than, again, suggesting uncharted territories?
In her essay “Contemporaneity and the Arab World” Nada  Shabout refers to diaspora as a condition privileged by the West to read art in the Middle East; “Thus the acceptance of diaspora artists in the West is a continuation of the Orientalism paradigm, made evident in the specific celebration of hybridity in the choice of artists in exhibitions organized in the West and by Western curators.”

Scholarly Knowledge?

Rogers, on another note reminds us of the complicity of art historical studies in producing knowledge through identitarian ad geographic classifications. To counter such tendencies, Rogers, as Nat Muller, advocates for the capacity of the work to “reroute us back to the socio and political realities and interventions at stake in the work itself.”
The lack of local scholarly production and educational infrastructures for the study of modern and contemporary art in are voiced concerns in New Visions, particularly in Salwa Mikdadi’s and Nada Shabout’s essays. Disciplinary scholarly production, art historical or other “would allow for construction of several contemporary narratives and be capable of presenting the contemporary practices of the Arab world as part of a continuum and not as a novel contemporary phenomenon”  This would prevent Western curators and critics from establishing the main paradigm to perceive, understand, and value works produced in the Middle East.
Thus, historical knowledge of Arab modernity might put into perspective on the one hand the Arab world’s anxious quest for cultural identity (either by affirmation of a certain “Arabness” or the lament of a lack of historical references and models), and on the other hand, international art shows marketing contemporary cultural production in the Arab World as a new phenomenon.
Shabout laments, that in the absence of art criticism or dominant art historical narratives, the only models available are Western ones. Trough such logic, lack is determined in relation to a model, which in this case is considered the only possible one. This predetermined equation creates illogically a situation where the model is to be attained on the outside, which by definition, can never be reached. The potentiality for art education is to be looked for in the contexts in which we are living and working. To acknowledge such a context is not to write an art historical dissertation on the influence of this artist on another – although it might certainly be part of it – but to be able to recognize and acknowledge what is already in motion and create a model from a given condition.
Mikdadi in her essay, “NGOs and the Public Sphere” looks at the role of NGOs in creating an alternative, non-governmental artistic infrastructure. Ahskal Alwan, founded in 1995 by Christine Tohme in Beirut, is a perfect example of a model that has shaped itself within a specific context. Following 15 years of activity, Tohme is now planning to launch a space for artistic research and education, the Home Works Academy.
The relation between art organizations, knowledge production, and academy is complex. Traditionally, academy has the advantage of offering a public structure, free and open to all, while contemporary arts academic tendencies often operate within restrained circles. In a context such as Lebanon, for instance, individual professors and artists act as bridges between these two realms. How can academy learn from the art scene? The Home Works Academy, by keeping the appellation Academy is tackling a tremendous heritage and proposing to reconfigure it according to certain needs and desires, while keeping the tension with the “academic”.

From Texas

In concluding her introductory essay, Muller, when referring to ways in which artists adopt roles, endorse humor, and play with performance, states that “[T]his is how knowledge is produced: meaning is to be found more in the rehearsals than in the grand finale. It is this processual act that lies at the heart of the creation and perception of art, wherever is it is produced.”  Muller places art at the core of knowledge. Shabout and Mikdadi advocate for scholarly knowledge.
What about the role of writing and publications such as the ones being discussed? What role do they have in channeling and producing new visions on contemporary art in the Middle East, beyond the profiling and indexing of artists? If historiography and the translation of events have become a significant concern for artists practicing in the area , why do similar questionings never seem to pervade scholarly production? How can scholarly publications also learn from artistic practices?
In both books, hints of what constitutes this knowledge are articulated in the discussed essays,   and the importance of singular practices is underlined as a response to identitarian and essentialized readings of art practices. However, the titles and partitions these books have chosen to adopt inevitably draws us back to these categories. Paradoxically, their scope is to counter them, to launch a war against Western misrepresentation of the Arab world and reveal still existing Orientalising tendencies. Although such attempts are surely justified, why is always the Middle East placed in a position to counter ? How can the economy of this exchange be reversed?
I have attempted in this review to look at ways in which knowledge is linked to geography, and relied on the metaphor of uncharted territories as a way of produce new knowledge.  My conclusion is that these uncharted territories are not to be looked for in publications on contemporary art in the Middle East. They are to be looked for in what is not mentioned in the books, in projects in the making and practices, which are not inserted in the map, yet.Precisely, it is through such publications, through the growth, development and institutionalization of an established of a scene and art system, that uncharted territories come to existence.

January 28, 2010, 4:40 pm
Filed under: Art stuff, Learn me how to read

I (after a conversation with Fares)

This is the diagram that Plato brings a slave boy to draw in his dialogue with Meno. Plato asks Meno how to double the surface  of a square that is composed of  4 little squares. Meno’s first move is the double the side of the square, but the side is not a surface; by doubling the side, we end up with 16 sub squares, not the desired 8 ones. Plato says to Meno that in order to reach the double of the first square,  he has to think in surfaces and that he can’t deduce the surface from the sides. For Socrate, one has not to forget what one is seeking during the calculations (Meno forgot that he was looking for a surface). We can reach knowledge if we do not forget while we are seeking. Another interesting point in this demonstration is that Plato beging with a large surface  from which he has to deduce the resulting double square, meaning that he proceeds by subtracting (on a surface of 16 squares, I will find the surface of 8 squares which is already contained in the larger surface).Plato proceeds by  subtraction,  not by addition. The final act is to delimit, not to find. To trace the line will make the answer visible but the answer is already contained in the question.  If it is  not , I will never see it. The paradox is that we reach the unknown from what is already know.


I have been thinking about this for a while now, gathering some feelings of discontent on a couple of issues pertaining to the relation between research, art and the art system.
I started thinking about it when a couple of artists whom I know have expressed the same concerns in regards to their research. The artists had received great attention on their projects by established institutions, an attention which resumed in an immediate almost frantic desire to appropriate the research and place it under their label, wing or support. Coincidentally, but maybe not, the artists were working with archival material and carrying a research on Lebanon’s past history, although in a rather oblique manner.
One of the artist reported that he first mentioned his project to another artist, who told him “ you have a great treasure here”… The artist received attention from different organizations that resembled a sort of competitive race towards. What is the race towards or against and how does it condition the nature of the knowledge pertaining to the work and its research?

If knowledge is a race for information (who is the first to know) and then a property (a knowledge that is placed under a certain program or institutional name or copyright) knowledge is to be understood as piece; quantifiable and consumable. The more you have information, the more powerful you have because the more marketable it makes you on the art scene. The question, what is it that you know, remains.

I remember an animated debate that took place at the BAC between a gallerist and a curator; the curator was accusing the gallerist of “possessing” an archive and a collection of great value and of withholding it form the public as to capitalize on it.
The dynamics of what is at stake is linked to who possesses what and how, what forces are at play in that possession and what power game is being played; local heritage against global market, local institutions against global institutions, the market against the non profit etc. These antagonisms maybe due to the lack of public body or institutions to safeguard knowledge and research from private enterprise (which is also linked to private initiatives).
Another question that imposes itself and render this competition all the more problematic is; how does it affect this knowledge in its particular relation to history and the archive. What is the role of the archive in producing knowledge ? Is it to know that something happened or is it the power that resides in constituting a narrative on a historical episode. The paradox in the knowledge/ history/ artistic practices is that the narrative is intrinsically linked to the artist’s reading of this material and remains an individual enterprise.

The paradox is that “there is no political power without control of the archive, if not of memory. Effective democratization can always be measured by this essential criterion: participation in and the access to the archive, its constitution and interpretation.” (Archive Fever, Derrida )

On criticism ( I never wanted to kill a mosquito so badly)
August 6, 2009, 3:24 pm
Filed under: Beirut notes, Blogroll, Learn me how to read

This is an old post on being exhausted. What is scary is that I still have these fluctuations, from being breathless to being too excited to sustain anything. Fares said two things that I like; a quote from Lacan that I am probably misquoting here ” La vie n’a pas assez de valeur pour faire un lache” and that I have to start to “travailler la matiere”.


The blog has changed since I moved back. It is certainly not as spontaneous as it use to be, maybe because the platform where it emerged is not there anymore. There are questions, sentences, issues that are of interest of course, but they never find the time, space or even desire to make it through the screen. Thoughts come without ever materializing like a repetitive exercise or a fold of the mind that prevents any new shape or direction to be taken. It’s not the thoughts in themselves, but more the exhausting temporal lapse between having them and experiencing what they can do, provoke. Need some brain moist. The more I let go, the more the distance is intimidating, the more my voice resonates through some shrill echoes.

It is maybe a question of adjustment and rhythm, finding a right entry point and take it from there. Drinking more water. Maybe it is about starting to read novels again or watch more French films or American mafia movies. Maybe it is about just doing it, again and again, that is what L. said. You become this or that , once you decide to do it. Since I have decided to do it, things have gotten more complicated. Maybe it is about becoming a “professional” and this is probably what is most violent since it excludes so many things (like the mosquito that is sucking my blood in this very moment) by working in given set of coordinates; a space, a schedule, a language, an outcome, having responsibility ?  Pushing boundaries has never been so physical and my energy economy is simply crashing and in desperate need of pure speculation, imaginative inputs, exciting stuff. a routine.

I have to think about it
December 28, 2008, 4:24 pm
Filed under: 98 weeks research project, Beirut notes, Learn me how to read

C. “don’t think about it to much”.

As things move on, at a pace that does not really allow any clear understanding of where we are heading and how , the dialectic between what has been done /is still in the doing, and the questioning of these actions or projects questioning their very projection, is not that clear in fact. When are we thinking and how do we think about what we do ? When does it become clear, a name becomes an action, and finally, you’ve got something, or you found something, you are into something .

M. “that’s because she hasn’t found anything yet

Is there a way to get there that is more efficient than another, or does it take a long long detour to finally have that feeling of precarious lover’s communion between you and the world. Some would say that there is no separation anyways, that there is no distance.

Navigating all this can then become a process of stripping off all that has been added and getting to reactivate what has, in a way, always been there, the child perhaps.

The thinking, maybe paradoxically, has to be effected in that sense, working the way to something vital, a pulsating beat. (the heartbeat of contingency). Listening then may be more appropriate.

Not to fall again, withing the classical binary of thoughts and emotions, I’d rather see that process as a choreography, writing, undoing, shaking and dancing. ( “an unrehearsed pas de deux” as S. would say? ).