Monday August 10, 7:30pm
Arab Avant-Garde: Reflections on Situated Time
Curated by Samirah Alkassim / Organized with Peter Buntaine
admission $6

Arab Experimental Films

Still from “On the Road (be fekret hastam)”, by Naz Shahrokh (2013) – image courtesy of the artist

Microscope Gallery is very pleased to present “Arab Avant-Garde: Reflections on Situated Time” a program curated by Samirah Alkassim and organized with Peter Buntaine featuring recent works by seven filmmakers from Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates.

Notes on the program from the curator:

A collection of recent short films that provide a sampling of the contemporary experimental film scene of the Middle East. From references that are more recognizable to an American audience to more specific signifiers tied to geographic location and cultural histories, each film casts a reflection on the historical circumstances from which it was produced that are also global in their resonance. “On the Road” (be fekret hastam) frames a soul’s longing to encounter its other through eight windows playing simultaneously; “What is Natural Contains Variety” juxtaposes the memories of an elderly Palestinian describing the topography of childhood home in Palestine while Palestine is in the background of a landscape; “Though I Know the River Is Dry” is an elliptical narrative where past and present collide as a man relives the choice that sent him to America and the forces of history now driving him to his home in Palestine; “Transparent Evil” frames the eeriness of empty spaces outside Tahrir Square during the 2011 Egyptian revolution while noting the tremendous mediation of the revolution; “Incarnation of a Bird from an Oil Painting” fuses an obscure 20th century snippet of Lebanese intellectual history with an homage to surrealist cinema; and “A Whale is A Whale is A Whale” imagines the cries of the endangered Humpback whale on verge of extinction in the Arabian Sea.

The cultural locations are Abu Dhabi, the Jordan River Valley, Ramallah, Cairo, Beirut, and the Arabian Sea, but the cultural references are global, via a mixture of overlapping locations, superimposed elements, and stylistic techniques, invoking the materiality of film, video and photography. — Samirah Alkassim

This program first appeared with slight variation as “Arab Experimental Films: Reflections in Situated Time”, in May 2015, coordinated with Margaret Rorison, co-founder of the Sight Unseen mobile film series in Baltimore.

(Running time: approx. 70 minutes)

“On the Road” (be fekret hastam), by Naz Shahrokh (UAE / US / Iran, 2013, 6:40)
“What is Natural Contains Variety”, by Samirah Alkassim (US / Jordan, 2006, 14:00)
“Though I Know the River Is Dry”, by Omar Robert Hamilton (Egypt, 2013, 19:00)
“Transparent Evil”, by Roy Samaha (Lebanon, 2011, 26:00)
“Incarnation of a Bird from an Oil Painting”, by Omar Fakhoury & Roy Samaha (Lebanon, 2014, 8:00)
“A Whale is A Whale is A Whale”, by Sophia Al-Maria (Qatar / US, 2014, 4:00)

Sophia Al Maria is an artist, writer, and filmmaker. For the past few years, she has been carrying out research around the concept of Gulf Futurism. Her primary interests are around the isolation of individuals via technology and reactionary Islam, the corrosive elements of consumerism and industry and the erasure of history and the blinding approach of a future no one is ready for. She explores these ideas with certain guidebooks and ideas including but not limited to, Zizek’s “The Desert of the Unreal”, As-Sufi’s “Islamic Book of the Dead”, as well as imagery from Islamic eschatology, post humanism and the global mythos of Science Fiction. Her work has been exhibited at the Gwangju Biennale, the New Museum in New York, and the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London. Her writing has appeared in Harper’s Magazine, Five Dials, Triple Canopy and Bidoun. She studied comparative literature at the American University in Cairo, and aural and visual cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London. Sophia currently lives and works in Doha, Qatar.

Omar Robert Hamilton is a filmmaker, writer and cultural organizer working in documentary and fiction. He is a co-founder Cairo’s Mosireen Collective and works on the documentation, archiving and visual record of the Egyptian revolution in various ways – after making dozens of short documentaries he’s currently using the archive collected to cut a feature. He is also co-founder of the annual Palestine Festival of Literature, which seeks to challenge Israel’s apartheid policies and the international discourse surrounding them. His latest fiction short, Though I Know the River Is Dry, premiered at Rotterdam and went on to win some good prizes. He writes semi-regularly for Egyptian journalism collective Mada Masr and occasionally for the London Review of Books blog and he’s working on a novel about the recent revolution in Egypt.

Omar Fakhoury born in 1979, is a Lebanese visual artist living and working in Beirut. Born in Beit Chabab in 1979, Omar Fakhoury is a multidisciplinary visual artist. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Painting and Drawing from the Lebanese University and a Masters of Fine Arts from Paris I- Sorbonne. He is currently a lecturer at the Lebanese University (IBA II) and at the University of Saint-Joseph (IESAV).

Roy Samaha is a Lebanese video artist and photographer living and working in Beirut. He has a background in film studies and his work deals with personal history, death, mourning, and the memory of personal objects. He particularly criticizes the constant assault of images, both propaganda and advertising, that one is subjected to in contemporary society. Samaha’s work has been shown in many international festivals, including Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin (2003), the Singapore Biennale (2006), La Rencontre Internationale (Paris/Madrid/Berlin, 2007), Meeting Points 5 (Brussels/Berlin/ Egypt, 2009), and in Aberdeen (Scotland) in 2010. A resident at Apexart New York in 2010, Samaha also worked ten years in the television industry, and now teaches alternative video practices at Saint Joseph University and the American University of Beirut.

Naz Shahrokh was born in Tehran, Iran, she spent her childhood in Paris, France, and adolescent years in Los Angeles, CA. She received a BFA and an MFA in Painting, and an MS in Art History from Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY. She currently teaches art at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi, and has also taught at the American University in Cairo. Her work has been exhibited internationally and garnered awards including the Change Inc. (the Rauschenberg Foundation) Grant, Captiva, FL, and the Artist-In-The-Marketplace Fellowship, the Bronx Museum, Bronx, NY. Her work has been reviewed in the New York Times, TimeOut Abu Dhabi, the Connecticut Post, the Advocate and Greenwich Time, Contemporary Practices, and ART PAPERS, and is included in private and public collections.

Samirah Alkassim is an independent filmmaker and film scholar, with published articles about experimental film/video in Egypt, and research on Egyptian and Arab media, including Ramadan serials and revolutionary graffiti. Her films include experimental documentary Far From You (1996) about Egyptian singer Umm Kulthoum, among various other experimental films and installations; and publications include “Cracking the Monolith: Film and Video Art in Egypt” (Intellect: New Cinemas Journal), among others. She has taught film studies and production variously at the American University in Cairo and U.C. Berkely among other institutions; has served as co-chair of the Middle East Caucus group of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies organization and works as program and communications manager at The Jerusalem Fund for Education & Community Development where she programs films among other things.

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