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[see also below: A History of Limits. On the Architecture of Canon Narratives. Conference, 18 and 19 March 2016]
Past Disquiet. Narratives and Ghosts from the International Art Exhibition for Palestine, 1978 is a documentary and archival exhibition centered on the research conducted on and around the story of the International Art Exhibition for Palestine, which opened in the spring of 1978 in Beirut, Lebanon, at the Beirut Arab University. Organized by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), it comprised approximately two-hundred artworks donated by artists from around thirty countries. The exhibition was intended as the seed collection for a museum in exile, taking the form of an itinerant exhibition that was meant to tour worldwide until it could be repatriated to Palestine. During the Israeli siege of Beirut in 1982, the building where the works were stored, together with the exhibition’s archival traces, was destroyed.
The size and scope of the International Art Exhibition for Palestine was unprecedented in the region. The reconstructed story of the exhibition has uncovered an intricate network and shared history of politically engaged artists and initiatives, and revealed a scarcely documented history of grassroots artists’ collectives in cities like Paris, Rome, and Tokyo and artists’ unions in Damascus, Baghdad, Casablanca, Berlin (West), and Warsaw. It revisits seminal editions of biennials in Venice, Baghdad, and Rabat and museums in exile in Santiago de Chile, Managua, and in Cape Town.
The Berlin version of Past Disquiet at HKW explores critically the mechanisms of canon-making in the discourse and historiography of art. It also looks into the relationships in the realm of art and artists’ practices between the Cold War-divided Germany and the causes that animated the anti-imperialist solidarity front, specifically the struggle for Palestine.
The first iteration of Past Disquiet was presented at the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) in the framework of its broad exploration into the history of exhibitions, art creation, and public engagement. This engagement serves as a means of enabling a broader and more profound understanding of the political, economic, social, and cultural contexts in which art is created, valued, displayed publicly, and integrated with the collective imaginary.
Past Disquiet displays, mediates, and incarnates themes and questions that have guided this research, using video montages of archival material and film as well as contemporary interviews and writing, in addition to reproductions of documents. It draws cartographies linking constellations of artists and groups bound by political affiliations and solidarities, beginning in Palestine and expanding to the rest of the world. The investigation into other itinerant exhibitions intended as a "museum in exile," contemporary to the International Art Exhibition for Palestine, such as the Museo Internacional de la Resistencia Salvador Allende and Artists Against Apartheid, has revealed recent, although forgotten museographic practices, while links to the First Arab Biennial in Baghdad (1974) and the 1976 Venice Biennale uncovered yet other cartographies of a shared history. The exhibition engages with the problematics of oral history while critically exploring the mechanisms of canon making.
Past Disquiet is curated by Kristine Khouri and Rasha Salti. Originally conceived and presented by the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) in 2015. The Berlin version is a production of the Haus der Kulturen der Welt and MACBA.
The research for this project has been made possible by the generous support of: Rana Sadik and Samer Younis, Sharjah Art Foundation, The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC), ZedGrant, the A. M. Qattan Foundation, and Tensta Konsthall.
Jamil Shammout and Michel Najjar paint the banner for The International Art Exhibition for Palestine, Beirut, 1978.
Source: Claude Lazar
Photos on the left:
Exhibition Poster for The International Art Exhibition for Palestine, 1978, Beirut, by Dia Al Azzawi. Source: Samir Salameh
Installation of The International Art Exhibition for Palestine, 1978, Beirut. Source: Claude Lazar
Collectif de peintres antifascistes painting a banner for a protest on May 1, 1976, directed against the government’s policies towards the arts. Source: Claude Lazar
Exhibition Poster for the International Resistance Museum for Salvador Allende. Courtesy: Jacques Leenhardt
A History of Limits.
On the Architecture of Canon Narratives
Conference, 18 and 19 March 2016
Haus der Kulturen der Welt
The exhibition Past Disquiet is the point of departure for the conference A History of Limits. On the Architecture of Canon Narratives. The critique and deconstruction of the modern canon has shaped both artistic practice and theory over the past three decades. However, the canon is not just an instrument of institutional power. It is also a means to create forms of literacy and historical consciousness. On what basis is it possible to construct and narrate a new canon?
The conference A History of Limits evolves from the Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s founding mission from 1989 to move beyond the parameters of Eurocentrism and the Western canon. The inaugural conference of the long-term project Kanon-Fragen interrogates the foundational narratives of modern institutional canons, questioning both their architecture and the sources of their authority. The conference moves on to explore conceptions of the modern unconscious and the "hallucinatory" dimension of canon-narratives on the unstable terrain of undead histories.
At the outset of the conference Kristine Khouri and Rasha Salti (curators Past Disquiet, Beirut) will discuss with Claudia Zaldívar (art historian and director of the Museo de la Solidaridad Salvador Allende, Santiago de Chile) how the predicament of exile changes the conception of what a museum and its "canon" might be.
Theorists Kerstin Stakemeier (Professor of Art Theory and Mediation, Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Nürnberg), Mark Wigley (Professor of Architecture, Columbia University, New York), Erhard Schüttpelz (Professor of Media Theory, Universität Siegen), and artist Lene Berg (Berlin/New York) will examine the frameworks and narrative architectures of the canon.
How do narratives become institutions? Is it possible to read canon narratives against the grain? These are the issues explored by Lara Khaldi (researcher and curator, Jerusalem), Ticio Escobar (curator and essayist, Director of the Centro de Artes Visuales/Museo del Barro, Asunción), David Teh (researcher and curator, Singapore), and cultural scientist and publicist Diedrich Diederichsen (Akademie der bildenden Künste, Vienna / Berlin).
The closing panel opens up to a speculative and imaginative discussion of the anarchic exterior of canon architecture. Nida Ghouse (writer and curator, Mumbai) and Malak Helmy (artist and writer, Cairo), Tom Holert (art historian, critic, curator and artist, Berlin), Ho Tzu Nyen (artist and filmmaker, Singapore/Berlin) as well as Luis Jacob (artist and curator, Toronto) question if it is possible to engage the canon in a "hallucinatory" fashion, in order to include the haunted ontologies of colonial modernity.
A History of Limits is moderated by Anselm Franke (curator, writer and Head of the Department of Visual Arts and Film at the HKW) and Paz Guevara (researcher and curator, Berlin).
The multi-year project Kanon-Fragen by the Haus der Kulturen der Welt examines the architectures of historical narratives and the foundations of institutional canon-formation. From 2016 until 2019, the Department of Visual Arts under the direction of Anselm Franke will be collaborating with a variety of partners in preparing a series of exhibition projects. It will involve curatorial and artistic collaborations with Paz Guevara and Antonia Majaca, Nida Ghouse, Dierk Schmidt with Sonja Lau and Su Wei, Tom Holert, and Diedrich Diederichsen.
Past Disquiet. Narratives and Ghosts from the International Art Exhibition for Palestine, 1978
19 March - 9 May 2016
Press conference: 17 March, 11 am
Opening: 18 March, 7 pm
Researchers / Curators:
Kristine Khouri and Rasha Salti
First presented at
Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), 20 February - 31 May 2015