Scratching on things I could disavow (2007-present)
In 2007 I initiated an art project on the history of art in the “Arab world” titled Scratching on things I could disavow. I began the project at the same time that the establishment of new cultural foundations, art galleries, art schools, art magazines, art prizes, art fairs, and large Western-brand or styled museums was accelerating in cities such as Abu Dhabi, Beirut, Cairo, Dubai, Doha, Manama, Ramallah, Sharjah, and others. These material developments were matched by equally fraught efforts to define, sort, and stitch anew “Arab art” along three loosely silhouetted nodes: “Islamic,” “modern,” and “contemporary.” When viewed alongside the political, economic, social, and military conflicts that have and continue to consume the “Arab world” in the past few decades, such developments shape a rich yet thorny ground for creative work.
In this project, I concentrate on some of the stories, economies, forms, lines, volumes, gestures and colors I am encountering as I navigate in and out of these emerging infrastructures.
Section 139: The Atlas Group (1989-2004), 2010
Between 1989 and 2004, I worked on a project titled “The Atlas Group.” It consisted of artworks made possible by the Lebanese wars of the past few decades.
In 2005, I was asked to exhibit this project for the ﬁrst time in Lebanon, in Beirut’s ﬁrst-of-its-kind white-cube art gallery.
For some reason this oﬀer perturbed me and I refused.
In 2006, I was asked again. I refused again.
In 2007, I was asked again. I refused again.
In 2008, I was asked again. I agreed.
Weeks later, when I went to the gallery to inspect my exhibition before its opening, I was startled to ﬁnd that all my artworks had shrunk to 1/100th of their original size.
I subsequently decided to build a smaller white cube beﬁtting my works’ new dimensions, and to display them there.
Translator's Introduction: Pension Arts in Dubai, 2010
In 2007, I was asked to join the Dubai branch of the Artist Pension Trust (APT). A private company established in 2004 by a savvy entrepreneur and a risk-management guru, APT aims to select and pool artists and artworks into regional investment and pension funds, of which it has thus far established eight. APT is owned by MutualArt, a British Virgin Islands-registered company whose assets include the Web site by the same name.
To determine whether to join APT Dubai, I found myself asking who was funding APT and MutualArt, and why was APT launching a trust in the Middle East. This led me to look into technological innovations in the areas of statistics; risk-management concepts in finance; art as an alternative asset class; culture as an engine of economic growth in the Arab world and elsewhere; text, data-mining, and face-recognition algorithms; and the Israeli military and its links to the Israeli high-tech sector. All of which led to the tableau presented here, which I regard as a stage set for an accompanying oral presentation in which I narrate my findings.