Ala Younis: To Know the Arab Terrain: Movements to, from, and within (2010)


Mufid Younis, Jordan/Kuwait 1978-1980, OV, 2 min

We read personal and family films as a source to explore the representation of Arab reality. With the beginning of the oil revolution, scores of Arabs went to work in the Arab Gulf states and many returned with video and photo cameras. This film is made of footage excerpts taken from a family archive filmed in Kuwait and Amman. To preserve the film stock in the 1980s, a VHS camera was used to film the footage from a Super 8 screening. Much visual information is lost in the process of such conversions, just as parts of any family archive are lost as members of the family move apart and relocate or just as the features of Arabness change in and outside of the homeland.

Mufid Younis, born in Haifa in 1945, worked and lived in Kuwait for twenty years before moving back to Amman in 1984. His personal archive is of 8mm family footage as well as some of the films recaptured on VHS tapes. These self-made documents are very descriptive of Kuwait and Amman domestic environment from the 70s to the 90s.

Ossama Mohammad, Syria 1979,
Eng. subtitles, 22 min
Ossama Mohammad‘s film follows the stages of submission one has to pass through in society, and the transformation of the individual mindset from unmediated co-existence with nature towards an acceptance of violence towards those dearest to oneself. By filming the daily efforts of village people and the very basic education system, the film portrays young villagers whose choice is either their parents‘ hard farming life or that of a migrant laborer in the city. Trapped between religious and political ideologies and completely fascinated by authority, these young peasants choose the army.

Ossama Mohammad, born in 1954, is a director and scriptwriter. His films are concerned with power structures and their effects on individual identity. As the smallest organizational structure of the state, the family group propagates social order and thereby maintains its traditions. He lives in Rotterdam and Damascus.

Ziad Antar, Lebanon 2003, OV, 3 min

TOKYO TONIGHT is one of the first videos made by Ziad Antar. Shot in northern Lebanon, the film presents unexpected utterances of the word ‘Tokyo‘. The rhythm of the video is defined by its alternating shots. Spoken completely out of context, at a great distance from its reference, and interrupted by a repetitious melody produced by a plucking sound, the utterance is neither an observation nor a call to action, yet it evokes a set of imaginary connotations.

Ziad Antar, born in 1978, graduated from the American University of Beirut in 2001 with a degree in agricultural engineering. Soon after, Antar started working with video and photography. He completed a one-year residency at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris in 2003 and a one-year residency for the post-diploma of the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Antar’s videos testify to a world in conflict, using subtle playful short shots charged with subtexts. He lives and works in Saida and Paris.

Adel Abidin, Iraq/Finland 2006, OV, 9 min

‘Someone has to do something about the winter in Finland.‘ Having suffered enough of the interminably harsh winter in Finland, the artist finally decided to act. With a waterproof vacuum cleaner and a video camera, he went to the frozen sea and started to work.

Adel Abidin, born in 1973, lives and works in Helsinki.

Fadma Kaddouri, Morocco/France 2007, OV, 3 min

The idea for this video was conceived at the house of the artist’s parents where a strong wind blew the linen on the washing line. It suddenly appeared to the artist as though a striking crowd was trying to go out of its way; a static article became alive, free. The dance-like movement of the linen fight against the wind can be seen as a metaphor for those who search to escape their condition that is determined by their history. Nador is a city of transit, the border that separates Africa from Europe, therefore serving as a destination for a large number of sub-Saharan African immigrants who arrive with a dream of a new start. Most of them settle down by a thread of an indispensable border.

Fadma Kaddouri, born in Rif Mountain, is a self-taught artist. Her photographs and videos often start as travelogues. These works bear witness to the position of the artist and her vision of the interior and exterior and its movement between various segments of Moroccan society: family, community, and dual identity. She lives and works in Grenoble.

Wael Shawky, Egypt 2008, OV, 4 min

The works of Wael Shawky reproduce realities of the Arab world, often recreated from fragments of the region or its history in videos that are charged with stereotypical connotations. Shawky employs clichéd elements such as vast, derelict desert landscapes where camels and donkeys replace vehicles, and where groups of children are directed to take part in reproduced narratives. Demonstrated through a looping video of a Bedouin-rural mobilization cycle, TELEMATCH SHELTER is about the aspiration of a Bedouin society to develop into a prosperous farming community.

Wael Shawky, born in 1971, completed his BFA at the University of Alexandria, followed by an MFA at the University of Pennsylvania in 2000. Solo exhibitions include: Darat al Funun, Amman (2009); Project Gentili, Berlin (2009); Townhouse Gallery, Cairo (2008); KVS, Brussels (2007), and Transitions-Ashkal Alwan, Beirut (2001). He has received several awards for his work. He lives and works in Alexandria.

Mohssin Harraki, Morocco/France 2010, OV, 2 min

TWO SIDES OF ONE PIECE examines the handling of money in society and the influence that money has on religion and politics. The video focuses on a spinning coin – its rapid movement transforms the coin into a foreign, aesthetically pleasing object. The sound of the coin‘s movement across the surface allows the viewer to enter a „dry and fragile space.“ It demonstrates how an object of opulent nature can become something appreciated simply for its aesthetic value.

Mohssin Harraki, born in 1981, is a multidisciplinary artist whose practice interrogates cultural constructions, the consequences of post-colonialism, and collective imaginations. Paying particular attention to foreign cultural landmarks and social practices, Harraki produced his first video works as interviews with artist colleagues debating political everyday issues that have no direct association to artistic practice. He lives and works in Dijon and Tangier.

Jananne Al-Ani, Iraq/Jordan/GB 2010, OV, 15 min

Shot in the south of Jordan, SHADOW SITES I explores the disappearance of the body in the real and imagined landscapes of the region. Al-Ani has a longstanding interest in the power of testimony and the documentary tradition, and in reversing the way in which the 19th-century Orientalist stereotype of the Middle Eastern landscape endures. The notion of exotic and unoccupied space continues to inform Western media representations of the Arab world. The film survey of southern Jordan narrates the history of the area, while documenting the ancient remains, abandoned sites, formal and informal routes of the south, in addition to cattle farms and military locations all of which shape Jordan today.

Jananne Al-Ani, born in 1966 studied Fine Art at the Byam Shaw School of Art and graduated with an MA in Photography from the Royal College of Art in 1997. Exhibiting widely, she has had solo shows at Tate Britain and the Imperial War Museum in London and a number of international group exhibitions. She lives and works in London.

*SHADOW SITES I is part of the program curated by Ala Younis but not available via arsenal distribution.