in the last two decades, the artscapes of the middle east have been tremendously transformed by the impactful rise of independent art spaces, artist collectives/projects and major events; transformations that enabled wide access to international art capitals and yet seem to foreshadow the “independence” of those emerging art institutions and initiatives.
intensified by the setbacks from the 2011 uprisings throughout the region, the future of emerging independent art institutions is surrounded with uncertainties that raise a difficult question. what methods, forms and structures can independent art spaces adopt in order to survive the financial challenges posed by the emergence of mega-funded museal institutions and agendas such as in lebanon or the political threats under a security state such as egypt?
in beirut, financial uncertainty has been compounded in recent years with gentrification, commercialization of the art market, absolute absence of state funding and the reallocation of private and foreign cultural funding. these multiple embodiments and manifestations of the (post)war neoliberal project in lebanon (but also in the whole region) in the precarious structures of artistic and cultural production factor into defining and shaping artists’ motivations, subjects and treatments, as well as into the policies and programs of the spaces and institutions that host, activate, promote and valorize these artists.
these troubling aspects concerning the operation of artists and art institutions, cultural labour and labourers, within the framework of late capitalism conjoined with the war on terror and humanitarian politics, underlie a growing sense of urgency to start a transgenerational, trans-border conversation about the viability to continue operating within the established discursive frameworks and institutional structures.
this first session aims at presenting a number of case studies where institutions, varying in size, outreach and practice, that have been created by the artist communities, art practitioners and initiators, choosing routes to transform in response to current challenges.
pooja sood is an independent curator and art management consultant, the director of khoj international artists’ association, an autonomous, artists’ led registered society aimed at promoting intercultural understanding through experimentation and exchange.
mats stjernstedt currently serving as artistic director at malmo kunsthall. he was previously the artistic director of kunstnernes hus, oslo, norway from 2010 to 2016. and was the head of index – the swedish contemporary art foundation.
lamia joreige is a visual artist and filmmaker who lives and works in beirut. she uses archival documents and fictitious elements to reflect on the relation between individual stories and collective history. she explores the possibilities of representation of the lebanese wars and their aftermath, and beirut, a city at the center of her imagery.