moaThe Museum of Anthropology
SAFAR/VOYAGE: Contemporary Works by Arab, Iranian, and Turkish Artists

Dates and Venue 20 April - 15 September 2013, 10am - 5pm | Museum of Anthropology, UBC, 6393 NW Marine Drive

Reviewer Ed Farolan

The media were invited to the opening of the diverse and far-ranging works of mid-eastern artists, and we were given a tour by Dr. Fereshten Daffari, formerly of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and guest curator of this exhibition. Jill Baird, Coordinating Curator of the display commented that in western media and culture, "we are frequently exposed to deeply flawed and one-dimensional misrepresentations of the so-called 'Middle East. This exhibition challenges that...".

The exhibits include such intriguing and thought-provoking items as a hand woven Persian carpet depicting scenes from modern day Tehran; a pile of belongings stuffed into, and lashed atop the roof of a 1970s car; a collection of 194 responses to immigration requests, mounted on the respective country’s flag; and more.

I was intrigued by the creativity of these artists. What fascinated me the most was an actual performance by a Parisbased Palestinian artist Taysir Batniji in his work "Poppies". He was actually shaving pencils on the floor of his "studio" and when I asked him what they were, he said the shavings represented poppies on a poppy field. In the background, a dusty studio is pictured. He said this was his studio in Gaza.

Another work that was interesting was a video presentation of a blindfolded man walking in the desert of the Mesopotamian desert (see side image) entitled "Strange Space" by Kutlug Ataman symbolizing the blindfold ourney of modern man. Youssef Nabil's work "I will Go to Paradise" (see top bar image) are three paintings where a man walks towards the sea to find perhaps Paradise there.

Another intriquing video is "Sundown" by Hamed Sahihi. We see a normal picnic gathering, and towards the end of the video, we see a figure of a man ascending upwards, but no one notices this incident. A tongue-in-cheek display of Baghdad by Adel Abidin shows the destruction of the different museums and buildings of Baghdad, with people runing away with artifacts, and the "Abidin travel agency" invites tourists with "Welcome to Baghdad".

Other interesting works include "Oh Persepolis", a somewht made-up hydroglyphics of the ancient city of Persepolis. Mitra Tabrizian's "Tehran 2006" depicting women shrouded in black and a giant photo of Khomeini on a building.

This is an exhibit that shouldn't be missed so we can get an insight and meditate upon the culture,and spirit of 16 of these excellent and creative contemporary artists from the Middle East.

© 2013 Ed Farolan