Alserkal Initiatives partners bodies for show on solidarity in Venice - GulfToday

Alserkal Initiatives partners bodies for show on solidarity in Venice

Alserkal 1

Dima Srouji’s composition Revolutionary Enclosures (Until the Apricots).

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

Created by Alserkal Initiatives, Dubai, in partnership with Cité international des arts, Paris, and in collaboration with Lightbox, the exhibition When Solidarity Is Not a Metaphor will take place April 16 - 21 at My Art Guides Venice Meeting Point, Navy Officers’ Club, Arsenale, Venice. Curated by Natasa Petresin-Bachelez, Arts and Culture Programme Manager at Cité international des arts, it will display installations, photographs, performances, listening sessions, and be embellished with heart-to-heart conversations on the subject, according to the organisers.

The show aims to offer a counter-space to agendas of war, patriarchy and colonialism, and their toxic impacts on human and non-human ecosystems. The exhibiting artists — alumni, residents and collaborators of both Cité international des arts and Alserkal Initiatives — challenge the understanding of ‘solidarity’ as merely as something to theorise on or talk about. Featured artists include Majd Abdel Hamid, Yana Bachynska, Rehaf Al Batniji, Paula Valero Comín, Saad Eltinay, D Harding, Adelita Husni-Bey, Nge Lay, Museum of Breath, Koushna Navabi, Shada Safadi, Dima Srouji and Jasbir Puar. The show is complemented by a diverse programme starting at 3pm daily, with contributions by DAAR — Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti, Initiative for Practices and Visions of Radical Care (Bani Khoshnoudi, Magdi Masaraa, Elena Sorokina), Maya Al Khaldi and Sarouna, R22 Tout-Monde, Zora Snake, Saul Williams and Anisia Uzeyman.


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When Solidarity is Not a Metaphor focuses on simple gestures, evoking the artless existences on the periphery of conflict. Inspired by the title of the book Decolonization Is Not a Metaphor (2012), where authors Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang analyse the material and factual violence and brutalities of colonialism, the exhibition positions solidarity as a necessary way of life. Solidarity is shown as a normal, compassionate feature. Many of the artists in When Solidarity Is Not a Metaphor have first-hand experience of what they talk about: they share the destiny of forced displacement and are therefore doubly committed to both asking questions that address displacements and suggest alternative solutions.

Vilma Jurkute, Executive Director of Alserkal Initiatives, said that “When Solidarity is Not a Metaphor is a collective attempt grounded in the cognitive generosity of our partner institutions and a global civic network of multi-disciplinary practitioners. In light of the ongoing injustices in Palestine, Sudan, Ukraine, and other parts of the world, it feels imperative for us at Alserkal to embody the spirit of lived practice and extend our platform to the Venice Biennial. By working with artists whose practices are embedded in the ethics of care, we hope to encourage whole-thinking structures and shared moments of intention to emerge.” Benedicte Alliot, Director General of Cité international des arts, said: “As a private foundation embedded in the values of hospitality, conviviality and safe space and dedicated to the well-being of artists, it is with deep gratitude that we accepted Alserkal Initiatives’ invitation to join them in presenting this project at the My Art Guides Venice Meeting Point. We deem it of the utmost importance and in continuation with our mission to stand in solidarity during these difficult times — times that are challenging for artists, practitioners and art institutions across the world.”

Alserkal 22  Yana Bachynska’s artwork titled Pantheon of Fleeing Spirits.

Mara Sartore, Director of Lightbox, said that “the Venice Meeting Point was established with the purpose of promoting dialogue among artists, whilst fostering a sense of unity and meaningful connections. In today’s context, stimulating this dialogue, nurturing a community spirit and solidarity, are more crucial than ever. That is why this year, we have partnered with Alserkal Initiatives and Cité international des arts, both of which embody the core principles of our project through this exhibition.”

Natasa Petresin-Bachelez (b. Ljubljana) is a curator, editor and writer. She has organised symposiums at the INHA, Paris; Jeu de Paume, Paris; Tate Modern, London; and Museum of Modern Art, Ljubljana, among others. Her research spans curatorial practices, empathy, transnational feminism and performative practices in the former Eastern Europe. She has contributed to numerous publications and magazines such e-flux journal, Bidoun, Sarai Reader, Springerin and Parkett Magazine.

Alserkal Initiatives attempts to contribute to re-framing narratives about geographies, artistic practices and creative production, providing opportunities and platforms for practitioners to experiment, deepen research, and engage with diverse audiences. The Cité international des arts is the largest artists’ residence in the world. Located in the heart of Paris, it brings together creators and enables them to carry out a creative or research project in all disciplines. For periods between two months and a year, Cité gives artists the chance to work in an environment that is conducive to creativity.

It enables encounters with professionals from the world of culture.

In the Marais or in Montmartre, the residency also provides an opportunity to meet and talk to over 300 artists and practitioners in the arts sector, inclusive of all generations, nationalities and disciplines. Established in 2015, the My Art Guides Venice Meeting Point is a platform created by Lightbox to foster international dialogue around contemporary art, creating collaborative opportunities between visual artists, art organisations and the international art community, as well as increasing public engagement with the arts. Since the beginning of the XII century, the Arsenale was the heart of the naval industry of Venice. It occupies quite a large area of the city - a clear sign of how important this industry was for the city. Now the area has assumed a new life, with cultural spaces being created within it.

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