It’s an emotional exploration of the art world: which are the most frequently asked questions when it comes to art? Artists, curators, gallerists, museum directors, art collectors and more give thoughtful and deeply personal answers to our queries, while shedding light on the contemporary art scene – and offering a glimpse into its future.
Adel Abidin: There is no certain way of seeing. Anything you see today will look different tomorrow. When things are taken out of their environment and their context, they look different. Meaning: I learned that I should always keep my eyes open and my mind alert for any new thing I face, and to never think of what I know as the ultimate knowledge. The beauty of life is that it’s constructed out of theories and not facts. Therefore, everything can been seen differently depending on the eye of the beholder. There is no specific way of seeing to specify regarding your question. Yet, I am always ready to be surprise.
Nadim Karam: You keep your eyes and heart open.
Nayla Tamraz: I think that we can learn to see, even if it’s not necessary to do so. Some people know to appreciate without having learned to do so. As well as some artworks establish other types of interactivity. But I think that learning to see is interesting, because it’s a creative process. It engages us in the recreation of the work of art to which we give birth a second time. And also because learning to see is learning to understand. We learn to see of course by studying history or art criticism. But we learn to see especially by practice, I guess. One should have seen a lot to begin seeing, the experience consists of seeing further and further, in other words with the eyes of intelligence.
Samia Halaby: You remain cognizant that society already told you how to see, and you learn more if you use your brain while looking carefully.
Till Fellrath and Sam Bardaouil: Seeing is a skill that needs to be learned and developed. It requires continuous curiosity and self-questioning and is fundamental for truly connecting with a work of art.
Adel Abidin was born in Baghdad in 1973. He moved to Helsinki, Finland, in 2001 and has lived there since. Abidin joined the Finnish Art Academy in 2003 to pursue a Master’s degree in art. During that time, he switched his practice from full-time painter to multimedia artist, and since 2004 he has pursued a career as a video and installation artist.
Abidin’s art uses various media, such as videos, video installations, multimedia sculptures, sound-based installations, photography and paintings, to explore contemporary issues. His main point of departure is always linked to the intention to explore the complex relationship between visual art and politics and identity. Using a sharp palette of irony and humour, he creates works that explore different social situations while dealing with elusive experiences and cultural alienation.
The artist uses his cross-cultural background, as an Iraqi artist living in Helsinki, to create a distinct visual language often laced with sarcasm and paradox, while maintaining an ultimately humanistic approach. This sarcasm used is nothing but a medium of provocation to serve the purpose of extending the mental borders of the artwork beyond the limits of the exhibition space. Abidin is particularly interested in creating opportunities to prolong the discussions beyond artwork by enabling the audience to convey mental elements from the work into their daily life. He always finds the words “politics” and “identity” to be more than a terminology or a path that we travel in, as they unfold to other concepts like discrimination and mass media manipulation.
Abidin has received e Finland Prize for Visual Arts in (2015) and Five Years Grant from e Art Council of Finland in (2013). He was also an Ars Fennica Prize nominee in 2011. Abidin has been invited as a visiting lecturer at various art schools, including the College of Liberal Arts, Oregon State University, Portland, Oregon (2010), the Art Academy of Helsinki, Kuva, (2015), LASALLE College of Arts, Singapore (2016) and the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), Santa Clarita, California (2016).
Additionally, Abidin has exhibited his work at various biennales including the Moscow Biennale (2017), the 5th Guangzhou Triennial (2015), the 56th Venice Biennale-Iran Pavilion (2015), the 56th International Art Exhibition-Venice Biennale (2015), the Biennale of Contemporary Art of Bosnia (2013), the 54th Venice Biennale-Iraq Pavilion (2011), the 10th Sharjah Biennial (2011), the 17th Biennale of Sydney (2010), the 11th Cairo Biennale (2008), the 4th Gothenburg Biennale (2007), the 52nd Venice Biennale-Nordic Pavilion (2007), and the 5th Istanbul Biennale (2005).
Nadim Karam is an artist and architect working from Beirut-initially trained in architecture at the American University of Beirut then earned a doctorate in architecture from the University of Tokyo, Japan. He has recently finished building his own workshop, A.MUSE.UM in the Lebanese mountains, which will be also used as a platform for art, research and exhibitions. With Atelier Hapsitus, the pluri-disciplinary group he founded in 1996, he has realised temporary and permanent urban interventions in cities worldwide such as Prague, Beirut, Melbourne, Tokyo, London, Kuwait and Yerevan, using public art as an instrument for urban stimulation. Based on a crossfertilisation of disciplines and nationalities, the 20-year-old practice has a multidisciplinary composition, which feeds into the experimental nature of its work. He has held academic positions in Tokyo and Beirut, gives lectures internationally and has published several books.
Nayla Tamraz is a Lebanese writer, curator, researcher, and professor of literature and art history at Saint Joseph University in Beirut where she has also been, from 2008 to 2017, the chair of the French Literature Department and where she created, in 2010, the MA program in art criticism and curatorial studies that she currently heads. She also organized several events including the symposium LittÈrature, Art et Monde Contemporain: Récits, Histoire, Mémoire (2014, USJ, Beirut). In parallel, she leads a career as an art critic and a curator. In this context, she co-curated the exhibition Le Secret (Espace Ygreg, Les Bons Voisins, 2017) in Paris and curated the exhibition Poetics, Politics, Places that took place in the Museum of Fine Arts of Tucum·n in Argentina, in the frame of the International Biennale of Contemporary Art of South America (BienalSur, 2017). Her research is about the issues related to the comparative theory and aesthetics of literature and art in their historical context, which brings her to the topics of history, memory and narratives in literature and art in post-war Lebanon. Her current research explores the relationship between poetics and politics as well as the representations associated to the notion of territory.
Samia A. Halaby was born in Jerusalem, Palestine in 1936. She is a visual artist, writer, scholar and activist. Now, rounding out her sixth decade as an active painter, she continues to explore abstraction and its relationship to reality. She has exhibited in galleries, museums and art fairs throughout the US, Europe, Asia and South America. Her work is housed in private and public collections around the world, including the Guggenheim Museum (New York and Abu Dhabi) and the Institut du Monde Arabe. Halaby has authored and contributed to a number of books, notably: Liberation Art of Palestine (2001), Drawing the Kafr Qasem Massacre (2016) and Growing Shapes: Aesthetic Insights of an Abstract Painter (2018). She is the subject of two monographs and numerous reviews.
Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath are founders of the multidisciplinary curatorial platform Art Reoriented in Munich and New York, chairmen of the Montblanc Cultural Foundation in Hamburg and a≤liate curators at the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin. Bardaouil and Fellrath have jointly curated numerous critically acclaimed exhibitions at renowned museums and institutions worldwide, and have held teaching positions at universities including the London School of Economics and New York University. They are award-winning authors with contributions to academic journals, books, newspapers and art magazines. They are currently preparing their international thematic exhibition Walking through Walls opening in September 2019 at the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin. For the upcoming 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia they are curators of the National Pavilion of the United Arab Emirates.