The Belgian art historian and curator Michel Dewilde has worked extensively with artists from the Middle East and Central Asia since the early 1990s. Here, he Selections about his passion for movement, while sharing his views on commissioned works and art in public spaces.
The selection combines artists I’ve worked with and those whose work has inspired me. For decades, I have had a speciﬁc interest in artists from the Middle East and Central Asia, so they dominate my selection. Above all, I’m fascinated by their artistic and critical endeavours and the way they function in the space between poetics and the political element. The ﬁrst pair of works I chose were part of exhibitions I curated in public spaces at distinct moments in my practice. The late Iranian Chohreh Feyzdjou (1955 — 1996) created the installation Untitled for Side-Tracks, which I curated on board a moving train in 199596. Feyzdjou ﬁlled a ﬁrst-class train carriage, developed in the 1920s by the architect Henry van de Velde, with long black hair. With her installation, the artist pervaded the exquisite train furnishings, whilst clearly referring to the rise of Fascism in Europe in that era. The second work shows the temporary pavilion Canal Swimmers Club, conceived by the Japanese collective Atelier Bow-Wow for the Bruges Triennial in 2015. Bow-Wow added a temporary ﬂoating sculpture in the public realm which not only redrew the ancient city landscape, but also answered direct social needs, creating new communities and connections on the urban level. Imran Qureshi’s mesmerising Blessings upon the land of my Love had to feature in my selection. This total installation engulfed the open space of the Sharjah building and the viewer in an endless visual poem, combining close and far perspectives. When we speak about multi-layered responses, I instinctively thought of Barbad Golshiri’s combination of the visceral, performative with the acute sensitiveness of his poetics of loss and transformation. Hazem Harb successfully arrived where many aim by going beyond the documentary dimension for a poetic rendition of the occupation of his country, while Amina Menia touched upon the many paradoxes of the French occupation of Algeria. I wanted to conclude with the relationship between sound — human sounds that is — and the political. I believe no artist has pushed the boundaries in recent times as far as Lawrence Abu Hamdan. Youmna Chlala ﬁnishes the selection, with a sitespeciﬁc project which brought me back to the architecture of language: the space between languages and signiﬁcation.
A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE APPEARED IN PRINT IN SELECTIONS #43, PAGES 139 – 152 AND LIMITED EDITION #50.