‘Past Disquiet’ at Zeitz MOCAA

“Past Disquiet” is a documentary and archival exhibition stemming from over a decade of research by Rasha Salti and Kristine Khouri, the curators. The focus revolves around four art collections that were conceived as acts of solidarity, embodying artists’ engagement with political causes. This exhibition serves as a narrative woven through an array of mediums: documents, photographs, pamphlets, press clippings, posters, interviews, and videos.

Installation of International Art Exhibition for Palestine, Beirut Arab University, 1978. Courtesy: Claude Lazar

The investigative journey started with an exploration of the International Art Exhibition for Palestine held in Beirut in 1978. This exhibition, intended to become the cornerstone of a museum in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle lost most documentation during the Lebanese Civil War. The tale of this exhibition is intertwined with other parallel endeavours, including the International Museum of The Resistance’s Salvador Allende,’ Artists Contre/Against Apartheid, and Art for the People of Nicaragua. These narratives trace networks and delve into the unexplored history of politically committed artists united by the tri-continental international anti-imperialist solidarity movement of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. These artists rallied against the Vietnam War, Pinochet’s dictatorship, and South Africa’s Apartheid regime, and offered support to the Palestinian cause.

Poster for the International Art Exhibition for Palestine, Beirut Arab University, 1978. Designed by Mohamed Melehi. Courtesy: Mohamed Melehi, Ezzedine Kalak Collection

Like detectives, the curators traversed a web that spanned cities like Beirut, Paris, Rome, Rabat, Baghdad, Tokyo, Venice, Santiago, Managua, and Cape Town, uncovering a tapestry of stories from artists and activists. These individuals organised exhibitions, interventions, and unique manifestations of museums to embody their causes. The research eventually unveiled an untold shared history of politically active artists and initiatives, connecting artist collectives across the globe, Arab art biennials, seminal editions of the Venice Biennial, and museums in various regions.

‘Past Disquiet’s’ journey began at the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) in 2015, followed by subsequent editions in Berlin, Santiago, and Beirut. This new iteration, realized by Zeitz MOCAA, brings forth stories of international artistic solidarity against Apartheid, delving into local archives and engaging with historians, scholars, and activists.

The comprehensive research for “Past Disquiet” was made possible through the support of institutions and individuals, including the Sharjah Art Foundation, the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC), and Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), among others. The exhibition’s design and visual identity were crafted by Studio Safar, a design agency and publisher based in Beirut and Montreal.

Past Disquiet Installation view Photo credit Dillon Marsh

About the Curators: Kristine Khoury and Rasha Salti

Kristine Khouri, an independent researcher and writer, explores art circulation and infrastructure’s historical context within the Arab world; she also delves into the intricacies of archival practices and their dissemination. Notably, Khouri serves as a board member at the Arab Image Foundation in Beirut.

Rasha Salti, a writer, researcher, and art and film curator, is based between Beirut and Berlin.

Khouri and Salti jointly founded the History of Arab Modernities in the Visual Arts Study Group. This platform serves as a dedicated research hub, exploring the intricate social history of art within the Arab realm. Their collaboration includes the co-authored essay titled “Beirut’s Musée Imaginaire: The Promise of Modernity in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” Their ongoing venture, “Past Disquiet,” initially initiated in 2008, has evolved into a documentary and archival exhibition. Khouri and Salti further extend their influence as the coeditors of the forthcoming publication, “Past Disquiet: Artists, International Solidarity, and Museums in Exile,” to be published by the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw (2018).

Location: Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town, South Africa

Date: 8 August 2023 – 24 March 2024



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