Guest curated by
Leaves fall in all seasons from Desert of Pharan was presented as part of a major group exhibition of more than forty-five artists from over fifteen countries in New York.
The exhibition borrowed its title from a 1976 film-essay by French directors Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Pierre Gorin, and Anne-Marie Miéville. Their film, Ici et ailleurs, was initially conceived as a pro-Palestinian documentary, but evolved into a complex reflection on the ethics of representation and the status of images as instruments of political consciousness.
Taking inspiration from Godard, Gorin, and Miéville’s film – which has had a strong impact on an entire generation of artists in various Arab countries – “Here and Elsewhere” paid particular attention to the position and role of the artist in the face of historical events.
Through different methodologies, an unconventional form of lyrical documentary and personal reportage was shown to emerge in works in which the artist is vested with the responsibility of revising dominant historical narratives. Other artists were shown to undertake experimental approaches to archival material, rewriting personal and collective traumas, and weaving fragments both real and imagined into their work. Works presented from other artists focussed on traditional mediums like painting, drawing, and sculpture as modes to record subtle and intimate shifts in awareness. A few artists included in the exhibition use images as tools for self-discovery, chronicles of current events, or registers of personal histories. A reflection on what is at stake in the act of representation characterized many of the works in the exhibition, as many artists reconsider the task of witnessing and chronicling social and political changes. A number of pieces on view prompted reflections on images as spaces of intimacy.
Following critical discussions that had animated contemporary art in the years leading up to the exhibition, 'Here and Elsewhere' did not propose a fixed definition of Arab art or a distinctive regional style. Just as the show’s title called attention to multiple places and perspectives, the exhibition highlighted specific cities and art scenes while emphasizing the importance of dialogues that extend internationally. Further, the exhibition illuminated similar insights and affinities as well as dramatic differences, revealing multiple social and aesthetic landscapes rather than a fictional sense of unity.
The exhibition was accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue coedited by Negar Azimi and Kaelen Wilson-Goldie of Bidoun magazine, and featured a program of roundtable discussions with artists as well as critical essays by scholars and critics.
In keeping with the New Museum’s dedication to showcasing the most engaging new art from around the globe, Here and Elsewhere was the most recent in a series of exhibitions that have introduced urgent questions and new aesthetics to US audiences. Massimiliano Gioni, Associate Director and Director of Exhibitions said: “This exhibition continues the New Museum’s commitment to looking at art from beyond the confines familiar to the New York art world, 'Here and Elsewhere’ brings new works and new voices to our audiences, presenting many artists who are showing in New York for the first time.” Combining pivotal and under-recognized figures with younger and midcareer artists, “Here and Elsewhere” works against the notion of the Arab world as a homogenous or cohesive entity. Through the original and individualized practices of a multigenerational constellation of artists, the exhibition highlights works that often have conceptual or aesthetic references to the Arab world, yet also extend well beyond.