Dan Mills, Bates College Museum Director
The artists featured in Phantom Punch created smart, topical, funny, culturally resonant, and technically savvy work. Like Muhammad Ali’s surprising and lightning-fast 1965 knockout of Sonny Liston in Lewiston, experiencing this exhibition and related programming was a cultural “Phantom Punch”, a complete surprise that American, Maine, and even Lewiston audiences didn’t see coming.
The artists featured in Phantom Punch used an exciting variety of media — calligraphy, painting, sculpture, photography, video, performance, animation, and comedy — to explore topics and issues that shape the lives of Saudis throughout the Kingdom. These included the role of women and the place of foreign workers in Saudi society, the impact of oil on the Saudi economy, the relationship between American popular culture and traditional Saudi values, and the effect of urbanization, globalisation, and commercialisation on Saudi cities.
In America, very little is known about contemporary Saudi art and artists. Media accounts of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are frighteningly predictable. With this exhibition, we have a rare opportunity to gain critical new perspectives on Saudi society and culture from a group of perceptive young artists who are challenging conventions and exploring the limits of what is possible in Saudi culture.