mounir fatmi
Museum on the Seam, Jerusalem

West end?, 2011


The Museum on the Seam



The Museum on the Seam might have the best name for an art museum in the Middle-East. Situated on the “seam” of East and West Jerusalem, between the Jewish neighbourhood of Musrara and the Arabic hub that is Damascus Gate, it is a museum committed to showing contemporary art reflecting social and political themes.

The latest exhibition, titled WESTEND, is a group of works assembled with the aim of reflecting a new Middle-Eastern reality, one that bears witness to such recent events as the “Arab spring” and that considers Samuel Huntington’s thesis regarding the “clash of civilizations”. While not fully realizing this aim, the curator Raphie Etgar, has nevertheless selected a good cross-section of contemporary Middle-Eastern and Western art.

Entering WESTEND is an audio as well as visual experience, the ground floor is haunted by Arabic sound-chants emitting from an as yet unrevealed source, the chants feed into our viewing of the coming works. First up are Miki Kratsman’s black and white photographic prints of ‘holy warriors’, followed by the work of British artists Gilbert and George. Their work Jackland provides a freakishly colourful contrast to the stark pieces of Kratsman and Robert Kunec. Positioned opposite Gilbert and George, Kunec’s Suicide Bomber, de-constructs a bomber’s body parts to resemble a plastic toy-kit model. Observing the piece it is hard to register any shock, there is no representation of blood, bone or sinew. Painted in a dull grey, the artist de-humanizes the subject, giving it the appearance of an everyday thing that we might see on a supermarket shelf.

The Arabic sound-chants haunting the ground floor turn out to be from Joshua Neustein’s installation Incense. Romantic in theme, the work contrasts a beautiful crystal chandelier, reminiscent of old European grandeur, with a traditional Arabic bronze coffee pot. Both pieces have their own beauty – the chandelier grandiose, the coffee pot simple, but ornate. The obvious symbolism suggests the dominance of Western culture over Eastern, but the light alternately grows and dims on both, suggesting regret for the faded splendor and decline in tradition in both cultures.

Moving to the lower floor and a visually stimulating work by the Moroccan artist Mournir Fatmi. Fatmi creates installations influenced by a Modernist aesthetic and architectural designs. Modern Times: a History of the Machine, a fifteen minute video, shows etched drawings of the constant interplay between grids, wheels and machines. A virtual myriad of movement, the wheels are embellished with arabesques and Arabic letters, creating a sort of Modernist mosaic. Despite the visual beauty of the work, the artist has created a tension by the recurring sound of machinery jarring on our senses, preventing us from becoming that bit too comfortable.

Contributing a different and more meditative type of movement is KimsooJa’s video work Bottari Trucks-Migrateur. The piece features the artist assuming the role of a migrant, seated on a vehicle making its way through the streets of Paris. At no point do we see the traveller’s face, she remains anonymous. The camera is at all times positioned behind  the seated figure, allowing us simultaneously to experience her journey and to imagine the journey through our own eyes. We register the stares of the people in the streets, their surprise at encountering a person so removed from everyday Parisian life. The still figure, the wrapped quilted bundles, all contribute to a framed composition of the image of a wanderer, a romantic nomad, slowly moving from city to city.

Some of the works chosen for the exhibition reflect the influence of image in our post-modern culture. The American artist, James Clar, has two works on display. Terminator Terrorist/Terrorist Terminator plays with the fictional film character made famous by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Using a hollogram effect, Clar alternates the image of a terrorist with the film character, cleverly merging both images in a dual-like identity. In his other work, titled Iron fist, the artist has sculpted an imposing chrome-plated fist, with all its symbolic connotations of power. The iron-fist rests atop moving film clips of the flags of various nations. The image is a strong one and although not very subtle, is laden with meaning for people living in democratic and non-democratic countries alike.

The top floor of the museum displays one of the more decorative works in the exhibition, Ala Ebtekar’s Ascension 1. Ebtekar is an American artist of Iranian parentage who continues to explore his Persian heritage through the eyes of a Westerner. Ascension 1 portrays a mythological creature, a buraq, which originated in Islamic folklore and was said to have transported the prophets to higher spiritual realms. The buraq is set against what appear to be Arabic biblical texts. The modern world intrudes on the other-worldly presence of the creature in the form of missiles, making the viewer wonder whether the idyllic world from which the creature hails is under attack, or are the missiles part of its own armoury used to repel unwanted intruders?

Thomas Hirschhorn’s High Subjecteris intriguing. Standing at almost five meters and made with very basic raw materials (wood, paper, tape and dress), the figure is commanding and majestic in form. The dress is covered with a collage of images from the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers – scattered pages reminiscent of debris extend the gown. Seemingly aloof, clothed in images of wreckage and suffering – the High Subjecter towers above us, impenetrable and enigmatic, a kind of ragamuffin goddess.

WESTEND at times has the feel of a Middle-Eastern bazaar – the artworks are gathered from various parts of the world, the materials used range from neon and copper to cloth and styrofoam – consumer and pop images abound throughout. If there is such a thing as a post-modern bazaar, this just might be it.

Expositions personnelles I Solo shows (selection)
Ceysson & Bénétière 2019Wilde Gallery 2019CDAN Museum 2018
Göteborgs Konsthall 2018Art Front Gallery 2017Officine dell'Immagine 2017
Galerie De Multiples 2017Analix Forever Gallery 2017Jane Lombard Gallery 2017
Galerie Delacroix 2017Goodman Gallery 2017Lawrie Shabibi 2017
Analix Forever Gallery 2017Maisons des Arts du Grütli 2017ADN Platform 2016
Keitelman Gallery 2016Labanque 2016MMP+ 2016
MAMCO 2015MIAMIBUS 2015Analix Forever 2015
CCC Tours 2014ADN Galeria 2014ADN Platform 2014
Analix Forever 2014Yvon Lambert 2014Museum Kunst Palast 2013
Keitelman Gallery 2013Paradise Row 2013Institut Français de Casablanca 2013
Galerie Fatma Jellal 2013Analix Forever 2013Goodman Gallery 2012
Shoshana Wayne Gallery 2012 Lombard-Fried Projects 2012Galerie Conrads 2011
Fondazione Collegio San Carlo 2011Galerie Hussenot 2011AKBank Sanat 2011
Galerie Hussenot 2010Galerie Conrads 2009FRAC Alsace 2009
Galerie Delacroix IFM 2008Creux de l'enfer 2008Galerie Ferdinand van Dieten 2007
Musée national Pablo Picasso 2007Shoshana Wayne Gallery 2007La maison rouge 2007
Lombard Freid projects 2007Bank galerie 2006CAC d'Istres 2005
Espace des arts Colomiers 2004 CAC Le Parvis 2004Migros museum 2003
Biennales & Triennales I Biennials, Triennials (selection)
13eme Biennale de Dakar 20187th Echigo Tsumari Art Triennale 20181er Biennale de Rabat 2018
57th Venice Biennale 20177eme Biennale d'Architecture de Shenzhen 201711eme Biennale de Bamako 2017
15eme Biennale d'art contemporain Alios! 2017Biennale Poznan 2016Setouchi Triennale 2016
10èmes Rencontres de Bamako 20155th Thessaloniki Biennale 201516th Media art Biennale Wro 2015
1st Trio Biennale, Rio de Janeiro 20152nd Bodrum Biennial 2015Fotofest Biennial 2014
5th Auckland Triennial 201310th Dakar Biennial 2012 White House Biennial 2013
Manif d'Art 6 20123rd Thessaloniki Biennial 201111th Lyon Biennial 2011
54th Venice Biennial 2011XIIth Cairo Biennial 20101st Mediterranean Biennial of Haifa 2010
Port Izmir 2, international triennial of contemporary art 20108th Dakar Biennial 2010Biennale Cuvée 2010
Xth Lyon Biennial 2009Art Tel Aviv 20098èmes Rencontres de Bamako 2009
1st Brussels Biennial 2008Pontevedra Biennial 200824th Biennial Memorial of Nadezda Petrovic 2007
1st Luanda Triennial 2007 52th Venice Biennial 20078th Sharjah Biennial 2007
2nd Seville Biennial 2006 Gwangju biennial 2004 7th Dakar Biennial 2006
4th Dakar Biennial 20007th Biennal Art Media 1999
Expositions collectives I Group shows (selection)
Maison Populaire 2019Bedford Gallery 2019 Evliyagil Museum 2019
Jane Lombard 2019James Cohan 2019Mathaf 2018
MACAAL 2018Fondation Boghossian 2018Sammlung Philara 2018
Nasher Museum of Art 2018Ellen Noël Art Museum 2018Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea 2018
MOCAK 2018Bozar Center for fine arts 2018Philharmonie de Paris 2018
The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery 2018Goodman Gallery 2018Institut Français de Saint Louis 2018
Pensacola Museum of Art 2018 Von der Heydt-Kunsthalle 2018Gifu Museum 2017
Huntsville Museum of Art 2017Bandjoun Station 2017Institut des Cultures d’Islam 2017
Bellevue Arts Museum 2017Mudac 2017Primo Marella Gallery 2017
Goodman Gallery 2017MACAAL 2017Museum De Wieger 2017
Conrads Gallery 2017Galerie Ceysson & Bénétière 2017Keitelman Gallery 2017
Musée du Pays de Hanau 2017Château de Servières 2017CEAA 2017
Fondazione Fotografia Modena 2017H&R Block Artspace 2017Bedford Gallery 2016
Beijing Today Art Museum 2016Hôtel des Arts 2016Museum of Old and New Art 2016
Labanque 2016Les Photaumnales 2016Al Maaden 2016
Kunsthalle Faust 2016Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain de Strasbourg 2016Archives Nationales 2016
Bardo National Museum 2016Arles 2016Musée d'Art Moderne de Troyes 2016
Rotor 2016Goodman Gallery 2016Musée Bartholdi 2016
Institut d’Art Contemporain 2016Santander Art Gallery 2016Brandts & Viborg Kunsthal 2016
Fondazione VIDEOINSIGHT 2015A Tale of a Tub 2015Contemporary Istanbul 2015
ADMAF 2015Goodman Gallery 2015Keitelman Gallery 2015
Galeria Municipal do Porto 2015Fabra i Coats 2015AMOCA 2015
Monastère Royal de Brou 2015CAC La Traverse 2015FRAC Franche-Comté 2015
ZKM 2015The National Library 2015Station 2015
La FabriC - Fondation Salomon 2015Van Abbemuseum 2015The Brooklyn Museum 2015
MMP+ 2015Sharjah Museum 2015Kamel Lazaar Foundation 2015
Sextant & + 2015Gwangju Museum of Art 2014QAGOMA 2014
N.B.K. 2014CAyT Centro de Arte y Technologia 2014Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery 2014
Station 2014Institut du Monde Arabe 2014Art Gallery of Western Australia 2014
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art 2014Palais de Tokyo 2014L'art dans les chapelles 2013
MAD Museum 2013Marseille - Provence 2013V&A Museum 2013
30 ans des FRAC 2013MAC Marseille 2013MAXXI 2013
Museu de Arte Moderna de Salvador de Bahia 2012Institut du Monde Arabe 2012Edge of Arabia 2012
Apexart 2012B.P.S. 22 2012Dorsky Gallery 2012
International Center of Graphic Arts 2012Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art 2011Fondation Blachère 2011
Brooklyn Museum 2011Dublin Contemporary 2011Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts 2011
Museum on the Seam 2011Tri Postal Lille 2011Meeting Point 6 2011
The New School 2010Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil 2010Fondazione Fotografia Modena 2010
Aargauer Kunsthaus 2010KAdE 2010Kunst Museum Bochum 2010
Moscow museum of modern art 2010Art Gallery of Ontario 2010Fondation Gulbenkian 2009
Centro de Arte de Santa Monica 2009Beirut Art Center 2009Salina Art Center 2009
Kunstverein Medienturm Ilz 2008Te Papa museum 2008Studio Museum Harlem 2008
Haus der Kunst 2008Centre Pompidou 2008CAAM 2008
Centro de Arte de Santa Monica 2008Johannesburg Art Gallery 2007CAC Le Parvis 2006
CAPC musée d'art contemporain 2006Bank Galerie 2006Les Abattoirs 2006
Moderna museet 2006Mori art museum 2006Wereldmuseum 2005
Centre Pompidou 2005The Stenersen Museum 2005Saw gallery 2005
Konstmuseum 2005Hayward Gallery 2005Museum Kunst Palast 2004
Tri Postal Lille 20042nd international contemporary art meeting 2003Espacio C 2002
O.N.A. Foundation 1999CAC Castres 1999Musée des beaux-arts de Dôle 1999
Musée des arts décoratifs 1999  
interventions publiques I public space projects (selection)
metavilla 2015Collateral Project to the 12th Havana Biennial 2015Prison Qara Meknès 2015
Art Paris 2015Analix Forever 2014Sculpture Beach Art Dubai 2012
Le Printemps de Septembre 2012Narracje 4 2012Ivry 2010
FIAC Tuileries 2010 Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt 2004