Halcyon is a research and exhibition space which brings together artists and writers using the critical possibilities of science-fiction to address contemporary urgencies surrounding identity, placehood, conflict, landscape, technology, architecture, futurity and time. Occupying the Heishaus of Uferstudios as part of the Transart Triennale 2016, the project combines video, text, discussion and expanded curatorial research, eschewing the white-walled gallery in favour of a space in which an audience might spend extended time watching, reading, talking.
Featuring artists and writers from Lebanon, Palestine, Pakistan, Iraq and beyond, and critical of the notion of a defined Middle-East, this project nevertheless acknowledges and responds to its geo-political context: one fashioned by global media as both terrifyingly medieval (the iconoclasm of Daesh, usually misunderstood to be isolatedly local, simply the product of extremist Islam), and distopically futuristic (the simulacra of the Gulf, wealth-zenith of neo-liberal nowhereism). In this state, artists employ and subvert modes of science-fictive thought in order to unsettle paradigms for historiography, identity-formation and political power.
Mehreen Murtaza plants strange objects in the ground in a process of reverse archaeology mapped by speculative, apocalyptic image-heavy publications; Mirna Bamieh darkly mirrors the distopic horror of the occupation in Palestine via appropriation of Emile Habibi's The Secret Life of Saeed the Pessoptimist; Lynn Kodeih and Darine Hotait consider technology and its intersection with the human in a context consumed by the spectacle of conflict. Beirut-based graphic design studio zumra will develop a design identity that places these works in conversation with texts by writers from all over the world. In this way, Halcyon expands to consider the ways in which sci-fi offers models for the disruption of established narratives, alternative articulations of the self and subtle negotiations of the future, in the Middle-East and across the globe.
Public readings and discussion
Sunday August 7
16:45 - 17:45
Join artists Lynn Kodeih and Arjuna Neuman, each presenting texts as part of Halcyon, in conversation with curator Rachel Dedman. Kodeih and Neuman will be reading excerpts from their work in the exhibition, and discussing the role science fiction plays in their diverse practices. As artists who engage with text and image, performance and video, in quite different ways, what critical, narrative and speculative opportunities are offered by science fiction?
Mirna Bamieh, Tom Bogaert, Francis Brady, Darine Hotait, Muhammad Khudayyir (translated by Elisabeth Jaquette), Lynn Kodeih, Mehreen Murtaza, Lea Najjar, Arjuna Neuman, Larissa Sansour
Curator: Rachel Dedman
Rachel Dedman (b.1989, London) is an independent curator and writer based in Beirut, Lebanon. In 2016, Rachel is curating the inaugural satellite exhibition for the Palestinian Museum (West Bank), on the history and contemporary political significance of embroidery and textiles. In 2015 she curated the winning Franchise Program exhibition for apexart (New York) in Beirut, exploring outer space and science fiction as imagined and challenged by artists from across the Middle-East, as well as Incidental/Peripheral, screenings of Mediterranean video art for MUU Galleria, Helsinki. From 2014-15 she was curator-in-residence at 98weeks (Beirut, Lebanon), organising conversations concerning the changing topography of art institutions in Lebanon.
Rachel’s writing has been commissioned and published by Ibraaz, the Mosaic Rooms, Culture+Conflict and ArtDiscover and the Journal of Art Historiography. She was a finalist in the International Awards for Art Criticism, and has received scholarships from Independent Curators International and the Getty Foundation. She is the co-founder of the collective Polycephaly, which transforms research projects into meeting-points to think, formulate and share ideas around art-making in Lebanon and Syria; Polycephaly received a Grant from the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture to hold their first forum in 2016.
Rachel studied at the Universities of Oxford and Harvard, where she was the Von Clemm Postgraduate Fellow specialising in art from the Middle-East. In 2013-14 she was a participant of Ashkal Alwan’s Home Workspace Program, Beirut.