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"No to the Invasion: Breakdowns and Side Effects" presented by the Center for Curatorial Studies
Akram Zaatari, Her + Him (2001 - 2011), video still, 33 minutes; HD video; Image Courtesy of Sfeir-Semler Gallery.

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, NY.- This summer, the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College in collaboration with the Barjeel Art Foundation presents No to the Invasion: Breakdowns and Side Effects, an exhibition held at the CCS Bard Galleries from 24 June to 29 October 2017. The exhibition showcases work drawn from the Barjeel Art Foundation Collection, dating from 1990 to 2016, referencing significant histories and conflicts across the Arabic-speaking world.

No to the Invasion: Breakdowns and Side Effects explores the ways in which art extends across and operates within volatile social structures, political regimes, and economic systems. Featuring works dating from 1990 to 2016, the exhibition invokes socio-political and economic histories that intersect a shared geo-political space: the Arabicspeaking world—a geographic region that includes the twenty-two countries of the Arab League and whose contemporary coordinates lay between Mauritania, North Africa, and West Asia.

The title of the show is borrowed from a 1990 linocut print of the same name produced by the Kuwaiti artist Thuraya Al-Baqsami three days after the start of the Iraq-Kuwait war. In the print, intended to be a resistance poster against the invasion, the phrase ‘no to the invasion’ appears in Arabic below two figures pictured lamenting the aggression.

Beginning in 1990, the exhibition recalls a conflicted socio-political landscape inflamed by the shifting regimes of power following the fall of Pan-Arabism, the end of the Cold War, the start of the Kuwait War, and the end of the Lebanese Civil War. Today, while battles in Syria and Iraq continue to rage and people are increasingly displaced, radicalism and neoliberal capitalism thrive. Drawing upon these events – current and historical – the exhibition follows the course of artistic practices and socio-political narratives from 1990 to today to examine where art and politics meet. Likewise, the exhibition proposes an expanded meaning of the term invasion – one that goes beyond connotations of incursion, trespassing, and violation to conjure a sudden surge or confrontation. These works investigate and refuse irruptions on one’s space or body by the media, global capital, or regional magnates.

In Ala Younis’s Plan for Greater Baghdad (2015), archival research materials and an imagined urban plan straddle turbulent political timelines in Iraq and reflect the ways in which power is exerted through gestures and the histories of architecture and its protagonists. In Akram Zaatari’s Her + Him (2001–11), documentation of a personal encounter offers a critical examination of a legacy of mid-twentieth-century Cairene portraiture that includes the work of the Armenian-Egyptian photographer Van Leo. These projects—which range from research-based and experimental documentary to engagements with abstraction and conceptualism—tell us something about the limits of representation, the production of histories, and the transformation of landscapes. The presented works parse the many intersecting influences of power that act on bodies and land alike. They reveal the effects and absurdities of hyper-modernization and address issues of representation, surveillance, migration, and disaster.

Alongside the main exhibition is the project No to the Invasion: From the Archive, organized in collaboration with scholar Tarek El-Ariss and displayed in the CCS Bard Collection Teaching Gallery. Taking the form of a constellation of documents collected by El-Ariss, including audiotapes, magazines, novels, and television footage, From the Archive considers the ways in which the body is always a site of sedimentation and collapse, registering experience and telling stories that require deciphering and translation. A new iteration of the ongoing project The Revolution is a Mirror, Excavating the Sky and Current Power in Syria by the collective Sigil is also on view.

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