Dissonant Archives: Contemporary Visual Culture and Contested Narratives in the Middle East

Downey, Anthony (2015) Dissonant Archives: Contemporary Visual Culture and Contested Narratives in the Middle East. Visual Culture in the Middle East, 02 . IB Tauris, London and New York. ISBN 978-1-784-53-4110

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Abstract

Dissonant Archives: Contemporary Visual Culture and Contested Narratives in the Middle East is an edited volume of essays bringing together over 30 contributors and a series of artist’s works. Its main focus is on how artists, in producing archives (be they alternative, interrogative or fictional), are not simply questioning the authenticity, authority or authorship of the archive but also unlocking their regenerative, radical potential as political statements on the nature of historical archiving.

One of the recurring issues across the Middle East, which has been further acerbated by the emergence of digital media, concerns the status and uses of archives. In this respect, Dissonant Archives: Contemporary Visual Culture and Contested Narratives in the Middle East sets out to ask two over-arching questions: How do we define the on-going relationship between contemporary art and the archive and, crucially, how do we understand the suppositional forms of knowledge that are being produced by artist-based archival practices?

Archives, as this volume observes, are often viewed as ordered collections of historical documents that record information about people, places and events. This view nevertheless obscures a crucial point: the archive, whilst subject to the vagaries of time and history, is also concerned with determining the future. Throughout Dissonant Archives: Contemporary Visual Culture and Contested Narratives in the Middle East, an original argument is made concerning the urgency of this point in modern-day North Africa and the Middle East, where the archive has come to the fore as a site of social, historical, theoretical, and political contestation. In addressing these issues, Dissonant Archives is the first book to consider the ways in which renowned contemporary artists — including Emily Jacir, Walid Raad, Jananne Al Ani, Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, Mariam Ghani, Zineb Sedira, and Akram Zaatari — continually utilize and disrupt the function of the archive and, in so doing, highlight a systemic and perhaps irrevocable crisis in institutional and state-ordained archiving across the region.

Item Type: Book
Additional Information: Review, from Christopher M. Laico (2016) Dissonant Archives: Contemporary Visual Culture and Contested Narratives in the Middle East. The American Archivist: Fall/Winter 2016, Vol. 79, No. 2, pp. 468-472. The late Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz (1911–2006) asserted that you can tell whether a man is clever by his answers and wise by his questions. In Dissonant Archives: Contemporary Visual Culture and Contested Narratives in the Middle East, academic, writer, and editor Anthony Downey presents the writings, interviews, and original artwork of acclaimed academics, curators, activists, filmmakers, and artists. By turns clever and at all points wise, these practitioners have produced work that not only creatively engages the heterogeneity of archived cultural production across the Arab world, but also astutely posits important questions for archival science. These sage queries oblige archivists to reconsider their professional practices (p. 14). To illustrate, are archivists open to the dissonant revelations about their profession created by artists whose artistic practice produces work imbued with suppositional visions of the future and explores alternative, interrogative, or even fictional forms of the athenaeum? Alternatively, why have contemporary artists developed a dominant aesthetic strategy committed to working with archives? In seventeen thought-provoking essays and two large inserts featuring artwork created by artists who utilized archival materials from Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, Pakistan, and Palestine, Downey endeavors to show how contemporary artists attempt to provide astute answers to the preceding perceptive questions and, in the process, honor the watchwords of the great Egyptian Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Dissonant Archives: Contemporary Visual Culture and Contested Narratives in the Middle East is the first book to consider the ways in which contemporary artists in the Middle East were utilizing and disrupting the function of the archive. A core element was to examine how we understand the suppositional forms of knowledge that are being produced in contemporary art practices in North Africa and the Middle East. Do these practices foster a nostalgic fetishization for the archive or suggest an on-going crisis in institutional and state-ordained archiving? These questions has not been posed in such an extended form until this volume was published in 2015, although they has since been taken up by various institutions.
Subjects: G500 Information Systems
G600 Software Engineering
L200 Politics
L300 Sociology
P100 Information Services
P300 Media studies
P400 Publishing
P900 Others in Mass Communications and Documentation
T600 Modern Middle Eastern studies
W100 Fine Art
X900 Others in Education
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Design and Media > School of Art
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Anthony Downey
Date Deposited: 30 Nov 2017 16:10
Last Modified: 30 Nov 2017 16:10
URI: http://www.open-access.bcu.ac.uk/id/eprint/5362

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