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Categorical Imperatives – Video Artists from the Middle East

Hudson Guild Gallery
441 West 26th Street, 212-760-9837
January 7 - February 18, 2010
Reception: Thursday, January 7, 6 - 8 PM
Web Site

The Guild Art Gallery is pleased to present Categorical Imperatives curated by Khaled Ramadan and Anni Venalainen. The first show of its kind, Categorical Imperatives will present video works by young contemporary Middle-Eastern artists including Raed Yassin, Ayman Ramadan, Dalia Al – Kury, Mounira Mounira, Najib Mrad and Khaled Ramadan. The themes explored are encounters between people, situations of life and points of view. All of these also relate to the theme of otherness. The spectator on the other hand is in dialogue with the artworks looking for his/her position with the perspectives represented in them.

Anni Venalainen explains:

This exhibition shows a collection of works that each reflects the subject of Kantian categorical imperative. Categorical imperative can be defined as a rule that advises us to act in accordance with what we would want to be a universal law. This underlying theme connecting these works is not always obviously manifested in each individual piece. These works cannot be said to present a maxim that would sum up the piece, as would be the case with children’s stories that end with a simplified moral lesson. If there is a lesson it is rather something that the viewer needs to find….

Khaled Ramadan, born in Beirut in 1965, is a curator, video documentary maker and a lecturer in new media aesthetics. His fields of specialties are visual culture aesthetics, multi-media studies and the history of cross culture visual art and culture. He is a lecturer at the department of Art History, University of Copenhagen. He was also an associated guest Professor at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, where he taught critical theory and experimental documentary making in 2006. He is the curator of the Coding-Decoding documentary festival, Copenhagen 2006, “Not on satellite – video and experimental documentary – at Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía”, Madrid 2007. He is also part of the official jury of the AMAL Arab film festival, Spain 2007. He is the founder of Chamber of Public Secrets and the independent institute, Chamber for Interventional Media – institute for electronic, didactic and analytical art.

Raed Yassin was born in Beirut 1979. He graduated from the Theater Department of the Institute of Fine Arts in Beirut in 2003. He works in video, performance, music and audio/ visual arts. He has done performances, videos and recordings. Raed Yassin’s The New Film (2008) is a montage of snap shots from Egyptian films from the 1980s to the present day. In every shot we see President Hosni Mubarak’s portrait hanging on the wall of an office where officials bark at their subordinates and people who arrive telling about their concerns.

We stay at the level of an individual also in Najib Mrad’s work Lebanese Cockroach (2007). According to the artist this work was inspired by the moment in his life when he was about to get his drivers license, and was preparing himself to be a part of his country as a full citizen. He says he was then discovering that there were so many conflicts in the government of Lebanon as well as chaos in the everyday life and the relationships between people that the circumstances prevented him many times from achieving his goals. Mrad says he made this film to show how a small insect which here is the alter ego of the artist, a young guy, a harmless creature who tries to make his way through big Lebanon, a city full of conflicts and chaos.

About his own work Ayman Ramadan says: “Coming from a background of no formal art training and with strong ties to the street life I have managed to relay my thoughts and feelings into a visual language using mediums of installation and video art. This allowed for an immediate response from the ordinary person. In all my installations and video pieces I have concentrated on the status of the urban working class in a city with a rigid class structure reinforced by both government and cultural attitudes. Ayman Ramadan says that through his work he wants to provoke the viewer to consider issues relating to labor, the anonymity of the individual in the urban landscape, and frustrations stemming from local political realities.

Dalia Al Kury is a 27 year old palestinian/jordanian director living between Jordan and Europe. She has directed many short fiction and documentary films since she first started in 2003. She holds an MA in screen Documentary from Goldsmiths College, UK, and has directed over seven documentary films, all of which were screened in international film festivals or on the Arabic MBC Sattelite TV network. She has been granted support from the TV channel Al Arabya twice including for her last film, “Smile you’re in South Lebanon”. Her approach to images is romantic yet sharp in the way it chooses to depict each and every side of a given issue. Dalia has a sense for portraits and films people as if she painted them, touch by touch with a warm and innocent approach to human nature. Dalia Al-Kury’s work Caution! Comment Ahead (2006) continues the same theme of the power relations between men and women.

A different side of the everyday life is studied in a work called The Sea Is a Stereo by Mounira Al Solh. This work is an ongoing series of reflections on a group of men who swim everyday at the beach in Beirut regardless of the circumstances: rain, wind, war, etc. Mounira Al Solh was born in Beirut in 1978. She studied painting at the Lebanese University in Beirut (LB), and Fine Arts at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam (NL). Between 2006 and 2008, she was a resident at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. Her work is multidisciplinary, osciliating between video, installation, writing, photography and painting.
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