Anthony Downey

Anthony Downey is Professor of Visual Culture in the Middle East and North Africa within the Faculty of Arts, Design, and Media at Birmingham City University.

  • Lara Baladi

    Lara Baladi

    Tahrir Archives

    Anthony Downey

    An examination of Lara Baladi's Tahrir Archives: digital images, blogs, videos, and other associated media concerning the 2011 protests in Tahrir Square.

    The revolutionary protests in Egypt's Tahrir Square in 2011 signified a key event in both world history and the historical development of digital and social media. Considered foundational to the Arab Uprisings, digital representations of those events gave rise to questions that have become all the more urgent today. How, for one, do we understand the role of social media platforms as a means of organizing and effecting political protest? And how do we digitally archive historical events for future generations and researchers through such media? Underlying these questions is a key concern of our post-digital age: what is the relationship between immaterial, digital images and the material realities of lives lived under conditions of emergency?

    Conceived by Lara Baladi, Tahrir Archives is an index of images and texts related to her first-hand experience and the ensuing repercussions of Cairo's protests in January 2011. Organized as a means to capture the often transitory digital images that we associate with social networking sites and video-sharing platforms, the project also includes press cuttings, first-hand accounts, blogs, articles, and other associated research. Investigating how digital archiving can produce a partial view of history—if not, more insidiously, an algorithmically curated series of de-contextualized images—this research divulges and explores the implications of online platforms covertly editing and purging images over time. How, this volume asks, will the contemporary political economy of digital image production define our future understanding of political events, social transformations, and protest movements in both regional and, just as importantly, global contexts?

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  • Roy Samaha

    Roy Samaha

    Revenant

    Anthony Downey

    Artist Roy Samaha's examination of the uses of digital technology in the face of untimely disappearances and ghostly returns.

    In June 2014, Roy Samaha embarked on a journey to the Aegean Sea that included a trip to Mytilene on the island of Lesbos. Scouting potential locations for a feature film, he encountered a folkloric tale about revenants and their perceived inability to travel across saltwater. A year later, having since returned to Beirut to continue work on his film, Samaha was confronted with images of refugees' capsized boats and the stories of their drowning in the Mediterranean. Recalling the earlier tale about Lesbos's revenants, Samaha submerged the smartphone that he had used during his trip to Mytilene in saltwater for forty days. As a result, the pictures, videos and messages that were stored in its memory were destroyed. Just as saltwater discouraged the passage of revenants and refugees, it likewise denied access to the images and information previously contained on Samaha's smartphone.

    Focusing on the research that emerged from Samaha's initial journey, this volume enquires into how we represent historical events through digital means, especially if those events concern untimely disappearances and ghostly returns. Can the digital as a conduit negotiate the ephemerality or ghostliness of present-day forms of transmigration? What happens when we are left with an object of commemoration that speaks not only of an absence of images but the perennial ineffectiveness of digital technologies in the face of profound loss?

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  • Heba Y. Amin

    Heba Y. Amin

    The General's Stork

    Anthony Downey

    Documenting the development of a multidimensional and ongoing work on the politics of aerial surveillance.

    In 2013, Egyptian authorities detained a migratory stork for espionage. This incident is the focus of Heba Y. Amin's The General's Stork, an ongoing project that investigates the politics of aerial surveillance—against the backdrop of biblical prophecies, drone warfare, and colonial narratives—from a bird's-eye view. The research that informs The General's Stork looks at how conquest from the sky—through land surveying, mapping, bombing, and drone technologies—has effectively transformed Western power into a spectacle of high-tech weaponry. Through the lens of paranoia that can lead to a bird being accused of spying, this volume reveals, with the indispensable work of contributors Adam Harvey, Adel Iskandar, Haitham Mossad, and Laura Poitras, the extent to which military techniques of visualization define and ultimately delimit the topography of the Middle East.

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  • Michael Rakowitz

    Michael Rakowitz

    I'm good at love, I'm good at hate, it's in between I freeze

    Anthony Downey

    An artist charts the historical context and aftermath of a concert—by Leonard Cohen at the Ramallah Cultural Palace in Palestine—that never happened.

    Michael Rakowitz's project I'm good at love, I'm good at hate, it's in between I freeze (2009–ongoing) charts the historical context and aftermath of a concert that never happened. In 2009 Leonard Cohen was scheduled to perform in Israel. Because of increasing pressure from pro-Palestinian voices to dissuade Cohen from performing in Israel, a twin event in Palestine was organized. Amid protests and claims that the latter concert was a token show of solidarity and a hollow attempt to appease demonstrators, the concert was boycotted and eventually canceled. But the story, as Rakowitz's work demonstrates, did not end there. Conjoining the cultural histories of Palestine and Israel with the ethical dilemmas faced by performers under the conditions of a boycott, this volume, the first in the Research/Practice series, brings to light the research that went into this multifaceted work and plots the future arc of its trajectory.

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  • Larissa Sansour

    Larissa Sansour

    Heirloom

    Anthony Downey

    The development of the artistic research for Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour's project for the Danish Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale

    Heirloom documents the development of the artistic research for Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour's project for the Danish Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale. It explores how recurrent notions in Sansour's oeuvre, such as memory, trauma, identity, and belonging, intertwine with the discourses of science fiction and environmental disaster narratives. It also explores what it means to produce work from within contested geographies, specifically considering how, through research and the process of production, the artist grapples with complex issues of national representation.

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  • Critique in Practice

    Critique in Practice

    Renzo Martens' Episode III (Enjoy Poverty)

    Anthony Downey

    Essays on the provocative 2008 film by Renzo Martens, Episode III (Enjoy Poverty).

    Investigating the economic value of one of the Democratic Republic of the Congo's most lucrative exports (namely, poverty), Renzo Martens' provocative film Episode III: Enjoy Poverty (2008) remains a landmark intervention into debates about contemporary art's relationship to exploitative economies. Throughout Critique in Practice, contributors explore the work's legacy and how it relates to the politics of representation, uses of the documentary form, art criticism, the deployment of humanitarian aid, the impact of extractive forms of globalized capital, and the neoliberal politics of decolonization. The unconventional representation of acute immiseration throughout Enjoy Poverty generated far-from-resolved disputes about how deprivation is portrayed within Western mainstream media and throughout global cultural institutions. Using a range of approaches, this volume reconsiders that portrayal and how the film's reception led Martens to found a long-term program, Human Activities.

    Contributors

    Ariella Aïsha Azoulay, Eva Barois De Caevel, Pieter Van Bogaert, Jelle Bouwhuis, JJ Charlesworth, T.J. Demos, Angela Dimitrakaki, Anthony Downey, Charles Esche, Dan Fox, Matthias De Groof, Xander Karskens, J. A. Koster, Kyveli Lignou-Tsamantani, Suhail Malik, Renzo Martens, Nina Möntmann, René Ngongo, Paul O'Kane, Laurens Otto, Nikolaus Perneczky, Kolja Reichert, Els Roelandt, Ruben De Roo, ka˛rî'ka˛chä seid'ou, Gregory Sholette, Sanne Sinnige, Ana Teixeira Pinto, Emilia Terracciano, Nato Thompson, Niels Van Tomme, Frank Vande Veire, Eyal Weizman, Vivian Ziherl, and Artur Z˙mijewski.

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  • Future Imperfect

    Future Imperfect

    Contemporary Art Practices and Cultural Institutions in the Middle East

    Anthony Downey

    Future Imperfect critically examines the role played by cultural institutions in producing present-day and future contexts for the production, dissemination, and reception of contemporary art in the Middle East and North Africa. It offers historical contexts for discussions that have become increasingly urgent in recent years—the role of culture in a time of conflict and globalization—and an in-depth critique of the state of cultural institutions in an age of political upheaval, social unrest, exuberant cultural activity, ascendant neoliberal forms of privatization, social activism, and regional uncertainty. Based on collective input from numerous contributors and interlocutors, this volume brings together internationally renowned academics, critics, activists, filmmakers, artists, and other independent cultural practitioners to consider how new infrastructures and institutions can effectively emerge within such fraught and dynamic contexts. What is needed in terms of infrastructure for cultural production today, and how, crucially, can we speculatively propose new infrastructures and institutions in the context of present realities?

    Visual Culture in the Middle East Vol. 3Supported by the Kamel Lazaar Foundation

    Contributors Leila Al-Shami*, Monira Al Qadiri, Hoor Al-Qasimi, Anahi Alviso-Marino, AMBS Architects, Stephanie Bailey, Eray Çaylı, Rachel Dedman, Elizabeth Derderian, Anthony Downey, Karen Exell, Reema Salha Fadda, Wafa Gabsi, Hadia Gana, Adalet R. Garmiany, Baha Jubeh, Suhair Jubeh, Amal Khalaf, Kamel Lazaar, Jens Maier-Rothe, Guy Mannes-Abbott, Doreen Mende, Lea Morin, Jack Persekian, Wided Rihana Khadraoui*, Rijin Sahakian, Gregory Sholette, Tom Snow, Lois Stonock*, Nile Sunset Annex*, Ania Szremski, Christine Tohme, Toleen Touq, Williams Wells, Ala Younis, Yasmine Zidane (*online projects)

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Contributor

  • Institution as Praxis

    Institution as Praxis

    New Curatorial Directions for Collaborative Research

    Carolina Rito and Bill Balaskas

    How creative practices are modifying the ways we think about knowledge production and research in the cultural sector and in academia.

    Institution as Praxis: New Curatorial Directions for Collaborative Research explores new curatorial and artistic practices that contribute to the expansion of institutional, practice-based, and collaborative research methods. Offering an overview of how creative practices are modifying the ways we think about both knowledge production and research in the cultural sector and in academia, this publication outlines new research methodologies and strategies for de-universalizing and de-neutralizing the rigid epistemic schemata of inherited disciplines.

    Designed as a platform of aesthetic and intellectual exchange, the speculative interface of cultural practices has radically changed the way we consider how research qualities in curatorial and artistic practices have developed. Institution as Praxis aims to identify and advocate for a multiplicity of practices taking place across the cultural sector that not only engage with the quest to deliver cultural activities (e.g. exhibitions, events), but generate new modes of knowledge production and research in the field of visual culture, art, and the curatorial.

    Contributors

    Bill Balaskas, Michael Birchall, Mélanie Bouteloup, Carolina Cerón, Anthony Downey, Pujita Guha and Abhijan Toto for the Forest Curriculum, Joasia Krysa, Vali Mahlouji, Je Yun Moon, Andrea Phillips, Emily Pringle, Carolina Rito, ruangrupa (farid rakun and Leonhard Bartolomeus), Nora Sternfeld, Sian Vaughan

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