Decoding the world OUTSIDE THE WALLS #PARIS Sophie Lanoë
Eric de MA'A*: Introduce yourself in a few words.
Sophie Lanoë: Today I manage ë-project.fr, a multidisciplinary media outlet dedicated to the Art of tomorrow. It is an incubator for ideas and artistic projects that makes programs and cultural content, it accompanies artists on projects and different courses by building bridges between the various participants of the Art world. I am also an exhibition curator and this past year I have been part of the steering committee of D.R.A.W. / Digital Research & Art Wave: the cultural and innovative program destined to promote artists, producers and places associated with contemporary creation.
In 2018, we co-produced the 100 TALENTS EXPERIENCE #01 prize, which aimed to accompany emerging artists and revelations of the young international artistic scene that use new technologies. Fifteen artists were able to exhibit their projects when they left the residence they created it in.
We also co-produced the 100 YEARS BETWEEN WAR AND PEACE exhibition, where seven contemporary artists invested the Polish Library in Paris to draw our attention to the influence of new technologies in our personal relationships. Finally, we have just published the first guide on contemporary art prizes entitled "A prize is priceless."
Eric: How do you perceive creation in the Middle East?
Sophie: During various stays in Egypt, Algeria, Russia and the United States, I met artists from the Near and Middle East scenes. By collaborating with those in Egypt, Lebanon and Abu Dhabi, I got really interested in those spaces. I loved the mix of references to the history and the geopolitical dimension of the works. At the time of the Arab revolutions, there was a new breath. Cairo has become temporarily an open-air museum adorned with street art by Ammar Abo Bakr.
In 2007, I moved to Abu Dhabi and lived there for four years. I collaborated with two local galleries and discovered the Iranian, Lebanese and Iraqi scenes. The Emirates were a real hub of contemporary art in the East at the time. While I was there, I even met the organizers of Art Paris Abu Dhabi who later created Beirut Art Fair in Lebanon. Later, I created the Sophie Lanoë gallery to highlight the emerging scenes of the region.
I participated in several fairs and joined the team that was developing one in Singapore. By collaborating with this region's artists, I could immediately see the political dimension of the works. Most of them have experienced violence, pressure, injustice, precariousness and taboos; their memories or their present pain seeped through their creations.
For them, Art is a need, a vital escape, a unique place of precarious expression, always threatened. Thus, their works bear this common struggle: to fight for freedom, especially after the Arab revolutions. Many artists, oppressed in their own country, have therefore gone into exile in order to create. Today, between the two nations, their Art is imbued with two cultures. It is a mixed Art that reflects the image of today's world without borders, created by nomadic artists, citizens of the world. In the Near and Middle East, there is a certain artistic homogeneity. However, there are subtleties in each country and in each story.
Sophie: My project for now is to release the book "A prize is priceless." This book will be presented at a signing day co-organized by ë-projects for the reopening of the Frans Krajcberg space in Paris this spring. This day will gather some authors around the theme of Art and the environment. Another meeting between the audience and the authors will be organized as part of the artistic and cultural programming of Digital Research & Art Wave 2019. This book provides an overview of contemporary art awards. Their numbers have exploded in recent years.
A reward in an artist's career is an important step, an encouragement for the youngest and a career boost for the most confirmed. Each award promotes projects, through financial aid and support for the laureates. Prizes are getting more specialized, new universes and new directions are emerging; art and the environment, art and new technologies. In the digital era, several prizes now reward online artists. Instagram gives young artists immediate visibility. In this book, my main interest is in the impact of a contemporary art prize in the career of an artist but also on the benefits that it generates for organizers, institutions, companies.
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Eric de MA'A*: Can we talk about the new wave of artists from the Middle East and the Near East who work in digital art?
Gabriel Soucheyre: Our entire planet has gone "digital", some would say the world is enhanced by it. Artists in the Middle East, like the others, have access to this dimension, and they seize it.
The issues related to the search for an identity are necessarily linked to the culture and the environment of each artist. The impact of conflicts and the absence of freedom either fuel or limit some creations. Access to social networks, although restricted, enables them to reach out to the world a bit, even though it is not enough. This situation generates frustrations and specific artistic themes.
Eric: As you work in a team with interlocutors from different Eastern cultures, what obstacles did you face?
GS: Exhibiting and presenting artists in Iran, Lebanon and Israel allowed me to work with independent and institutional actors. There is usually a strong demand for exchange, benevolent confrontation, a need and a desire for dialogue.
What is remarkable, beyond the appetite for digital arts, is what brings these different cultures together. The only obstacles are armed conflict and government policies. Exposing a work by an Iranian artist in Israel is possible, and even arouses interest. Inviting an Arab artist to this country, however, will be a huge problem, especially if the artist is not Israeli. Only a state of peace could solve this problem.
"When I arrived in Beirut, it was for holidays. One day, my childhood friend took me to the port of Daoura, near the house where my family lived. We walked along the Nahr El Mawt: River of Death. On the other side, full of weeds, there were reeds, beautiful old wild mango trees, avocados, insects, birds. Behind this curtain of greenery was a glimpse of a beautiful home where we used to spend time playing... In this contemplative moment, I decided to take an interest in this place. "
Eric de MA'A*: What drives you to talk about your hometown through the creations you present?
Alain Kantarjian: Beirut was historically a place of multiple crossings, but it continues to be so in the present. My family – like so many others in the city – comes from migrations and circulations in the Middle East. I have been exploring the Dora area in Beirut, a port area, for a few years. I have met many people who live or work there, and I have made friends with some of them. What interests me in this place is the unfolding of its stories and its many realities.
This place is very controversial. It is marked by wars, a poorly digested past and new capitalist projects. I, on the other hand, see this space as an organism that absorbs and regurgitates stories. What perishes gets regenerated. The "mountain of rubbish", the main subject of recent research and several short films, is the central metaphor in which my cinematographic and photographic explorations are anchored. What surprised me was how many geopolitical questions arose in what started out as a very local study.
Eric: What obstacles did you face in broadening your research territory? How did you overcome them?
Alain: I'm always interested in the lives of others. My "team" grows as we go. I involve people in my projects. They are not only subjects, they often become collaborators to create narration, films, photographs. In Dora, for example, it was the heterogeneous community of fishermen, prostitutes, the elderly, immigrants, and homeless people living on the margins of society. I really consider cinematographic and photographic work as a "collective" creation.
It is always the result of my "translation" of different communities' knowledge. My method as a director is not based on a prior scenario, but rather on filming different parts over a long period. In the end, I spent several years on the site before even thinking about a project. This project is ultimately anchored in the intimate knowledge of the site and its people. At the same time, my research allowed me to delve deeper into subjects that have emerged over time: the geology of the place and its ecology, its importance in literature, its historical sediments and so on. The job is more immersive than "objective".
Alain: I am reviewing the archives of the Antépénultième project, which I presented in recent years in the form of films and photographic cycles. I will also present a personal exhibition at the Counter Space Zurich and at the Photomed festival in Sanary-sur-Mer, which will reveal unpublished images. Another photographic project in progress is linked to an Armenian retirement home in Beirut. This is a series of staged portraits.
« Reverie » is a state of being pleasantly lost in one's thoughts. It often manifests itself after a period of latency, it takes us to a dimension of interpretation where the intimate meets the universal.
A solitary yarn THIS IS NOT A CARPET #TUNIS Najoua Ferréol
Together, they are a group of weavers. But first of all, they are a team of united women. Originated from Oudref, a remote village in Southern Tunisia, they look for solutions to finally feel emancipated in an overglobalized world. Mabrouka and Aïcha are the oldest, Inès and Amira the youngest. Yet, for them age doesn’t matter: these women all work and support each other, sharing the same daily struggles and inconditional love for carpet weaving. Keeping it in the heart of their lives is far from easy, but they do their best to give it back its past glory and make it a part of our modern times.
Link to the documentary produced with the participation of Mathilde Blesch , image ✩ Olivier Klein , editing ✩ Xavier Flamant , mixing ✩ Théo Deslus,calibration
Eric : Quel est votre regard sur la création au Moyen-Orient ?
Sophie : Lors de différentes résidences en Égypte, en Algérie, en Russie et aux États-Unis, j’ai rencontré des artistes de la scène du Proche- et Moyen-Orient. En collaborant avec ceux en Égypte, au Liban et à Abou Dabi, je me suis vraiment intéressée à cette scène. J’ai adoré le mélange de références à l’histoire et la dimension géo-politique des œuvres. Au moment des révolutions arabes, il y a eu un souffle nouveau. Le Caire est devenu provisoirement un musée à ciel ouvert orné du street-art de Ammar Abo Bakr.
En 2007, je me suis installée à Abou Dabi pendant quatre ans et j'ai collaboré avec deux galeries locales où j'ai découvert la scène iranienne, libanaise et irakienne. Les Émirats étaient à l'époque un véritable hub de l’Art contemporain en Orient. J’ai même rencontré sur place les organisateurs d’Art Paris Abu Dhabi qui ont créé par la suite Beirut Art Fair au Liban. Plus tard, j’ai ouvert sur place la galerie Sophie Lanoë pour mettre en lumière les scènes émergentes de la région.
J’ai participé à plusieurs foireset rejoint l’équipe qui en développait une sur Singapour. En collaborant avec les artistes des scènes de cette région, on percevait immédiatement la dimension politique des œuvres. La plupart d'entre eux ont connu la violence, la pression, l’injustice, la précarité et les interdits ; les souvenirs ou le présent douloureux traversaient leurs créations.
L’Art est un besoin chez eux, une échappatoire vitale, un unique lieu d’expression précaire, toujours menacé. Ainsi, leurs œuvres portent ce combat commun : lutter pour la liberté, surtout après les révolutions arabes. Beaucoup d’Artistes opprimés dans leur propre pays se sont donc exilés pour créer. Aujourd'hui entre deux nations, leur Art est imprégné de deux cultures. C’est un Art mixte qui reflète l’image du monde sans frontières, créé par les Artistes nomades, citoyens du monde. Dans le Proche- et Moyen-Orient, il y a une certaine homogénéité artistique. On remarque toutefois des subtilités dans chaque pays et dans chaque histoire.
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