Touhami Ennadre, Paris New York Nine-Eleven Photography on paper pasted on cloth, 150 120cms.2001 - 2005
CCCB Centre de Cultura Contemporŕnia Barcelona
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How has the Islamic East looked at Westerners, Europeans in particular, in the past and how does it look at us today? Historically, Easterners have paid a lot less attention to Europeans than we have to them. While Orientalism is a cultural tradition in the West, it is rare to find the West represented in artistic creations in Eastern cultures. In an attempt to better understand this complex situation, the CCCB has invited a series of artists and intellectuals from these countries to give their point of view. Their works form a major part of this original exhibition, curated by the Tunisian writer Abdelwahab Meddeb.
A complex love-hate relationship
Islam has been divided according to the way in which it sees the West and the show highlights the different viewpoints and attitudes that have existed side by side throughout history. The exhibition starts with the map drawn by the Arab geographer al-Idrîsî when in the service of the Christian king, the Norman Roger II of Sicily (1105-1154), and ends with the radical anti-Western discourse of the Muslim Brotherhood, in the late 1920s. Conflict, solidarity, interchange and fascination coincide rather than alternate in time... And they often reveal a complex love-hate relationship combining fascination and irritation, emulation and rejection, which the exhibition tries to express, while at the same time highlighting many signs of proximity that sometimes go unnoticed, overshadowed by the larger confrontations.
Views from the past and the present
The exhibition presents a total of 215 works in seven sequences, confronting the views from the past with those of the present. Miniatures, manuscripts, maps, paintings and photographs illustrate how Islam has seen Europe over the centuries, mirrored by images that offer a contemporary key to the subject. Nine visual artists - Marjane Satrapi, Zoulikha Bouabdellah, Mohamed el Baz, Shadi Ghadirian, Jellel Gasteli, Bouchra Khalili, Hassan Musa, Khosrow Hassangadeh, Touhami Ennadre - were invited to try and do what traditionally they never have, that is to present their views of the West. And five writers - Houda Barakât, Nilufer Gölë, Sorour Kasmaď, Daryush Shayegan and Salah Stétié - have recorded their testimonies. Altogether, brand-new material which cannot be ignored if we want to know more about them but also about ourselves, and that sheds light on the theme the CCCB invites all to think about.
Illustration: Scratchy. Color photograph, 100 x 70 cms, 2005. Shadi Ghadirian, Teherán