Sunday, 28 June 2009

Censorship and Journalism

Thierry Leclère, a French journalist at Télérama, is specialized in medias, ideas. He monitors around the world and in France the evolution of medias and what futures lies ahead for them. In his reports, he interviews the editor in chief of "Medias", another french magazine, on the issue of auto-censorship and the difficulty to use words, phrases and ideas, now part of the common belief of politically correct. They seem to concur that they would like to see a freedom of press that goes beyond the "yes, but..."

Mr Leclère was saying:"Information is not a commodity or a merchandise. The press cannot only publish what the reader wants, it then becomes entertainment." Or what the authorities want, it then becomes propaganda. "It has to go beyond marketing and sales. It has a value of openness to others, to move centers of the world, allow the world to know more about others, their problems and difficulties" It is a pursuit to answer questions and allow all to express their opinions.

He mentioned that in the Arab world, freedom of speech and liberties have a different meaning from what can be expected in the West.
The best example is the "Doha center for Media Freedom" opened in 2007 with Robert Menard, previously the founder of "Reporters without borders". Mr Menard recently resigned from his job because it was "suffocating". He could not go beyond the limitations of culture, politics and funding. Perceived as a threat to existing foundations, the Center was consistently blocked by the other pole of journalism and press in Doha, "al Jazeera" as Mr Menard states.

One essential part of freedom and liberty is to encourage journalists to reflect on the nature of their jobs, missions and limitations, with a value of ethics and responsibilities.
What do journalists in the arab world really vouch for? What is their hidden agenda or which ideas do they support and endorse? What are they afraid of?

Sources: Links
Telerama: Interview By Mr Leclere
The Gulf blog

Friday, 26 June 2009


"Restoring Family ties" a positive title for an endless work on displacement, refugees, families torn apart, children in war zones.. Dar Al Funoon hosts an exhibition by artists in Kuwait and the full proceeds will go to fund the International comittee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on monday 29th of june 09.

The photo here (extract from a book: "Humanitarian in war" by ICRC) is titled "Famine in Russia in 1922", where children are the first victims as they are everywhere else.
Open your fridge and take a second to think about what you have and what you can spare for others.
Hold your loved ones and send a warm wish for those who are in refugees camp.

ICRC is celebrating 150 years of the Solferino battle, in the north of Italy (1863) when a young Swiss businessman Henri Dunant, started with the idea of immediate response in war, a spontaneous gesture to help wounded soldiers. He received the Nobel prize in 1901 and his organization became an establishment in reaching out to millions of war victims around the world for 140 years. The main intention is an independent, impartial and neutral help.

The Man in charge of the ICRC Kuwait delegation, Mr Jean-Michel Monod has experience of war zones in the most awkward and the most incredible situations. After many years of terrain, he can actually see beyond the horror of wars, brutal death and destruction; he has a quick eye for the humanity in each and the search of joy at all moment. He might not foresee the end of global wars, but he seeks peace with a helping hand at a time.

New talents

Today in Dubai (UAE) is the opening of the show: "New talents from Kuwait" at the Opera Gallery. The catalog is of equal quality as the one printed for Picasso or other master painters. The effort to promote art and talent is of equal value.
It is an interesting journey to see what cannot be seen by the others. It is a risk to take with full enthusiasm and confidence to push talent in the big arena of collectors.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

music and art

On the 21st of June in Paris, the city becomes music at every corner and every space. "Fete de la Musique" has certainly lost some of its spontaneity but still retains a good level of choice. It was initiated first in 1982 by Jack Lang, minister of Culture, in Paris. The year after, it was naturally extended to France in many cities, to become today a national event. A government decision can push expression in one direction or the other, and in France it has allowed a public joyful response to what has become an institution.

At the new Museum "Quai Branly", two guitarist from Cape Verde, Vaar and Tuia, were playing some fusion batuk jazz rock in the library. Surrounded by melodies and books, heaven must be somewhere on earth...
An interesting exhibition on Jazz and its history is located at the ground level of the Museum. Created by the philosopher and art critic Daniel Soutif, it presented the relationship between jazz and the graphic arts chronologically throughout the entire 20th century with sound, extracts and images.

Listings for official musical performances were available for any type of music, from Lyric choir, to army tunes, to Offenbach and classical, to World, Rock, Oriental, Latinos, Salsa... You could have started your musical day at noon in organized locations and end it after midnight at major boulevards.
You name it, you would have found it.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Tickle Me Obama: Lessons from Sesame Street

Tickle Me Obama: Lessons from Sesame Street

The Arab world has watched closely Obama's speech in Cairo, some glued to their home TV, some in public teahouses, some believed his openess, some were skeptical to what presidents say and actually cannot achieve, some fatalists couldn't care less, some are convinced that nothing will change the course of what is written.
But who would have thought that Sesame Street, the kids TV show, could have ever influenced a president?
He grew up watching Elmo dance and sing with his furry multicolored friends. It must have been a first step into his fulgurous career.
Nancy Gibbs of TIME magazine writes "Sesame Street is now the longest street on the planet. It runs from Harlem to Honolulu; on to Obama's childhood home in Indonesia, where Jalan Sesama celebrates unity through diversity; through South Africa, where one Muppet is HIV positive; through Israel and Palestine and Egypt, where girls are told how important it is that they keep reading and learning. It creates citizens of a highly globalized, post-racial world."

A trivial show gives "children around the world the power of learning, it pushes them to reach their highest potential." (sesame street link).
That's real program with a sustainable grassroot foundation for the future generations...

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Venice Biennale, Palestinian art

Are you heading for the Venice Biennale this year? Opening on june 7th to sept 30th 09.
Palestine is not yet on the map as an official country, so it did not have the same treatment as the others. Political implication doesn't stop art from existing, but it can hinder recognition and exposure.
This year, by a stroke of luck, for the first time in the history of the 53 Biennales, artists from Palestine will show their productions in a collateral event.
check out the Palestinian event website
or La biennale di Venezia website

Friday, 5 June 2009

William Andersen

China has many historical icons and the most recent one, on june 4th 1989, was the Tiananmen square image: a man defying tanks. The army was unleashed to tame a democratic movement where hundreds of students, workers and ordinary citizens died.
"Soaked in sweat, his heart racing, Chen Guang descended the steps of China’s Great Hall of the People and aimed his automatic rifle at the sea of student protesters occupying Tiananmen square.(...) Now an artist and a bit of a provocateur living on the outskirts of Beijing, Mr. Chen said he spent the next 20 years suppressing memories of that day" International Herald Tribune June 4th 2009, by Andrew Jacobs. (IHT article).
Memories cannot be erased from people's mind whatever the state wishes to do. It is a question of time.
William Andersen, professor of art at American University of Kuwait, was in China before landing in the Arab world. He had worked as an artist and was intrigued by the same incident and its effects on the west. He was also surprised to see how Chinese could not relate to the matter, he organized in the most secretive way a covert street art assault. With the help of his family, he found a kitschy wall paper in the US, representing "Chinoiserie" an idea of China installed only in the western mind. With the blue background, he imprinted the tank v/s man image as history superimposed. He then went to the streets fo Beijing and put his art on walls.
"My prints, installed guerrilla style without permission, not only engendered much discussion with local residents but surprisingly stayed up for more than a week before all traces were removed. The prints conflated two divergent images of China. On top of highly romanticized images of China from anachronistic chinoiserie wallpaper, I silk screened photographic images tof the "Tank Man," an image banned in China" William writes.
(unauthorized art exhibition at gallery RFD, in Georgia, USA (link)

Radical political opinion has no room with both these artists. Art could be interpreted as progressive and dangerous but it is often a way to explore the past, visions and interpretations. As Mr Chen insisted in his interview, "paintings are just artistic depiction of history not expression of right or wrong"

william's works: blog + works

Monday, 1 June 2009

Tareq al Kandari

Sans STYLE: An archetype is a generic idealized model of an object or basic element from which similar instances are derived, copied, patterned, oremulated. The basic elements in this case are wall, floor, column, and a very special cube…” 26 may 2009
Tareq al Kandari, architect, presented a complex intricate visual installation on a research about the begining and evolution of a symbol in the region: the Kaaba. He starts with the simple idea of the cube and its historical progression in architecture, he worked on giving a sense of space at the core of the black cube, He used several medias for his presentation: paintings, video, marks on the floor, built plexi and wood representation of the space and the movement around the Kabaa. The most striking painting was the white cube in a black background. He maneuvered in the Sultan Gallery in Kuwait as experimentally as possible.
Nothing was for sale, nothing to buy, quite a refreshing attitude to arts nowadays. Just a will to share an idea, pull it through, research thoroughly and present it in his own vision.
Although quite different, this historical research was of a scholarly value similar to a lecture given in April 09 by Dr Juan Antonio Souto, at Dar al athar al islamiyah on another theme: the mosque of Cordova in Spain and the influence of history and impact of the Umayads on the building itself.
Souto showed slides in a traditional manner, whereas al Kandari had an interactive challenging understanding of the Kaaba. What will be his next theme?

(photos by Tareq)