deutsche Version
Contemporary Arab Artists from the Middle East
Intifada, Islam, desert, identity, remembrance, violence
Picture Gallery
Writing as an autobiography of the soul
Is writing an adequate alternative to despair?

Procreation and Ambivalence
A Sky so Close
The Jordanian Desert
Bedouin, satellite dishes and mirrors of stone

Paths through Literature and Exile
Thoughts on Music from the Orient
Imagining a Different Future
A Diary of Disorientation: Part 1
A Diary of Disorientation: Part 2
The dossier on the “DisORIENTation” series opens up new and unusual perspectives on contemporary Arab art and culture in the Middle East. Here, for the first time, Arab positions on literature, music, theater and art will be the subject of in-depth discussion. Authors reflect on the necessity of writing in a society which is either torn between tradition and modernity or devastated by civil war. Toufic Kerbage writes about musical diversity in the Middle East on the one hand and the danger of losing ancient traditions on the other hand. Censorship, lack of state support and religious fundamentalism: these are the problems examined by the theater-maker Tarek Abou El-Fetouh. Finally, Jack Persekian’s two-part travelogue offers a vivid portrait of the art scene in the Middle East.
These essays are taken from the catalogue of the same name, “DisORIENTation. Contemporary Arab Artists from the Middle East,” which contains articles by such figures as Elias Khoury and Abbas Bedyoun, as well as a wealth of illustrations. The publication can be purchased in the museum shop of the House of World Cultures and in bookshops.

With the DisORIENTation project, the House of World Cultures provides Germany’s first in-depth introduction to the young Arab art scene in the Middle East. The Palestine conflict and the Iraq crisis has made the region the focus of global politics; ever since the 1990s its art scene has also enjoyed increasing international attention. These are filmmakers, musicians, visual artists, writers, performers and architects whose radical positions reflect the highly complex living and working conditions in the region. DisORIENTation concentrates on the art scenes in Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, though without any pretense of exhaustiveness. The individual works speak for themselves.

This is understandable when one considers the current political escalation in the region. The lines of conflict between local traditions and globalization, liberalism and social conservatism, religious and ethnic groups are not as clear-cut as the media often present them. Just as the Lebanese civil war cannot be reduced to an Moslem-Christian conflict – the fronts shift among all the parties, Christians and Christians, Moslems and Moslems – we cannot define the region with Islamic, Arab, national or ethnic categories today. The artists and curators come from Moslem or Christian families, address the cosmopolitan environment of the cities and move between international art scenes and specifically regional positions. In their works they emancipate themselves from local social and political restrictions, while at the same time taking a position on their “orientalization” by the West. DisORIENTation has its inception in this sensitive territory of encounters and exclusions.

With the Palestine conflict and the Iraq crisis, the region has also become a battlefield of global power structures. For the West, the main challenge is to rethink and reinvent its behavior patterns in dealing with other cultures. Only differentiated perceptions and the abandonment of simplifying clichés will enable productive and lasting communication and mutual respect. In this sense, DisORIENTation can be seen as an experimental forum which provides a space for differentiating encounters.

We thank the curators Jack Persekian (visual arts), Omar Amiralay (film), Tarek Abou El Fetouh and Omar Rajeh (performing arts).

Hans-Georg Knopp and Johannes Odenthal