2011 ≠ 1848 – Brooklyn Railroad

a look

Canada Pavilion
2011 ≠ 1848
23 April – 27 November 2022
The 59th International Exhibition of Fine Arts – Venice Biennale

Seeing Arabic on the wall immediately drew me to the powerful Stan Douglas exhibit at the 59th Venice Biennale. But I was surprised at first, because you do not get Arabic in international art venues, let alone from Canadian institutions, where Arabic or Islamic novels are generally absent. Through his courageous embrace of infamous language and stigma in the West, often associated with terrorism and brutality, the artist expresses his solidarity with the grievances of the Arab world and places them in a larger historical and geographical context.

The artist’s interest in the region, which stretches from Southwest Asia to North Africa, stems from his investigation into the so-called “Arab Spring”, a series of uprisings that show worlds of turmoil, as many societies have responded to the devastation caused by the 2008 recession was caused. The exhibition explores two crucial years in history The hadith: 1848, when revolutions shook Europe, and 2011, when populist mobilization overthrew many regimes in Arab-speaking countries, which inspired widespread opposition that found much further appeal. From Los Angeles to Baghdad and from Tehran to Hong Kong, the causes differed, but protesters generally spoke out against economic inequality, corporate greed, government corruption and a host of social injustices. by Douglas 2011 ≠ 1848 He asks for the difference in scale between these historical moments: while the former mainly shook France, the latter today points to global revolutionary potential.

The exhibition, compiled by Red Share, consists of two parts. The first, presented at the Canada Pavilion in Giardini, is restrained and initially disappointing – only four photos. Upon closer inspection, however, these large-scale sculptures recently produced reveal themselves as almost epic paintings. Each contains a critical episode from 2011, and the images capture vast urban areas and create a dialogue between Tunisia, Vancouver (the artist’s birthplace), London and New York. In this archeology of global resistance, it is unclear whether Douglas was present in these places at these particular times, and whether these are particularly clear examples of photojournalism; Either way, the carefully manipulated images portray Douglas as a witness to a defining moment in contemporary history. Known for the deceptive honesty of his images, the artist used the metaphor here to emphasize that what happened in Arab-speaking geographical areas was not a deviation, but a slogan of a planet’s desperate cry for change.

But the photos are just a joke. A small map with the title of the exhibition in Arabic on one side and a map on the other, showing the way to the second part of 2011 ≠ 1848Located next to the premises opposite Venice. Douglas challenges the old biennial model of national representation, challenging an easy understanding of his work only in the context of the Canada Pavilion. In the dark and cave-like space of the Magazzini del Sale n ° 5, the large screens of ISDN (2022), a two-channel video, which hangs over visitors’ heads. Two Egyptian men, rappers Raptor and Youssef Joker, appear on the first screen in Arabic, with English subtitles, while two British women of African descent, Lady Saneti and True Mindos, appear on the second rap in English, with Arabic subtitles . . The duo seemingly play to the same beat, with the distinct sound of Arabic drums (especially picture And the revenge) You hear from time to time.

The two sing on different overlapping themes: love, family, identity, faith, finances, frustration, depression, exhaustion, pain, death, power, media, police, broken regimes, oppression, rebellion and justice. They are poets who communicate the interests of their communities – in fact, the mural says that the music genres of festivals (Festivals) in Egypt and Grime in England became the soundtrack for social movements in these circles. Parallelism of their vocal receipts surpasses paired screens and gender differences, representing similar music or infrastructure in both. As he tries to follow the fast-paced performance, the viewer first thinks that the rappers are facing each other in the same place, taking turns singing and listening to the other side. But it was all organized.

Towards the end, the camera is turned away from two different buildings, revealing that the men live in Cairo, and the women in London. It seems that the two music groups also create their music together by using headphones to listen to each other over telephone lines, but it was also performed. Video loops spin, even if the music is never the same, making each performance unique. The body swings involuntarily along with the rhythm of the rhythms. Douglas succeeds in not only invoking dialogue among those on screen, but also engaging viewers on issues that may not directly affect their lives.

in spite of 2011 ≠ 1848 Not strictly about Canadian identity, the work emphasizes one of Canada’s most unusual and least stimulating aspects: its plurality, and thus its inseparable global ties, through the heterogeneous descendants and beliefs of its diverse population. The work also undermines Canada’s official identity politics, especially the empty discourse on inclusion within artistic and cultural institutions, which symbolizes racial communities and categorizes them into clear categories that allow for practical understanding and control of the “other”. But the importance of Douglas’ work extends beyond Canada. By giving the stage to these empowered and honored international rappers, and the spread of poetry and music as instruments of alliance and resistance, begin to point to the massive, intertwined and sometimes unsolvable problems the world faces today.

Although Douglas focuses on Arab experiences and points to two historical phases, the importance and urgency of his presentation is clear. Contrary to the themes that characterize many of this year’s Biennial – dreamy and surrealistic visions, or fascination with an alternative future, some of which seem far-fetched and even elusive – Douglas dialectically focuses on solidarity across defined cultural boundaries. He seems to realize that if people are primarily responsible for the decadence, exploitation and suffering that surrounds us, it is human cooperation and collective mobilization that can right this evil. Douglas uses facts and fiction, technology and human relationships, individual and group identities, to counter indifference and motivate action.

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