Fareed Armaly will introduce themes and frameworks which inform his approach to artistic practice and the ways in which it converges into exhibition making, by discussing 1989’s The (re)Orient and his 2021 mumok collection update.
The (re)Orient, his second individual exhibition, situated the role of exhibition-making within an emerging postcolonial discourse. The exhibition is conceived as a positioning system, in the sense that “identities are the names we give to the various ways we are positioned by, and position ourselves within, the narratives of the past” (Stuart Hall, 1989).
The (re)Orient (1989) focuses two seemingly-unconnected realities through its Paris lens. The recently completed Louvre Pyramid, the centerpiece of President Mitterand’s Grand Projects program of architectural monuments, aimed at reaffirming Paris as a world culture capital. As the public entrance in the Napoleon court leading to the new Denon wing, its glass architecture casts an unavoidable neo-colonial shadow over the entire program. Meanwhile, Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, a former French mandate and so-called “Paris of the East” was collapsing under a civil war (1975–90), which the fixed perception of Western media locked to the image of a timeless, modern ruin. The (re)Orient links these modern ruins and monuments by instabilities hidden within a legacy of institutional systems of representation, power, and knowledge. By creating spatial passages from these instabilities, the exhibition reflects the “Orient” as a narrative constructed through epistemic violence. Therefore a central work of the project is the exhibition guide, organizing around “Paris-site,” “Paris-cite” and “parasite.” The guide forms a critical navigator scripting relations of exhibition architecture with a collection of distorted ontological artifacts.
In 2021, for the Mumok installation, Armaly reconsidered The (re)Orient as now a collected entity itself. As the Beirut context had changed, the artist invited Lebanese artist Akram Zaatari into a dialog, resulting in a work that addresses photography, collecting practices and post-civil-war iconography.