A conversation about current activist and feminist perspectives in Scandinavia and the Middle East
With: Nefise Özkal Lorentzen (Turkey/Norway), Mohamed Soueid (Lebanon), Fatemeh Ekhtesari and Mehdi Mousavi (Iran), Manal AlDowayan (Saudi Arabia), Lamia Abi Azar/Zoukak Company (Lebanon), Javad Parsa (Iran/Norway), Amina Sahan (Norway/Iraq), Bruce W. Ferguson (US) and Tone Olaf Nielsen (Denmark).
Moderator: Marianne Bøe (Norway).
PROLOGUE 3: Art Activism - Feminism - Transcultural Movements
A conversation about current activist and feminist perspectives in Scandinavia and the Middle East
- How do artists that culturally identify themselves with the Middle Eastern regions communicate their understanding of activism and feminism, and how can these perspectives contribute to a new language within the Scandinavian transcultural context?
- Can artistic perspectives contribute to a sharper debate on cultural identity, immigration and integration in Scandinavia?
- By looking at the transcultural development in our society from an aesthetic perspective - can we acquire new knowledge and a more nuanced dialogue in the areas of gender issues, cultural identity and the relevance of art in social and political change?
First Supper Symposium is delighted to invite you to the third part of its symposium series on art, activism and feminism, investigating the relationship between contemporary art practices and politics. In this edition Nefise Özkal Lorentzen, Mohamed Soueid, Fatemeh Ekhtesari, Mehdi Mousavi, Manal AlDowayan, Lamia Abi Azar/Zoukak Company, Javad Parsa, Amina Sahan, Bruce W. Ferguson, Tone Olaf Nielsen and moderator Marianne Bøe will engage and activate the audience in unfolding the means by which art may become an agent for change in a world of political and socio-economic crisis.
In Prologue 3, we will investigate the merging of perspectives within Scandinavian and Middle Eastern cultures seen from their respective aesthetic expressions and practices. By giving the word to key figures from within the cultural field in the Middle East and Scandinavia, we aim to explore different combinations of gender, art and politics. We will actively challenge and problematize the Western conceptions of gender relations in the Middle East, particularly uprooting the established notions of the Middle Eastern women as passive and oppressed victims. Thus, the symposium aims to facilitate a critical discussion around the simplistic division between Western activism and feminism on the one side, and Middle Eastern or Muslim cultures on the other. The symposium will contribute to the realization that neither gender, religion or ethnicity on their own are crucial as to what kind of activism and feminism is being promoted, and, on the contrary, demonstrate the kind of variety and breadth that is to be found on the artistic, activist and feminist scene in the two regions today. By facilitating a platform for debate and new knowledge, FSS aims at contributing a new and nuanced language to the Scandinavian transcultural context, specifically targeting the current polemic debate about cultural identity, immigration and integration.
PROGRAM - Saturday 21. October 2017:
Moderator Marianne Bøe
LUNCH BREAK: 13.30-14.15
PROGRAM - Sunday 22. October 2017: FSS Workshop Series
Entrance free, registration required
Interkulturelt Museum, Tøyenbekken 5, Oslo, Norway
Workshop with Lamia Abi Azar / Zoukak Company
An introduction to theater as social-therapy and political change on gender policies
11.00 - 17.00, open to 15 participants. Book here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/lamia-abi-azarzoukak-company-fss-workshop-series-tickets-38734086696
Workshop with Mohamed Soueid
An introduction to documentary practice and history of documentary filmmaking in the Arab World
11.00-17.00, open to 20 participants. Book here:
Workshop with Morten Sortodden and Andrès Lekanger (Queer4Palestine/PION)
Could Norwegian gays look over the Prosecco glass? - a short introduction to Pinkwashing in Israel
followed by a summary on Middle Eastern sex workers in Norway
11.30-13.30, open to 15 participants. Book here:
Workshop with Nefise Özkal Lorentzen
Manislam: A workshop on the intersection between Masculinity and Islam
13.30-17.00, Open to 20 participants. Book here:
Presentations of the participants:
Nefise Özkal Lorentzen
Nefise Özkal Lorentzen is a Turkish-Norwegian writer, filmmaker and producer living in Oslo. She received her B.A in Political Science at Bosphorus University in Istanbul and her M.A in Media and Communication at the University of Oslo. Over the past two decades she has produced and directed several controversial documentaries related to Islam. As a result of her dedication to LGBTQ people and human rights activism through her films, she’s been named one of the TOP 10 immigrant role models in Norway. Her trilogy of films entitled, Gender Me (2008), A Balloon for Allah (2011), and ManIslam (2014), brings alive these untold stories through public visibility. Nefise has received several awards and nominations, and her films have premiered in several prestigious festivals such as the IDFA, the Rhode Island Film Festival, and the Göteborg Film Festival to just name a few. She was nominated for the History Makers Award in NYC. Utilizing her workshop concept, “gender activism through films”, she has been cooperating with various NGOs, and hopes one day gender segregation and violence against women will be a long-forgotten aspect of history.
Fatemeh Ekhtesari and Mehdi Mousavi
Fatemeh Ekhtesari and Mehdi Mousavi are acknowledged poets both in their home country Iran and internationally. They form part of the literary movement, the Post-modern Ghazal, which is seen as the most radical poetic movement in contemporary Iran. Lately however, they have gained massive attention worldwide for the inhumane sentences that the Iranian court has imposed on them for reasons we see as basic human rights. In October 2015, a Tehran Revolutionary Court sentenced Ekhtesari and Mousavi to respectively 11 years and 6 months and 99 lashes, and 9 years and 99 lashes, on charges of “insulting the sacred” and “spreading propaganda about the state” in the social criticism expressed in their poetry. Their sentences were appealed, but Ekhtesari and Mousavi chose to leave the country on 8th December 2015. As they were without legal travel documents, they left the country illegally, partly on foot, and has been living in Turkey as refugees until ICORN and the city of Lillehammer were able to relocate them to Norway in January, where they are granted permanent residence.
Embracing diverse medias - Manal AlDowayan's work encompasses black and white photography, sculpture, video, sound, neon and large-scale participatory installations. Her artistic practice revolves around themes of active forgetting, archives, and collective memory, with a large focus on the state of Saudi women and their representation. She has documented social groups like the oil men and women of Saudi Arabia in If I Forget You Don't Forget Me, and has addressed the impact of mass media on propagating intentional erasing of identities in Crash. Her participatory projects have attracted hundreds of women to use art as a new platform to address social injustice like in Tree of Guardians, Esmi-My Name, and Suspended Together. In 2014 she was a recipient of a research Fellowship from NYU AD and was invited in early 2015 to the Robert Rauschenberg Residency in Captiva, Florida. Manal has shown her work in Prospect 3 New Orleans - The American Biennale (2014/15), in collateral shows at the Venice Biennale (2009/11), and at Museums around the world like Gawngju Museum in South Korea, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark, The Victoria and Albert Museum in UK, and Mathaf Museum of Modern Arab Art in Qatar. Her art works are part of public collection at the British Museum, LA County Museum, Louisiana Museum, and Mathaf. Manal holds a Master's Degree in Systems Analysis and Design and currently lives in London while completing her MA in Contemporary Art Practice in Public Spheres at the Royal College of Art.
Bruce W Ferguson
An accomplished author and curator of numerous nationally and internationally noted exhibitions, Bruce W. Ferguson became president of Otis College of Art and Design in May 2015. He was the founding director and first curator of the nationally acclaimed SITE Santa Fe in New Mexico. He has curated for such eminent institutions as the Barbican Art Gallery in London, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, and the Winnipeg and Vancouver art galleries in Canada. He has organized exhibitions within the international biennales of Sao Paulo, Sydney, Venice, and Istanbul. Mr. Ferguson’s extensive academic leadership experience includes roles as Dean of Columbia University’s School of the Arts, Founding Director of Arizona State University’s F.A.R. (Future Arts Research), and Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences at the American University in Cairo, Egypt. In 2006, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Kansas City Art Institute. He continues to actively publish, maintain relations with colleagues worldwide and be involved on institutional boards i.e. the Bergen Assembly in Norway and SAHA, in Istanbul, Turkey.
Tone Olaf Nielsen
Tone Olaf Nielsen’s practice as an independent curator, activist, and educator is shaped by her firm belief in the ability of art to contribute to social and political transformation. It is with this ethos that she co-founded the decolonial-transnational feminist curatorial collective Kuratorisk Aktion in 2005. The collective has received international recognition for its work on race, class, and gender justice in projects such as Rethinking Nordic Colonialism (2006) and their upcoming exhibition space CAMP (Center for Art on Migration Politics). In 2009, Nielsen partnered with artist Morten Goll to found the Trampoline House, a community center in Copenhagen that offers counseling, education, and community to refugees and undocumented migrants. With projects such as Democracy When?! Activist Strategizing in Los Angeles (2002) and Minority Report: Challenging Intolerance in Contemporary Denmark (2004), Nielsen has helped generate platforms for anti-racist, anti-sexist, and decolonial critique and action.
Amina Sahan (1992) is a visual artist working in Oslo. She was raised in Holmlia, Oslo, with a Norwegian mother and Iraqi father. She has a BA in Specialized Teacher Training in Design, Arts and Crafts, and a MA in Visual and Performing Arts: Art and Design Education, where she researched "Drawing and painting in a multicultural environment: Reflections of Youth in Holmlia, Oslo”. Exhibitions include Romeriksutstillingen, Nordic Black Theatre, Galleri Neuf, Gallery MC New York and Åsenhuset Nesodden. Upcoming exhibition at Nordisk Salong in Helsingborg, Sweden. Sahan has participated in multiple seminars and debates about art and multiculturalism in Norway.
Lamia Abi Azar / Zoukak Company
Born in 1978, Lamia Abi Azar acquired a degree in Clinical Psychology at the St. Joseph University (USJ), Beirut, in 1999 and a degree in “History & Practice of Arts, Music and Performance”, with an emphasis on theater at the Universita Degli Studi Dell'Aquila, Italy, in 2004. Performer and drama-therapist, since 2001 Lamia developed a personal approach of drama therapy through continuous experimentation and practice, based on two separate schools: experimental theater and clinical psychology, applying theater and art as a tools of alternative expression, personal investigation and self affirmation. Since 2005, Lamia is conducting a drama therapy laboratory with children with multiple psycho-physical handicaps at “Ghassan Kanafani rehabilitation pre-school”, Mar-Elias Palestinian camp, Beirut, she has also led different workshops and training sessions in theater and drama therapy with children, adults and persons with special needs in diverse contexts. From 2008 till 2012 she led a laboratory of drama therapy with incarcerated youth at Roumieh jail, Lebanon. She was a drama instructor of Corporal Expression at the Institute de Psychomotricity, Saint Joseph University, Beirut from 2008 till 2011, and in 2008-2009 she worked as a technical advisor for Handicap International on a psychosocial project in Palestinian camps in Lebanon.She is a founding member of Zoukak.
“We created Zoukak in 2006 from a need to develop a professional continuity for our theater practice, a belief in this practice as a political and social involvement and a faith in collectivity as a position against marginalizing systems. The way we position ourselves outside the dominating political and social discourses in our context defines our political involvement as artists. An involvement that we strive to push beyond discourse through practical action within communities. 2006 also witnessed the Israeli war in Lebanon and the displacement of two million Lebanese from the south, and in 2007 all of the Naher el Bared Camp population moved to Beddawi Camp, and in both cases we found ourselves in these locations making psycho-social theater interventions through a special approach to drama therapy. Since then we tested and developed theatrical interventions in emergency situations and beyond, working with incarcerated youth, children with multiple disabilities, women subjected to domestic violence and other marginalized fractions of our society, while continuing to work with people affected directly and indirectly by the war. We broadened the frame of our interventions towards villages, schools and refugee camps across Lebanon seeking thereby to break the exclusivity of the cultural life in the city of Beirut, and confronting people in their areas, finding ways to connect our social interventions with our artistic investigations.”
Lamia Abi Azar, Omar Abi Azar, Hashem Adnan, Danya Hammoud, Junaid Sarieddeen, Maya Zbib
Javad Parsa (1985, Sari) started his practice in 2005 for Fars News Agency in Iran. He used this opportunity to experiment extensively with the photographic medium. To explain his position he states “I was born in a country, Iran, where real democracy is not existing. Even today there are two kind of journalists: the ones that work for the government and can’t be really called journalists and the others who hardly attenpt to work as critical investigators of our society; the latter are unfortunately working under very complicated circumstances in a country ruled by a dictator.”
In 2007, he was admitted to the Khabar University to study photography. His images were often banned by the government that did not tolerate his personal vision of Iran. In 2009 during the public protests, after the so called “Iranian elections”, he was assigned to document the events. Some of his images were smuggled out of Iran and published by international magazines. He had to leave Iran permanently within a few days after these publications, fleeing to Turkey and later Norway where he has been living since 2010. He now works as freelance photographer for Norwegian newspapers.
His work has been published in numerous national and international publications including, the cover of Time magazine, “Iran vs. Iran”. The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, The Seattle Times, France’s Le Figaro, Paris Match, The Guardian, 6Mois, Colors Magazine, PRI's The World, Toronto star and Amnesty International among others. His latest project is to document exiled Iranians around the world. He has met “generations of Iranian immigrants who shared the goal of a better life nurtured by social, political and religious freedom.”
“Born in 1959 in Beirut, Soueid is too young to be the godfather of Beirut’s current contemporary art scene, but he is a serious contender for the role of elder statesman. There was a time when he was frequently lumped into “the group” of artists, writers, and filmmakers from Lebanon who have become known internationally over the past decade. Soueid’s films were programmed into some of the seminal showcase events — Catherine David’s ‘Contemporary Arab Representations’ at the Witte de With in 2002; ‘Possible Narratives’ organized by Christine Tohme and Akram Zaatari for Videobrasil in 2003; ‘Beyond Truth and Fiction’ in Cairo in 2005 — that served to crystallize and codify the Beirut scene. But Soueid is widely regarded as Beirut’s first video artist, the pioneer and progenitor of the wide-ranging, deeply probing visual experimentation that has made the city such a hub for video production over the last twenty years. After years of working as a film critic and an assistant director on commercial films, Soueid made his first independent video in 1990. Al-Ghiyab (“Absence”) delves into the stories of four people who lost friends or relatives during the civil war in Lebanon, though their deaths were pointedly unrelated to the conflict.”
Kaelen Wilson-Goldie, 2010, Bidoun
During Prologue 3, Mohamed Soueid will screen his documentary Cinema Fouad. The film was recently screened Documenta 14 in Kassel as part as “TV Politics”, a series curated by Hila Peleg.
Cinema Fouad is a documentary on the life and ambitions of a young Lebanese cross-dresser. The video follows her journey from soldier to cabaret dancer in an effort to raise funds for her sex change operation. Shot in Beirut, Cinema Fouad weaves a complex and multi-layered story of sexuality, identity and desire and paints a compelling portrait of its subject.
Bøe’s research deals with the intersections of religion, law and gender. She holds particular competence on sharia and Muslim family law, on Shia Islam and Shia Muslim communities in Norway, and on the combination of Islam and feminism. Bøe has previously worked on a PhD project on family law reform and women's rights activism in Iran, which resulted in the publication of the book Family Law in Contemporary Iran: Women’s Rights Activism and Sharia (I.B. Tauris 2015).
In her current postdoctoral project, she examines the relationship between religious law and everyday life in Norway, based on practices related to the Muslim dower (mahr). A recurrent question in the project is what kind of challenges the combination of state law and the practice of religious law issues represent in a welfare state like Norway, that holds a clear state feminist agenda and where the relationship between state and religious law is currently in the process of being redefined. The project is funded by the Norwegian Research Council's FRIHUMSAM programme 2015-2018.
Documentation and mediation
Prologue 3 will be documented in the form of texts, videos and images published on FSS’ homepage with links to our collaborators, and on social media like YouTube and Facebook. The seminars will be followed up by an international publication in 2019.
First Supper Symposium
First Supper Symposium (FSS) is a collaborative art project and grassroots organisation in Oslo that works with art activism, feminism and critical social issues. In 2016/2017, we are organising three symposia on the subject of art activism. Our aim is to build a network and create a platform for artists and organisations that gives space and a voice to critical and alternative realities and expressions, in order to find shared points of contact. Our preferred method is to invite both well-established and emerging theoreticians to participate in discussions with art activists and artists in order to shed light on a range of current political and aesthetic issues.
Current members are Gidsken Braadlie, Lisa Pacini, Camilla Dahl and Hanan Benammar.
Prologue 1, 2 and 3
PROLOGUE 3: Art Activism - Feminism - Transcultural Movements, a conversation about current activist and feminist perspectives in Scandinavia and the Middle East forms part three of a series of symposia on art activism in Oslo. The symposia held in 2016 were titled Prologue 1: Art Activism - White Cube vs Public Space and Prologue 2: Art and Media Activism - Strategies for Political Change.
For further information please see www.firstsuppersymposium.org
Supported by KORO Public Art Norway, Arts Council Norway, Billedkunstnernes Vederlagsfond, Fritt Ord and The Norwegian Consulate General in San Francisco.