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Dissonant Archives: Contemporary Visual Culture and Contested Narratives in the Middle East

Dissonant Archives: Contemporary Visual Culture and Contested Narratives in the Middle East

Edited by: Anthony Downey

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The 'archive' is often viewed as a collection of historical documents that records and orders information about people, places and events. This view nevertheless obscures a crucial point: the archive, whilst subject to the vagaries of time and history, can also determine the future. This point has gained urgency in modern-day North Africa and the Middle East where the archive has come to the fore as a site of social, historical, theoretical, and political contestation. Dissonant Archives is the first book to consider the ways in which contemporary artists from the Middle East and North Africa - including Emily Jacir, Walid Raad, Jananne Al Ani, Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, Mariam Ghani, Zineb Sedira, and Akram Zaatari - are utilizing and disrupting the function of the archive and, in so doing, highlighting a systemic, perhaps irrevocable, crisis in institutional and state-ordained archiving across the region. In exploring and producing archives, be they alternative, interrogative or fictional, these artists are not simply questioning the authenticity, authority or authorship of the archive; rather, they are unlocking its regenerative, radical potential.The result provides essential insights into the nexus between art and politics in the contemporary Middle East.

Table of Contents


Contingency, Dissonance and Performativity: Critical Archives and Knowledge Production in Contemporary Art
Anthony Downey

‘What We Left Unfinished’: The Artist and the Archive
Mariam Ghani

Measures of Stillness and Movement: The Poster in Cinema of the Palestinian Revolution
Nick Denes

Rethinking National Archives in Colonial Countries and Zones of Conflict: The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and Israel’s National Photography Archives as a Case Study
Rona Sela

Coming to Terms: Contemporary Art, Civil Society and Knowledge Politics in the ‘Middle East’
Tom Holert

This is Tomorrow: On Emily Jacir’s Art of Assembling Radically Generative Archives
Guy Mannes-Abbott

Artists’ Inserts
Lucien Samaha
Ruanne Abou-Rahme and Basel Abbas
Héla Ammar
Lawrence Abu Hamdan
Burak Arikan
John Akomfrah
Maryam Jafri

Ariella Azoulay

The Museum Past the Surpassing Disaster: Walid Raad’s Projective Futures
Chad Elias

I Have The Picture: The Making of Photographic Heritage in Contemporary Egypt
Lucie Ryzova

The Global in the Local: Implicating Iran in Art and History
Sussan Babaie

Arab Digital Expression Foundation
Laura Cugusi

Artists’ Inserts
Media Farzin and Alessandro Balteo Yazbeck
Adelita Husni-Bey
Gulf Labor
Ania Dabrowska
Naeem Mohaiemen
Meriç Algün Ringborg
Amina Menia
Jananne Al-Ani
Vahap Avşar

10 Theses on the Archive

From Archive to Analytics: Building Counter Collections of Arabic Social Media
Laila Shereen Sakr (VJ Um Amel)

Excerpts from a Grammar of Redaction
Joshua Craze

The Black Market Archive: The Velocity, Intensity and Spread of Pakistani Film Piracy
Timothy P.A Cooper

Locating the Archive: The Search for ‘Nurafkan’
Mariam Motamedi Fraser

The Spectre (of Knowledge): The Recordings of the Cosmopolitan
Shaheen Merali

Lucien Samaha interview with Walid Raad


Author Info

Anthony Downey is an academic, editor, and writer. Recent and upcoming publications include Art and Politics Now (2014); Uncommon Grounds: New Media and Critical Practices in North Africa and the Middle East (I.B.Tauris, 2014); and Mirrors for Princes: Both Sides of the Tongue (2015). He is currently researching Zones of Indistinction: Performative Ethics and Late Modernity (forthcoming, 2016).


‘Provides a crucial and necessary discussion and critique of recent cultural phenomena and artistic practices in new media throughout the MENA region’
Sascha Crasnow, H-Net Reviews

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: I.B.Tauris
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.
Series: Ibraaz Series

ISBN: 9781784534110
Publication Date: 29 May 2015
Number of Pages: 304
Height: 230
Width: 165

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