Saturday, 10 September 2011

Jean Genet at Nottingham Contemporary

The Nottingham Contemporary Gallery has had some interesting exhibitions over the last year or two, and a recent feature on Jean Genet (see here) was certainly one of these.

Jean was an artist and civil rights campaigner, the latter most notably for the Palestinians and for the Black Panthers (a Afro-American rights organisation that believed that the non-violent methods being used by Martin Luther King would not deliver results). The exhibition contained work by artists related to both these causes.

Art is a funny thing, as it were.

On the one hand, BFTF feels that any art that could easily be done by your average layperson probably isn't really art - but on the other hand Latifa Echakhch's piece provided food for thought, and this work simply comprised which comprised large two or three digit numbers that had been drawn on to the gallery walls in charcoal, each number being a UN resolution on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Installation by Latifa Echakhch

But back on the first hand, one of the exhibits by Mona Hatoum, which comprised a table of pottery hand-grenades did not really move BFTF at all. Surely a table of real (disarmed) grenades would have caused a greater reaction in the viewer, and made them really think about the devastation that these weapons cause, or a picture of the injuries that they can cause, or testimony from people who have used them, or a diagram showing how far their lethal fragments travel - all of these alternatives would seem to have the potential to do a better job of provoking a reaction in the viewer.

Given that sculpture of people and animals is frowned upon in the Islamic tradition, it was interesting to see the work of Abdul Hay Mossallam. His distinctive bas-relief work is clearly 3-dimensional, yet has been acclaimed in the Arab World, where he has had over 20 solo exhibitions. You can find out more about him and the conditions he has worked under here.

Exodus from Beirut to the Sea, Abdul Hay Mossallam, 1984, sawdust mixed with glue on wood.

The most interesting part of the exbihibition, for BFTF, was a selection of Black Panther newspapers from the 1960's. It was fascinating to read the soviet-style revolutionary language, the open support for armed action, and the clear grievences regarding Police brutality. In a great example of all that is good about the internet age, you can read them yourself online (see here).

A series of films and talks are also part of the exhibition. These are mostly being screened in September and October. These include:

Genet and the Palestinians
A talk by Leila Shahid, Delegate of Palestine at the EU
29 Sep, 3-6pm "The Space", FREE

Genet in Chatila
Film by Richard Dindo
29 Sep, 7pm "The Space", FREE

The Panthers and Genet
Talk by Emory Douglas (Panthers former minister of Culture) and others
30 Sep, 11am-4pm "The Space", FREE

Asked Nottingham Contemporary to thank the sponsors of this exhibition.
Intend, at some point in the future to discuss artists such as Abdul Hay Mossllam with an Imam on the Building For The Future Radio show.

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