Western Art Roaming Syrian Destruction: Tammam Azzam Overlays Classic Vignettes Atop Catastrophic Images

The Syrian Museum: Mona Lisa
The Syrian Museum: Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa looks passively content at us as though the annihilated buildings behind her are part of a snap shot she asks locals to take of her before her vacation ends and she returns to Paris. Within moments she’ll post them on Facebook or Instagram and mention what a wild place Syria can be. When seen through a media lens, images of catastrophe, especially after five-plus long years of catastrophic images coming from Syria, bear a similar ongoing dreariness. We’ve seen image after image of blown up buildings and carnage on social media and news, and each iteration becomes more like the previous and the previous before that. Interrupt this unrelenting parade of mayhem with the intrusion of excerpts of famous classic Western art, and suddenly the rubble and the calamity are freshened up significantly as is our repulse to them. read more

Graffiti in the Middle East: Giving Up Personal Identity for the Sake of Social Justice

A slain revolutionist with her or his living counterpart on a wall near Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt
A slain revolutionist with her or his living counterpart on a wall near Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt

Graffiti was, at one time, unauthorized written or illustrated messages placed in public places using a variety of art materials that facilitated speedy application for the graffiti author. Speed was important, of course, because the author-artist had only a small window of opportunity to paint without being apprehended. Now, however, unauthorized graffiti has given birth to a highly sophisticated authorized art form, and it has changed from an on-the-run public nuisance to a highly respected and sought-after public space art genre, especially in urban areas where graffiti artists can attain significant popularity and media presence. Yet for artists in politically-challenged areas of the world who use graffiti to graphically chronicle resistance, money, public recognition and celebritydom are often forfeited to advance social justice for them and their people. read more

The Infographic — Or, How We Use Creative Media to Explain the Messes We Help Make

This Land Is Mine from Nina Paley on Vimeo.

Conflicts throughout the world have become ever increasingly complex in their beginnings and ongoing outcomes. Trying to understand why the Arab Spring began and how it spread throughout North Africa and the Middle East or who the myriad of participants in the now five-year-old plus Syrian Civil War takes a significant amount of focus and tenacity to absorb details from media sources or history books. Enter the infographic, a relatively new form of media that attempts to squeeze the complexity of modern-day social, economic, and political issues into a few minutes of clarity. read more

Recreating What’s Destroyed: How Displaced Syrians Rebuild the Past

Mahmoud Hariri recreates a model of Palmyra using clay and wooden kebab skewers. Photo: Christopher Herwig.
Mahmoud Hariri recreates a model of Palmyra using clay and wooden kebab skewers. Photo: Christopher Herwig.

Even before peace can even be imagined in Syria, there are already plans underway to renovate antiquities destroyed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levent when they took control of the central Syria in 2015. The United Nations and UNESCO have both pledged support to reconstruct Palmyra, an important site of ruins dating back to two thousand years BC. But while war rages on, Syrians in Za’atari refugee camp begin reconstruction on a much smaller scale. read more

Akram Abu al-Fawz Repurposes Syria’s War Weaponry Into Art Objects

akram01

It is estimated that more that a quarter of a million people have died, and eleven million are displaced in what is now five years of civil war in Syria with no end in sight. With the well-documented dispossession and death, however, comes creative reinterpretation of the war-torn landscape and the deadly weapons that deliver this destruction. Artist Akram Abu al-Fawz collects remnants of weaponry and transforms them into objects of art, adorning them with arabesque motifs and perhaps re-rendering them in motifs that immobilize their destructive meaning. read more