BACK TO (THE) SQUARE 1 : Press Release (full)

Documentation of the exhibition space at Forum Box in Helsinki, March 2014:

Press Release – long – 20.2.2014

(read “back to square one”)

Forum Box Gallery 7.3.-30.3.2014
Andorra film theatre 4.3.2014
Baana (bicycle path) 7.3.2014

Should we be surprised by the snows of an Arab Winter, following the revolutionary Spring of 2011 and the heated turmoil of 2012 and 2013? These recurring waves of upheaval have changed the relationship between art, society and politics. Artists and intellectuals played a part in taking over squares, streets and walls, using these spaces for art aligned with the protests. Today, however, many artists and intellectuals feel that they are back to “square one”.

Commissioned by Checkpoint Helsinki, Back to (The) Square 1 is curated by Marita Muukkonnen and Ivor Stodolsky of Perpetuum Mobilε. As part of the RE-ALIGNED Project it seeks to generate public reflection on how, in our time again, newly rebellious movements the world over, intertwine with contemporary forms and genres of art.

Back to (The) Square 1 features a small selection of leading and emerging artists of a new generation. By necessity, it can represent only a few fragments – artistic gestures, reflections and documents of resistance from fresh curatorial research.It is constituted as an exhibition at Helsinki’s Forum BoxGallery (March 7 – March 30, 2014) accompanied by screenings in Andorra as well as in public space, and a performative event in Helsinki’s new transit artery, the Baana.

Among participating artists is a rising figure in Palestinian contemporary art and film, Khaled Jarrar; leading figures from Cairo’s internationally recognised street-art scene, Ganzeer and Ammar Abo Bakr; their peers from contemporary art and socially-oriented practice Hany Rashed, Jasmina Metwaly, Hamdy Reda and Ahmed Hefnawy; and the video-documentary collective Mosireen.

Beginning in 2011, an entire generation in Egypt was swept up in the historic battles against new and old walls, to take “the square”. Following the return of the strong arm of the Army, which have once again encircled Tahrir (that is “Freedom”) Square with tanks, some artists and intellectuals seek solace in professional distance and practices of reflection, while others choose to freeze-frame their revolutionary experiences as documents, inspiration for another tomorrow.

These artists are representatives of a still youthful movement, catching its breath. This is no easy task in the current vacuum of legitimate alternatives. Many of those previously at the heart of the new street-politics are repelled by the current repressive security state of the Army (Sissi in Egypt) just as much as they were horrified by the reactionary fervour of religious forces (the Muslim Brotherhood). In Palestine, not dissimilar conditions prevail, with a corrupt security state battling religious fundamentalists in a loose-loose situation. Many artists and thinkers stand against both of these illegitimate “mainstreams”.

In previous iterations of the Re-Aligned Project the curators have describe such a double or multiple rejection of mainstreams as a non-aligned position. It stands outside the dominating conflict of opposing behemoths – backed by big money, guns and tanks in the streets – which fill the heads of the populace with new blocks and walls.

The works in this exhibition, however, are tempered by a fire which can burst into flame any time again. A spark leading to a renewed re-alignment of forces – in Cairo, as much as Ramallah, Kiev, Istanbul, or the Occupy and Global Justice movement – usually comes unexpectedly. Nothing is sure, save that after winter must come spring.

Tweet This Share on Facebook Share on Google+ Share on Diaspora