Roaming Images Routes

18/9/2011 - 8/1/2012

Curated by Sotirios Bahtsetzis

Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art - Thessaloniki

Roaming Images Routes at the MMCA in Thessaloniki is an exhibition consisting of works of art that have been produced and/or exhibited in the frame of the Roaming Images project. This project has been organized during the Biennial year 2011 in various cities – stations of the Arabian peninsula including the broader area of the Middle East. In cities such as Muscat, Sharjah, Alexandria, Jaffa, Nicosia, Beirut and Damascus, appointed correspondent curators have been asked to select artists and scholars based in these cities and conceive and implement a project in collaboration with institutions of their region. The local projects, which have been specially developed for this purpose have been inspired by the theoretical framework of Roaming Images and they take various shapes and formats such as exhibitions, video programs, public lectures, roundtable discussions, workshops, filmic documentations. Roaming Images Routes at the MMCA integrates these works in a single presentation along with the documentation of the initial events in the various cities of origin.

The outcome of this endeavor is a kaleidoscopic view of contemporary art, a map of creativity along these geographic and cultural routes. The unique work-in-progress character of Roaming Images Routes is also reflected in the form of its presentation at the MMCA in Thessaloniki. It takes place in the form of continuously remodeled displays showing different works each time during the Biennial. Each setting creates different types of dialogues between works of art and a novel point of view on geographies and cultures.

In this regard, an important part of the project is to reflect also on the conditions of its own reception and dissemination. The project offers a double viewing, on one hand by the audience of the local event, and on the other by the audience of an international biennial. This raises the question on the ‘marginal’ visibility of art communities and cultural territories of the art system’s periphery. But it also puts the question about a notion of art production that is orchestrated in such a way so as to be seen by the ‘Other,’ providing thus a unique angle from which to approach the notion of globalization.

Roaming Images Routes raises questions of interpretation on ‘world pictures’ searching for and documenting the traces of various cultural genealogies and traditions through the eyes of contemporary artists who live and work at the Arabian peninsula and the broader area of the Middle East. How can we scrutinize issues of representation and orientalist stereotypes – meaning the Western view in regions of the Middle East but also received ideas and clichés of the Western world found in these societies? How can we scrutinize the Greek legacy of the image further elaborated in European Modernity and how this common cultural tradition has been dispersed in contemporary societies? What does it mean to reflect on the apparent ‘aniconic’ conventions of the Arab world and to negotiate such conventions with the means provided by contemporary art within its own traditions? What is the role of the powerful industries of the Imaginary (media of visuality and image-based tools of communication and spectacle) within any kind of universalist aspirations, which seem to rather assimilate than promote differences? How images can contribute today to an ideological and political understanding given the revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests recently experienced in the Arab world known as Arab Spring? How is the Western world affected by these changes?

All these questions are scrutinized in one way or the other through the insightful work of artists who live and work in places where such conflictual situations arise. These artists are the appropriate discussion partners on seminal issues about both what we see and how we see it, and in effect about political issues that influence us. Without wanting to offer final or binding conclusions Roaming Images Routes at the MMCA creates a map of trajectories within the global flow of visual culture offering to spectators a navigation system of competence within current condition of a uniforming hybridization that endlessly multiplies not only images but also ideas and ways of living. Roaming Images Routes is indeed a bridging event that links ideas, practices and testimonies and brings together people worldwide. Not to forget also the hundreds of art professionals, artists, curators, scholars in several countries who embraced such a vision and worked for its realization and to whom I express my profound appreciation.

Text by Sotirios Bahtsetzis