On May 17, Syria.Art and the City of Nice join forces to feature the remarkable work of Syrian videographers and photo artists
Word has gotten out a while ago: there is something about Syrian artists that makes their work uniquely powerful. No matter who the artist or what medium, there is a sensation of strength, expression, creativity, raw force, and poetry that shines through in all they do. Is it deeply engrained in their artistic DNA – after all, Syria is the world’s oldest civilization – or is it the suffering and pain from years of war and strife in the country that is reflected in their work? Probably a bit of both, along with sheer talent. Some of this inexplicable alchemy will be showcased in L’Art en Mouvement, a presentation of videos and photography on May 17 at 19h at Maison des Associations in Nice, followed by a casual, convivial discussion around a shared glass. The City of Nice supports the event in the context of its annual Nice Solidaire Du Monde campaign.
The word play on the title (L’Art en Mouvement / Art in Motion) is a subtle reference both to the dynamic and creative Syrian arts scene, and to a world that is spinning faster than ever. But the programme does not have a particular topic or agenda, it simply endeavors to represent the diversity of issues that individually matter to video makers.
Initiated by Dr. Khaled Youssef – who also emcees the evening -, the one hour programme focuses on films, showing a facet different from the better-known painters and sculptors, or even the archaeological treasures that Syria is so famous for. From award-winning established artists to rising stars, from those who live in the diaspora – Berlin, Brussels, Budapest or elsewhere – to those back home in the country, they are all representative of the creativity and colourful expression that bears the hallmarks of an emerging, unique movement, the Syrian School of Art.
The works of renowned video artists and filmmakers
are complemented by a photo exhibit featuring Nizar Ali Badr and Khaled Youssef himself, who alongside his career job as a surgeon is also a respected photographer and poet.
It is difficult to pick highlights from a programme so rich and diverse, but a few artists do stand out for their artistic accomplishments that have earned them international recognition:
Waref Abu Quba, Darmstadt, Germany
Hailing from a small town near Damascus, the award-winning Syrian filmmaker today lives in Darmstadt, Germany where he works as a freelance videographer and motion graphic designer for major national and international companies. Three excerpts from his filmography give a representative overview over the breadth of his talent: Pensées Silencieuses (Silent Thoughts), a 2009 award-winning animation film (co-directed and co-made with Antoine Entabi, music by Markus Nestele) is the story of an old man stuck in a vicious loop trying to write. The 2016 experimental/artistic Ville, Lumière & Mouvement (Stadt, Licht & Bewegung / City, Light & Movement – 2016) examines the title concepts in three chapters, set in the German city of Darmstadt. And Auto-Emprisonnement (Self Imprisonment, 2014) tells the story of a stranded man who in his search for shelter experiences the strangest coincidences. Waref Abu Quba’s sixth and most recent film won the Robert Bosch Stiftung Film Prize for International Cooperation in 2016.
Jalal Maghout, Berlin, Germany
After arriving in Berlin in 2013, the prolific 30 year old Syrian artist built on his excellent artistic education received in Damascus, making hand-drawn animations and cartoons with strong messages that have won wide recognition and multiple awards. He, too, is represented with three films, among them Toile Sur Medium Mixte (Canvas on Mixed Media), an animation revolving around the humble crow, which is more human than we think. This film won first prize at the Made in Med Short Film Contest in Brussels, was presented at the Cannes Short Film Corner, and has been selected for over 30 festivals around the world, and counting. Tentative de Selfie (Selfie Attempt) is an ironic reflection on the dilemma of which side of oneself it should capture, and all the nagging questions that come with the task, and Lutter (Strive / Streben), the story of an unexpected outcome of a great effort are the other two films screened that night. An insightful portrait of the artist is currently available on ARTE in French and German.
To complement the presentation of videos and short films, an accompanying exhibition features the works of Nizar Ali Badr which have gained wide attention for their simple, poignant message. His medium of choice are stones, the kind of pebbles you find on a beach, and with those he “paints”, he sculpts whole stories, representing people in their everyday lives – sometimes joyful, around a celebration, at other times in sorrow, in distress, in flight. With his work, the artist sets a mark of solidarity with people around the world who live in war and terror.
No such list of highlights would be complete without pointing to the work of Khaled Youssef himself although he is far too humble to make much ado about it. His photography captures the whole world in ephemeral moments in time through soap bubbles – so simple, and yet so profoundly symbolic for the fleeting moment of happiness and excitement. The philosophy of Khaled’s images is still deepened by his elegant poetry. Twenty years in France have not dimmed the magical light and the siren voice of the Orient in this artist and humanitarian.
In the two years since its inception in May 2015, the Nice-based non-profit organization Syria.Art has done a remarkable job promoting contemporary Syrian artists in the country and in the diaspora. Its president Dr. Khaled Youssef works tirelessly to train the spotlight on this unique talent pool while seeking to change the currently unfavorable image the world has of the country and its citizens. Over 700 artists are presented in a virtual gallery on the associated Creative Havens platform, and brick and mortar exhibitions across Europe and in North America, as well as participations in high-profile solidarity events do their fair share to spread the word. Staunchly apolitical and secular, Syria.Art is a philanthropic initiative advocating the values of interartistic and intercultural dialogue to help boost the international influence of Syrian art and encourage collecting. L’Art en Mouvement is therefore true to Syria.Art’s mission, an event to see, learn, meet, enjoy, ask questions, get answers, and make new friends across borders and cultures.
L’Art en Mouvement
Wednesday, May 17 at 19h
Free admission, suitable for all ages
Photo expo through May 27
Maison des Associations
12ter, pl. Garibaldi
Tel: +33 4 97 13 41 71
All images courtesy Syria.Art/Khaled Youssef