Mapping the possible: Syrian organisations, movements and platforms
Published on Ibraaz the leading critical forum on visual culture in North Africa and the Middle East, December 2016
This article sets out to map just a few of the organizations that have been set up, led, imitated and supported by Syrian artists, facilitators and producers – both in host countries, and in post-revolution Syria. Where possible, I have named the founders, and noted where they are located. However where it is not clear who the founders are, or where those that work on the project don’t want to be named, I have left the ‘who’ and ‘where’ labels unmarked.
I began this project thinking I could classify each artist-led organization according to the art form in which it operates. However, during the process of gathering these case studies, I have changed my position. Many of these organizations and networks that support and further artistic production are not art-form specific thus I have decided not to categorize them by medium. These groups/collectives/works have developed out of a desire and a need to share stories and experiences. Where I have been used to being surrounded by organizations and collectives that are specific to their medium, such as theatres, museums, radio stations or dance studios these categorizations do not work in the Syrian artists’ context. These artists work to something far more susceptible to change. They respond to cause over medium.
Below I gather the sources, projects, people and platforms that have informed my research and work over the last three years. The reader should be aware that many of the organizations listed are continually morphing, and shifting, new organisations are forming and others are closing. Whether these changes are in terms of art form, or in terms of purpose, they are always keeping up with the pace and opinions of their audience. Artistic responses in the Syrian context come not in the form of shows, opportunities or platforms, but in the minutes and seconds people have to react to the events in their lives.
This piece was published on Ibraaz on the 9 December 2016 as part of Future Imperfect series by Anthony Downet.