Against Disappearance | Hidden Presences | A discussion about cultural heritage

We have a complex relationship with cultural heritage. In celebrating its riches, we must also acknowledge the challenges it presents.

For the third discussion in our series Against Disappearance, we uncover hidden stories from city neighbourhoods, nightlife and cabaret cultures and how we re-tell uncomfortable aspects of history in archival displays.

Societies, demographics and customs develop and alter. Experiences of previous co-existences, alternative lifestyles and marginal lives become invisible either by simple acts of forgetting or deliberate erasure. Cultural heritage protection enables us to peel away layers of previous presences. Contemporary artists approach hidden existences with curiosity and intensity, finding signs of former lives and relating them to our current discourse on identity, home and personal histories. 

Journalist and commentator Jo Glanville leads a panel to explore fascinating examples of hidden heritage from Turkey, Egypt and Iraq. Visual artist Hera Büyüktasçiyan talks about her collages recently displayed in the British Museum’s exhibition Reflections: Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa. They are based on research into ethnically and religiously diverse neighbourhoods in Turkey and India. Choreographer and director Adham Hafez discusses his re-imagining of the lively Cairo club scene at the turn of the 20th century in HaRaKa Platform’s performance Cairo KitKat ClubRashad Salim has worked to document, protect and revive the endangered craft heritage of Iraq: ancient Mesopotamian boatbuilding techniques currently feature in Iraq's national participation at the Venice Biennale 2021.

We also learn more of the rich history of the port city of Basra in Iraq which has often been turbulent and sometimes glamorous, but has been hidden from the world and from its own citizens behind war and devastation in recent decades. Tamara Alattiya and Noorah Al-Gailani project to renew the city’s main museum, located in a repurposed palace which had been built for Saddam Hussain, aims to recover that history and connect with popular memory and civic pride.

Hera Büyüktaşcıyan was born in Istanbul in 1984, graduated from Marmara University, Faculty of Fine Arts, in 2006 and lives and works in Istanbul. In her multidisciplinary practice, to anchor memory, she explores concepts of absence and invisibility, space and time, memory and forgotten aspects of history. Through her sculptures, drawings, film and site-specific interventions she dives into selected narratives from local myths, historic and iconographic elements that integrates with architecture and the memory of the terrestrial. Büyüktaşcıyan has participated in several local and international exhibitions, including the Lahore Biennial (2020), On Stones and Palimpsests, Green Art Gallery Dubai (2020), Face à la Mer, CAC Passerelle/ Brest (2020), Singapore Biennial (2019) and Toronto Biennial (2019), Gigantisme, FRAC,Dunkirk (2019), Neither on the Ground, Nor in the Sky, ifa-Galerie Berlin (2019), EVA International Ireland’s Biennale (2016), 14th Istanbul Biennial, (2015), 56th Venice Biennale National Pavilion of Armenia (2015), A Century of Centuries, SALT Beyoğlu, Turkey (2015), Fishbone, State of Concept, Athens, Greece (2015), The Jerusalem Show, Jerusalem (2014),  The Land Across the Blind, Galeri Mana, Istanbul, Turkey (2014), In Situ, PiST///, Istanbul, Turkey (2013) and Envy, Enmity, Embarrassment, ARTER, Istanbul, Turkey.

Jo Glanville is a journalist and editor. Her writing on culture and social affairs has been published in the Guardian, New York Times and London Review of Books, among other publications. She is former director of English PEN and was an award-winning editor of Index on Censorship. She edited Qissat (Telegram), an anthology of stories by Palestinian writers, and is editor of Looking for an Enemy: 8 essays on antisemitism, published by Short Books.

Adham Hafez is a Berlin and New York-based choreographer, sound artist, theorist, and performer. Recipient of multiple awards, including First Prize for Choreography by Cairo Opera House, Adham Hafez was recently described by the New Yorker as 'an intellectual magpie whose text-heavy works bristle with political ideas.’ He studied science, choreography, political science, and performance studies in Amsterdam, Paris, and New York. Adham Hafez is the founder of HaRaKa Platform and is the principal choreographer associated with its work.

HaRaKa Platform was established in 2006 by a group of artists, theorists, and specialists initially based in Cairo and working from Berlin, New York City, and Cairo since 2011. HaRaKa is the first platform dedicated to performance studies and movement research in Egypt and the Arab region, and through local, regional, and international partnerships, it has curated, produced, published, researched, and set up pedagogic programs in the Arab world, Europe, and the US. Its latest projects were presented at Sharjah Architecture Triennial (UAE), La Mama Theatre (US), Hebbel Am Ufer (Germany), Impulstanz (Vienna), among others. The platform focuses on colonial histories in relation to body-based practices, gender in performance, the Anthropocene and its cultural implications, and new planetary paradigms. It is steered by its core members, Mona Gamil, Lamia Gouda, Adam Kucharski, and Adham Hafez. Over the past fifteen years, HaRaKa has created collaborations with renowned artists, including Cristina Caprioli (Stockholm), Constanza Macras (Berlin), Mey Seifan (Damascus/ Berlin), Yoshiko Chuma (New York), Myriam Van Imschoot (Brussels). HaRaKa stages performances, publishes and translates texts on choreography and theatre, and has curated several international festivals and exchange platforms in Egypt, the US, and Germany, specializing in contemporary Arab performance practices and diasporic communities.

Rashad Salim is an Iraqi-German artist and interdisciplinary researcher, with a particular interest in the history and development of culture and technology, as reflected in ancient boats, vernacular architecture and craft heritage. In 1977-78, as a young crew member on Thor Heyerdahl's Tigris expedition, he voyaged on a reed bundle boat from Iraq across the Indian Ocean. He has lived in countries including Morocco, Yemen, and the UK, where he has worked as a sculptor and printmaker and co-founded cultural associations including iNCiA (International Network for Contemporary Iraqi Artists). He has works in major collections including the British Museum and the Agha Khan collection. Since 2015, through the Ark Re-imagined project, he has worked to document, protect and revive the endangered craft heritage of Iraq, particularly its traditional boatbuilding techniques. He recently launched the Ark Re-imagined as Iraq's national participation in the Venice Architecture Biennale 2021.

Presented in partnership with the British Council Cultural Protection Fund and the British Museum as part of Shubbak Festival 2021. The Cultural Protection Fund is led by the British Council in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Details

Duration: 1 hour.

This talk is BSL interpreted. It took place during Shubbak Festival 2021.

Extras

Watch the first talk in the Against Disappearance series here. Artists, archaeologists and architects discuss how different people lay claim to cultural heritage for different purposes.

Watch the second talk in the Against Disappearance series here. Our guests discuss the consquences of the movement of people and products across territories.

Read Sawad Hussain's interview with Najwa Bin Shatwan here. A companion piece to Talk 2, Najwa Bin Shatwan is the author of The Slave Yards a novel which offers a window on a dark chapter of Libya's history.

Read Confronting the Age of Disappearance by Rebecca Anne Proctor here.

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