Responding to an open call, artists across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have submitted artwork via email for inclusion in the exhibition. The artists were given the brief to not only share the realities of current situations in various countries such as Iran and Iraq but also the resilience, hope and creativity that thrives throughout the region, often despite the circumstances.
Art by Email brings together the voices of 16 artists from five MENA countries, selected by ArtRole Chief Executive Adalet R. Garmiany and YSP Senior Curator, Dr Helen Pheby, and includes photography, film and performance. An abstract sculpture by the Iranian artist Sahand Hesamiyan, the instructions for which were submitted via email, will be 3D printed during the exhibition.
A powerful photograph, by Younes Mohammad, depicts what the Iraqi artist describes as “a Yezidi refugee with his pillow, between thousands of other refugees, in an unfinished construction field. He sleeps in a different place every night. No one was expecting such a huge number of refugees so the KRG local government started to place them in schools, streets and even unfinished construction sites.”
Turkish artist, curator and academic Baris Seyitvan’s digital print Isimsiz, translated as ‘Anonymous’, shows the artist suspended in sky, held up by five helium balloons. A photograph of the artist’s installation Every Stone Wants to be Free, a helium balloon tied to a brick, also features in the exhibition.
Through photographs of individuals from Iraqi Kurdistan’s military forces standing in front of images from popular culture, documentary photographer Zardasht Osman shows the sacrifices made for land and nation, so that the next generation might live freely. As Osman says “Deciding to live freely like a westerner needs sacrifices. To know the meaning of freedom is to know the limits of it, and the boundaries of it should not be crossed. Life is tied with freedom, if we don’t have freedom, we don’t have life either.”
Egyptian-born visual artist Mai Al Shazly’s video installation Undercurrents, two films at a right angle to one another, shows the relationship between resistance and non-resistance: an active aggressor in combat with a passive enemy alongside a calm blue fish-filled ocean, the bubbling soundtrack continuous despite the adjacent assault.
The exhibition also includes a photograph of a performance by multi-disciplinary artist Azar Othman. For Peoples Questions in a City, the Iraqi Kurdistan-based artist collected opinions from the public on current affairs, including plans for their city, their environment and their culture. Individuals’ thoughts were written down on paper and publicly displayed in the heart of Sulaymaniyah City. To coincide, Othman is YSP’s first virtual Visiting Artist. Visitors can become part of the project and help to build a sense of YSP by sharing their photos, thoughts and experiences of the Park using #ForAzar.
The artists featured in the exhibition include: Mai Al Shazly, Egypt; Sabr Dri, Iraqi Kurdistan; Fathi Hawas, Egypt; Sahand Hesamiyan, Iran; Hamid Jamal, Iraqi Kurdistan; Mohamed Khalid, United Arab Emirates; Younes Mohammad, Iraqi Kurdistan; Shadi Noyani, Iran; Awder Osman, Iraqi Kurdistan; Zardasht Osman, Iraqi Kurdistan; Azar Othman, Iraqi Kurdistan; Wahby Rasool, Iraqi Kurdistan; Shawnm Raza, Iraqi Kurdistan; Burhan Sabir, Iraqi Kurdistan; Bnar Sardar, Iraqi Kurdistan; and Baris Seyitvan, Turkey.
This exhibition has been conducted in partnership with ArtRole, an international arts organisation dedicated to building a cultural bridge between the Middle East and the rest of the world. YSP is very grateful to Adalet Garmiany, Chief Executive and Founder of ArtRole for his continued and genuine collaboration. YSP would also like to thank all of the artists for sharing their artwork, to Emily Riddle for undertaking research, to the Caspian Arts Foundation and Asia House for their support and to GoPrint3D for their kind sponsorship.