How much does the personal experience of making art have to do with where you come from? This was a central question during the recent Pop-up Mathaf @ Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, Japan in late September 2012.
A weekend of talks entitled “Same-Same But Different: The Role of the Artist in the Arab World and Japan,” the event was organized as a collaboration between Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art and the Mori Art Museum.
The event took place as a part of the Qatar-Japan 2012 celebrations organized by the Qatar Museums Authority, and also coincided with the Mori Art Museum’s exhibition “Arab Express: the Latest Art from the Arab World,” the first exhibition of contemporary art from the Arab world to appear in East Asia.
Pop-up Mathaf brought exhibiting artists from “Arab Express” together with local artists, and featured Halim al Karim and ChimPom discussing the ways that artists respond to disaster; Hrair Sarkissian and Meiro Koizumi on the role of history in artistic practice; and Zena el Khalil and Sputniko! on the dual role of the feminist artist-activist. Well received by Japanese audiences, the event sold out and drew interesting questions from attendees. To give audiences in Qatar a chance to experience the discussions, Mathaf screened highlights from the talks in Doha on October 22.
“The dialogues between the Japanese contemporary artists and their Arab counterparts were very powerful,” said Deena Chalabi, Curator of Pop-up Mathaf and former Head of Strategy at Mathaf. “The artists found they shared many interests, techniques and emotional responses that are not immediately noticeable. I was pleased we were able to start new conversations that hadn’t been heard before, and I’m glad that audiences in Doha will be able to experience them as well.”
Since it opened in December 2010, Mathaf has focused on different strategies for engaging with audiences in Qatar and beyond. The goal of Pop-up Mathaf has been to engage with international audiences through developing a flexible, innovative and engaging cross-cultural platform for multiple voices on art and ideas.
Pop-up Mathaf @ Mori Art Museum succeeded in reducing the psychological distance between Japan and the Arab world, invited audiences to question their assumptions and challenged preconceptions and stereotypes about Japanese and Arab contemporary art.
“When most people think of Japan and the Arab world, the images that come to mind of the two places could not be more different,” says Kenichi Kondo, Curator at Mori Art Museum. “But if you take a closer look, you find many similarities and parallels. Having Arab artists speak about their work in Tokyo provided us with a rare opportunity to hold a two-way conversation, adding another layer to the exhibition Arab Express.”
Screenings of the “Same-Same But Different” talks took place in the auditorium at the Museum of Islamic Art on Monday 22nd October 2012. The event included a discussion with Mathaf staff who traveled to Japan, video excepts of talks by Arab and Japanese artists, and a reception.
Visit www.facebook.com/mathafmodern to view Pop-up Mathaf @ Mori Art Museum online.
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