museum of manufactured response to absence } intervention at the modern museum of modern art

when entering, the ‘museum’ is rather unsuspicious looking. but upon closer inspection of the objects on display, a more sinister message is revealed

Finally. Kuwait’s Museum of Modern Art holds an exhibition befitting its name (don’t get me wrong, the National Council has wonderful works of arts, but is, unfortunately, poorly curated). I heard about the exhibition Museum of Manufactured Response to Absence: Intervention at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMRtA) months ago and have, since then, been guessing at what would be on display. After inquiring about it, key words that stuck in my mind were ‘exodus’, ‘influx’, ‘in’ and ‘out’. But the most important one, and the one that I personally rue the most: education. If you ask any educated Kuwaiti aged 50 or above, a general consensus will be reached that in this part of the world the Palestinians are the best educators. And so many of that generation lament the fact that these teachers left during the ‘second exodus’, a sentiment so pithily pointed out in MoMRtA. The fact that this exhibition exists is a feat in itself. It deals with a sensitive topic, but one that has been implemented with style, dignity and wit.

MoMRtA features works by Kamel Abu Yahya, Mohamed Abusal, May Batt, Pieke Bergmans, Bilal Chrif, Cevdet Erek, Bruno Fantoni, Khalid Al Harban, Mohssin Harraki, Zyad Hilal, Raed Ibrahim, Hakim Jamain, Bengu Karaduman, Rebecca Joselyn, Katharine Morling, Paul Ribolotti, Amin Tbakhi,George Vlosich, Khadijeh Yosef, and Nabeel Younis. It was curated by Ala Younis.

The exhibition is up until July 11th at the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters’ Modern Art Museum in Sharq. Opening hours are Sunday-Thursday 9am-1pm and 5-8 pm.

i walked into this exhibition without having read the accompanying literature. i didn’t want anybody else’s intentions dictated to me as i tend to be more viscerally inclined. walking among the pieces i found myself nostalgic for a bygone era, when ‘hamad [had] a pencil’, a statement beautifully embodied here by bilal chrif’s desk displaying three slide viewers holding transparencies taken from 70s-era text books. that age of innocence is long gone

‘hawalli’ by mohammad abusal. i love the aesthetic of this piece. and i love that it’s called ‘hawalli’, because to me, hawalli is an extention of palestine. ‘little palestine’ if you like. this looks like an electricity grid. or perhaps a map to some complex underground network (gaza, anyone?). anyway you look at it, it shows how intricately connected the lives of the palestinians were with that of the kuwaitis. and how, as the palestinians left then, the air slowly leaves this ball now

raed ibrahim’s ‘dress’. if you are familiar with both traditional kuwaiti thobes and palestinian embroidery, you’ll be doing a double take on this one

a still from tarek atoui’s sound installation ‘unplified’. this installation is set up in two connected, unairconditioned rooms: the desert and the anti-desert. i don’t want to give too much away here because it’s something you have to experience first-hand

Listen. I can walk you through the whole exhibition, favorite piece by favorite piece. But you really have to go see it for yourself and really absorb the works individually and the exhibition as a whole. Even someone like me, who is fairly knowledgable and supportive of the Palestinian Cause, left last night having taken with me some food for thought. So I do hope you go because it will make you think, whether you are a Kuwaiti, Palestinian or other.

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