Qatar Aims to Increase its Influence in the Realms of Art and Film

The future of art is very much the theme of “Your Ghosts Are Mine: Expanded Cinema, Amplified Voices,” a film and video installation that coincides with this year’s Venice Biennale. Organized by Qatar Museums and featuring some 40 artists from the region, it speaks to the emergence of the Middle East as a force in various art forms, not to mention a force in changing the narrative on how the region is portrayed in film and art.

The future is on the mind of Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the chairwoman of Qatar Museums and the Doha Film Institute. Al Mayassa sees this year’s Art for Tomorrow conference in Venice, convened by the Democracy & Culture Foundation, with panels moderated by New York Times journalists, as a chance to improve the profile of artists from her home country of Qatar and beyond. Among the events at the conference is a tour of the installation at the ACP Palazzo Franchetti, a Biennale venue.

“In Qatar, we’ve been working for years to support the work of filmmakers and video artists from the Arab world and others from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia,” Al Mayassa said in a recent interview. “This exhibition continues our work of bringing their ideas from the margins of the international conversation to the center.”

The installation, which runs through Nov. 24, also plays into the Biennale’s theme of “Foreigners Everywhere” with excerpts from movies and videos in 10 galleries in the palazzo from more than 40 artists from around the world. Each gallery has a theme, ranging from deserts as cradles of civilization and places of rebirth to borders as the lines between both free and forbidden places.

This high-profile exhibition reflects Qatar’s emergence in the last two decades or so as an arts powerhouse. Several existing museums, including the Museum of Islamic Art, known locally as MIA, and the National Museum of Qatar, gained visibility as around one million visitors flocked to the World Cup in 2022.

More museums are expected in the next few years, most notably the Art Mill Museum, with a planned 23,000 square meters of gallery space in a repurposed and expanded waterfront flour mill, expected to open in 2030, and the Lusail Museum, which will house the country’s vast so-called Orientalist art collection, set to open in 2029.

Alongside these major projects is Qatar’s commitment to public art.

“We work in towns and neighborhoods to engage communities with regional and global art to inspire residents and visitors as to what creativity can do, and we placed almost 80 public art installations during the World Cup,” Al Mayassa said. “But it’s not purely about art. It’s also about urban planning. We continue to think about how culture and art change the atmosphere of the communities we’re supporting.”

For her, “Your Ghosts Are Mine: Expanded Cinema, Amplified Voices” is ideally suited to the conference. Though not public art in the traditional sense, film has been part of Qatar’s effort to refocus how the public consumes art.

“In Qatar, in the last two decades with new museums and the film institute, it’s changed the way we view things,” said Fatma Hassan Al Remaihi, the chief executive of the Doha Film Institute, during an interview last month at her office in Doha. “It’s changed how people here perceive art. Before, it was merely entertainment. Now people see that it changes how you think about the world, how you think about yourself and how you identify yourself to others.”

“Your Ghosts Are Mine: Expanded Cinema, Amplified Voices” very much celebrates the emergence of the Doha Film Institute, which sponsors an annual film festival. But the idea of creating an installation during the Venice Biennale was about global visibility.

“It’s a great platform for the stories from the region and from the Global South to find a different way of presentation other than the usual cinema setting, since viewers see these films spread out around 10 different rooms with 10 different themes,” Al Remaihi said. “It’s a huge platform to be in Venice, even though we’re not in the official Biennale program. But we’re there at the same time when artists and people in the field come from all over the world.”

Included will be excerpts from works by over 40 filmmakers from the Middle East and Africa.

That visibility is what the film institute strives for, particularly as it champions filmmakers from the region.

“For us, it’s a celebration of everything the institute has been doing for almost 15 years now, which has included supporting more than 800 films from all over the world,” Al Remaihi said. “Those films have garnered so much acclaim. It’s a huge history that the institute has established over a very short time.”

The substance of the installation is vast. Each of the 10 rooms not only has a different theme but also a different method of presentation. The installation weaves a story about the lives of people and places into a single narrative.

“The exhibition has a start and an end, so it’s a journey, and the magic is that the curator was able to tell a story with so many excerpts,” Zeina Arida, the director of the Arab Museum of Modern Art, known locally as Mathaf, said during a recent interview. “It’s a journey that takes you into the lives of these people.”

For example, the first room is about deserts, which are obviously a big part of the identity and history of the Middle East and Northern Africa.

“In that first room you have two inclined screens of several film excerpts,” Arida explained. “The aesthetic is important. You’re invited to sit. It reconstructs a cinema.”

The mood — and the presentation — changes as the viewer moves throughout the rooms of the palazzo.

“In other rooms you are watching the film excerpts on small TV monitors,” she said. “It’s not overwhelming you with size and sound. It’s more intimate. It’s a lot about the people who are testifying about their own stories.”

As Art for Tomorrow coincides with the installation in Venice this month, it feels like the perfect time and place to portray the Middle East and the Global South in a new way, Al Remaihi said.

“We’ve been painted in a very dark and not authentic way for so many years and decades, and now we have a way to balance the narrative and tell our stories the way we want to tell them,” she said. “It’s a whole new era and a golden age for filmmaking in the Middle East.”

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *