Panel 4F

Art, Architecture and Heritage in the Middle East

9.00 – 11.00
Chair: Tamadher Alfahal, Birmingham City University, University of Bahrain

Curating Philosophy: The Collaborative Approach of Reconciling Islamic Philosophy with Contemporary Creative Practice

Tamadher Alfahal, Birmingham City University, University of Bahrain

Through researches in the art and design disciplines, the duality of textual and visual materials has always been challenged and informed. There is no doubt, however, that visuals can be communicative tools of knowledge that expresses experiences and thoughts, which cannot be comprehended in words.  In an attempt to investigate the possibility of new approaches for Islamic design studies, reconciliation between traditional Islamic philosophy with contemporary design practice is being approached through a practice-led research. But how can one reconcile an intangible spiritual essence, with creative practice, and in academic context? Especially where the research context lacks the interrelationship between creating and critiquing.  This research found in curatorial practice an adequate alternative to methodological approaches in Islamic design studies. For it has been described as a quest to find new insights, through its rigorous attention to knowledge, and its direct experience with art. The research aims to demonstrate how curatorial practice can be advocate to challenge and inform education while adapting its collaborative nature, and how it can function as “a public interface” that contributes to a specific cultural production; the production of Muslims’ today in the creative terrain.  It will also showcase how the methodological approach of the research is being manifested through different mediums such as: visual diary for the artist-as-researcher, reflexive mind maps as visual design language and as response to theory, ideas and design prototypes as a result of multi-disciplinary collaborative sessions, and eventually exhibitions to offer a platform to share research findings with the community.

Download Paper (Alfahal)

Migration of Middle East Architecture and its Adaptation in the West

Tahrir Taki Ali Al-Musawi, Mustansiryia University

Architecture immigrates with the movement of people. Middle east architecture has been developed in the west mostly with muslim immigrants. They  bring along culture , beliefs and religion. Among the influence are art and architecture,  its development was activated in the west. Designs of Islamic Architecture can be seen all around the western world . The type of building are mosques, cultural and community centres. Some of these institutions are designed to represent and reflect  its culture completely, others have adopted the western architecture elements and lost its main features. Very few designed buildings incorporated both western and islamic features. The question is  how can migrated architecture from the middle east fit in with its surroundings  in western architecture without loosing its identity ? This paper reviews and examines the migration of middle eastern  buildings and its  adaptation with western architecture.The aim is to develop the knowledge and understanding of  the  adaptation of migrated architecture from the middle east,  resembled by islamic buildings such us mosques and  culture centres around the western world, in view of finding an approach  to maintain its features that reflect its culture and the ability to fit in with its surroundings in western countries.


An Artist Curating Islamic Heritage: Ali Jabri and the Jordan Museum of Popular Traditions

Elizabeth Rauh, Department of the History of Art, University of Michigan

Opened in 1972, the Jordan Museum of Popular Traditions was the first public Jordanian museum to exhibit modern cultural heritage. With objects amassed from across the Levant, including Jordanian, Palestinian, and Syrian dress, jewelry, amulets, and devotional objects, the collection represents the lived traditions of peoples from the late nineteenth–century to modern Transjordan. In making the museum, the founder Saadiya al-Tel and her nephew, the artist Ali Jabri, sought to preserve and promote regional cultural heritage beyond the nationalist boundaries of ancient artifacts and archaeological remains. The museum transports visitors into the living cultural and religious life of the Levant, facilitated by the curation, design, and research of Jabri who joined as curator in 1980.  Jabri’s work in the museum offers an artist engaging with local Islamic heritage and practices as the creative laboratory for modern art making. Jabri was known as a “neo-realist” painter whose work was fueled by his desire to document and represent both past and present cultural heritage of the Arab world, mixing “ancient beauty and modern Warholian junk.”[i] His work in the museum extended this documentary drive beyond his paintings and visual diaries into the realm of art historical engagement. Altogether, Ali Jabri curated a museum of regional cultural heritage as both a modern artistic practice and as a critical engagement with the socio-political realities of modern life and lost traditions in the Arab world.

Beirut-Dubai: Cultural Circulations and the Shaping of New Urban Art Districts

Sophie Brones, Ecole d’architecture de Versailles and Amin Moghadam, Princeton University

Since the mid-2000s, the emergence of a contemporary art market in the Middle East has resulted in a recomposition of urban and cultural polarities on a regional scale. This presentation focuses on two cities, Dubai and Beirut, whose recent developments in terms of structuring cultural institutions and the urbanization of marginal areas – show distinct but nonetheless comparable aspects. The latter encompasses the effect of  transnational cultural dynamics on singular urban situations.  In these contexts, one witnesses the emergence of new forms of urbanities based on the shared cultural affinities (aesthetic models, architectural and consumer forms) and an extraversion of these urban regions towards the regional and global economies of culture. By forming new cultural topographies that link together the metropolitan centres of the Middle East, ‘creative districts’ help to redefine and to reclassify the urban margins, turning them into centralities—that is, nodes within regional and transnational networks. The fabrication of these spaces is the outcome of negotiation between public and private actors whose interests converge in promoting cultural production and in reclaiming the urban margins, which they often claim to have pioneered. These districts are connected to each other via both the mobility of ‘art world’ professionals and the circulation of artistic production and aesthetic (architectural and plastic) models, norms, and conventions. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in Dubai and Beirut since 2013 onward, this presentation examines the emergence of translocal modalities of place-making through the two cases of Corniche El-Nahr in Beirut and in Al Quoz in Dubai.