Due to political situations and immigration conditions, it can be difficult to invite artists from outside the UK to work at Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP). Beyond Boundaries: Art by Email, a collaboration between YSP and ArtRole, gives a platform to those who can’t physically visit the Park and celebrates the notion that ideas and art can travel even if people cannot.
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.
Mai Al Shazly, Undercurrents (still). Audio video installation. Courtesy the artist 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 artist will also take part in a virtual conversation with YSP’s Helen Pheby on 21 January 2017.
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.
ArtRole is an international contemporary arts organisation dedicated to building a
cultural bridge between the Middle East and rest of the world by facilitating artistic dialogue, exchange, and mutual support. It works to establish harmonious connections through the medium of art and art education. ArtRole was founded in 2004 by British artist of Kurdish-Iraqi origin, Adalet R. Garmiany, Since its inception, ArtRole has worked to develop an annual programme of activity in Iraq, the UK, the USA and across Europe. This has included international artist exchanges and residencies, exhibitions, performances, presentations, film screenings, music and literature festivals, human rights and environmental conferences, workshops, and new media projects. ArtRole has created
a platform in Iraq for hundreds of international and local artists, activists, curators, academics, journalists, playwrights, diplomats, writers and politicians, and worked with over 80 arts institutions worldwide to address the hope and needs of emerging generations by raising awareness of current global art and culture trends. As this region has been isolated for many years ArtRole acts as a conduit between the Iraqi war zone and surrounding countries and the rest of the world, to acknowledge and celebrate diversity and cultural difference within a framework of shared human values. ArtRole believes it is vitally important that artists, academics, arts and culture professionals, and students, as well as the wider public who live in conflict zones, have direct communication channels to experience, challenge and contribute to what is happening globally in terms
Image: Mai Al Shazly, Undercurrents (still). Audio video installation. Courtesy the artist