Remember the film Postcards from the Edge?
Well, how about some edgy postcards - from Sharjah Biennial
19 April 2005
Postcard for Posterity
by Susannah Tarbush
A few days ago I received in the post a package containing 26 postcards. It turned out that they from the “postcard project” curated by Noor Al-Qasimi as part of the 7th Sharjah International Biennial which runs until June 6.
The project continues Al-Qasimi’s “ongoing love of postcards”. She says: “I wanted to promote the Biennial and at the same time create an exhibition in itself that can stand alone.” There is currently talk of exhibiting the postcards in New York and possibly in San Francisco.
The theme of this year’s Sharjah Biennial is “Belonging”, and the postcard project was inspired by a line from James Joyce’s Ulysses: “He rests. He has travelled.”
The postcards are mainly by Middle Eastern artists, and most relate to particular cities.
The enigmatic images on the postcards raise questions about the stories and people behind them. They are suggestive of a restless, self-aware young generation of artists with a well-developed sense of irony.
A few of the cards carry words rather than pictorial images. Noor al Qasimi’s single-line card reads “i can tell you many stories sweetheart”. The London-based American writer and editor Malu Halasa vividly depicts in words her New York bike route.
Lebanese artists are well represented. Rana Salam’s “bridal dresses for sale” in Damascus, sub-captioned “material pure polyester”, has an eerie atmosphere with its floating veils and frozen made-up faces.
Another wedding dress, this time in pink, features in Zena El-Khalil’s exuberant “beirut is pink”, a collage of images of flowers, religious symbols and portraits of Shiite political and religious figures.
From Christine Tohme there is an identity card across which is printed in red Arabic letters “Sejil ana Arabi” – echoing the line “Record, I am an Arab” from Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish’s defiant poem “Identity Card.”
Nadine Touma portrays a dish of the sweet m’hallabeya with the word “Sharjah” written across it in white, while Samir Sayegh adopts a calligraphic approach towards the emirate’s name.
Gilbert Hage’s photograph of three male figures on rocks in front of a wide expanse of sea is from his Beirut series. The video artist and curator Akram Zaatari has provided a video still entitled “Shou bhebbak (how i love you)”.
Photographer Lara Baladi’s view from her Cairo rooftop shows a satellite dish from which dangles a pair of women’s legs in platform heels. Egyptian art photographer Youssef Nabil’s contribution is a self portrait taken in the Brazilian city of Paraty.
Several of the postcards are by Iranian women. From Shirina Shahbazi there is a photograph of a man in Shanghai from her series “Real Love”.
Shirin Aliabadi’s picture of Iranian women in a car is from the work in progress, “Freedom is Boring, Censorship is Fun.” From Parisa Damandan’s book “Portrait Photographs from Isfahan: Faces in Transition 1920-1950”, there is a studio photograph of a woman in a man’s pinstripe jacket and long white skirt, taken by Gholamhossein Derakhshan.
Hengameh Golestan’s postcard is a photograph of three women in Islamic dress paragliding in the Alborz mountains. The artist Ghazel has produced a “wanted (urgent)” poster of a Middle Eastern woman, her eyes covered by a black strip, who offers marriage to an II (illegal immigrant) man, “all origins/religions possible”.
Palestinian Emily Jacir’s postcard comprises a list of the friends on her Ramallah cell phone. There is something poignant about the list in a part of the world where existence is fragmented and fragile.