The Korea Herald


Qatar shows its collection of video art, cinema in Venice

Excerpts of films, video art provoke new perceptions of Arab world, Africa, South Asia

By Park Yuna

Published : June 25, 2024 - 16:27

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The exhibition The exhibition "Your Ghosts Are Mine" at ACP–Palazzo Franchetti (Courtesy of Qatar Museums, Doha Film Institute)

VENICE, Italy -- Built in 1565, Palazzo Franchetti overlooking the Grand Canal, the main waterway of Venice, is a splendid piece of Gothic architecture, including a beautiful garden.

The building has turned into a very different space to coincide with the 60th Venice Biennale from April to November for the exhibition, “Your Ghosts Are Mine: Expanded Cinemas, Amplified Voices,” which takes people to explore the Arab world, Africa and South Asia through film and video works by filmmakers and artists from these regions.

The exhibition The exhibition "Your Ghosts Are Mine" is on view at ACP–Palazzo Franchetti. (Courtesy of Qatar Museums, Doha Film Institute)

“All the filmmakers and artists we chose are quite ahead of the (rest of) society. They are really pioneers in a way. The notion of ‘expanded cinema’ (in the title) was the idea to go through a cartography of filmmakers exploring the borders and the margins, where you do not go so often,” said Matthieu Orlean, who curated the exhibition, on June 6.

“I think it will be a big discovery for many of the viewers that come here,” he said.

Orlean went through the films of the collection of the Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Qatar and the Art Mill Museum slated to open in 2030. The selected works by more than 40 artists span a wide range of genres -- from fiction to documentary, animation and memoirs -- and are organized under 10 themes.

Discussing the title of the exhibition, "Your Ghosts Are Mine," Orlean observed that it does not refer to a question of fear or a threat.

“It is more of the complexity of the ghosts, as it has an ambivalent status of being dead and alive, and to be guilty and innocent, and to be (in the) past and present. So (it is) something that you do not really see and is beyond contradiction and makes you think of what it is,” he said.

“Land of Dreams,” directed by Shirin Neshat and Shoja Azari, is seen in “Land of Dreams,” directed by Shirin Neshat and Shoja Azari, is seen in "Your Ghosts Are Mine" at ACP–Palazzo Franchetti, June 6. (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)

An excerpt from the film “Land of Dreams” is presented in the first gallery, which opens with the theme of "Deserts." Directed by Iranian filmmakers based in New York Shirin Neshat and Shoja Azari, the story follows an Iranian-born woman working for the US Census Bureau to record citizens’ dreams as part of the government’s efforts to control them better. Unaware of this devious plot, she discovers a secret desert compound for refugees of the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

“(The) desert is like both life and death (for me),” Orlean said. “I wanted to begin with something that people could figure out when they think of global South cinema. I think it was good to begin with something that could seem a little bit obvious for the audience.”

Presented in the next room under the theme “Ruins” is "Dome," a four-minute loop by Kabul-born artist Lida Abdul. Released in 2005, the video features a boy whom the artist encountered by chance under a bombed-out roofless dome in Kabul, Afghanistan, looking up at the sky while he spins in a circle. Then comes the sinister throbbing of whirling rotor blades as a helicopter passes overhead.

“He was dancing like a whirling dervish as if in a state of trance, trying to make a connection to some spiritual being out there,” Abdul recalled in a video footage released by Tate in 2008. “While he is dancing, there is a helicopter that goes right above him, which was sort of an uncanny encounter.”

Installation view of Installation view of "Your Ghosts Are Mine" on view at ACP–Palazzo Franchetti (Courtesy Qatar Museums)

In the “Borders” gallery, five films play in rotation. “Ceuta’s Gate” by Morocco-born, Paris-based Randa Maroufi portrays diverse situations the artist observed in Ceuta, a Spanish enclave on the coast of Morocco, as the land became a gateway between Africa and Europe. The film focuses on the political and economic tensions that arise in the small territory.

The exhibition also touches on gender issues in the gallery dedicated to “Deliverance.” The 15-minute film “I am Afraid to Forget Your Face,” directed by Egyptian filmmaker Sameh Alaa based in Cairo and Brussels, follows Adam, 16, who must hide behind a burqa before going out into the streets of Cairo to assist in the obituary writing ceremony for the girl he loved. It won the Short Film Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival 2020.

“Jewel” by British-born Egyptian filmmaker and musician Hassan Khan, the last work in the show, opens with flashing lights gradually appearing in the form of an anglerfish in the deep waters. The fish transforms into a speaker and two men dance to music created by the artist developed from "shaabi," an urban music form with roots in the Egyptian working class.

The exhibition, produced by Qatar Museums and co-organized by Doha Film Institute, runs through Nov. 24.

Installation view of Installation view of "Your Ghosts Are Mine" on view at ACP–Palazzo Franchetti (Courtesy Qatar Museums)