Centre for Contemporary Images - Saint-Gervais Genève

30 April – 20 June 2004
Mapping Sitting - On portraiture and photography
a project by Akram Zaatari and Walid Ra’ad / Arab Image Foundation
Photographs from the collection of the Arab Image Foundation
            Centre for Contemporary Images

opening: Thursday 29 April 2004 at 6pm
exhibition open: Tuesday - Sunday, noon to 6pm
except Tuesdays 4,11,18 and 25 May noon - 8:30pm - Free entry

Exhibition talk Friday 30 April 2004 at 7pm
Interprétation d'archives photographiques, l'expérience de la Fondation Arabe pour l’Image by Akram Zaatari, followed at 8:30pm by a screening of the latest work by Akram Zaatari, Aujourd'hui, 2003, 86 minutes

(see below...)

Exhibition view of the I.D. section I.D. , Mapping Sitting, Antranik Anouchian (1908-1991)
Tripoli 1930 -1970, Coll.FAI / M.Yammine
Fondation Arabe pour l’Image

The 8th Biennial of Moving Images (1999) opened our eyes to the work of Walid Ra’ad, who with his film The Dead Weight of a Quarrel Hangs (1999), won the Grand Prix of the City of Geneva. Ra’ad’s film showed us one of the specificities of Beirut’s art scene, an artistic output that aims to blur the limits between fiction and reality and seeks to demonstrate that the empirical document bears with it, in a more evocative way perhaps, the traces and scars of the past.
To present a broader range of current Lebanese art, the Centre for Contemporary Images has pooled its resources with Pro Helvetia, which has also developed numerous contacts with the Lebanese capital in the course of putting together its «L’autre Méditerranée» (The Other Mediterranean) project. For the current run of the traveling exhibition «Mapping Sitting – On Portraiture and Photography», we are pleased to present several aspects of Lebanese art through a number of installations, film projections and talks.
«Mapping Sitting – On Portraiture and Photography» focuses on the work being done in Beirut by the FAI, Fondation Arabe pour l’Image (the Arab Image Foundation) with regard to the concepts of memory and archival storage. The foundation was created in 1997 to promote photographic culture in Arab countries. The curators of the current show, Akram Zaatari and Walid Ra’ad, both members of the FAI, have highlighted a part of this photographic heritage that has a connection with the portrait. A series of photographs dating mostly from the first half of the 20th century (the photos are shown in projection as well) allows viewers to grapple with the question of the portrait as both a luxury object and a way of defining identity within not only the society as a whole but also a group.
The show at the Centre for Contemporary Images is made up of four sections:
- Hashem el Madani’s traveling (itinerant) photographs. Every morning between 1948 and 1953, el Madani wandered the streets of Saida’s old town with his camera in hand and photographed people who wanted to have their picture taken, given that most didn’t own a camera. These images are grouped in panels of four to six photographs arranged according to their similarities.
- 2975 passport photos (ID) from a collection of negatives belonging to Studio Anouchian will be pasted up side by side along a wall. They will be broken down into groups according to distinctive features like type of hairstyle, presence of glasses, moustache, etc.
- Two projections will rapidly superimpose several images of people walking, giving the effect of movement. The surprise photo, a staple in the Middle East between 1940 and 1960, consisted of capturing passers-by who either would pose for the camera or were photographed naturally as they went about their business.
- A projection featuring a stream of different group portraits mounted in a loop. This projection will be accompanied by seven group photos representing the various medical staffs that a nurse, Zainab Shalabi, belonged to in Egypt between 1930 and 1940.

The show «Mapping Sitting – On Portraiture and Photography» has already been seen in several venues, notably the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, the House of World Culture, Berlin, the World Wide Video Festival, Amsterdam, and the Centro de Estudios Juan de Mariana, Toledo.

Mapping Sitting,
Place du Tell, côté ouest. DVD, loop 45', 2002. © FAI, W. Raad, A. Zaatari
Synthesis of 60 ‘Photo Surprises’
Place du Tell, Tripoli, Lebanon,1950.

"In Mapping Sitting, we present geographically and culturally specific photographic works that raise questions about portraiture, performance, photography and identity in general. We start with the proliferation of portrait photographic practices in the Arab world in the early to mid-20 thcentury –passport studio photographs, institutional group portrait photographs, ‘Surprise’ photographs and street portrait photographs by itinerant photographers –to examine how the photographic portrait functioned in the Arab world as a commodity, a luxury item, an adornment; as a description of individuals and groups; and as the inscription of social identities. We proceed from the thesis that the photographic practices in question are symptomatic of an evolving capitalist organization of labor and its products, and of established conventions of iconic representation. We also propose that these practices were not only reflective but also productive of new notions of work, leisure, play, citizenship, community, and individuality."
Walid Raad et Akram Zaatari

Hachem el Madani (1930-), Se reposant
30 épreuves sur bromure, 360 x 200 cm.
Epreuves 40x60 cm. Coll. FAI
Série Plage, Saïda, Liban.


Born in Saida (Liban), 1966. Lives and works in Beiruth
Video artist and curator who lives and works in Beirut. He is author of more than 30 videos, among them 2001, All is Well on the Border (43 min), 1997, and Aujourd’hui, 2003. He is co-founder of the Fondation Arabe pour l’Image, Beirut, through which he developed his recent research-based work on the photographic history of the Middle East, which resulted in a series of exhibitions, among which are: « The Vehicle: picturing moments of transition in a modernizing society », « Portraits du Caire: Van Leo, Arman, Alban », « Mapping Sitting, on portraiture and photography » with Walid Ra’ad. He edited or co-edited three publications by the same titles. His writing was published in critical and scholarly journals such as: Parachute, Framework, Transition, Bomb, Al-Adaab, Al-Nahar, and Zawaya.

Walid RA’AD
Born in Chbanieh (Lebanon) in 1967. Has been living and working in the USA. Ra’ad holds a Ph.D. inVisual and Cultural Studies from the University of Rochester (Rochester, USA), and is a Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at Queens College of the City University of New York (New York, USA). His works include textualanalysis, video, performance and photography projects, and concentrate on the Lebanese civil wars and documentary film video, photography theory and practice.
His video works include The Dead Weight of a Quarrel Hangs, 1999 .
His photography and performance projects include The AtlasGroup: Documents from The Atlas Group Archive , 2001. He is also a member of the Arab Image Foundation.

Antranik Anouchian (1908-1991)
4250 portraits, 8,7 x 6,3 cm
Tripoli, 1930 -1970
Coll.FAI / M.Yammine

Arab Image Foundation

The Arab Image Foundation is a non-profit foundation that was established in Lebanon in 1996. The Foundation aims to promote photography in the Middle East and North Africa by locating, collecting, and preserving the region's photographic heritage. The collections will be made available to the public at large in museum and gallery exhibitions and in published monographs.
Material in the collections will date from the early-nineteenth century to the present. The long-term goal of the Foundation is the creation of a center in Beirut for the preservation and exhibition of its photographic collections, for the study of Arab visual culture, and for the promotion of contemporary Arab cultural production and analysis.

More infos on the Arab Image Foundation: http://www.fai.org.lb/