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Eastern Mediterranean videos at the PMA


The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Live Cinema program continues to be a great place to view international video. In current exhibit, In the Round: Contemporary Art from the East Mediterranean, even when the work is clearly Eastern, the Western influences seem unmistakable.

Inci Eviner, New Citizen (2009), still from one of three animated LCD videos, based on postcards, image source

The hottest of the videos, G.R.A.H.A.M. (2008), by Hassan Khan (b. 1975, United Kingdom, works in Egypt) offers a lesson in how Andy Warhol’s strategy–cool real-time film portraits–can be translated into something hot and personal. Graham, the subject, has been instructed to remain silent as the off-camera artist asks him questions. Graham himself is British. And the artist, not. Considering the British government’s prior history in the Middle East, it’s hard not to have thoughts about interrogation and cultural divides. For a glimpse of Graham’s riveting eyes amid facial and physical impassiveness, this film is worth your while.

Another highlight is Inci Eviner’s three LCD videos, New Citizen (2009), with animated figures appear and pulsate in decorative patterns of wallpaper and tiles. The patterns, also animated, are taken from art postcards collected in the East and the West. The animations have been installed in the museum’s historic galleries where the patterns are a perfect fit. I saw two of the three, and the result is sly, humorous and spectacular all at once. The imagery serves as a reminder of how Eastern art has historically infiltrated Western tastes as well as vice versa. Eviner was born in Turkey in 1956.

Gülsün Karamustafa, Bekledigimiz Günler (The Days We Have Waited for), 2007. Video, 19 minutes. Image from

I was also quite interested in Beklediĝimiz Günler (the days we have waited for) (2007) by Gülsün Karamustafa (b. 1946, Turkey) precisely because of its foreignness.  It is a montage of footage from movie shorts and newsreels–the kind of fare that used to run before the feature films in this country back in the 1950s. But these source shorts are Turkish from the ’60s and ’70s. They are cultural propaganda that is now out of date because Turkey has veered from an enthusiastically Western country to a more Islamic set of mores. In the context of not just the present state of Turkish affairs, but also in the context of American culture, the oddities of point-of-view in the old short films with their travel-log affect come through loud and clear.

Other artists in the show include Maha Maamoun, who works in Egypt;  Christodoulos Panayiotou, from Cyprus; and Ziad Antar, from Lebanon. The show is guest curated by November Paynter, who has been in Istanbul since 2002.

Thank you to the PMA’s Adelina Vlas, assistant curator of Modern and Contemporary art, and artist Alexander Conner, who were taking a tour of the video installations when Bay and I arrived for a look. They invited us to tag along. Conner, an interdisciplinary artist, won the private tour as well as a solo show (he won the show in a juried competition), coming up at the William Way Center Jan 10 to Feb. 25.