Greetings from New York City, and welcome to my column! Here, I write about new music and media, and people who create it. Thanks for checking it out.
On February 22 2015, I had a concert in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The tour was something of a 10-day multimedia blitzkrieg, with a good result. The main event of the tour, Svjetlana Bukvich and Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company A CONCERT OF NEW MUSIC, MOVEMENT, AND VIDEO ART, took place at the National Theater, as part of Sarajevo Winter Festival, now in its 31st season. On the program were electro-acoustic compositions from my latest release EVOLUTION (Big Round Records), along with the world premiere of I Never Saw You Cry, created for the very special electric violinist Melika Hadzic (Amsterdam). The terrific Carolyn Dorfman Dance (USA) performed a collage of their signature pieces, along with the techno savvy audience favorite, Interior Designs, for which I created the music. The trip was funded by a grant from USArtists International, and private donors. I am still landing from the experience.
I pick: Carolyn Dorfman and her unwavering vision; Ibrahim Spahic, the director of Winter fest Sarajevo, who manages the unmanageable; the gutsy violinist Melika Hadzic who jumped in last minute and rehearsed with me on Skype; the festival volunteers who carried me through the rapids with nuance and a gentle hand; the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Sarajevo, the American embassy in Sarajevo, the Jewish Community Center, Blow Up tech rental, and, of course, the Sarajevo taxi drivers who always tell it as it is.
In an uniquely complex part of the world I got people to work together, who otherwise wouldn’t. That feels good. My e-mails didn’t always produce the desired scaffolding ahead of time, so I was nervous. Miraculously, everything got done over the phone, from the moment I landed. I networked, I blackmailed, I inspired, and I talked in press and on TV. It was my hometown, after all. Around the fourth day into my multimedia occupation, I felt the magic starting to glue the particles of what was to become, according to the major Sarajevo newspaper Dnevni avaz, “a new theater aesthetic”.
During our time in Sarajevo, American dancers interacted with local ones. An acoustic and beautiful old theater founded in 1919, became, for a brief while, the hottest media destination in town. There was a huge project banner (!?) on the theater building. There was also the grumpy box office guy who, visibly transformed, had a grin on his face the morning after the performance. We had a full house, a standing ovation, and an audience that cried with us – joy, artistic freedom, possibility, power, all mixed, and reflecting off of one another. I want more of this. Making a place better because of art. A historical moment, which spells fragile? Not a problem. Emotional octanes without scrupulous disinfection? Went for it. The timing could not have been better, actually.
What now? The post-show deflated feelings permeate, while I watch the perky skyscrapers, and spring, teasing. The next project’s in view.
Get in touch and let me know about what inspires you art-wise on your part of the globe. And, if all else fails, you can always like me on Facebook.
Arguing Over Petty Things: Turkish Pop or Poop Art?
Talking about the relationship between art and politics corresponds to an intellectually provocative action for the vast majority. When we view history, we can see that art in Nazi Germany legitimized the position of high culture and added many symbols and images to the cultural missions of the Nazis. According to Walter Benjamin, fascism can be called as “aestheticized politics“.
Art in Turkish context has been instrumentalized by the ruling elites most of the time so far however this time it also seems that art is also used as a tool by the unaudited local governments. This article is an attempt to address the current debates around controversial sculptures dominating Turkish social media. The headline of this article has been given as an inspiration from the recent debates circulated on Twitter.
Turkey is famous for its plethora of historical places and impressive monuments. However the controversial sculptures built in some cities raised debates. A prominent Turkish artist Gürkan Coşkun has defended sculptures and statues that mostly stand at the entrances of the cities depicting things those cities are known for, saying that they were “examples of Turkish pop art.” According to Coşkun, “these artistic works are popular and absolutely creative,” and “Turkish contemporary art must follow these works’ steps. These are the symbols of the people of this region expressing themselves in their own ways.”
Some people reacted on social media over the artist’s evaluation and called these sculptures and statues as “poop art”. There are quite bizarre sculptures and statues built in some particular cities. For instance, in capital Ankara there is a T-Rex dinosaur statue and researcher Mete Sohtaoğlu in an ironic way says that it replaces ‘Transformers’ robot.
Journalist Arzu Geybulleva argues that Turkey’s spectacular city statues raise questions about art and corruption. In a detailed news-analysis she wrote, she said that “The watermelon statue in Diyarbakir reportedly cost 4.4 million Turkish Lira (517,000 US dollars)… The budget for these statues is not transparent and is often associated with corruption at the local government level.”
UNESCO open exhibition “The World in Faces” at its Paris headquarters
On Thursday, July 8, at the headquarters of UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in Paris, the exhibition “The World in Faces” of the famous Russian photographer Alexander Khimushin opened. The author personally presented a collection of more than 170 artistic photographic portraits of representatives of different peoples of the world, shot in authentic national dress in places of residence. The exhibition is dedicated to the upcoming International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples and Their Languages. It is a celebration of multiculturalism and our incredible ethnic diversity at its best.
“In the photographs from the project “The World in Faces” I express my philosophy of life, which has been formed over the years of travel. It was through meetings with representatives of different nationalities, contact with their cultures, that I came to understand that all of them – with an incredible ethnic diversity – are people just like you and me. They are simply trying to artificially divide us by borders and ideologies,” explains Khimushin.
The exhibition is a great way to tell the world about indigenous peoples and draw attention to their problems.
The people in Khimushin’s portraits managed to preserve their originality, traditions and former way of life. But it is more and more difficult for them to do this – small peoples are rapidly approaching complete extinction, the languages and traditions of their ancestors are forgotten. “The world in Faces” reminds how important it is not to let them disappear without a trace.
The idea to create a collection of photographic portraits of indigenous peoples in national dress and in their native environment was born in 2014, when Alexander had already accumulated a considerable amount of work done in the most exotic locations – from Samoa and Fiji to Swaziland. Since then, he has never stopped traveling around the world, and his project is growing and becoming a phenomenon.
“Initially, when I started working on the project, I had a dream – to exhibit at the UN. UNESCO is a UN structure that deals specifically with cultural issues and, accordingly, since I am engaged in the preservation of cultures, traditions, languages that are disappearing today – it was important and honorable for me to exhibit my works at UNESCO. I don’t know what will happen next. In principle, I think that these should be large international platforms, since the project goes beyond Russia. The project is worldwide. I’m not going to complete the project. I plan to travel and collect stories, photographs, from all over the world – and I will be glad to consider proposals for global exhibitions that would show us – humanity – that we live in this world are different, each has its own culture, traditions, we must respect people who belong to other cultures. At the same time, the general humanistic component is that the whole world is one and all people are brothers,” notes Khimushin.
In 2018, Khimushin went to the Russian Arctic – Taimyr. The result was a series of portraits of the region’s indigenous inhabitants – Dolgans, Nganasans, Enets, Nenets, Evenks.
“Taimyr is unique in that it is a distant, cold place. For me, this was not something new, since I grew up in Yakutia (the Far East of Russia is the cold pole on the planet), but it is the peoples living there – the Nenets, Dolgans, Nganasans, they have a unique culture, their way of life and reindeer husbandry have been preserved. It was interesting to visit, thanks to Norilsk Nickel (The world’s largest high-grade nickel and palladium producer), to get to these places. I would like to return to Taimyr, shoot more there, if there is such an opportunity,” the artist noted.
The Norilsk Nickel company, which takes an active part in the fate of the small peoples of the Arctic, supported the Khimushin project.
“Our company supports the work of Alexander Khimushin, because thanks to his work, the whole world can see amazing, beautiful people living in remote corners of our planet. Including representatives of the indigenous peoples of the North of Russia, who managed to preserve a unique, original culture and traditions. The preservation of nature, traditions and culture of indigenous peoples, support and new opportunities for the development of ancestral activities – these are the themes that bring countries, international and commercial organizations, artists and creators together, “said Tatyana Smirnova Head of Public Relations MMC Norilsk Nickel.
Khimushin became the first Russian photographer to have an exhibition at the UN headquarters in New York. Works from The World in Faces project were exhibited at the University of Lille in France, and for six months were broadcast on the screen of the world’s largest digital art center in Bordeaux.
The exhibition at the headquarters of UNESCO will run until the end of August 2021.
Russia, Egypt Launch the Year of Humanitarian Cooperation
Russia and Egypt have opened the next chapter in their bilateral relations as the Assistant Foreign Minister for Cultural Relations, Ambassador Mahmoud Talaat, described the launch of the Russia-Egypt Year of Humanitarian Cooperation as a “bright spot” in the history of joint relations.
Addressing the launch ceremony on behalf of Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Talaat said the event comes within the framework of strategic relations between the two countries that reflected in a humanitarian exchange document, which was signed by President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Sochi.
Both officials reviewed Cairo-Moscow distinguished relations that have been growing in all fields, mainly at the political, economic, scientific, cultural and social levels. They pointed out to the close historic ties binding both counties and their peoples.
Russia’s Deputy Minister of Culture Olga Yarilova who led the Russian delegation in the meeting emphasized the strength of relations between Cairo and Moscow. She added that the agenda of the Cairo-Moscow year of human exchange will include several cultural, tourism, sports, youth and educational events and activities among the two countries’ cities and regions.
Culture Minister Enas Abdel Dayem and Russia’s Deputy Minister of Culture Olga Yarilova jointly launched the kick-off event at the Cairo Opera House, in the presence of Chairman of the Cairo Opera Magdy Saber, alongside a number of ministers, ambassadors and leaders of the Ministry of Culture.
Beryozka (Berezka) Dance Ensemble, one of the internationally renowned and oldest Russian dance troupes, presented a number of artistic shows on Russian folklore. The Ensemble is a troupe of female dancers founded by Russian choreographer and dancer Nadezhda Nadezhdina in 1948 in the Soviet Union which specializes in performing in long gowns and moving across the stage as though on wheels or floating.
It is worth mentioning that Russia has been chosen as the guest of honor for the Ismailia International Festival for Documentary and Short Films, set for June 16-22.
The Egyptian culture and foreign ministries and Russian bodies concerned have prepared an agenda, including 23 cultural and artistic events throughout the whole year, with the participation of the culture ministry’s sectors and authorities. The cultural programmes will run till May 2022, and as part of the preparations for the second Russia-Africa summit planned for next year in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
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