Maha Maamoun, Domestic Tourism II (2009)[Maha Maamoun, Domestic Tourism II 2009]

The ICA, in partnership with the Arab British Centre, is delighted to announce Whose Gaze Is It Anyway?, a display curated by Omar Kholeif, that looks at the history of Arab pop culture through printed matter – posters, notebooks, diaries and book covers, as well as through film and video will be shown between 2 September – 5 October 2014 at the Fox Reading Room, Institute of Contemporary Arts only a short walk from Jermyn Street.
The inspiration behind this display began with the archive of Abboudi Bou Jaoudeh – a prolific collector whose underground treasure trove located in Beirut holds one of the vastest collections of Arab film memorabilia, from rare Arab film posters to cultural magazines published from the 1930s to the present day.

Arab_Film_Posters1[KIT KAT (El Kit Kat in Arabic) by the Egyptian director Daoud Abdel Sayed 1991]

At the ICA, rare film posters from the archive will be presented in the UK for the first time. These precious works from a golden age sit alongside a newly commissioned work by Sophia Al-Maria who presents an imaginary poster and sketchbook for her unfinished debut feature film, Beretta, a rape-revenge thriller set in Cairo, which she has been attempting to produce over the past three years.

Also from Bou Jaoudeh’s archive is a specially curated selection of historic publications curated by Beirut and Amsterdam-based artist Mounira Al-Solh.

These works are bookended by an exploration into different forms of cultural iconography. Maha Maamoun presents Domestic Tourism II (2009), a film that seeks to challenge how the image of the Egyptian pyramids has been used by the world’s tourist industry. Reworking historic film footage in which the pyramids are featured as part of the backdrop, Maamoun’s work reveals how the pyramids have acted as a nostalgic symbol for a flawed modern country.

Arab_Film_Posters2[THE SPARROW (Al Asfour in Arabic) by the Egyptian director Youssef Chahine 1972]

Raed Yassin’s ebullient single-channel video work, Disco (2010), tells the story of the artist’s father, a disco-addict and fashion designer who leaves his family to become a star in the Egyptian horror film industry. However, this quickly spirals into fiction where the father becomes the Egyptian film star Mahmoud Yassin (who shares the director’s family name). The interplay of image and text explores a generation’s fascination with celebrity, forging a story about abandonment, voyage, longing and stardom.

Arab_Film_Posters3[AROUND THE PINK HOUSE (El Beit el Zahri in Arabic) by the Lebanese directors Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige 1999]
[Images all courtesy of Abboudi Abu Jawdeh]

Collectively, these works raise pertinent points about how the popular gaze is constructed from within the Arab world.

‘Whose Gaze Is It Anyway? will be shown between 2 September – 5 October 2014 at the Fox Reading Room.  This exhibition is part of Safar: The Festival of Popular Arab Cinema (19 – 25 September 2014). Organised by the Arab British Centre. The festival film programme is available here

Institute of Contemporary Arts (The Mall, London, SW1Y 5AH)