This exhibition catalogue has been published with an essay by Mark Westmoreland about Akram Zaatari's artistic practice and his relationship with the AIF, a conversation between Chad Elias and Akram Zaatari, and a selection of annotated and illustrated collection entries from the archive by Ian B. Larson. The book also includes a selection of new work by the artist.
Far from presenting a historical account of the Arab Image Foundation (AIF), this book presents an artist's perspective, which is critical for understanding the organisation's practice. Through Akram Zaatari, one of AIF's founding members who played a key role in its development, the publication reflects on AIF's 20-year history and the multiple statuses of the photograph, as descriptive document, as object, as material value, as aesthetics and as memory. Zaatari's expansive work on photography and the practice of collecting, takes an archaeological approach to the medium, digging into the past, resurfacing with new narratives and resituating them in the contemporary.
Beyond showcasing a wide spectrum of visual representations of the Arab world, artists who constituted or used AIF's collection addressed radical questions about photographic documents and their function in our times. Projects engaged the writing of histories concerning the practice of ordinary people, small events and a society in general, resulting in new discourses related to the medium.
The exhibition will look at the dual status of the AIF itself, as an archive of photographic and collecting practices and as an artist-led initiative that left a visible mark on the artistic landscape of its times, signalling significant moments in its history and the critical debates generated throughout its evolution. Past projects and new artist productions related to the collection will be presented
Mark R. Westmoreland is Director of the Leiden School of Visual Ethnography at the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology of Leiden University. Prior to joining Leiden University, he taught at the University of Texas at Austin, the American University in Cairo, and Stockholm University. He is an award-winning filmmaker and has published widely in both scholarly journals and art catalogues.