The Film & Visual Studies Screen Studies Workshop presents
Researcher, writer, curator of art and film
Please note: due to University precautions surrounding the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID 2019) outbreak, this event has been **CANCELLED**
I don’t remember the exact date of when I started referring to myself with regards to my métier as a “curator”, whether it was in the 1990s or in the first or second decade of the 2000s. The curators we encountered were men and women between the ages of 30 and 50, who were attached to institutions of different size, European and North American, who started visiting Beirut with a mission to meet artists, conduct studio visits and see art works because they were commissioned to curate an exhibition or a biennial and were curious to expand the worldly purview of their engagement with contemporary art. It took us, the practitioners of the “south”, a few years until we started calling ourselves curators as well. In the meantime, I have been confronted to and reflecting on images and image-making.
Our métier meant, or implied, the internalization of indexes and practices of categorizing and cataloguing images, towards an order that served several purposes: producing exhibitions, producing poetics, knowledge and market value. And throughout the years, I have come across images (still or moving) that elude, escape, challenge or scramble the prevailing codes of deciphering, ordering and displaying. I collected them –and their stories– in a folder that eventually earned the title “The Secret Life of Images”.
In 2009, with a colleague, I set out on research project around a very curious international art exhibition that took place in Beirut in 1978, in the middle of Lebanon’s Civil War, that seems to have lapsed entirely from all art historical accounts of exhibition history in the region, or the biographies of the illustrious artists that participated in it. The project led us to the under-researched, forgotten or blinded, recent history of how international solidarity in the realm of art between the 1960s and the 1980s. We focused on four cases of international solidarity, namely in the struggle against the Pinochet dictatorship, the Apartheid regime in South Africa, in support of the Sandinista revolution and the Palestinian people’s struggle. We were dealing with histories that have scant, dispersed or destroyed archival traces, few of which still exist in institutions, we were also dealing with a wounded past, a militant production of art attached to struggles of liberation conducted in the framework of exile, and thus we had to rely on a great deal of oral testimonies, a number of which could not “fact-checked”.
This project enriched significantly my perception of the “secret life of images” and I began to question the supremacy of the curator as the prime mover in the emergence and circulation of images. Building on W.J.T. Mitchell’s seminal work –What Do Images Want?–around the speculative agency of images, I am beginning to believe that images “use” curators and not the reverse. The lecture will revisit images and their stories to interrogate the codes of perception, canons of iconology and curatorial practice, speculating on the secret life of images.
Rasha Salti is a researcher, writer and curator of art and film, working and living between Beirut and Berlin. She co-curated several film programs including The Road to Damascus, with Richard Peña, a retrospective of Syrian cinema that toured worldwide (2006-2008); The Calm Before the Storm, a Retrospective of Lebanese Cinema, also with Richard Peña and presented at Lincoln Center (2009), and Mapping Subjectivity: Experimentation in Arab Cinema from the 1960s until Now, with Jytte Jensen (2010-2012) showcased at the MoMA in New York. Salti has also collaborated with different festivals as a programmer, including the Abu Dhabi International Film Festival (2009-2010), and the Toronto International Film Festival (2011-2015). At present she is the commissioning editor for La Lucarne, the experimental documentary program for Arte France.
Co-sponsors: Film & Visual Studies Screen Studies Workshop, Film & Visual Studies Graduate Colloquium, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Contact: Emily Amendola