Talking about art – aesthetic reflection in Egypt and Lebanon

Talking about art – aesthetic reflection in Egypt and Lebanon

Monique Bellan

The project sets out to explore the way art is debated and discussed in various media such as newspapers, magazines and archival material. During the first third of the twentieth century newspapers and magazines began to debate art exhibitions with greater intensity and frequency. As hitherto predominantly oral discussions of art gave way to written reviews, aesthetic categories and political contention generated a discourse that oscillated between conservative and “avant-gardist” points of view. The project focuses on Lebanon and Egypt and investigates developments that took place simultaneously in these two very diverse political and cultural contexts, drawing comparison with similar debates underway in Europe and elsewhere. Surrealism and other “avant-garde” movements, despite their relative novelty, generated artistic and political controversy and debate - oftentimes hotly disputed - on aesthetic as well as political questions concerning how notions such as “truth”, “beauty”, and “morality” could be perceived, challenged, and redefined in a society dominated by bourgeois values and ideals. Contemporary and avant-gardist critical perspectives constitute an institutional critique of the art academy, the nation, the family and any form of institutionalized religion. The project aims to delineate the most pertinent of these debates from the 1930s up to the present day, and to track a highly political discourse on art. The Egyptian Surrealist movement and its Lebanese counterparts, as well as the endeavor of contemporary art for liberation and emancipation, are analyzed against the backdrop of an artistic and political establishment.

Contact:

Dr. Monique Bellan (bellan@orient-institut.org)