Artists from the Middle East are often associated with narratives of struggle and rhetoric of the past. Some end up making works that are almost a response to a Western “tacit commission”—a term coined by Moroccan scholar Mohamed Rachdi—arbitrarily linking authenticity with traumatic storytelling.
I Heard You Laughing borrows its title from 14th century Persian poet Hafez’s book I Heard God Laughing, in which he lauded the joys of love, humor and irony, three clogged pillars of Middle-Eastern culture that are making a controversial comeback in the works of a younger generation of artists from the region.
I Heard You Laughing reflects on the importance of popular culture, the omnipresence of technologies and the role of music and dance, while tackling a form of vernacular ‘disorientalism’ and conveying a certain digital cosmopolitanism. It consists of selected music videos from iconic Middle-Eastern musicians of the 1950s-60s-70s alongside video works by contemporary artists that reflect the complexities of this often oversimplified ‘East-West’ configuration.
I Heard You Laughing is curated by Myriam Ben Salah and Martha Kirszenbaum with Sarah Abu Abdallah, Sophia Al-Maria, Fatima Al Qadiri and Khalid Al Gharaballi, Meriem Benanni, Bendaly Family, Fairuz, Googoosh, Ferhat .zgür and Dor Zlekha Levy.
Kunsthall Stavanger, Norway
Through 14 January, 2018
Courtesy of the gallery and the artists