UNDO AT DAZED GALLERY
By John-Paul Pryor
'Undo': it's a word heavy with social connotations. In any given human situation it suggests varying degrees of trespass, regret, forgiveness and subsequent reconciliation - connotations that become even more acutely profound when the word is used to describe an art exhibition that deals in the arena of conflict, misrepresentation and human tragedy that is the twenty-first century Middle East.
Such a title uncompromisingly poses the fundamental question as to whether art can realistically help to untie such an enormously tangled web, considering that from every single violent death or misleading news broadcast there are ever-widening concentric circles of sorrow, misunderstanding, hatred and anger that have a domino effect on generations of families and friends the world over; even to attempt to untie such deeply entrenched psychological knots of guilt and blame is surely to push Sisyphus' mythical rock up an increasingly steep mountain.
BAGHDAD 2002, photograph
However, 'Undo' at The Dazed Gallery, the second part of curator Predrag Pajdic's integral and ambitious 'In Focus' initiative, intends to do just that. The exhibition features incredibly challenging work from artists based in Egypt, Palestine, Iraq, Syria and Iran, all of whom are presenting works that have never been seen before in the West, dealing in the searing personal subject matter of bereavement, conflict, tension and loss. There are British artists on display here too, Leigh Matthewman's photographs of Baghdad were taken only moments before the bombs began to fall,and are particularly affecting when you consider the fact that Matthewman travelled to Baghdad specifically to form part of a human shield.
These works shall almost certainly change many held Western perspectives about the Middle East and hopefully they shall also go some way towards developing a greater sense of cultural understanding, empathy, reconciliation and - essentially - love, which in these times, according to the indefatigable Pajdic, is the only worthwhile undertaking of any true artist; for as Camus pointed out, "The struggle itself is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy."