by Sundus Arshad

The Muslim lifestile magazine, UK, July 2007

Undo is an eclectic assortment of showings by a variety of artists whose primary aim is to challenge the existing stereotypes concerning the Middle East.

The exhibition’s main theme is that of conflict, and it is, as curator Predrag Pajdic agrees, an opening for art to be used as a tool in the currently one-dimensional view of Middle Eastern issues. Many of the artist featured have a connection with the Middle East, but the exhibition’s significance lies in the non-religious and political elements which are focused upon in each unique piece. The boundaries of political stance are broken and loyalties and associations are eliminated in this fresh new portrayal of ideas. Some are more complex than others. For instance, the exhibit which shows cut out paper in the shape of people is simple yet effective method of highlighting lives being thrown away, reminiscent of any massacre, in the Middle East or elsewhere.

The work of Yasmeen Al Awadi is light-hearted. It depicts a niqab-wearing Barbie doll, the piece itself named ‘Free as a Bird’. It is a positive approach to analyse the issue of feminism, contributing to the theme of conflict with its conversely controversial title and making light of the social climate in the Middle East today.

The artists exhibiting their work have a strong shared passion, and strive to push the boundaries, whilst relegating the Orientalist nature of the work of other Middle Eastern artists; this exhibition does not adhere to preconceptions or misgivings about the Middle East and in fact delivers the opposite, Predrag states, “We are trying to build and destroy stereotypes that exist of Muslims and the Middle East that are often portrayed in the media. Since September 11th so many ugly things have happened and our aim is to act as a tool to bring better understanding.” It certainly does just that. “Beyond Guilt: The Trilogy” is an exhibit which shows a series of short videos depicting aspects of challenges facing Middle Eastern culture, aside from now almost ‘typical’ images of the Middle East Crises. These videos range from the dark presentation of underground prostitution, where we witness a woman being unconventionally explicit about her experiences, to the more light-hearted depiction of the journey of a group of Iraqi men who are concerned with meeting girls that they have communicated with via the internet. Such a simple portrayal of the life of normal youth in the Middle East acts as a catalyst for breaking the mould of the image that is often constructed by the media.

In essence, the exhibition draws on the parallel relationship rather than the disparity, between the East and the West. Artists from Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, Iran Syria and Kuwait have brought their own perspectives and distanced themselves from the clichéd portrayal of the Middle East and by doing so offer a fresh and more optimistic outlook on the region today.

*This exhibition is an introduction to “Recognise”, the large-scale contemporary art exhibition held at an old warehouse in Finsbury Park running from 22nd of June - 7th of September 2007.