Start > Ausstellungen > Common Grounds | DEUTSCH

Museum Villa Stuck Museum Villa Stuck

Common Grounds

Artists and Works

Hazem Harb (b. 1980) reflects in various media on the correlation of history and architecture. In installations he examines existing power structures and possible layers of interpretation. His wall piece “Till The End” (2014), which consists of six rectangular forms, visualizes both openness and hermetic closure. In the brightly colored, geometric-abstract large-scale works of the 2013 “Al Baseera” series (2013) Harb analyzes habits of seeing that oscillate between influences of western art and tradition.

Susan Hefuna (b. 1967) pursues an artistic interest in public spaces and their conditions. In the exhibition she shows the 16-part series “Red Buildings” (2012) as well as the 30-part series “Sharjah Ceilings” (2012). On several layers of transparent paper Susan Hefuna draws a web of lines that represents either streets in the public spaces of cities or interiors, whose structures the artist has studied intensively. The cubes of the 70-part installation “Afaf” (2014) were made from palm wood according to an ancient craft tradition of the Nile delta. As crates used to display wares these baskets connote the public space of Cairo. In four vitrines, the “Vitrines of Afaf” (2007), Hefuna displays memorabilia of four different women. They stand for the personal histories of women who are invisible in Egypt’s society and public space.

The role of women in Egypt is also addressed in the video installations of Sophia Al Maria (b. 1979). Her first unfinished film, “Beretta,” was to be about a woman taking revenge on her tormentors. The leading actress, Dina Sherbini, was arrested before the work was finished. “Class A” (2014) is a tribute to Dina Sherbini; in faceted shots we see the charismatic face of the actress as she is giving an interview. In auditions Al Maria tried to find a replacement. These scenes are assembled in her work “Class B.”

Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige (both b. 1969) took the real story of a Beirut photographer as the starting point for their multi-part series “Wonder Beirut” (1997–2006). On various abstracted levels they trace the destruction inflicted on the Lebanese city by war. Hadjithomas and Joreige are preservers of images that shape the collective memory of Beirut. The pictures were taken by the photographer Abdalah Farrah and in 1968 published as postcards highlighting Beirut’s modernity and international flair. After the civil war erupted, Farah matched his negatives to the picture of reality. Along with the historical and sculptural process performed by Farrah, the approach of the latent image serves the artist duo to reveal hidden history. Latent images are images on a film that have not yet been developed: they are not visible and yet they are evidence of a time that has passed.

Bouchra Khalili’s 2014 film “Garden Conversation” is poetic and complex. The conversation between the freedom fighters Ernesto “Che” Guevara and Abdelkarim Al Khattabi (1882–1963), the protagonist of the Rif war – played in the film by a man and a woman – takes the shape of a multi-layered structure that questions historical, geographic, linguistic, and visual premises. Khalili’s search for individual histories that allow universally valid statements about our society is also the theme of her second work, “The Constellations” (2011). In this project six emigrants talk about their escape by marking their arduous journey on a map; places that are otherwise off the beaten track move into focus.

Legibility and understanding are also, in a nuanced way, what Nasser Al Salem (b. 1984) is about. His mirror piece titled “And Also In Your Own Selves, Do You Not See?” (2012) throws viewers back on themselves. With echoes of Minimal Art and the Middle Eastern tradition of mirror objects, Nasser Al Salem combines calligraphy with the formal idiom of modern western art. As a trained calligrapher and architect he is deeply bound up with the tradition of his home town of Mecca. In his sculpture “They Will Be Seen Competing in Constructing Lofty Buildings” (2014) he uses concrete building blocks to create Arabic writing that only becomes legible when seen from above. The concrete he uses as material adds another layer of meaning to the phrase.

Ahmed Mater (b. 1979) questions collective visual memory and its structure in impressive series of works. Mater grew up in Abha in southern Saudi-Arabia and lives and works as a physician in Jeddah. The transformation of the Holy City of Mecca is the subject of two series which are for the first time shown in Germany. The dissemination of images of the holy city and the great pilgrimage, the Hajj, serves Mater to examine social processes. The installation “View Masters and Slide Projectors” (1960–1980 / 1980–2000 / 2000–2020) shows pictures from three View-Masters, stereoscopic devices used for viewing slides, usually of tourist attractions. Bought as souvenirs during the Hajj, these images spread the city’s myth. Mater displays the individual slides as photographic prints that offer a nostalgic view of the main sites of the city as well as images of the masses of pilgrims. The dynamic and rapid changes that Mecca is undergoing are go hand in hand with the loss of traditional sites. Mater captures these changed structures in the photographs of his series “The Desert of Pharan” (2012–2013).

Dor Guez (b. 1980) likewise saves images from being forgotten, offering an individual narrative. Guez’s concept involves a complex system of reference. “The Sick Man of Europe: The Painter” (2015) combines documentary tendencies and the visualization of personal history. The film’s protagonist is the painter D. Guez who shares the same surname and first name initial with the artist himself. The film replays a conversation between the two. The painter’s works are so-called scanograms, elaborately made copies of the original paintings. In showing these reproductions, Dor Guez is not so much interested in the subjects of the paintings themselves as in the traces of history.

Scientific aspirations, the possibilities of public space, and the reuse of buildings are aspects of the way in which DAAR operates. The works of DAAR ‒ Decolonising Architecture Art Residency (established in in Palestine in 2007 by Sandi Hilal, Alessandro Petti, and Eyal Weizmann) address social and political systems of control and separation in the Middle East, in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Presented within the exhibition is the project “Lawless Line,” which is about the 1967 partition of Palestine by means of lines drawn on the map. It shows the transformation of the line into an actual border and the legal and socio-political problems this involves.

Babak Golkar (b. 1979) also references spatial structures. For “Common Grounds” he developed a new work titled “Loos Opium Den – Center for Non-Strategic Reflections on Modernization” (2015), which addresses global trade. The historic trade route of the Silk Road, which connected East and West, is becoming a global web of economic, political and cultural goods through container ship traffic and overcoming tremendous logistic challenges. The container as an industrial product holds wares that know no limits. In Golkar’s concept the standard container becomes a site for the exchange ideas.

In the work of Parastou Forouhar (b. 1962) the ornamental becomes a sign of totalitarianism. The artist designed wallpaper with large-scale butterfly motifs (2015) for the Museum Villa Stuck, filling an entire wall of Franz von Stuck’s former painting studio with it. Upon closer inspection the beauty of the butterflies is superimposed with details of brutality. Forouhar assembles scenes of torture to create the butterfly images. What lies hidden underneath a pretty surface becomes a nightmare. The artist also incorporates her own personal history into her work. The violent death of her parents, Parvaneh and Dariush, in 1998 is a driving force behind this body of work.

Abbas Akhavan (b. 1979) visualizes public space through surrogates. His “Studies for a Hanging Garden” (2013–2014) show bronze casts of plants that only grow in the region between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. Akhavan arranges the plants on white linen sheets in a way that evokes an archaeological study and that, in its aspiration to preserve, is at the same time an artistic statement. The plants selected by Akhavan are endangered in their natural habitat, not least because of the Iraq war.