Past Disquiet: Narratives and Ghosts from the International Art Exhibition for Palestine, 1978
Kristine Khouri and Rasha Salti
Tuesday, September 22, 7pm
Artists Space Books & Talks
55 Walker Street
The International Art Exhibition in Solidarity with Palestine was inaugurated in Beirut, Lebanon, in March 1978, and was intended as the seed collection for a museum in exile. Inspired by the Museum of Resistance in Exile in Solidarity with Salvador Allende, the museum took the form of an itinerant exhibition that was meant to tour until it could "repatriate" to Palestine. Organized by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), comprising almost 200 works, donated by 200 artists from nearly 30 countries, the exhibition remains one of the most ambitious, in scale and scope, to have ever been showcased in the Arab world until this day. Tragically, during the Israeli army's siege of Beirut in 1982, sustained shelling destroyed the building where the works were stored as well as the exhibition's archival and documentary traces.
This historical "ghost" exhibition has been an area of sustained research for Beirut-based writers and curators Kristine Khouri and Rasha Salti in recent years, culminating in the exhibition Past Disquiet: Narratives and Ghosts from the International Art Exhibition for Palestine, 1978, at the Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) this year. This exhibition revisited the world of art and political engagement among the international anti-imperialist left during the 1970s, uncovering the extraordinary networks of individuals and practices behind it. Using recorded testimonies and private archives it retraced the complicated mesh of networks of affiliation and solidarity that linked militant artists across the world in the context of the Cold War. The exhibition also addressed similar museographic initiatives centered on the impassioned defense of causes, and emerging from shared soil, such as the struggle against the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, and against apartheid in South Africa.
Khouri and Salti's presentation at Artists Space Books & Talks will focus on their research conducted towards the exhibition at MACBA, considering how their methodology responded to and intersected with the historical context of The International Art Exhibition in Solidarity with Palestine, and other such examples of political engagement rarely studied in prevailing contemporary historical narratives. Their talk parallels Past Disquiet's attempts to construct a speculative history of the PLO initiative and equivalent practices in the 1970s, and its address of the problematics of oral history, the trappings of memory, and of writing history in the absence of cogent archives.
Kristine Khouri is an independent researcher and writer. Khouri's research interests focus on the history of arts circulation and infrastructure in the Arab world. She curated The Founding Years (1969 - 1973): A Selection of Works from the Sultan Gallery Archives (2012) at the Sultan Gallery, Kuwait. She lives and works in Beirut.
Rasha Salti is a writer, researcher, curator and an international programmer for the Toronto International Film Festival. She lives in Beirut.
Together, Khouri and Salti are co-founders of the History of Arab Modernities in the Visual Arts Study Group, a research platform focused around the social history of art in the Arab world. They co-authored the paper, "Beirut's Musée Imaginaire: The promise of modernity in the age of mechanical reproduction," on the history of a 1957 exhibition of reproductions.
This presentation is supported by the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, and is part of the AFAC Cultural Week in New York 2015 entitled Uncover, Discover, Recover - Narratives from a Region in Transformation, running September 20th till the 26th.