Forum Fellows 2012
Forum Fellows: Deadline Drama (Writing Against the Present)
Critics Kaelen Wilson-Goldie and Murtaza Vali with the 2012 Forum Fellows Rayya Badran, Jyoti Dhar, Rijin Sahakian and Shahira Issa report on a week of daily deadlines, and discuss the imperatives and impediments of writing with and against the tide of present history.
In response to the Global Art Forum’s theme of ‘The Medium of Media’, the Forum Fellows returned in 2012 as an intensive writing workshop and a series of closed-door, round-table discussions, culminating in a public presentation staged on the final day of the Forum in Dubai. Organised by critic Kaelen Wilson-Goldie, the program brought together a dynamic group of writers, including artists, curators and cultural practitioners who consider writing a crucial part of their practice.
This year’s fellows are the writer Rayya Badran (Beirut), the critic and curator Jyoti Dhar (Delhi and Dubai), the artist Shahira Issa (Cairo) and the writer and curator Rijin Sahakian (founder of Echo/Sada for Contemporary Iraqi Art).
The 2012 edition of the fellowship program was plotted along two axes. The first axis was a series of discussion sessions arranged around notions of obsession and neglect. The Forum Fellows invited a number of people from the wider fair community to join in debates about the tensions and pressures that are brought to bear on writing as criticism, journalism and an artistic practice in and of itself. Of particular interest was overcoming the two-part problem of obsessing over the present (keeping pace with the political upheavals, financial collapses and social ruptures of the past year, for example) while neglecting the past (failing to make critical reflection or serious art historical research an integral part of the writing process).
The second axis was an intensive writing workshop, for which the participants produced and critiqued short texts on a daily basis. Without the imperative to publish, the workshop seeked to encourage formal innovation and stylistic experimentation, with an emphasis on the performative potential of texts created amid inevitably strange circumstances – the noncommercial, discursive platform of a commercial art fair in Dubai. While the shape, tone and format of the various texts remained open, some of the possible story structures that the fellows responded to included: propositions, problematics, provocations, the world of the fair, the world beyond, mythologies of the city, secrets, rumours, mysteries and reprimands.
The fellowship program came to an end on the last day of the Global Art Forum with a public presentation. The form of the presentation itself – a panel discussion, a set of tentative conclusions, a collection of text-heavy leaflets, a social media meme, a reading or something else entirely – was determined by the fellows during their time together, as an exercise in coming up with a dynamic way to present written material in real time.
The 2012 edition of the Forum Fellows was conceived, in part, as a response to Oraib Toukan’s White Elephant, commissioned by Art Dubai Projects in 2011, which turned a piece of prime art-fair real estate into a refuge and a void. In modest fashion, the fellowship program hoped to fill in (and test out) the metaphoric space that Toukan’s piece created in 2011.
Kaelen Wilson-Goldie is a writer and critic based in Beirut. She is a contributing editor for Bidoun, writes a column for Frieze, contributes regularly to Artforum, and covers contemporary art and culture for the Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star. She has written numerous essays for journals, anthologies, and exhibition catalogues.
Rayya Badran (b. 1984, Beirut, Lebanon) is a writer based in Beirut. Her first publication, Radiophonic Voice(s) was published by Ashkal Alwan during Homeworks 5 in 2010. She is currently working on short form sound pieces including (In)action.
Shahira Issa (b.1982) is currently working on a long-term project that explores the tension between artistic impulses and notions of culture that inform the circulation of artworks. In 2008, Issa co-founded Pericentre Projects that developed the ongoing project Kharita. In 2009, she was nominated for the 5th Bonaldi Art Prize. Issa lives and works in Cairo.
Jyoti Dhar is currently Rapporteur and Editor of Sarai’s ‘City as Studio 02’ project in Delhi. She was Critic-in-Residence for KHOJ’s residency on Art, Science and Ecology and curated ‘In Decay’, Ralf Ziervogel’s solo at Carbon 12 gallery in Dubai. She regularly contributes to Art Asia Pacific and Harper’s Bazaar Art.
Rijin Sahakian (b. 1978, Baghdad, Iraq) has developed multidisciplinary arts programs in the United States and internationally. She received her M.A. in Contemporary Art and Policy from New York University. She was awarded a graduate Fulbright Fellowship in Amman, Jordan, where she was also a visiting scholar at the Columbia University Middle East Research Center. Sahakian founded Sada (Echo) for Contemporary Iraqi Art in 2010, which she currently directs.
In 2011, the Forum Fellows programme was launched with a focus on five cities -- Antakya, Dhaka, Karachi, Jerusalem and Tehran. Art Dubai’s Curatorial Advisory Board and other leading curators, artists and gallerists nominated young curators and arts administrators to take part; the selected candidates (who attended the Forum and took part in presentations), included: Emrah Gökdemir (Antakya), Salauddin Ahmed (Dhaka), Mirna Bamieh (Jerusalem), Sumbul Khan (Karachi), Sohrab M. Kashani (Tehran) and Noor Al Suwaidi (Abu Dhabi).