Another Arab Spring

Fotofest International Biennial plans focus on photography of contemporary Middle East

Fotofest International Biennial plans focus on photography of contemporary Middle East

FotoFest 2014, Khaled Hafez
Khaled Hefez, The A77A Project: On Presidents & Superheroes (still from video), 2009 Photo courtesy of FotoFest
FotoFest 2014, Karin Adrian von Roques
Karin Adrian von Roques, FotoFest 2014 Biennial curator Photo by Franz Fischer
FotoFest 2014, Khaled Hafez
FotoFest 2014, Karin Adrian von Roques

On the heels of last spring's extensive exploration of Russian photography, Fotofest has announced it will focus on contemporary Arab photo-related art during its 15th International Biennial in spring 2014.

Taking on lead curatorial duties will be Karin Adrian von Roques — a Germany-based art historian who has produced dozens of exhibitions on 20th- and 21st-century Arab art throughout the Middle East. With numerous book titles to her credit, von Roques has earned a reputation in Europe for helping to expose contemporary Arab artists to a broader international audience.

For the 15th International Biennial in spring 2014, Fotofest announced it will focus on contemporary Arab photography and photo-based art.

"Fotofest has worked with Karin for a number of years, well before the Arab spring revolts, to bring a show to Houston," Fotofest press officer Vinod Hopson tells CultureMap.

"We felt he time was right to introduce these challenging contemporary artists to the United States."

While the Arabic world can be defined politically and linguistically to include swaths of north Africa and southwest Asia, Hopson says biennial curators will concentrate on countries like Iraq, Syria and Egypt, where ethnically-Arab groups have thrived continuously since pre-Islamic and pre-Christian times.

In a recent statement, von Roques outlines some of the thematic components she and her staff hope to include in the forthcoming biennial — the emergence of secular culture in modern societies; senses of belonging and estrangement; the complexities of East-West relationships; the rapidity of social, economic and environmental change; and the position of women in Arab societies.

Though most of the major artists have been secured for the biennial, the organization is still coordinating with the curator to compile its roster of younger, up-and-coming talent. The final list of participants is expected in late summer.

The upcoming biennial also will be accompanied by Discoveries of the Meeting Place, a non-thematic exhibition of 10 artists selected from portfolio review sessions at the recent 2012 Biennial.

In slightly more than a year, the 15th Fotofest International Biennial will run from Mar. 15 through April 27, 2014. Visit the Fotofest website for details.