[artinfo] Obrist in Qatar

Sári Stenczer stenczer at gmail.com
Mon Nov 25 16:08:07 CET 2013


Dear Hans-Ulrich Obrist,

On curateaward.org, you're launching a call for project with a very weird
video (shown on their website) .

The production budget and the lucky winner's fees are not mentioned. A
dreamed situation! The Qatar Museum Authorities hosting the project are
"estimated to spend $1 billion per year on art – or roughly 30 times what
MoMA spent on artwork in its last financial year and a whopping 175 times
what Tate invested".
What's even more extraordinary is that there is no restriction of theme.
I'd very much like to submit the project I'm currently working on: "The
biggest painting show - ever" (view the tumblr
read the press release <http://biggestpaintingshowever.tumblr.com/manifesto>),
but I fear it might be awfully haram (illicit or against Muslim
principles). Far from me to want to indulge in "Qatar bashing" as Jaham
Al-Kuwari, Qatari ambassador in France has it (JDD in
But I must admit I have serious questions though, in particular around the
exercise in adapting to totalitarian guidelines.

*NOTHING WILL BE SAID *if one is being raped or if one witnesses an
assault. You might remember Eman al Obiedi, who dared to accuse publicly
Libyan militaries to have abused her and was been sent back to her country.
(Amnesty International<http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/qatars-deportation-eman-al-obeidi-violates-international-law-2011-06-03>)
As three residents out of four are men (The
I would urge all female members of the team to wear whatever it takes to

*NO COMMENT WILL BE MADE* on the veil worn by Sheikha Al-Mayassa, cheikh
Jassim bin Abdul Aziz Al-Thani Al-Wajbah's wife number two, head of the
Qatar Museum Authorities, and number one of the ten most important people
in the art world
It might be peculiar to discuss ones feminist practice with someone obeying
this precept (The Quran,
and accepting "to lower their gaze and be modest" (The Quran,
We shall also try not to think about the metaphor "your wife is your field,
use it as you please..".(The Quran, 2v

*FORGET ABOUT YOUR RIGHTS* if you don't want to end up like Zahir Belounis,
the French professional footballer trapped there since June 2012 because of
a legal dispute with his former club al-Jaish, over two years' unpaid
wages. If he wants to get out, he needs to withdraw his complaint (The
That is very well understood, Hans-Ulrich. The curator and artists will be
asked to shut their mouth if anything goes wrong in terms of work contract
- or as a matter of fact anything at all.

*DO NOT SUPPORT* Shiite rebellions. Keep in mind the way their last
demonstration was repressed. Anyway everybody knows Qatar provide arms to
the djihadists of Sunnite Islamist movements. And seven billion dollars
given to the Egyptian Muslim Brothers when they were still in power, that
was quite something, wasn't it? (Monde Diplomatique in

want it to be removed like Adel Abdessemed's monumental bronze sculpture of
Zidane, as an "anti-Islamic idol". (Al
Apparently, the sharia law doesn't quite apply inside. Which is quite weird
as Sheikh Ibn Baz states that the prophet said "Angels will not enter a
house where there's an image or a dog." (Al-Bukhari & Muslim in Al-Fatawa
min Silsilati Kitab id-Da'wa, Vol. 1, pp. 19-20 and Fatawa 'Ulama' il-Balad
il-Haram, pg.568.)

*FORGET NUDITY*, if you don't want your work to be taken away as were the
antique Greek athletes sculptures during "The Olympics – Past and
Present" exhibition at Alriwaq Doha last April. OK. Let's make a note of

*ONLY GOOD THINGS ABOUT THE ROYAL FAMILY* if you don't want to spend the
next fifteen years in prison like Mohamed Ibn Al-Dheeb, the poet who dared
write a poem that was critical of the royal family (Amnesty
OK, I'll make a note of it and forward it to the team.

*NO HISTORICAL REFERENCES*, not even what you might find in A-level history
books, as you don't want to be incarcerated as was Hafid Adnani, former
director of the Doha's French lycée, accused of "anti-Muslim attitude". It
seems that there was a disagreement between the secular mission and the
Qatar authorities on the content of history and biology books.

*NO MENTION OF ANOTHER RELIGION* in front of a Qatari under 18.
No African fetish, no Budhas... no crucifixions... no philosophy... Pfff,
it's too long a list to write it.

*NO GAY CURATORS, NO GAY ARTISTS* and no gay partners. No gay nothing
nowhere. It's illegal. Good for you you're straight Hand-Ulrich! And if you
think you're clever and can fool customs, you might not pass the detection
system they're setting up to prevent homosexuals from entering the country.

*NO PUBLIC DEMONSTRATION OF AFFECTION* between a man and a woman. OK. I'll
take it might not really be welcome inside the museum either, but one must
check it out... What about demonstration of annoyance? Of respect? Of

*NO ISRAELI CURATOR OR ARTISTS*, as people with Israeli passports cannot
enter the country. What about if I'm called Sarah Rosenblum, do you think I
should still apply, Hans-Ulrich?

if you have converted to another religion, as the freedom of conscience is
not accepted there, as in all other countries where Islam is the official
religion. Apostasy is punishable by death as Youssef al-Qaradawi,
Al-Jazeera tele-islamist states so.
This Sharia specialist will also answers every Friday questions you might
have about what's licit or not, like when you can beat your wife, and where
and how you can punch. He also regularly reminds the believers of the
Jihad's obligation.

*ACCEPT GENDER SEGREGATION ON SITE*. If it's like in Paris' Islamic Bank of
Qatar, men enter through an impressive golden door when women are asked to
enter by the back door, we'll deal with it... It's probably quite something
to experiment such segregation anyway. On the other hand, it might be more
complicated if a team of male and female artists want to do some research
in the university's library as there's one for each sex.

*FORGET SLAVERY:* The curator and the team of artists are advised not to
look at videos showing workers begging for their passports before going
there, or before writing their project, as slavery is, in this case,
cultural difference. The workers are "adopted" by Qatari masters according
to the Sharia law. They can't change job, leave the country, get a driving
licence, rent a flat or open an bank account without the permission of
their sponsors or kafils. The team should also try and forget about the
announced death rate on the vaginal football stadium as 4000 people might
lose their life before it opens. (The

But when I say forget, it's not quite as simple as that. For his Mathaf's
exhibition Adel Abdessemed showed several pieces, which could be seen as
political critique, but which haven't been censored. In "Shams" (which
means "deception" or "simulacrum"), he has reconstituted a building site
where workers carry enormous bag on their shoulders under the surveillance
of armed guards. In the entrance hall, he has installed a monumental vase
covered with false dynamites sticks and pseudo-bombs linked to alarm clocks
(Le Monde<http://www.lemonde.fr/culture/article/2013/10/26/doha-s-offre-les-ballons-d-or-de-l-art-contemporain_3503551_3246.html>)
These two pieces haven't been censured because they are not contrary to
islamic practices and laws. And what we might think is a critic might not
quite be so... SO it you fancy a huge installation dealing with the putsch
habits in the country, the "Bidoun", Bedouins without nationality living in
Qatar, on the fact that a Qatari who marries a non-Muslim woman would loose
part of his income, or that women can marry foreigners (C. Chesnot, G.
Malbrunot "Qatar")... that should be possible.

Dear Hans-Ulrich, are you taking the piss out of the Qatari by being part
of this project, knowing that insofar as possible, one shall respect the
cultural specificities from so generous hosts? Is it to awake the Western
art world with a performative and political message? Is the joke of them or
on us?

It's very nice of them to invite whoever wants to curate, but is because
you know most professionals won't even think twice about it? Would you for
example imagine a surgeon-award, open to everybody? This is weird. Cheikha
Moza did a lot to try and change women's condition there, like by
nominating the Korean musician Han-na Chang at the head of the Qatar
Philharmonic orchestra, but I still have serious doubts. Especially with a
video that looks like a Tosco add, nobody in the art world will think your
investment in this project can be genuine or non-cynical...

Please tell me, Hans, what do you do, or what do you suggest we should do

- women's inferiority
- homosexuality's illegality
- the non freedom of conscience
- the hatred of Jewish people
- slavery
- the negation of history

Would you advice us to adapt to these fascist principles? Should we accept
them as difference(s)? Like one should have accepted Nazi's difference when
they offered lost of money? Should one tolerate this gender apartheid? What
for? *What's the idea behind the project?*Is this a new form of
colonisation "we'll come to you and show you who to do it, and at the same
time, we'll try and make you understand about homosexuality and women being
equal to men.”? Is it that maybe something will come out? When there's no
budget limit, there must be ways around differences... let's forget about
women's inferiority for a while as well as homosexuality being illegal,
they'll grow out of it eventually...

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