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News :: Education : Human Rights : Organizing : Politics : War and Militarism
History Recalls and Nothing Changes
06 Feb 2007
From January to February Northeastern University hosted History Recalls, an exhibit addressing the effects of conflict and war through an international collaboration of artists. Currently the exhibit features the work of four artists who focus their diverse experiences on Lebanon and Iran. Artist and organizer Naveed Nour wants to create a venue to bring together the multiple perspectives about conflict. The exhibit has just finished its run in Boston, and the collaborative effort plans to include more artists while traveling to Australia, as well as other points.
The images organized by artist, hang untitled and undated. I had the opportunity to speak with Naveed Nour, and he explained his hope that this will decontextualize impact of violence and conflict from a specific region to encompass the human experience of violence. Nour also hopes to include more artists in the future, expanding the discussions represented in History Recalls, and Nothing Changes. The two decades of images gathered for this exhibit describe the adaptability and strength of people.

The exhibit contrasted a variety of media as well as perspectives about conflict. Raina Matar's large format black and white photographs dominate the back wall hung on a simple drape of black cloth. The photographs capture a loving moment between a mother and daughter, a man exploring the maze like chaos of a wrecked building, and a woman who finds solitude standing high above the city. Intimacy between people and their setting forefronts the different levels of rebuilding that occur in a conflict zone. The striking contrasts between a torn landscape and the continuity of everyday life. Matar explains in her statement her desire to portray "how quickly reconstruction is set to begin and how resilient people become." When I spoke with Nour, he referred to Matar as the "contemporary exclamation point" of History Recalls. Her work humanizes the experience of living in a conflict zone.

Matar's work expands from the wall into a collaborative floor installation created with Zohreh Firouzbadian. The floor piece is called "Reflection," unnamed in the exhibition, continually develops through the addition of new objects. Relics such as photographic negatives safely ensconced in plastic, found objects such as a CD, newspaper articles, as well as rocks, dirt, and images of rubble from Lebanon draw viewers into the piece. The audience traces the circular boundary to encounter objects from all sides. This piece is the most current of the exhibited art, reflecting the collaboration seen in other aspects of the exhibit. Nour hopes the installation will continually change following the evolution of current events.

The other artists in the exhibit create well-phrased sentences around Matar’s punctuation. Nour’s own work compiles images of children acting as children and playing under the watchful eye a military presence. One of his pieces, from which the name “History Recalls” derives, is a collage fabricated from two-inch square sections of photographs. The images are almost large enough to stand alone, as many separate images when viewed up close, but distance draws out the larger picture. The repeated image of a young man subdivided vertically appears on both sides of the piece. His gaze absorbs and escapes from the presence of guns and police mug shots juxtaposed with playground scenes. Scattered below the wall piece rested square sections of photograph excised from the final piece, like the remnants of life.

Nasser Palangi emphasizes swirling lines and delicate shading while portraying the affect of militarization on the women of Iran. The images seem still and settled, communicating a calmness disrupted by the abrupt lines and edges of guns. Farieh Zariv’s mixed media pieces capture stark moments. A woman stands alone on the street, arms outstretched. A majority of the print is dark, with bright highlights on the woman that make her rise from the static image.

“History Recalls” wants to establish an evolving dialogue on conflicts around the world. The art encourages viewers to foster an empathetic reaction to a type of violence that Americans too often associate with sanitized news broadcasts and video games. The straightforward images and presentation create, as Nour said, “a piece close to reality that can talk to people.” These images evoke life in Iran, Lebanon, New Orleans, and Boston. The tragedy embodied in these images crosses boundaries and time zones.

Now that the exhibit has closed in Boston, the organizers are preparing to add more artists, both professional and amateur. Their goal to foster dialogue calls for contributions from as many perspectives as possible. The exhibit will change with every viewer who enters and participates in the dialogue, every person who recognizes the challenges associated with recovering from conflict and violence. I hope the exhibit will continue and grow; presenting more art that stimulates dialogue and creates positive change in the world.
HR Post Card jan2007.jpg
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