Under the patronage of the Kuwait National Council for Culture, Arts, and Letters, the Museum of Manufactured Response to Absence (MoMRtA) premieres as an intervention at the Museum of Modern Art in Kuwait on May 22, 2012 at 7 pm. MoMRtA is conceived in response to the absence of the people and the documents relating to the history of Palestinians in Kuwait, who formed a vibrant community from their arrival in 1936 until their departure enmasse following the Iraqi invasion in 1990.
Historically, the State of Kuwait was exceptionally receptive to large waves of Palestinian immigration due to its support for the Pan-Arab movement and its adoption of the Palestinian cause. Palestinians first arrived in Kuwait as visitors involved in educational missions around the time that oil was discovered in the Burgan Field in 1938. As a result of the 1948 and 1967
wars, more Palestinians settled there, and by 1990 Palestinians in Kuwait numbered 400,000. As Kuwait’s national development plans were set into motion, Palestinians there found themselves players in the golden era of the construction of the Kuwaiti nation. Prior to the age of armed struggle, Palestinians in Kuwait strove to persist in an environment striding steadily
towards progress and change while expectantly awaiting the materialization of a state of their own.
The Museum of Manufactured Response to Absence questions the impact of the presence or absence of minority communities and subcultures on the nations they take residence in. In specific, MoMRtA investigates the unchronicled impact of the unique Palestinian society that emerged in Kuwait, one that contributed to and lived the modernization of Kuwait and the pioneering projects undertaken in this vein. MoMRtA’s exploration is conducted through a collection of twenty-eight commissioned objects that purposefully conjure the fading of, and thereby recall, the golden era of Kuwaiti and Palestinian-Kuwaiti society. In light of the lack of collective images, narratives, and archives, memory is taken as the main point of reference for the museum’s objects. Fragile and fragmented, this is a memory that has been accumulated, dismantled, reassembled, and at times lost. The museum’s objects conflate the pieces of this recollected past in order to recognize and make sense of the present, an act that bestows them with an appearance of being at once real, impossible and unreal, and that addresses, imagines and reclaims the history and legacy of Palestinians in Kuwait.
MoMRtA includes works by Kamel Abu Yahya, Mohamed Abusal, May Batt, Pieke Bergmans, Bilal Chrif, Cevdet Erek, Bruno Fantoni, Mohssin Harraki, Ziad Hilal, Raed Ibrahim, Hakim Jamain, Rebecca Joselyn, Katharine Morling, Paul Rioblotti, Mohssin Al Tamar, Amin Tbakhi, George Vlosich, Khadijeh Yosef and Nabeel Younis. It is curated by Ala Younis and produced by MinRASY Projects.
Opening at the same time with MoMRtA and under the patronage of the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters, State of Kuwait, a sound installation by Tarek Atoui, conceived and produced by MinRASY projects, is presented at Museum of Modern Art in Kuwait. Unplified, is a commissioned work by the Lebanese sound artist, based on the sounds the characters in Ghassan Kanafani’s Men in the Sun would have experienced. Kanafani’s novella revolves around Palestinian illegal immigrants attempting to cross into Kuwait via Basra. Their fate is that of anyone crossing this treacherous path in the extreme conditions of August in an empty water tanker.
The debut of this sound installation is in Kuwait, on May 20, somewhere between Basra and Kuwait. Atoui prepares himself to return to a scene unspecified in the novella, and thus intentionally unspecified to the audience invited to witness Atoui’s representation of a human condition only prescribed to the consciousness of Palestinian literature of Kuwait by way of Kanafani. Atoui’s performance in the echoless vastness of the desert, unwitnessed, parallels the setting and eventuality of the destiny of the sounds, and humans themselves, heard by the men in the sun. Atoui records his performance in the desert, both audio and visual, and brings it back to show on May 22, at the Museum Of Modern Art as part of a sensory installation.
Atoui, like Kanafani, records unwitnessed events.
Exhibitions run until June 11, 2012, at Museum of Modern Art, Sharq Museum Area, Kuwait City.
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