Art Histories Seminar
Zeina Maasri: Draw Me a Revolution. Aesthetics of Solidarity in the Trenches of Arab Hanoi
Z. Tamer and M. Ellabad, The Home (Beirut: Dar al-Fata al-Arabi, 1974).
This paper shifts discussion of the art and politics of the "long" 1960s from the West to Third Wordlist struggles for decolonisation. Mobilised by radical networks of solidarity, stretching from Cuba, through Algeria and all the way to Vietnam and China, an anti-imperialist revolutionary subjectivity was constituted through a global flow of discourses and associated circuits of visuality. In this globally expansive revolutionary geography, Beirut – dubbed the "Arab Hanoi" – acted as a nodal site in and through which an aesthetic of solidarity with the Palestinian Iiberation movement converged and circulated along transnational circuits. The city's formerly liberal and cosmopolitan artistic and intellectual public culture, I argue, was displaced in the aftermath of the devastating 1967 Arab-Israeli war and thereby radically transformed. Dar al-Fata al-Arabi, a pan-Arab publishing project launched in Beirut and linked to the PLO, exemplifies the aesthetic embodiment of "Arab Hanoi". By closely examining the social life and international itinerary of one particular publication, entitled The Home, I reflect on the historical junctures and disjuncture of the Palestinian struggle with global politics of decolonisation; circuits of visuality linking revolutionary anti-imperialism; tensions between radical art and diplomacy; and last but not least, the utopias and disenchantment of a generation of politically committed Arab artists and intellectuals.
Zeina Maasri is a lecturer at the University of Brighton since 2017; before that she was both an independent graphic designer and an academic at the American University of Beirut (1999-2016) in Lebanon. Her research is concerned with the intersections of visual culture and politics in global and postcolonial historical contexts, with a focus on the Middle East, Lebanon and the Arab world in particular. She is the author of 'Off the Wall: Political Posters of the Lebanese Civil War' (London: IB Tauris, 2009) and curator of related travelling exhibitions and online archival resource (www.signsofconflict.org). Among other publications, Zeina is co-editor with K. Bassil, A. Zaatari and W. Raad of 'Mapping Sitting: On Portraiture and Photography' (2002) and with Anja Lutz of 'Greetings From Beirut' (Shift! 2003). Her forthcoming book examines transnational circuits of the Arab "long" 1960s, entitled 'Cosmopolitan Promises: Visual Culture and Politics in 1960s Beirut' (Cambridge University Press).