What If?

Understanding the Middle East © Manaf Halbouni

Thu, 27.07.2017

Goethe-Institut Glasgow

3 Park Circus
G3 6AX Glasgow

Film Screening & Artist Talk by Manaf Halbouni

German-Syrian artist Manaf Halbouni, who currently lives and works in Dresden, will be giving an artist talk and presenting his project “What If?”, which he has developed during his residency at Deveron Projects in Huntly.

Believing in a world in which we can live together in freedom and without fear, Manaf is most recently known for his installation ‘Monument’. Unveiled in February this year in the centre of Dresden, it recreated an image of the Syrian Civil War. The artist’s works not only refer to the current situation in Syria but also establish links between Europe and the Middle East. In his project “What If?”, Manaf explicitly explores an alternative history of colonialism in the Middle East: What if the Arab world had colonised Europe rather than the other way round? What if the history of Europe had taken a different turn?

Turning the historical event of the Sykes-Picot Agreement by the British and the French in 1916 - through which the Middle East was divided into the countries we know nowadays as Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan etc.- on its head, Manaf re-creates a world where the Ottoman Empire and the United Arab Emirates had instead split Europe. European Colonial history becomes upended, the roles of colonised and coloniser interchanged. During his residency, Manaf has been working closely with recently resettled Syrians living in Aberdeenshire as well as other local residents on performances. He invited the community to watch the play as well as film it on their digital devices. These performances and film pieces will be presented during the event in Huntly and screened in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

On the whole, the project responds to a time in which many people from the Arab and Middle-Eastern world are confronted with conflicts resulting from the colonial and post-colonial era. Wars, conflicts and the resulting migration to Europe forces us to clarify and re-think our rarely questioned history. “What If?” also comes at a time in which the idea of Europe is increasingly being called into question: but what if the Europe we know today wouldn’t exist?