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Word into Art

The British Museum, London

15th Sep 2006

The recent ‘Word into Art’ exhibition at the British Museum was a groundbreaking display of contemporary art from the Modern Middle East and we are pleased to welcome the curator of the exhibition, Dr Venetia Porter to this week’s City Circle.

This exhibition of artists from across the Middle East, from Iraq to Tunisia to Kurdistan, offered a valuable and important insight into the desires, concerns and aspirations of the contemporary Islamic world.

This was not the Middle East cast in the reductive media soundbites of moderates, extremists, secular or religious, but rather it was shown to be a complex place resonating through the sensibilities of its contemporary artists.

The ‘Word into Art’ exhibition shows how religion, politics, popular culture and aesthetics are inextricably intertwined in the Muslim identity of the Middle East. And perhaps this can offer the European Muslim world a form of expression through which it can also interrogate and articulate its own complex Muslim experience, in a way that a revival of traditional Islamic art cannot do.

With Venetia Porter we will be considering this, and looking at the work of the exhibition to discuss its religion, politics, identity and aesthetics and considering how this may articulate what it means to be Muslim in the Middle East today.

Dr Venetia Porter is Curator at the Department of Oriental Antiquities at the British Museum.