artist / participant


press release

Photographic objects have been the centre of Akram Zaatari’s artistic practice since 1995. Photographic formations or emergences, as he calls them, are the focus of this exhibition: enigmatic objects that bear traces of past events and accompany people through key moments in their lives. Cherished at times, destroyed at others, photographs are capable of provoking diverse and extreme reactions. Initially, capturing instances, they change over time. The perception of an image changes, but sometimes the physicality of the object itself is also altered as a result of its contact with the natural, social and political environment. The desire to own these images, to look for them and collect them, is rooted in a spectrum of motivations from the personal to the commercial. They become currency for our emotional, cultural and economic desires.

In 1997, Zaatari co-founded the Arab Image Foundation (AIF) partly to contain this activity of collecting, but also to organise it within an institutional framework and give it form through an expanding collection, which itself is a result of multiple modes of acquisition. Less of a repository of documents, the strength and originality of the AIF lies in the critical intersection of two archival practices, institutional and artistic. Over the past 20 years, the AIF was the medium through which many of Zaatari’s projects and interests were developed.

This exhibition traces Zaatari’s various contributions to expanding our understanding of photography through a reflection on the evolution of the AIF and its collection. It can be seen as the outcome of an excavation that addresses the institution as a whole, extending to specific collections and photographic objects that might carry traces of wear and sometimes violence.

Curated by Hiuwai Chu and Bartomeu Marí.

Publication Akram Zaatari. Against Photography. An Annotated History of the Arab Image Foundation. With an introduction by Hiuwai Chu and Bartomeu Marí, an essay by Mark Westmoreland, a conversation between Chad Elias and Akram Zaatari, and an illustrated selection of collections entries from the AIF by Ian B. Larson and Akram Zaatari. The book will also include new works by the artist. Co-edited between the MACBA and MMCA. English, Spanish and Korean editions. Date of publication: July 2017.

Exhibition organised by the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona and the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea