August 26, 2019 - Mizna - History Is Not Here: Art and the Arab Imaginary
August 26, 2019


Walid Siti, Untitled from The Tower Series. Courtesy of the artist.

History Is Not Here: Art and the Arab Imaginary
September 12, 2019–January 5, 2020

Opening Reception: September 12, 6pm

Minnesota Museum of American Art (The M)
350 Robert Street North
St. Paul, MN 55101
United States
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History Is Not Here: Art and the Arab Imaginary presents the work of 17 artists who address what can be termed the “Arab imaginary” as a means of examining a multitude of social, cultural, and political positions. Best understood through a framework that recognizes the so-called Arab world and its diaspora as multiform, delineated by 22 countries with distinct histories as well as diverse ethnicities, languages, and religions, this exhibition details, scrutinizes, or upends the ways in which the region has been historicized. Recognizing that the recording of history is a subjective act that often intersects with power, History Is Not Here rejects the notion of history as a fixed or singular category and looks to narrative strategies as forms of agency. 

Featured works convey the complexities of representation, including the misunderstandings and missteps, and the artifice of difference that have long characterized Western views of other cultures, such as the insufficient and problematic terms that are often used to define the region as monolithic. History Is Not Here emphasizes the potential in alternative imagery and language structures from which new imaginaries can be generated.

Coinciding with the 20th anniversary of Mizna's flagship art and literary journal, the exhibition's roster is selected from the list of artists highlighted in its pages: Hamdi Attia, Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou Rahme, Osama Esid, Fadlabi, Adelita Husni-Bey, Emily Jacir, Yazan Khalili, Joe Namy, Monira al Qadiri, Alaa Satir, Zineb Sedira, Athir Shayota, Nida Sinnokrot, Walid Siti, Raed Yassin, and Ala Younis. Artists published in Mizna are dedicated to recording their shared histories of exclusion, linking creatives and communities, and reshaping spaces of dissonance.

The exhibition is a partnership between Mizna, a Minnesota-based Arab arts organization and platform for contemporary literature, art, film, and cultural programming, and the Minnesota Museum of American Art (The M). The M, St. Paul's oldest and only major art museum, is dedicated to inspiring people to discover themselves and their communities through American art. The museum's collection of approximately 5,000 works of art emphasizes American art from the 19th century to the present, and in particular, attempts to diversify the notion of what constitutes "American art."

Curated by Heba Y. Amin (visual artist and curator of visual art for Mizna) and Maymanah Farhat (writer and curator), History Is Not Here: Art and the Arab Imaginary will be on view September 12, 2019–January 5, 2020. The exhibition will be accompanied by public installations in the Creative Enterprise Zone, the St. Paul neighborhood where Mizna is located. The public art includes a mural by Fadlabi, a billboard by Raed Yassin, and a public sculpture by Monira Al Qadiri. Throughout the exhibition, Mizna and the M will present public programming such as readings, panel discussions, artist talks, and performances that will explore the ideas and the works in the show.

This exhibition is supported, in part, with generous funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, St. Paul Cultural STAR, and Marbrook Foundation.

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