Marwa Arsanios

Marwa Arsanios

Art in General

Marwa Arsanios, OLGA’s NOTES, all those restless bodies (still),2014. Image courtesy the artist and Art in General.

February 21, 2015

Marwa Arsanios
Notes for a choreography

March 3–April 11, 2015 

Art in General
79 Walker Street
New York, NY 10013

Notes for a choreography premieres Marwa Arsanios’s new film, OLGA’s NOTES, all those restless bodies, 2014, a co-commission by Kunsthalle Lissabon, Portugal, and Art in General, New York. This project is the artist’s first solo exhibition in Lisbon and New York.

OLGA’s NOTES, all those restless bodies takes as its starting point an article that appeared in Al-Hilal magazine in January 1963 on the establishment of the ballet school in Cairo. The article describes the school, which was founded as part of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s larger plans for modernization and reform at that time, as a “factory of the bodies.” Supported by major figures including the Russian choreographer and director Leonid Lavrovsky, the school was to become an important institution in Nasser’s nation-state building project. 

The film script juggles between different dances and small stories linked to this history. It looks at dance from historical and political perspectives, and also at the body from the perspectives of dance, labor and exploitation, thus dance becomes an excuse to think about labor, and labor an excuse to think about dance and movement. The effect of political ideologies on the identity of the individual is here reflected in the body of the dancer. After years of training, rehearsing, and performing, the dancer’s body has become damaged—a metaphor of the violence of state projects, and nation-state building that accompanies a capitalist ideology and a consumerist approach to the human form.

In the film, Pierre follows the main ballerina from The Fountain of Bakhshisarai (the first major production, performed in the presence of Nasser, by the ballet dance group in Cairo where dancers were awarded Orders of Merit). Sandra re-enacts Yvonne Rainer’s classic, Trio A, (which she had learned by heart in dance school), Jasmine does her usual pole dancing, while Natacha fails to remember her part in the harim dance and improvises. Cynthia appears from behind, dancing alone and Alia stands still, re-enacting certain positions of dancers while they are not dancing. In their own way, each of these bodies attempts to find a history: a fragmented story of a damaged, colonized and incoherent body that has failed to remember, failed to perform, and is just sliding on stage. Here, different histories clash together side by side.

This co-commission, first presented at Kunsthalle Lissabon and curated by João Mourão and Luis Silva, takes on a different form at Art in General, becoming part of an architectural “set” that houses Arsanios’s new film alongside existing works, several of which are part of her long-term research project Al-Hilal. Taking a collection of magazines from the 1950s and 1960s as a point of departure, this research examines questions of decolonization, nation state, violence and the marginalization of feminism.

Marwa Arsanios (Washington, D.C., 1978) lives and works in Beirut, Lebanon. She obtained her MFA from Wimbledon College of Art, University of the Arts, London, UK (2007) and was a researcher in the fine art department at the Jan Van Eyck Academie, Maastricht, the Netherlands (2011–12). Her work was shown at Art Dubai in the Bidoun Lounge (Art Park 2009), at the Forum expanded of the Berlinale (2010), at the Homeworks V and VI forum (Beirut, 2010 and 2013), Tokyo Wonder Site (2011), the 12th Istanbul Biennale (2011), Cornerhouse (Manchester, 2012), the Venice Biennale (Future Generation Art Prize, 2013), and most recently at the New Museum (New York, 2014). Her videos were screened in several festivals and events such as the Rio de Janeiro film festival in 2010, e-flux in New York, and at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. She has been nominated for the Pinchuk Future Generation Art Prize 2012 and won the special prize. She was also nominated for the Sovereign Art Prize 2012. Arsanios is a founding member of the artist organization and project space 98weeks research project. She is also a part-time teacher.

Curated by Anne Barlow

General Support of Art in General is provided by General Hardware Manufacturing Inc.; the Institute of Museum and Library Services; the Lambent Foundation; the New York State Council on the Arts with support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; Ruth Ivor Foundation; The Greenwich Collection; Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation; Toby D. Lewis Donor Advised Fund of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland; the William Talbott Hillman Foundation; and by individuals. This program is also supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

The New Commissions Program is made possible by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; Trust for Mutual Understanding; National Endowment for the Arts; and Jerome Foundation. Support has also been provided by Commissioners’ Circle leaders Jeffery Larsen and Joseph Bolduc; Commissioners’ Circle supporters Sandra Ho and Jang Kim, and Cher Lewis, and Commissioners’ Circle members Roya Khadjavi-Heidari, Mary Lapides, Richard Massey, Ron and Lucille Neeley, and Leslie Ruff.

Additional support provided by Mor Charpentier, Paris.

Media contact: Aimee Chan Lindquist, aimee [​at​]

Marwa Arsanios at Art in General
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February 21, 2015

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