Monira Al Qadiri

The Craft

* 1983 in Dakar, SEN, lives and works in Beirut, LBN, and Berlin, GER
studied at the Tokyo University of the Arts, JPN

»Are we really ourselves?« is the question with which the Kuwaiti artist has her father, a diplomat in Dakar in 1982, question reality. The viewers sit next to him, drive in a Mercedes through the Senegalese streets, and become just as pensive as he while listening to the artist’s melancholy story. The music reminiscent of old science-fiction movies and the magnetic tape disturbances of old VHS cassettes give rise to a bizarre atmosphere of bygone days. The starting point of The Craft is a dream of the five-year-old artist and her sister acted out in the film, in which the Kuwaiti embassy appears as a spaceship with a crew of aliens whose aim it is to bring humans into line under the guise of international diplomacy. The interior of the spaceship resembles an American diner and is the meeting place for aliens and diplomats. This symbolism of Americanization can also be found in the children’s drawings of burgers that in the video are superimposed with childhood photos of the artist, reflecting the Americanization of Kuwait with which Al Qadiri grew up. She finds the Gulf War of 1990 inhumane and blames it on the aliens. Her childlike, imaginative coming to terms with the war is revealed in drawings of destruction and soldiers she perceives as aliens with the eyes of a child. In thematic terms, the work references so-called Gulf Futurism that takes up and aesthetically translates the rapid ›modernization‹ of the region and the question of why certain models of the future were formulated based on the specific cultural and political development. By combining her own past with facts and fiction in The Craft, Al Qadiri creates a hyperreality in the frame of Gulf Futurism in which the boundaries between reality and virtuality are blurred. In the film, Al Qadiri, who is now an adult, meets the aliens in Beirut and learns that they have given up their plan. Yet the video ends with a long tracking shot through a brightly illuminated shopping street as one can find them all over the world nowadays. Has the bringing into line of humans succeeded or failed? What do our reality and future look like amidst opaque global networks and big data?

Anna Fröse