Anneka Lenssen, University of California, Berkeley
In the Syria of the twentieth century, a contested territory at the intersection of differing regimes of political representation, artists ventured to develop strikingly new kinds of painting to link their images to life forces and agitated energies. Anneka Lenssen’s new book, Beautiful Agitation: Modern Painting and Politics in Syria, explores how painters in Syria activated the mutability of form to rethink relationships of figure to ground, outward appearance to inner presence, and self to world. Drawing on archival materials in Syria and beyond, the book develops a way to study Arab modernism that foregrounds rather than occludes efforts to agitate against imposed identities and intersubjective relations. The talk will focus in particular on the painting practice of Fateh al-Moudarres (1922-1999) in the 1960s, when he employed automatist strategies to probe problems of civilizational inheritance and manifestation and to undercut the optimistic rhetoric of Syrian Ba’thist cultural programs.
Anneka Lenssen is an Associate Professor of Global Modern Art in the Department of Art History. Her expertise focuses on modern painting and contemporary visual practices, especially the cultural politics of the Middle East. Her research examines problems of artistic representation in relation to the globalizing imaginaries of empire, nationalism, communism, decolonization, non-alignment, and Third World humanism. Lenssen is the author of Beautiful Agitation: Modern Painting and Politics in Syria (UC Press, 2020), a study of avant-garde painting and the making of Syria as a contested territory, 1900 to 1965.
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Sponsored by: Middle Eastern Studies and Art History
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