intervention at art dubai 2014

this intervention invited people in the context of dubai art fair and during the most glamorous time of the opening to be reminded of the syrian crisis:

I invited gallerists, artists, art students, art critics, those working at the art fair and the volunteers as well as the visitors, to wear for as long as they want the typical syrian clogs (qobqab). 

this nosy reminder brings up the issue of glamour and how during the art fair people’s outfits become very important and are part of the show, it also creates sound when people walk on the floors, and thus their presence becomes audibly performative at times, but also visually distinguished by those clogs that are anyway now hardly being used by the people in syria, considered too old fashioned and too noisy, and being replaced by cheap plastic flip-flops. wearing them at the art-fair would transform the person wearing them to an “artwork or object to be looked at”.

in the black and white t.v. series sah el nom for instance there is a famous scene of ghawar el tocheh the protagonist of the series, where we see him in jail, singing and clapping with his qobqab with the rest of the imprisoned people and abu aantar (another protagonist figure in sah el nom). the t.v. series were often representing symbolic scenes and stories against repression, and the qobqab is quite prominent in this context.

the qabaqib are usually found at souk el hamediyeh in damascus, ready for tourists to buy them, since locals are not using them anymore and the job of qobqab-making will most probably vanish in some years as soon as the makers pass-away. the word qobqab not only means wooden shoes or rather wooden flip-flops, but it also can become a negative description of someone who is a liar. The pejorative connotation of the word qobqab reminds us as well of the English word “clog” that means to block or become blocked.

these words and their multiple meanings nourish a complex way to think of the current situation and human crisis in Syria, in a parallelism with the complex art market and its context at an art fair or art gallery for instance. 

the clogs at art dubai were displayed on shelves, exposed at the disposal of people to borrow them, inviting tired walkers to exchange their fancy shoes and wear the clogs for a couple of hours during the fair, and exchanging their feet bacteria and fungus with other visitors. 

the same work with a hundred clogs is currently on show at sfeir-semler gallery. there are 100 pairs of clogs left on the floor at the entrance of the gallery space, left there for the gallery visitors to decide if they would like to wear a pair or not while they look at the show.