Port Cities

In partnership with British Council – MENA, we proudly launch our international visual arts project Port Cities. This exhibition premiere at Space Liverpool features newly commissioned work by artists Mohamed Abdelkarim, Laila Hida, Nadia Kaabi-Linke and Siska.

Situated where land meets sea, global port cities have unique characteristics. Their social, economic, political and cultural heritage is deeply connected to their roles as key centres for trade and migration. The artists visited Liverpool on a research residency in February 2024 to inform the development of new artworks critically exploring the past and future of port cities in both Liverpool and the Arab region.

From reflecting on Liverpool’s slave trade legacies to the ecological impact of human activities, this exhibition presents new artistic perspectives on how ports have and continue to shape the character of cities, and how we connect across seas.

After premiering in Liverpool, the Port Cities exhibition will tour internationally to Tripoli, Lebanon; Alexandria, Egypt; Rabat, Morocco; and Tunis, Tunisia throughout 2024.

                             


Mohamed Abdelkarim
Nobody Remembered the Ark, Said the Sea (2024)
Sound installation, printed fabric textiles and two audio channels.

Nobody Remembered the Ark, Said the Sea is an audio installation featuring a fragmented narrative from the perspectives of sea water, peripheral characters and mythical cryptid creatures.

The narrative uses the history of the precarious sea sphere as a backdrop for an alternative mythical and metaphysical world. By merging historical materials of enslavement, naval warfare, and environmental exploitation of the sea, the project situates these elements within a fictional context, creating a narrative that speculates on the future consequences for the sea and its frontier shores.

Laila Hida
Reversed Landscape (2024)
Installation of framed A2 photographs, A2 posters and sculptural elements.

Reversed Landscape is a series of installations and sculptural works expanding on Hida’s ongoing research project Le Voyage du Phoenix, which critically examines the fabrication of landscapes and imaginaries of the Orient.

The magnificent glass structure of Sefton Park Palm House in Liverpool appears as a manifestation of a botanical ecosystem. The conservatory, a private space controlled and arranged by humans that also caters for arts, cultural and commercial entertainment, is also representative of the botanical collection’s status as displaced commodities.

Nadia Kaabi-Linke
Heartbeat Wavelines (2024)
Multimedia installation with drawing, painting, sound and video.

Heartbeat Wavelines is a full-scale representation of a wall from an abandoned and partly ruined building in the middle of the historical industrial area of North Liverpool Docks. The physical three-dimensional building will convert into a two-dimensional charcoal drawing of the brick wall facade on the gallery walls.

The original imprints from damaged walls found in a hotel in Tunis will replace the three windows of the building in Liverpool. These imprints derive from the walls of the Megara Hotel in the North of Tunis, which, like many other hotels in the country, had to close and share the destiny of the building in Liverpool.

The hotel became a modern ruin due to a non-sustainable tourism model imposed on Tunisia by its government in the 20th century in exchange for the illusion of a successful economic model. A film is projected onto each scratched window, showing wavering water lines in different rhythms, each corresponding to heartbeats heard from the respective window.

Siska
$₮I₺₺ ₩₳₸€₨ ₹U₦ D££₽ (2024)
16mm film and installation featuring hanging roll of paper and custom made stamps.

The work consists of a 16mm film and a performative intervention presented during the opening of the exhibition Port Cities. It aims to explore the relationship between water and migration, connecting our intercultural realities to the sea as a repository of collective memory and cultural identity.

Water is considered both a symbol of hope and a metaphor for failed journeys. The concept of “still waters” suggests that appearances can be deceiving, highlighting the idea that what seems calm and peaceful on the surface can hide deep-seated emotions or hidden dangers.

Liverpool’s economy was profoundly shaped by the slave trade, fuelling its rapid growth and prosperity. In the context of the exhibition, this concept challenges the notion of stability and exposes the potential turmoil beneath the seemingly serene appearances.


Further event information: 

Port Cities
Friday 12 – Saturday 20 July 2024
Venue address: Space Liverpool, 41 Stanhope Street, Liverpool, L8 5RE,
The exhibition is open between 12-4pm. Free admission.
Access to the space is via stairs. There is disabled access via the downstairs entrance to Space Liverpool.

Associated Port Cities events:

Exhibition opening event
Friday 12 July, 1-4pm, Space Liverpool

Port Cities symposium
Monday 15 July, 10am – 4pm, Bluecoat, School Lane, Liverpool, L1 3BX.

Artist biographies

Mohamed Abdelkarim, I Might Learn More from a Fish, installation (2024)

Mohamed Abdelkarim was born in 1983 in Minya, Egypt. He currently lives and works between Cairo, Rotterdam, and Vienna where he is currently PhD candidate at the Akademie der bildenden Künste in Vienna, Austria.

Abdelkarim obtained his Master of Arts degree in Fine Arts with a major on MAPS – Arts in Public Spheres from the École de design et Haute école d’art du Valais (édhéa/ecav) in Sierre, Switzerland, in 2016. He completed his Bachelor of Arts at the Faculty of Art Education, with a major in Art and Culture, from Helwan University in Egypt in 2005.

Abdelkarim’s works have been included in the Sharjah Biennial 11, 2013, Guild Master of Cabaret Voltaire, Manifesta 11, 2016, Live Works Performance Act Award Vol. 5, IT, 2017 and Berlinale 72/Forum Expanded, 2022. He has also received the Prix Excellence HES-SO in Switzerland 2016, and has been shortlisted for the Henrike Grohs Art Award 2022 among others group shows include KAS, Centrale Fies, Italy, 2022, Art as Connection, Aargauer Kunsthaus , Switzerland 202, A sequence of events in the Lives of the dormant, Temporary Gallery Cologne, Germany, 2020, At the crossroads of different pasts, presents and futures, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Italy 2018, Photo Cairo 5th, and 6th, Contemporary Image Collective – CIC, Egypt 2012/2017. 

Abdelkarim has been resident in an many artist in residency program, at Al-Mahatta Gallery, Ramallah, Palestine, VASL, karachi, Pakistan, Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen, Switzerland, Tokyo wonder site, Tokyo, Japan, Dar Al-Mamun, Marrakech, Morocco, FUTURA, Prague, Czech Republic, BarProject, Barcelona, Spain, The Camargo Foundation, Casis, France, PACT Zollverein, Essen, Germany.

https://mohamedabdelkarim.com/

Nadia Kaabi-Linke, All Along the Watchtower (2012) Gropius Bau, Berlin installation view (2019)

Nadia Kaabi-Linke was born Tunis, Tunisia, in 1978, and raised in Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates. She graduated from the University of Fine Arts, Tunis, in 1999, and earned a Ph.D. at Université Paris-Sorbonne, in 2008. Growing up between Tunis, Kiev, and Dubai, and now residing in Berlin, Kaabi-Linke has a personal history of migration across cultures and borders that has greatly influenced her work. Her works give physical presence to that which tends to remain invisible, be it people, structures, or the geopolitical forces that shape them.

Using a variety of materials and methods, Kaabi-Linke often works in-situ on projects that relate directly to their exhibition sites. She has rendered visible the bodily traces of people waiting at Berlin bus shelters and subway stations, the scars of domestic violence victims in London, and paint chips scraped from city walls throughout North Africa and Europe. Between 2011 and 2014, she realized Meinstein, a permanent public artwork in Berlin that reflects processes of ethnic segregation. For her recent installation, Walk the Line (2015), volunteers wrapped two poles with thread the length of the Texas-Mexico border until it formed a dense wall. Flying Carpets (2011), which was shown at the Venice Biennale that year, gives physical shape to the immigrant merchants of Venice who often display their wares on sheets that they can be quickly swept up upon the arrival of authorities. Mapping the movements of the vendors and their blankets on a single bridge, Kaabi-Linke recreated the forms in steel, aluminium, and thread, suspending them above the viewer.

Border crossings of many kinds—European and North African, Islamic and Christian, East and West Berlin—have often served as the impetus for Kaabi-Linke’s endeavours. In No (2012), for example, a two-channel video work commissioned by the Liverpool Biennial, she reflects on the absurd difficulties of her own application as a Tunisian for entry into the United Kingdom to deliver a lecture, with a pair of disembodied lips reciting the accusatory questions found on British visa application forms as a crowd of churchgoers opposes the voice of authority in unison.

Kaabi-Linke has had solo exhibitions at Centro de Arte Moderna José de Azevedo Perdigão, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon (2014); The Mosaic Rooms, London (2014); and Dallas Contemporary, Texas (2015). Her work has been included in group exhibitions at KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2011); Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York (2012); Musée National de Carthage, Tunisia (2012); Centrum Sztuki Współczesnej Zamek Ujazdowski, Zamek Ujazdowski, Warsaw (2013); Nam June Paik Art Center, Seoul (2013); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2013); Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark (2014), and Marta Herford, Museum für Kunst, Design und Architektur, Herford, Germany (2016); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2016).

She participated in the Sharjah Biennial, United Arab Emirates (2009); Alexandria Biennial for Mediterranean Countries (2009); Venice Biennale (2011); Liverpool Biennial (2012), and Kochi- Muziris Biennial, Kerala, India (2012). Kaabi-Linke lives and works in Berlin.

Laila Hida, Into the Maw of the Spectacle, video still (2024)

Laila Hida is a Moroccan artist and cultural worker based in Marrakech. She is primarily interested in images and photography, exploring their use as both archival material and triggers for fiction. Her recent work, “Le Voyage du Phoenix,” explores the use of photography, literature, and cinema as tools to distil the 20th century’s regime of desire.

In 2013, she founded LE 18 Marrakech, a multidisciplinary cultural space and art residency based in the medina of Marrakech that extends her long-term intention to question and explore the impact of the environment on art production, mediation and research approaches. She has curated many programs in Morocco and internationally, including the LE 18 collective proposal at documenta 15. She is also the initiator of Dabaphoto, an annual program on photography and image-making in Morocco that is now in its 8th edition. In 2014 she was appointed to curate the Moroccan stopover of the Art Explora Festival, a cultural odyssey in the mediterranean sea.

https://lailahida.com/

Siska, LATENT BORDER(S), Film installation (2019)

Siska was born in Beirut and resides primarily in Berlin. He holds a Master’s degree in Film and Audiovisual Arts from the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts. A key figure in the early Beiruti graffiti scene, Siska has also produced and performed music as part of the Lebanese Hip Hop group Kitaa Beirut قطاع بیروت . A large part of his practice involves archiveology, examining sociopolitical narratives in relation to personal and collective memories. It is common for his work to take the form of extended cinema where he applies cinematic codes as well as film language to explore various visual narrative techniques.

At the Haus der Statistics in Berlin in August-2021, he co-curated a series of conversations, films, readings, and live performances as the artistic director of redeem ردیم , a platform for ongoing conversations between voices from Beirut in Berlin. Siska has collaborated on numerous performance and music productions, taking a midway point between his career as a visual artist and musician. In 2022, he completed his residency and fellowship at Villa Aurora in Los Angeles. Siska’s work has been internationally shown, including Martin Gropius Bau (Berlin), Halle 14 (Leipzig), Paris 104 (Paris), Literaturforum im Brecht-Haus (Berlin), Beirut Art Center (Beirut), Mosaic Rooms (London), Berlinale (Berlin International Film Festival) and Silent Green Kulturquartier among others.

https://siska.info/

ARTIVATOR

Lin Dabbous – British Council ARTIVATOR Fellow in Art Curation 

Lin Dabbous is the ARTIVATOR Fellow in Art Curation working on our ‘Port Cities’ visual arts project, in partnership with the British Council. The exhibition will be launching at this year’s festival before touring internationally in the MENA region.

Lin is an architect by training and a current MA candidate in Art History and Curatorial Studies at the American University of Beirut. Her multidisciplinary practice focuses on modern and contemporary Arab art with commitment to challenge and reshape stereotypical narratives surrounding the history of Arab artistic production. In 2023, Lin curated the collective exhibition “Moments of Being,”centered around the memory of Syria, both known and departed, featuring 12 emerging and established Syrian artists.

Her collaborative efforts extend to exhibitions such as “Traces of Utopia” and “The Marine School of Beirut-A Repressed Art History” at AUB Art Galleries. Lin’s contributions are not confined to exhibitions alone; she was also a part of the research team for the exhibition “Partisans of the Nude: An Arab Art Genre in an Era of Contest, 1920-1950” which took place at the Wallach Gallery in Columbia University.

ARTIVATOR is an innovative Art Management Incubator from the British Council focused on enhancing the capabilities of cultural practitioners from the MENA region. This initiative aims to provide comprehensive training, mentoring, and networking opportunities to empower participants with the necessary skills and knowledge for success in the arts industry. ARTIVATOR offers a personalised experience tailored to each participant’s needs, leveraging a network of arts professionals, resources, and support from our esteemed partners.

By supporting emerging arts managers, the incubator strives to foster a vibrant and sustainable arts sector in the MENA region. The goal is to cultivate a new generation of leaders capable of navigating industry challenges while driving growth and innovation.

Project credits

Partners:
British Council – MENA

Curatorial selectors:
Sandra Dagher, Lebanon
Hana El Beblawy, Egypt
Amel Ben Attia, Tunisia
Francesca Masoero, Morocco

British Council ARTIVATOR Fellowship in Art Curation:
Lin Dabbous

Visual identity:
Salt and Sister