Nafas started in Berlin with the exhibition of works by the artists:
Lida Abdul (Afghanistan/USA)
From 10 November 2006 to 7 January 2007, Nafas is on display at the ifa Gallery Stuttgart. Afterwards the exhibition will travel to several other countries until 2008. In cooperation with the partners of the respective exhibition venues, the group of participating artists will be expanded according to the spatial and logistical conditions.
Accompanying events will take place at all exhibition venues for the exchange of ideas and opinions on practical, conceptual, and theoretical aspects of art practice, the international art system and its mechanisms, and other issues. This online magazine will prepare, follow up, and document the communication process, and enable those people to participate who are interested but unable to attend in person.
Idea and concept were developed by Pat Binder and Gerhard Haupt. Together with the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations (ifa), they are the editors of the online magazine "Contemporary Art from the Islamic World" and responsible for its realization.
Nafas is a metaphor for the focus and broad outline of the project. In Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, Malay, and Indonesian, nafas is understood essentially as breath or breathing. A variation of similar origins is the Turkish nefes. The word appears in many combinations and nuances, usually with quite positive connotations. Nafas can be used in the sense of a "second wind", i.e., being able to endure difficulties, or in the sense of a refreshing breeze that soothes torment. When someone carries out specific activities especially well, for example excellent cooking, it is said that he or she has nafas-talent: a particular way, a personal style. Sometimes nafas is associated with the meaning of "freedom", for example in Sufism, a mystical current of Islam. The root of the word is nafs, which means "self" or "soul" in Arabic and which is regarded as the dynamic power breathed into a person’s body at the beginning of life.
For in all the overarching aspects at the base of the idea of such an exhibition, the principle issue is to access individual artistic positions, this meaning not only the immediate experience of art, but also the mediation of personal, cultural, social, and other contexts. Maybe this should be a matter of course in all art exhibitions, but it seems worth explicit mention in this case. All too often, the expression used here as a conceptual tie, "the Islamic world", arouses stereotypical ideas that fail to correspond in any way with the complex reality and stand in the way of a non-prejudiced encounter with art.
To find this phrasing in the subtitle of Nafas may seem problematical for its suggestion of a unifying view of the countries and regions with Muslim majorities, which this project aims to counteract. For even though both the "West" and the "Islamic world" are extremely heterogeneous and anything but monolithic entities, the general perception is that there is a conflict between two antagonistic blocs or civilizations bearing these labels that goes back very far in history and is fueled again and again on both sides. In connection with the Nafas project, we use the term "Islamic world" and "Muslim world" to address and contradict the terms as they are widely understood today. Commonly accepted ideas are confronted with artworks hard to fit into the usual clichés and created by artists, Muslims or not, who locate their cultural home or essential sources of reference for artistic production in Islamic countries and regions. In this respect also, the Nafas project is conceptually linked to the online magazine "Contemporary Art from the Islamic World".
In the exhibition, the contents of the magazine are accessible via small computer terminals. They enable the viewer to access more details on the works and artists presented; beyond that, they draw attention to colleagues who are working in a similar direction, but not featured in the exhibition. As most generally the case of contemporary art, the artworks in Nafas are strongly context dependent. The sensual experience of the work of art is supplemented by an information level, providing useful and conducive access to the personal, social, cultural, political, and spiritual constellations behind it.
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