s[edition] Photos Explore Islamophobia
The Russian based photo-conceptualist group AES made up of artists Tatyana Arzamasova, Lev Evzovitch, and Evgeny Svyatsky began the Islamic project as an installation and performance with interactive communication with public purchasing souvenirs, filling questionnaire concerning their opinions about the future.
Art collectors of Art Kabinett social media network can now obtain limited-edition digital downloads of their groundbreaking artworks via s[edition] Gallery..
The photos serve as a kind of social psychoanalysis – visualization of fears of Western society about Islam.
In 1996, AES launched "Travel Agency to the Future: Islamic Project" - a conceptual art piece that not only catapulted the artist collective to prominence but gained in controversy after 9/11.
Images of famous landmarks and tourist destinations were digitally altered to look as if taken over by a radical form of Islamic culture.
In conjunction, AES+F set up a travel office where souvenir items were sold with these images printed on them, and where visitors could "plan" a fictional holiday into the depicted world.
This was a two-way performance piece: first – as the AES Travel agency to the Future – a fake office with obvious stuff and images on posters, postcards, mugs, carpets, T-shirts etc. The installation was originally shown in Guelman Gallery, Moscow in 1996.
The second component -- as an installation with the title «Oasis» -- was a kind of Bedouin tent done from traditional handmade carpets stitched from cotton fabric with Islamic images printed on silk (carpets produced in Egypt). It serves as a place for meditation and dreaming on sofas with water pipes, Arabic music etc.
Islamic project was shown in Russia, in most European countries, the United States, and in South Korea. It was published in catalogues and albums, in main newspapers (The New York Times, Forward, Liberation, Tages Zeitung, Wochenpost, Der Standard etc.) and magazines (NBK, Art News, Art, Siksi, Art Press etc.).
Their work continues as a commentary on Western Islamophobia and in particular referenced Samuel Huntington's popular political paradigm of the "Clash of Civilizations", 1993, in which the author argues that future front lines in history would be between cultures, not states - in particular between the West and cultures following Islam.
The digitally altered images represent the absurdity of theories like those set forth by "The Clash of Civilizations", in particular the perceived dichotomy between the West and Islam (between the image of modernity, innovation and science opposed to tradition, aggression and backwardness).
"Islamic Project" gained in controversy after 9/11 where previously existing stereotypes became enforced with a Western public, and yet were deemed politically incorrect.
Some of the images were abused to propagate theories like "The Clash of Civilisations" and worse, while AES+F's work was often misunderstood as discriminatory towards Islam itself.
About the top photo: AES+F's "Islamic Project" is key when looking at the artists' oeuvre, and New Liberty in particular is the most iconic images of the series.
Framed as a "visualization of fears of Western society about Islam", the digitally altered photograph of a burka covered Statue of Liberty could not have more of an impact when wanting to amuse, disturb and raise questions with the viewer all at the same time.
This original artwork is now available to buy as a limited-edition digital download (limited to 1000 downloads for under $50 each) from s[edition].
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