First Among Many

Art Life , Stuff Sep 03, 2012 2 Comments

In last week’s exhibition previews we featured the exhibition Beyond The Last Sky, now on at the Australian Centre for Photography. The exhibition, according to the ACP’s press release, is the first dedicated exhibition of contemporary art by Palestinian artists to be seen in Australia. Long time Art Life reader and occasional commenter Tim Welfare, aka Scratch My Nose, writes to set the record straight:

Noticed in your last post that you posted about the upcoming show at the ACP – of photography and video works of contemporary Palestinian artists. I am very glad that these vital work will be showed to a Sydney audience. But I just wanted to point out that this is not first time that an Arab or Palestinian showcase has been presented to Australian audiences. I don’t know if this is first time you have been presented such a showcase (which I am sure is not the case) or if the curator misrepresenting the uniqueness of such a show or it’s a ACP press media release slip up.

In 2006, as part of dLux Media Arts Festival program I curated an exhibition of works Middleastalentime – Middle East Video which screened at the Sydney Opera House. It later screened at the Moving Image Centre in Auckland + The Mercury Cinema in Adelaide. This show included visiting artists talks from visiting artist Akram Zaatari who later that year had work screened and presented at the Sydney Biennale ‘Zones of Contact‘. Two of the artists in ‘Middleastalentime – Middle East Video‘ works are also presented as part of this show at the ACP (Sharif Wakid + Jacqueline Salloum ‘Planet of the Arabs’ – whose same work will be screened as part of ‘Beyond the Last Sky’ exhibition). The still below of Jacqueline Salloum was also used on many of dLux Media arts promotion material for the festival.

After living for 3 years in Beirut I still have strong ties with the region and the arts community. In Australia over the years there have been many organised shows and screened works from this region. We all stand on these people shoulders – the artists + curators + art spaces + in particular art organisations like dLux Media Arts (in particular under David Cranswick reign ). For example – one major show in 1998 was the Sydney-Beirut/Beirut-Sydney project which was shown at the Casula Powerhouse – while there has been a variety of satellite shows associated with the Arab Film Festival. And more. This commentary is no way a reflection of the artist or the works themselves – which will I am sure show this diverse + rich culture – rather then the mono culture of how Hollywood or how the BBC’s of this world present the region (and a rich area for good curator to explore). But more at my annoyance how things are presented as ‘truth’ + what is forgotten – in this instance by the curators or sloppy PR from the ACP. Yes, many of the audience who will view these works at the ACP probably didn’t venture out to Casula or Parramatta or the Sydney Opera House for that case + that is why these shows are important – but this is not the first time this version of this story has been told through the visual arts in Sydney – but just by one of bigger institutions focussing on such a cultural voice.


Thankyou for letting me set somethings straight here. Look foward to more updates from ‘The Art Life’ over the coming weeks.

Kind Regards

Tim Welfare

The Art Life


  1. Dear Tim

    Thank you for taking the time to post about our current Beyond the Last Sky exhibition.

    The Australian Centre for Photography is not claiming to be the first organisation to present Palestinian work to an Australian audience. As you have pointed out, there are many organisations whose footsteps we follow in that have presented work from Arab artists in Australia. These organisations and their exhibitions have all contributed to enriching the arts scene in this country.

    Beyond the Last Sky is, to the best of our knowledge, the first exhibition in Australia to be solely dedicated to only contemporary Palestinian photography and video, rather than a collective show of artists from the Arab world. We hope that in turn, this exhibition will help pave the way for future shows.


  2. Tim

    Hi ACP

    Thank you for your response. Sorry for my late reply.

    Not sure of your definition of Palestinian here – as any discussion about Palestine – is a discussion about the Arab World. I don’t profess to know more than anyone else about what represents Palestine & Palestinian art – but there is obviously work in exhibition which clearly demonstrates what it is to be Palestinian and there is some work which is clearly not ( Your inclusion of Jacqueline Salloum work is proof of this – with her Hollywood mash up of the Arab Representation in film and TV). We need to be careful when working in cultures that are so politicised – particular when we ourselves are outsiders.

    I wish you well with the rest of the exhibition. Love some of the work on show – in particular the great imagined film posters from Tarzan and Arab and Sharif Waked work.



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