“The Craft”, Monira Al-Qadiri’s first solo show in Lebanon, opened at the Sursock Museum in Beirut, on November 2. Al-Qadiri is a Kuwaiti visual artist whose basis for her artistic practice is grounded in her art education in Tokyo. While traces of Japanese culture are noticeably present in her style, her research throughout her studies focuses on “the aesthetics of sadness in the Middle East”.
Monira Al-Qadiri is interested in Arab artistic expression, be it poetry, music, art, or even religious tradition. She is interested in gender, socio-politics, and as seen in “The Craft”, the symptoms of late capitalism in the Middle East and the world.
The show encapsulates a critique that is embodied in sculpture, video, and sound. Al-Qadiri’s exhibition occupies the two Twin Galleries in the lobby of the Sursock Museum. The first installment of “The Craft” is a walk-in replica of an American diner in miniscule size, with a video piece playing on a television screen. The other is a pitch-black room with a sculpture embracing its center and a voice-over surrounding its space. These pieces claim to conjure the artist’s relationship with Kuwait as a child.
In the first chapter of “The Craft”, a VHS tape plays in the diner. The artist, through the video piece, asks existential-esque questions regarding the future, aliens, war, and contemporary living. Al-Qadiri reveals the rupture in reality’s fabric which she recognizes yet remains questioning. She discusses pop culture, junk food, and architecture. She appears to describe a certain encounter with post-modernism. These symptoms of postmodernity shock the artist, and she presents this relationship through the contemporary world’s most identifiable signifiers.
The second intervention sits in opposition to the diner in a closed space. The room is completely unlit, with a spotlight on Al-Qadiri’s sculpture, a large floating burger. She calls this chapter “The End”.
She reveals this icon of late capitalism and exaggerates its infamous omnipresence. It floats, rotates, and reflects light almost as if it embodies the divine. She juxtaposes Japanese philosophy on “floating worlds” with a symbol of American consumerism, and she unites them through a reading of an excerpt from Saba George Shiber’s “The Kuwait Urbanization”.
In “The Craft”, Al-Qadiri exposes her intimate conversations with late capitalism and unravels her personal coming-of-age through which she begins to read the postmodern world. She unites these understandings with her many cultures and conjures questions of understandings to come.