Naima Morelli

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Essay

The Italian magazine Internazionale has translated and published my article on artists reflection on the responsibilities of Italian colonialism in Libya.

I originally wrote the article for Middle East Eye. It features interviews with filmaker and writer Khalifa Abo Khraisse, artist and videomaker Martina Melilli and multimedia artist Leone Contini.

Here is the pdf version of the piece

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One of my favourite traditions for December is to do the year in review. This 2019 I hardly published introspective essays in this space, which is actually good, meaning the work took over.

Now time’s up to stop and share my self-reflections, acknowledge the achievements, learning from the mistakes, and generally look back in gratitude to the people, the places and the experiences. .

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The contemporary art scene in Cambodia is still very young and in the making. Distinctive stylistic trends and artistic fervour are emerging in the three major cities, creating elements for a dialogue to come.

For those looking for true solace as well as engaging conversations with artists, Battambang is definitely the place to go. Here time slows down. Artistic practice largely takes a meditative slant, and are more often than not, based on considerably traditional mediums.

I have look at the four more interesting emerging artists hailing from this Cambodian city for CoBo.

Here is the link to the article

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These days I’m filled with love for the world.

Summer leaves are lighten up by the sun and look like emeralds. They have this love effect. Happy movement and endorphins have this love effect. So has making new friends. Rediscovering the old ones. By whatever means connection with what’s around me happens, that’s where the gold is. Noticing the beauty all around me.

These days, every time I go “off-track”, I “derail”, there is a sentence that pops always in my mind, sorting things out. The words are: “You think you have many different problems, but you only have one: your disconnection for Love (from Life, from God, from Source, from the Nature of Existence, whatever you want to call it.)

This happens to us when we are in pain, of course. But in pain — especially in pain — there is labour of love to do. We are called to action. And when I remember this words, I have a choice. Knowing that pain is inevitable but suffering is optional, I can either stay in the self-made hell, in the suffering — whether psychological or physical — or work towards mending the wounds.

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It’s a long time I don’t press pause from the journalistic mode for a moment, to share some parts of my life as an arts and culture writer. I decided to do it today, to spell out the cardinal points that drive my writing today. Spelling them out for myself in the first place, of course, so I can embrace them with more awareness.

I must start by saying that, as writers, we might take our work lightly, but holding a pen is like holding a sword (or a bo staff to pick my weapon of choice.) That’s why I have decided to always make my best to be impeccable with my words, using this power for good. Some of these ethics I took to balance out my original spirit, which is quite combative, in a way which gives me strength and passion, but can easily get out of hand.

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Robert Zhao Renhui

A definition of ‘artist’ according to my arts writer friend Donato is a person that is obsessed with something. However, as soon as artists become famous, you see this obsession wearing out or being somehow forced into a structure. Whereas over the years Robert Zhao has developed a team of people collaborating with him, I’d say his obsession is always there. He’s a total nature nerd, and you can feel his genuine obsession with it, paired with a strong conceptual background, which makes him in my opinion and in that of many other art critics, an incredibly powerful artist. Where you’d expect a snobbish, intellectual figure, you meet a very nice and considerate man who is really interested in sharing his passion and his work.

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Donna Ong

Part of the charm of the forest is that it is supposed to be dangerous and mysterious. In this way you can still appreciate it but in a safe way. It’s an interesting metaphor about what is happening in Singapore. In the first chapter we have already talked about the work of Donna Ong in respect to the idea of tropical nature. We looked at “The Forest Speaks Back” which explored the idea of the tropics, by conveying two different points of view: that of the colonisers, and those of natives. Donna is interested in how the narrative for nature in Singapore has changed and evolved: “I think previously there was a lot of emphasis on the Garden City, so we had tropical nature but made it into a garden. A tamed tropical garden rather than a forest.”

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Geraldine Kang

Earlier we have introduced the work of Singaporean artist and photographer Geraldine Kang. When I first came to Singapore for a month-long immersion of interviews and visits to art spaces, she was the first one among the artists I had planned to speak with. The intuition was good. Alongside allowing me to deepen my knowledge of her work, she also gave a good insight into the working conditions of the younger generation of Singaporean artists, their peculiar outlook and their experience in the art world. Geraldine was also teaching at LaSalle — we indeed meet in the school café — so she gave me a first hint of awareness of the conditions of the still-students, the yet-to-become-artists.

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Adeline Kueh

“What gets measured gets managed,” wrote Peter Drucker, the founder of modern management. And the struggle of measuring what is imponderable is one of the shapes that the contrast between bureaucracy and spirit takes shape. In this context, we have seen how there are those giving breath to a life in a country which is all about achievement and “getting there”. If this attitude of bringing home results has proved successful for the city state, artists are those who need to rebalance the machine with a ghost. To give humanity to the clog.

Artist Adeline Kueh belongs to those who are able to give shape to feelings that you can’t simply calculate on a spreadsheet. Her sensitivity is attuned to the appreciation of beauty, and she finds it in the memories, in the history of people, places and objects. I meet this pretty, tiny and brisk woman in the Lasalle cafè where she works as an art educator. Every project she starts comes from a personal place, and has memories and meaning attached to it. She looks with a romantic and poetic eye at themes which can be considered quite risqué (she loves to drop a French word here and there — perhaps from her living in Canada as a young student, perhaps from her wide-ranging readings).

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Nature in Singapore

The garden city utopia was conceived well before Singapore would reclaim this title for itself. The term was first created in 1898 by utopian thinker Ebenezer Howard. The concept of having housing outside the city, providing to each house its own garden, was made possible by the brand new railroad, which made transportation possible. Again, it was a way to go home, away from the industrial pollution. This idea was successfully implemented in Anglo-Saxon countries. In the US especially, this sort of nuclear family solution came to correspond with the American dream.

As we mentioned earlier, suburbia proved problematic not only on a social level. There are also other problems involving a shortage of horizontal space, and most importantly, the transportation which made possible the idea of garden city must today be reduced for environmental reasons. Today’s transportation calls for a different conception of the garden city, a garden city that is mainly vertical, and that is what has been implemented by Singapore. In its modern idea of the Garden City, Singapore wants to show that nature and business can be integrated. The western division between leisure and work doesn’t have to be so sharp. Business life doesn’t have to necessarily happen away from nature, and be balanced by it. This corresponds, on a wider scale, to the dismantling of the idea of work-life balance, as if work and life would be two separate entities. What is valid for the individual is valid also for the wider community. It is true that there is a place to sleep, a place to work, a place to relax, but we must keep in mind that in our mind and life the boundaries are not so strict as walls.

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The 2019 Venice Biennale has asked artists to step into the socio-political realm, in the middle of far-right Matteo Salvini’s Italy. And they have done it, dismantling Orientalism and getting the Mediterranean closer together in the process.

My first article on this 2019 Venice Biennale has just been published by Middle East Monitor.

Here is the link to the article

 

 

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Daylight dystopia

In our worse dystopian imagination, brought to fruition by filmmakers and artists, we imagine the cities of the future being an endless continuation of buildings and city lights, from the steamy Metropolis to – moving to the ‘80s – the cities of Ghost in The Shell, or Neon Tokyo from Akira. Asian mega-cities provided a good model in this respect. The urban landscape of Blade Runner for example was inspired by a particular part of Kwaloon, also known as the Walled City. This was an area of incredible density, a human anthill, picturesque and inhuman at the same time. In 1994, Kwaloon was demolished. Visitors eager to see the ruins of this mythical place will instead find a park with gardens, floral walks, ponds and pavilions. The future was not as we imagined, if not only for the lack of flying cars which many of us lamented, but also because it doesn’t look as evil as we thought. Then came the daylight dystopia. As a child, I remember approaching this slightly less suffocating concept in the Disney PK comics. This was a superhero series of Donald Duck set in a futuristic future. In a particular episode, PK travelled to the future to find that instead of the tower he operated from – the Ducklair tower created by a tech genius – there was a garden. Our beloved flying cars came in handy in that comic in order to reach the heights of that vertical city, whose buildings have gardens on top, another idea which is being implemented in the green architectural world. An idea that has been developed by many architectural firms reimagining the future of the urban landscape as we will see. The palaces of the old city will be pillars, or comprised into other buildings, and of course we have plenty of examples of this as well. The final look of this city is a green aspirational environment which will preserve history and won’t look as dingy and ugly as we imagined dystopian cities to be.

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