Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Talk About Your Poor Sports

News out of the Alexandria Biennial in Egypt is that an Algerian artist (Zineb Sedira [navigate to her page from here to see work]) has been rejected from the exhibition. Not, mind you, because anyone found her proposed artwork objectionable on political or religious grounds. No...Ms. Sedira has been ousted because Egypt lost a soccer match to Algeria and the Egyptians are still steamed about that. Artforum.com explains:

The Algerian artist Zineb Sedira has denounced her eviction from the Alexandria Biennial in Egypt. As Agence France-Presse reports, Sedira, who was to represent Algeria in the exhibition, found herself barred from the event by Egyptian authorities, who cited the violence that has marred the qualification matches between Egypt and Algeria for the World Soccer Cup in 2010. Last November, Egypt’s defeat by Algeria led to violent clashes in both countries. Sedira, a Franco-Algerian artist who lives in London, was said to be “appalled” after being impacted by the soccer affair between Egypt and Algeria. The artist received a letter from Mohsen Shaadan—the president of the biennial and the head of Egypt’s fine arts sector—who informed her that Algeria would no longer be participating in the biennial due to the “anger” of the Egyptians about the behavior of Algerian soccer fans who went “beyond all the criteria and customs of the Arab citizen.” Sedira was reported to be “disappointed” by the link made by the Egyptian authorities between a soccer crisis and her own artistic activity. “I thought that we shared the same values and celebrated the virtues of art in its capacity to go beyond the national borders of a country and other vague nationalist desires,” stated the artist, adding that she had no intention to transform the Algerian national pavilion at the biennial into a soccer field or courtroom.

The Alexandria Biennial, which features artists from countries bordering on the Mediterranean Sea, runs until January 31.

The most pathetic part of Shaadan's lame defense of this decision is that fans on both sides seemed to have gone "beyond all the criteria and customs of the Arab citizen":
Egyptian soccer fans burned Algerian flags and rioted outside the Algerian Embassy in Cairo, smashing cars and shop windows, in an escalating row between the two countries over a bitter World Cup rivalry.

Egyptian fans – and the country's media – have been thrown into a frenzy over reports that Algerians attacked and injured Egyptians after their countries' teams squared off in a World Cup qualifier in the Sudanese capital Khartoum this week. Algeria won the game 1-0, giving them a spot in the 2010 Cup in South Africa.

Several hundred Egyptian fans rampaged in the streets around the Algerian Embassy overnight into the early hours Friday, scuffling with black-uniformed riot police. It began as a protest, with demonstrators beating drums, shooting jets of flame from aerosol cans and shouting obscenities and slogans against Algerians.

So by Shaadan's logic, Egypt should ban itself from the Alexandria Biennial as well.

OR...perhaps (and this is just an idea, mind you) Shaadan should re-read the mission for the founding of the biennial:
The aim of the Alexandria Biennial is to fortify the cultural and artistic dialog not only between Egypt and its neighboring Mediterranean countries but to extend it all over the world as well. This year, the Alexandria Biennial celebrates its 25th edition that aims to be a panoramic view of the latest in artistic creativity coming from our region.
Kind of hard to be panoramic when you've got such an infantile, patriotism-induced blind spot. Sedira doesn't even live in Algeria any more...she's based in London. The Egyptians should learn to separate national pride from international cultural and artistic dialog if they expect the Alexandria Biennial to truly be viewed as a significant contribution to humankind and not simply a chance to toot their own horn.

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6 Comments:

Blogger Mery Lynn said...

Sometimes I wonder how our species has survived as long as it has.

12/22/2009 01:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post. But but but... sports bring us together :)


--- ondine nyc

12/22/2009 01:56:00 PM  
Blogger Sean Capone said...

I would be happy if sports could fully replace war, but it doesn't seem to fully squelch our innate need for tribal bloodlust. Oh well.

12/22/2009 02:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As if Egypt had a shot in hell of winning a soccer match of any international importance...

12/22/2009 04:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Awful, awful, awful. Maybe group sports should be banned if it's going to make people go so crazy.

Cedric C

12/23/2009 07:15:00 AM  
Blogger Marilu Knode said...

But the sensitivities in that region are legion...it's likely not just the lost soccer game but what's happening at the U.N. etc... Many rumours abound about why the push for the return of Egyptian antiquities at just this moment too--the political lines are complicated. Sad, however, that artists, so little supported in the region, are used as scapegoats. It happens in the U.S. as well!

12/28/2009 11:09:00 AM  

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