Follow the crowd: the art foundation kick-starting Arab performance art

Not many people would associate performance art with the Arab world, but one organisation is looking for help to change that perspective and showcase contemporary Arab culture

A London-based art foundation is looking to raise £15,000 through crowdfunding website Kickstarter to create an archive and exhibition of the history of Arab performance art.

The Delfina Foundation’s proposed initiative – called Staging History: Performance art in the Arab world – would fund a 6-month research project to produce an archive on the development of the art form in the region and showcase established Arab performance artists. The funding would also allow two artists to create new performances based on the archive materials, all to be exhibited in London next July.

The project has already raised one-third of its £15,000 target. The crowdfunding platform only releases the money pledged if the final target is reached by the funding deadline, which is Tuesday 28 October for the Delfina Foundation’s project.

“We felt that because this research has been overlooked for many years, it was important to use a platform where everybody could contribute, from £1 to £1,000,” says Aaron Cezar, the foundation’s director. “The exhibition will try and lift some of the critical issues that have been facing the Arab world.”

Performance art is live art that addresses certain issues or follows a narrative, according to Cezar. “It is very much part of cultural production, how we as a collective body of people understand identity,” says Cezar. “The angle we’re thinking about is how you use performance [art] as a way of understanding the most recent cultural shifts in the region.”

Delfina Foundation
The initiative is part of a new tie-up between Kickstarter and art fair host Art Basel

The foundation hopes its research will bring together historical examples of Arab performance art found in disciplines such as music and dance to raise its profile, says Cezar. “We actually need much more than financial support. We also need knowledge from local practitioners, support from galleries, older artists, libraries and museums in the region to gather all this information,” he adds.

Performance art in the Arab world is not new. The region has already given birth to established names such as Lebanese artists Rabih Mroue and Walid Raad and the Palestinian video and installation artist Mona Hatoum.

Delfina foundation is currently in talks with UAE and Levant-based institutions to provide some of the historical materials and co-commission works.

The first presentation of the exhibition will take place at the Shubbak festival of contemporary Arab culture in London, from 11 to 25 July 2015. If successful, the foundation hopes the exhibition will travel to the region.

The initiative is part of a new tie-up between Kickstarter and art fair host Art Basel, which aims to boost scarce funding for non-profit arts organisations worldwide.