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Sun Holes through a Tug of War: Postmodern Art in Postwar Syria

Whether you are a lover of contemporary art or not, there is no doubting the visual impact of art installations with 3D adding an additional dimension: humanity. Yes installation art is evocative as well as provocative in raising issues of great importance through offering accessibility to interactivity with audience.

However, Installation art which is a quietly new technique in the world of art only dating back to the seventies; has been introduced to the Syrian community by Fassih keiso, Ph.D. holder in Visual  Arts from Sydney University, through "Palmyra Tug of War" an interdisciplinary work dealing with violence, destruction and the human body.

Damascus Opera House has hosted a two day installation show entitled "Palmyra Tug of War"with the collaboration of Kalamoon Private University, Al-Nbras, Higher Institute for Dramatic Arts, Higher Institute for Music and Australia Council for the Arts. “Such an interdisciplinary work demands the cooperation of a number of different specialized organizations to produce such a blowing effect on the audience on the visual, audial and even emotional levels" affirmed Dr. keiso.

"Palmyra: Tug of War" is a multi-channel audiovisual installation by means of footage captured by Fassih keiso through his two visits to Palmyra, first on 31st of march 2016, only few days after Syrian Government  had recapture Palmyra from ISIS. However, keiso explained that "this work is not only a documentation of the historic city of Palmyra but rather an interpretation of the chaos caused by the surrealistic circumstances devastating the whole region". "Palmyra is not only at the center of Syria, it is at the center of all ancient civilizations" he exclaimed.

The show as well included a light installation show called "Holes for the Sun" set up via tin objects found from Homs old market roof, echoing the reshaping of space that took place in the architectural sphere of the city in war aftermath.

This multidisciplinary work incorporated two other installation reflecting the paradoxical role played by the international community _ personalized via UN organization_ throughout the war on Syria. Those two installations are:

"Vitamin" a live dancing performance emphasizing the ironic impact of UN humanitarian aid on Syrians daily life using UNICEF blankets and plastic shelters that have been distributed by millions to Syrian refugees outside and inside Syria. “The main message of this performance is to give the audience freedom of perspective regarding humanitarian aids, creating a critical alternative angle of point of view."  Dr. keiso stated.

"Protection" a structural design of plastic sheets dispersed by UN to "shelter" Syrians after having displaced them. "I have been influenced by the creativity of Syrians in using those plastic sheets in their daily life like a balcony curtain or a truck roof apart from their initial objective: "Sheltering" Syrian refugees!" ironically exclaimed Dr. keiso.

All those visual techniques and installations are experimental tools to raise awareness regarding the duality of the concept of WAR and what mass communication means and now World humanitarian organizations have affected the public opinion regarding the war on Syria.

Dr. Fassih keiso quoted William S. Burroughs― “This is a war universe. War all the time. That is its nature. There may be other universes based on all sorts of other principles, but ours seems to be based on war."Yet I say we can still be a cosmetic ray of light in this tin-roof universe.


Report & Interview: Lama Alhassanieh