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Memory of Indigo I-
Installation performance (2006-
For more than twenty five years now, I have been using the natural indigo pigment in my art work as a dominant color. It was by pure intuition. An art critic who wanted to write an article about my work asked me “why the blue?” I answered “not the blue, but the Indigo”. My answers lead me to know more about Indigo. First I remembered that I grew up in the house of my uncle where his portrait was painted with indigo shades only. Later, I read the following sentence in a book that dates back to 1849 “The Recovery of Jerusalem” by the traveler Warren: “On a sunny day, we can see in the streets of Jerusalem hundreds of meters of fabrics dyed with indigo.” Another book published by the British Museum in 1989 produced this sentence to me: “Indigo is the first color of Palestine”. Natural indigo was massively used to dye the Palestinian costumes. Associated with lime, indigo was also widely used to paint the interior and the exterior of houses. Finally, my research led me to find a lot of references from Arab and foreigner travelers who mentioned the plantation of indigo in the Jordan valley. Indigo, however, is not related to Palestine only. I learned that many other countries produce and share the admiration for this color like India, Egypt, Mexico, Mali, China, Japan...
I wanted to celebrate the color in an artistic performance.
In 2006 « Memory of Indigo I » was celebrated in Hyderabad in India during the “Symposium of Natural Dyes”. The dance was inspired by indigo dyers and the Indian culture of dance. The musicians were monks living in an ashram. They played in public for the first time.
In 2010 « Memory of Indigo II » took place in the great citadel of Aleppo which was the most important city in the Middle East for indigo dyeing. The dance was inspired by local dance, using silk fabrics that were still largely found in the city’s crafts. The music was composed by musicians from Aleppo who reflect the rich traditions of the city.
Sharjah Biennial 4, Sharjah
This installation is a collaborative work initiated and facilitated by Nasser Soumi. The artist invited 29 other artists participating in the 4th edition of Sharjah Biennial to suggest and produce a small work to be included in his cube. These site-
The final installation was in the form of a monumental cube with four windows inviting the spectator to discover the different boxes displayed inside and produced by the different artists.
This installation deals with the globalization in the context of large international exhibitions but also tackles the issue of authorship in the creation of collaborative artworks.
Traces of the twentieth century
Navarra Gallery, Paris -
Nasser Soumi's project, which is part of our exhibition entitled "80 Artists around the World's Cup" 1998, is also part of another far-
The People's Soul
Installation (1997)Printemps Palestinien
Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris -
Nasser Soumi is displaying a large wooden cube whose contents are invisible to the visitor when he or she climbs a ramp. At the top, the visitor realizes that the cube has been hollowed out and its inside has been lined with blocks of soap, emptied as well and filled with oil. In each soap, the artist has placed a lighted wick. When leaning over the cube, viewers discover this light.
Should we see an allegory in this work? There are echos of the film "Les Visiteurs du Soir" where two lovers turned into statues, although still alive, defy the Devil. Mad with rage, he whips the statues from beyond the grave and cries: "This heart which beats! And beats! And beats!..." All of France understood at the time that the German occupying forces were described as being unable to keep the soul of the French people from beating like the heart of the statues. Nasser Soumi's small flame in the Palestinian Spring is also a heart that beats, and beats, and beats…
Icon for Jaffa
First Installation (1996), Dar El Funun, Amman -
Second installation (2014), Mark Hachem, Beirut Exhibition Center
The majority of Jaffa’s inhabitants left their city in 1948, carrying away with them only a few personal possessions but many recollections. Little may be left of their ageing belongings, but their memories are still illuminated by moments of their previous lives in their city.
Since then many of Jaffa’s houses have been demolished or had their features altered almost beyond recognition, and most of its inhabitants have been supplanted.
I have sought to collect that which could not be demolished or destroyed, the first memories that tie every human being to his or her city in the way an umbilical cord ties them to the womb from which they were born.
The work consists of 30 wooden boxes, each of which contains a postcard-
These boxes are displayed in a row. Next to each box stands a lit candle, and below each is a shallow container filled with water stained with the indigo pigment for which Jaffa was once famed for using, reflecting the candle's flickering flame.
Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Céramique Industrielle, Paris -
Participants : Naïma Carbonare (contemporary artist), Jean-
This is not the first time that Nasser Soumi plays with our senses.
The invisible element is no doubt what inspires him. Each installation demonstrates this and has no other ambition than to relate what happens between the being and its environment. Where have we ended up after learning, after mastering gestures repeated sometimes from generation to generation, after adopting roles? What can we really see in this codified reality? It is certainly not by chance if water and its representation have often been presented in his works besides indigo, the original deep blue between sky and sea. Opacity is presented, appearances are effaced.
The project presented at the ENSCI is of this type. Behind translucent screens, artists are cut off from direct gazes which involve, expect, and judge. Intimacy of gestures remains complete, sounds created become solitary. A strange spectacle links us to the being disconnected from its function and what we feel is close to the unknown. What is the very object of this rising apprehension ? Could itsimply be ourselves!?
After erasing, the page is never really white…
The Rock of Raouché
Ashkal Alwan, Beirut -
The program “Corniche 1999” organized by the Lebanese Association for Contemporary Arts, “Ashkal Alwan”, got off to a good start yesterday morning on the coast side of Beirut, the Corniche. Until 15 October, the walkers and the passers-
What if the Rock of Raouché disappeared? How would the people react, Lebanese and foreigners alike? This question was at the heart of the artist’s creation for Nasser Soumi tries always “to study and understand the relation between the citizen and his environment”.
The French film-
After having lived in Lebanon for a number of years, Nasser Soumi left Beirut in 1980 and came back nineteen years later. Hi first visit was last March: “I was shattered by the spoiled landscape and the unplanned and savage constructions” he says. This led him to ask the question: would people continue to keep silent about what is happening if the Rock of Raouché, for example, was destroyed? (…).
Nasser Soumi has always worked with the public: “The relation of the people with what exists around them arises both my curiosity and my interest”, he explains (…).
Natacha Sikias, L’Orient-
Traces of Avignon
Public Installation (1991)
Place du palais des Papes, Avignon -
During the 44th Avignon Festival, contemporary artist Nasser Soumi presented a monumental yet fleeting performance. From 9 July to 3 August 1991, a pyramid of 4 meters in height was installed on the “ Place des Papes ”. Every day, Nasser Soumi “fed” the structure with leaflets, posters, programs and various elements that were collected on the site of the Festival. This was carried out with the participation of the public who took care of the daily recovery of the papers before handing them to the artist. All those papers were then stuck and superimposed on the pyramid that got bigger, every day, and went through phases of transformation. In the heart of the pyramid, an obelisk in the form of a mechanical gondola was installed. The top of the pyramid opened to let this gondola reach the height of 12 meters. Nine performances were thus carried out with the actors, dancers, musicians and hosts of the Festival.
Public installation, (2005)
Traces of the Twentieth Century, Sick Children 1998
Today's artists are talking about mysteries again, as the term was used in classical antiquity. We are compelled by Nasser Soumi's work, which shows his passion for archaeology and messages of all kinds-
“Watadour” … This complex and demanding work is a collaboration embracing four quite distinct forms and talents. Complementing Abou Diab and Habis’ interpretations of Rajeh’s choreography, and the performances of improvised veterans Kerbaj and Sehnaoui, is the work of Palestinian visual artist Nasser Soumi.
Soumi’s contribution, the disk upon which the dancers labor, revisits the artist’s “Memory of Indigo,” an installation-
Here the disk isn’t fixed at an angle. Over the course of the hour-
The piece’s mechanized aspect – the electric winches and harnesses working in counterpoint to Soumi’s discreetly moving surface/screen – lends the piece an unexpectedly retro quality. The violent juxtaposition of human fragility with the omnipresent machine is very much a 20th-
Jim Quilty The Daily Star, Beirut, 22 January 2014