City In Transformation 

The city as a concept is the best access to reveal the secrets of place, to indicate its time and its history, to understand its people, their reality, their pains, their struggles, their dreams and their hopes.

It considers as the center to social, economic and political analysis; by observing it and discover it, you will realize the real pulse of the life for its people.

From my point of view, It plays the main reasons to engender ideas, to create new artistic projects, to provoke the artists to create new piece of art to reflect their city and themselves and to have better understandable to the society and people, inspired from Shakespeare quote: ”what is the city but the people”.

In my program ”City In Transform” I relocate general image about Damascus during the recent years to give general image about it and the transformation into it from the views of the artists; thus, I selected some video arts from the collection of “AllArtNow” produced before 2011 where the artists focused on the urbanism as a main subject during several projects.

One of artists (Diana Jabi) has special focus in Damascus where she produced 3 video arts. Through these 3 video arts she is trying to document the city during the recent years.

In the program, I used the chronology, where the program will start from Damascus 2008 till the last part of the program, which produced in 2014

In the last part of the program, I posed main question, asking the artists of AllArtNow about their relations with Damascus in this moment and how they are thinking about the city and about themselves.

By posing this question, I try to provoke the artists to experiment their relation with Damascus whether they are living abroad or they are still living into it (all the artists of the group are not living in Damascus in these moments except one of them (Muhammad Ali) and they don`t communicate regularly or work with each other).

From our discussion together and from the piece of art they created about their city and their relations with this city, they are emphasizing that “The axis of the earth sticks out visibly through the centre of each and every town or city”. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. 

Abir Boukhari

2014, Damascus

The artists in the program 

1-The video: Passageway

Artist: Diana Jabi

Duration: 4.14 min

Dates: 2008

Synopsis: this piece might be interpreted on 3 different levels. Foremost, it is an exercise in disassociation and reinterpretation of music. Passageway is a video clip, it’s a musical piece dictating the pace, rhythm and concatenation of the image. Also Passageway is a flicker video; it consists of three shoots, of roughly 15 seconds each, that are cut, repeated, distorted, interlaced and overlaid. And last, Passageway is a cry against routine; against unchanging cultural and social norms; it’s an act of individual against the domination of the majority. Passageway is the interior restlessness of the ego imprisoned in the (then) unbending, unbreakable status quo of a dormant society. 

2- The video: Damascus

The artist: Michael Windle (UK) with contributing artists include: Bassel Tabakh, Erfan Khalifa, Fadi Al Hamwi, Iman Hasbani, Manar Wakim, Muhammad Ali, Nisrine Boukhari, Razan Mohsen, Rouba Khwais, Salam Al Hassam.

The duration: 7.00 Min

The dates: 2010

Synopsis: I learned that in the 1960s the standard graduation assignment at the University of Damascus was to do a suite of images from their home town. With help from Abir and Nisrine at AllArtNow in the summer of 2010 we were able to assemble a small group of filmmakers to explore the city that they knew to make a kind of video portrait. 

3- The video: Sidewalks/derive

Artist: Diana Jabi

Duration: 4.14 min

Dates: shoot in 2009/produced in 2010

Synopsis: The Damascene sidewalks for me look like a work of art; they represent an entire ecosystem, nay culture or perhaps civilization, with its own set of unwritten rules and laws. It is an ecosystem parallel to our own, which we tend to overlook. The work can be seen as the synopsis of a summer of ”flânerie” through Damascus. It`s also a visual concert, the first of many, where sound, or lack thereof, plays the main role. The movements I, II, IV (For Every Taste) are Installations/performances of the everyday of Damascus Street. Movement III (Sabbara) a homage to the prickly pear ad-hoc seasonal stands. Movement V (Passageway to BCN) Intermezzo between two creative stages: visual and auditory, Damascus and the rest of the world. 

4-The Video: Sucsamad

Artist: Erfan Khalife

Duration: 3.12 Min

Dates: 2010


Car Horn + Car Horn = 2 Car Horns

2 Car Horns + 2 Car Horns = 4 Car Horns

4 Car Horns + 4 Car Horns = 8 Car Horns

Etc..+ Etc.. = 2 Etc 

5-The video: Damascus/Barcelona

The artist: Diana Jabi

The duration: 5.00 min

The year: 2012

Synopsis; To live in “Cham” is to be submerged in an infinite ocean of stories, myths, and legends; of histories and philosophies; of truths and realities; of tall tales and anecdotes without boundaries. Where does Cham end and begin?

If one listens carefully, he will find one place. Cham is every place. 

6- The video: A Letter Between Two Cities – Damascus/Copenhagen

Artist: Nisrine Boukhari

The duration: 9.20 Min

The year: 2013

Synopsis: In this letter between Damascus – Copenhagen and after researching on the history of the city of Copenhagen, focusing on a specific events happened in its history, trying to overlap these events with what’s happening now in Damascus because of the war using conceptual language to play this Double role of the truth .

I have chosen several events while the city was hit by the Bubonic plague in the 1711 when one-third of the population had died from this highly infectious disease which was brought in by ships from Europe and Prussia carrying infected vermin.

Another part related to the time of the world war and the urban renewal policy of 1948 which was called “finger plan”.

This video is one of an ongoing project of several letters sent from Damascus to another city in the world, humanizing the city in its speech, researching the idea of a city in conflict.

We have not just been displaced because of the war but we carry the city inside us wherefore the city is displaced too.

7-The video: Nor Human, Neither Stone

Artist: Muhammad Ali

Duration: 3.25 Min

The year: 2014

In the recent times, during my walks on the street of Damascus, I see repeated scenes of people falling down, people of different ages and from different social levels, elderly or young, woman or man, walking alone or with their families. They all share the same scene, of falling down, in different ways but carrying the same meaning for all of us.

I look at their tired faces, I don´t notice the feelings of shame and discomfort posed after they tumble, as if they are enjoying their tumble, indifferent to their weakness, full of feelings of sadness and anger, just like the pedestrians who don`t stop themselves anymore, they just through a glance and continue their oppressed, exhausted walk as if everyone has realized that falling in all its meaning has become such a regular scene in the daily life in a city where everything is falling down.

8- The video: When City Moves to the Sky

Artist: Mahmoud Dayoub

The duration: 4.00 min

The year: 2014

Synopsis: When I am thinking in Damascus, I look up to the sky where I imagine the whole buildings move up to combine with the sky a piece of arabesque.

I can`t stop imagine the desire of the city to follow its people who move up and found their place into the sky.

 9- The video: Everyday Life

Artist: Amer Al Akel

The duration: 3.28 Min

The year: 2014

Synopsis: This is my city; where I used to live, with all its routine, mess, noise and silence.

This is the city which witnessed my life in its details. Now, they are trying to

Change its soul, character and features, it becomes a stranger and do not

Resemble us anymore. But we will go back and it will come back to reflect our life once again as we desire.

10- The video: In the Land

Artist: Maha Shahin

The duration: 4.24 Min

The year: 2014

Synopsis: No longer anyone of us visit her… no longer the dew of the spring covers the wild herbs lying on the white marble; the black smolder did not let any place to anything else.

My mother, I left her lying there alone in your land Damascus ! I let with her my souvenirs and my memory, How can I stop thinking of her and you.

I keep asking myself, Do I will visit you both one day, or I lost my mother forever.