MOURAD KOURI - The Threshold Stage
Uppsala Art Museum, Sweden, 9 March - 22 April 2019.
Curator: Rebecka Wigh Abrahamsson
Uppsala Art Museum is featuring a solo exhibition with the artist Mourad Kouri. Kouri is the first recipient of the 2018/2019 Uppsala Municipal Award Grant for Newly Graduated Visual Artists, which consists of a one year’s studio space on the premises of the Hospitalet studio association in the Ulleråker area, as well as the opportunity to exhibit at the Uppsala Art Museum. Kouri examines how architecture and specifically art spaces harbour ideologies. In the installation The Threshold Stage, the exhibition room has a bare and seemingly objective appeal. Industrial materials refer to a publicness, regulated by legislations concerning accessibility and security. On March 9, Kouri's exhibition The Threshold Stage opens at Uppsala Art Museum.
It is often said that everything comes down to design. This statement is good to keep in mind when encountering the conceptual work of Mourad Kouri. Kouri works at a low-intensity, almost abrading frequency. Sculptural and architectural interventions in the room create shifts that destabilize, and challenge established power structures.
In the installation The Threshold Stage, the room has a bare and seemingly objective appeal. The pale walls and industrial materials such as metal, concrete and enamel, as well as the open spatiality all refer to a publicness, regulated by legislations concerning accessibility and security. The 20th century model of Sweden (folkhemmet) is present here, but the line can be traced further back to the Agora – the square in ancient Greek cities where direct democracy was practiced. The clear axes and symmetry affirm this transparency of public space, and how initially democratic ideals were supposed to be reflected in architecture. So where are we situated? The installation at the Uppsala Art Museum looks back at the ideals of the past, but also depicts a dystopic future that perhaps is already our present? A time of walls and barriers. Public spaces under threat, mass protests, a worn-out democracy afflicted by reactionary tendencies.
In his previous works, Kouri has used the position of the refugee and the refugee smuggler to understand the border on both a physical and a symbolic level. How a border can be a psychological state as well as a GPS-location on the map. Kouri describes how his Syrian relatives and family members have a pragmatic relationship to borders: money and bribes to be paid, locations to turn up at on a given time, containers within which to be smuggled into Europe. The Threshold Stage describes a condition or stage in-between states and systems. A place that may also be experienced as subversive due to its refusal of being fully defined.
A metal handrail bisects the room. Kouri points out that handrails are typically Scandinavian and closely tied to the way in which the welfare state cares for its citizens. Meanwhile, there is a clear direction that regulates our movement in the space. The line also becomes an obstacle that may not be crossed, like a passport control queue at an airport with its supposedly neutral design. A similar ambivalence can be found in Tel al-Za’atar™ (The Mountain of Thyme), ), a work that consists of a bathtub from the Swedish folkhem period, filled with olive oil and displayed next to a pile of the spice mix za’atar. Kouri alludes to Middle Eastern cuisine, and the sensuality and social function of a shared meal that reaches beyond ethnic groups, countries and historical periods. Tel al-Za’atar is also the name of a Palestinian refugee camp outside of Beirut, Lebanon, which was the site of a massacre committed by extreme right-wing militia in 1976. Violence and everyday life. Kouri sketches the latency of violence and how it is always present, even as memories in diasporic Sweden.
Minimalism as an art movement sought out to use its reductive serial language to create a displacement from the artefact itself to the viewer and the surrounding context. With a post-minimalist gesture, Mourad Kouri emphasizes the ideologies inherent in the objects and the venue itself. We find ourselves in a castle that was once used as a stronghold and is now a space devoted to showing and experiencing art. Kouri’s Threshold Stage points towards the coulisse effect that can be found in both art and the concept of democracy. A room as a blind alley, a transit hall to pause. The Threshold Stage reflects the hegemonic structures within art but also stresses how mobility is increasingly characterized by exile and states of emergency.
Rebecka Wigh Abrahamsson
Curator Uppsala Art Museum
Mourad Kouri (b. 1987) is the recipient of the 2018/2019 Uppsala Municipal Award Grant for Newly Graduated Visual Artists, which consists of a one year’s studio space on the premises of Hospitalet studio association in the Ulleråker area, as well as the opportunity to exhibit at the Uppsala Art Museum. Kouri received a master’s degree in Fine Art from the Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm in 2018. He also holds a BA in Fine Art from Concordia University, Montreal, as well as a BA in Philosophy from Södertörn University, Stockholm.
Kouri has exhibited nationally and internationally at venues such as Asilo Sant’Elia (Como), Nuda (Stockholm), Örebro Läns Museum (Örebro), Eastern Bloc (Montreal), HAVN Gallery (Hamilton), Mossutställningar (Stockholm), amongst others. In 2018, he was invited to the Artists Research Laboratory at Fondazione Antonio Ratti in Como, and has collaborated with Tensta Konsthall and Index: The Swedish Contemporary Art Foundation in Stockholm. His work has been published in journals such as Hjärnstorm, Paletten, Tydningen, Nuda Paper, The Void Magazine, and he has been awarded grants from The Swedish Arts Grants Committee (IASPIS), Konstakademien, Helge Ax:son Johnsons Stiftelse, amongst others.
Saturday 9 March
14:00 Exhibition opening with an opening speech by Linda Eskilsson, Chair of the Cultural Committee of Uppsala Municipality
Thursday 21 March
18:00-19:00 Performance: Tel al-Za’atar™, Mourad Kouri
19:00-20:00 Panel discussion: Designed security in a time of mobility.
Mourad Kouri, Mahmoud Keshavarz, Saskia Holmkvist and Ellen Nyman.
In his artistic practice, Mourad Kouri explores concepts such as borders, mobility and accessibility. Together with Saskia Holmkvist, Ellen Nyman and Corina Oprea, the artists behind the Sicherheit video installation, they will discuss the connection between the weapon industry, design, politics and involuntary migration. Mahmoud Keshavarz, postdoctoral researcher at the Engaging Vulnerability programme, Uppsala University, and one of the participants in the Critical Border Studies collective, will partake in the discussion.
In cooperation with the Upland Art Association.
For further information, please contact:
Rebecka Wigh Abrahamsson, Curator, Uppsala Art Museum,
+46 (0)18 727 24 84, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eva Björkman, Communication Manager, +46 (0)18 727 24 80, email@example.com