The magic of Siri in Sand Land

The magic of Siri in Sand Land

This is not about nostalgia of what was once called the Silk Road, that glorious time of openess and collaboration connecting  East to West where not only silk and goods were traded but cultures too.

This is more about words and how they change meaning with time . This is about memories and history and how it  can be distorted if not completely erased. 

It is also about the future , about blockchain, a network that will pull the world together regardless of color race frontiers. A technology  that is taking the world by storm including  the art world.

In 2013 The term silk road had been hijacked and  had been  used to refer to an online  drug marketplace run by criminals and drug lords, which was shut down by the authorities. 

This is my attempt to rescue the Silk Road from it’s  hijackers. How?By recapturing the beautiful spirit of openness and collaboration connecting  east to west .

 A modern  version of that glorious time of openness and connectivity is represented here with an art collector cruising the desert on a camel while giving instructions through Siri to buy him a Rothko from Dubai Art Fair. If you think this is far from happening think again! Recently Apple has hired  John Giannandre Google’s chief of search artificial intelligence to improve Siri.

On the true meaning of a work of Art, from Hammer’s show to Mozart’s Magic Flute, passing by Blockchain

The photo above is a closeup of a work in progress(150x100cm), inspired by Mozart’s Magic  Flute , and the blockchain revolution taking the art world world by storm. More on that towards the end of this post.

Jasper John’s reluctance to explain his work is, in a way very smart, because anyway once outside of an artist’s studio, any work of art will acquire a life of its own! And will keep changing and acquiring different layers of meaning, sometimes even in the eyes of its own creator. Events, context, viewer’s interpretation, curator’s intentions etc will all contribute in continuously shaping the meaning of an artwork.
I experienced this with my work, but I had the confirmation one day when I was listening to Xavier Veilhan and then recently with “Stories of almost everyone,” the show at the Hammer museum and especially with Tino Sehgal’s amazing Guard performance . The guard stripping, removing layer after layer to finally reveal his true skin(he didn’t strip completely, at least not when I was there) is a metaphor for the process required to reach the core of a work of art. Peel off all layers added by catalogues, reviews, art critics, curators and you’ll finally arrive at the artist’s intentions …. The show leaves u confused, wondering: should an artist reveal or not the true meaning of a work? In a way it is tempting for the artist to just refrain from giving any explanation to his art, bearing in mind the risk of having it acquire a meaning he totally disapproves of. Isn’t that what happened to The Charging Bull? (click here for  The touching story of the Charging Bull) The artist’s intention was to symbolize America’s strength and resilience after the crash, but somehow in people’s mind, it morphed into a symbol for greed and corruption, especially after its appropriation and portrayal on the occupy wall street poster. Later it became a symbol of oppression when  ” Fearless Girl” was placed opposite the iconic Wall Street Charging Bull to mark International Women’s Day

I’ve been so much tempted to follow expert’s advise and stop explaining my work, to the point that one day, after having seen a bitcoin ad embedded in my WordPress blog, I panicked and immediately deleted it with no hesitation . My blog was in invisible mode for a couple of month I think…

But then later  I changed my mind and decided I’m better off explaining my work and keeping my blog. I’d like to have control over the meaning of my work. That doesn’t prevent anyone from viewer, to curator, art critic, journalist etc… to  look at it and have their imagination run wild and cast their own interpretations.

When I panicked seeing the bitcoin ad , it wasn’t because I was against bitcoin, on the contrary back then I was reading watching and listening everything related to blockchain . Blockchain is the future and I desperately needed to understand where we are heading and how to interact in that new ecosystem. I spent literally a couple of month trying to wrap my brains around blockchain and cryptocurrencies the subject was fascinating… it seems 99% of cryptocurrencies are scam , but some will survive and provide real solutions that will hopefully make the world a better place. My interest as an artist was mainly fueled by my curiosity and by how this would be applied to the art world …As my husband was and is still completely against the subject, and doesn’t even want to discuss it, I joined for a couple of weeks a Facebook group , something i’ve never done before, just to find some answers. I needed help in knowing how to safely and securely send all documents required for verification before buying my first bitcoin. I naively thought if I buy 1 bitcoin and few other alt coins, I would prove to myself that I am ready for the new crypto age…

I was really so excited about how the art world would be affected by this wonderful technology.I had grand plans, I thought, maybe  by getting my feet wet, I’d eventually come up with a brilliant idea that would make the world a better ,or that would enable  artists to have a more fulfilling life. Basically crypto for a good use !

But by the time I figured out how to do that, the price was up to the roof, not to mention that by then, some credit cards where being deactivated by banks as authorities were trying to control what was happening. So I finally opted to buy just $10 worth of bitcoin from an ATM , simply to put my curiosity at rest and guess what ? Commission was so high that I only got $3 worth of bitcoin!… The problem bitcoin claimed to solve is still there, huge fees! Even transaction time it seems was too slow, in some cases it required days for transaction to go through… like any new technolgy criminals are using it and abusing it. So far ripple is my favorite, banks are using it to make very quick transfers.
Bubble or not, blockchain will definitely change the world as we know it right now, it’s a huge social cultural revolution that will touch every sector, and cannot be ignored.
It is definitely taking the world by storm including the art world. Later I discovered artists didn’t need me to lead a more fulfilling life. So many art related blockchain startups were mushrooming left right and center…having in mind to remove the middle man, to prevent fraud, to create digital certificates of authenticity, art registries, to democratize art and make it more affordable, more accessible… which startup will win , which one will survive? Only time will tell… in the meantime, blockchain and crypto started naturally showing up in my work:)! of course how could it be otherwise after all the efforts  I’ve done to get my first bitcoin?!(more on that in a future post)

I’m still not quite sure about the title of my work. Here are a few I Am considering: Tokenizing the past, To bitcoin or not to bitcoin , La Flute  Enchantée in crypto mode…

Talking about crypto mode I ran across quite an interesting interpretation of Mozart’s Magic Flute on Los Angeles Philharmonic Association youtube Chanel. Notice I used the word Interpretation , for did Mozart really intend his opera to be a symbolic representation of a masonic  initiation ceremony?  Did he do it on purpose?  We’ll never know unless he magically pops up from his grave!



The Kipling Spirit - roula Sorour

The Kipling Spirit , Hahnemühle Bright White Photo Rag mounted on Dibond, by roula sorour 150x90cm , Ed.1/1 – 2017 V&A Museum, John Madejski Garden, designed by Kim Wilkie, London, England, early 21th century ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Inspired by an article about Martin Ross resignation over the Brexit vote, the Kipling Spirit is a celebration of diversity denouncing the rise of nationalism and cultural insularity in Britain and Europe.

I’ve always sat in awe admiring the great brick facade of the V&A. Little did i know that Lockwood Kipling (Rudyard Kipling’s father)started his career as an architectural sculptor at the South Kensington Museum (later renamed the Victoria and Albert Museum) . That wonderful exhibition made it so clear to me that Britain’s greatness like that of the V&A relies so much on cultural diversity.

The fabric passed the test !

Late night at Sursock Late night at Sursock 150x120cm Mixed media over Digital Print on Hahnemuhle photo rag bright white 310 gsm mounted on Dibon

A few more final touches for “Late night at Sursock” and it’s done! A collaborative mixed media work involving embroidery/weaving by people from different parts in Lebanon inspired by the tensions in the art world.  Gathering back all the pieces in one work symbolizes my belief that it is throught art and institutions like Sursock that Lebanese will be pulled together!  Special thanks to all the people who collaborated and made this project possible: Sana from Zouk, Lillie and her family from Baakline, Arpi and Anahid from Badguèr in Bourj Hamoud, Zeina and her team at Khan el Franj Saida, Safa and Anouane from Sour , Melissa from Jounieh Zorica from Batroun( for helping me find Melissa!), Eric Mona and Shahinaz of Tara W Kheit in tripoli,Hala and her team at Barjis, Ziad and his team at Inaash , Rabih from Mlikh Jezzine, Daria from Adonis , Fida from Aley, Dalal from Bekaa, Suheir at Decoratex, Bilal and Anny at Lollipop for the wonderful Dibond, Ibrahim at Palladium for his professional technical guidance and providing me with paper samples to do glue tests, and Melki for the 100% natural canvas and silk threads! For those who thought I was using a synthetic canvas the proof is in the video below! The fabric passed the 100% natural test as when burned, it crumbled between my fingers like powder and the burned edges were soft.

The fabric passed the test! from roula sorour on Vimeo.

Ya Hala Monsieur Courbet

Inspired by Courbet's The Meeting

Ya Hala Monsieur Courbet – Digital Print on Epson water resistant textured matte canvas 375g/m2  250x125cm

This  is my reinterpretation of Courbet’s “The Meeting” also known as “Wealth meeting Genius” or “Bonjour Monsieur Courbet” . My “artist meeting patron” version was inspired by Sursock Museum and Beirut’s soundscape, but also by the tumultuous relationship between artists and the global art establishment in general.
With power, money , notions of belonging and affiliations being key to understanding the structures of the art system, the relationship between the art establishment and artists has never been as tumultuous. Mega artists are leaving blue-chip galleries that have been representing them for many years whilst underground artists are finding it more difficult to be visible and have their work shown. Litigations and Art fraud cases are in the news on a daily basis. Art lawyers also known as consiglieries or art angels, are making huge amounts of money from cases related to authenticity, forged masterworks, sales of worthless fakes, issues of appropriation and money laundrering. Auctions on the other hand are filled with chandelier bids and planted accomplices who bid against clients to ramp up the final price. Having said that, not everyone falls in the trap and there are still amazing curators, art experts, institutions and artists one can trust.With the emergence of a new map of contemporary art, where Europe and the West are not necessarily at the center, Beirut was cited as being one of the 12 art cities of the future. Most artists there as elsewhere are strugling hard for exposure. They live in osmosis with their environment, and sometimes, can’t help but have their opinions embedded in their work, despite the curatorial trends: remaining neutral to have a broader audience , or sticking to a certain theme to suit a patron’s agenda. These are the true authentic artists who would be greeting any patron or art expert with the same confidence as that of Courbet in “The Meeting” . Like him they belong “to no school, to no church, to no institution, to no academy, least of all to any régime except the régime of liberty”.

As i was visiting the exhibition at Sursock Museum “Let’s Talk about the Weather” I remembered an idea that i submitted in 2011 for an art/science collaboration competition somewhere in Europe. It was inspired by the true story of two jordanian bedouin illiterate women who were sent to India for six month to train as Solar technicians. Something similar was taking place in Bangladesh.The man behind the Bangladeshi initiative was the Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus, which tells me such a project is a credible and feasible idea.

My proposal consisted of sending engineering students to poor remote villages in Lebanon, to train locals to install, use and maintain solar panels.

What about my role as an artist? I would be the creator of a short movie to document the project and to help spread the dream all over Lebanon.
Talking about Lebanon,what struck me most during my summer stay was the amount of noise pollution people have to live with. Loud shrieking speakers, exhaust sounds from cars and motorcycles, sounds of celebratory bullets shot in the air whenever a leader gives a speech or for whatever happy or sad occasion such as a wedding, a funeral,birth of a baby, promotion or even passing of a test. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a sound ministry that would regulate sounds and Integrate acoustic ecology in our urban design?

Work in progress : Late night at Sursock 

I have been recently asked about ” Late night at Sursock” and whether it is still a work in progress. The answer is yes , because i am still looking for people to participate in the project. As i mentioned in a previous post i was in london when sursock museum opened its doors. I didn’t quite know what to expect . But i finally visited sursock museum and all my doubts disappeared. It is quite breathtaking to say the least. From the architecture to the restoration of the premises, to their permanent collection of Lebanese art, to Assadour’s retrospective, Ali Cherri’s touching exhibition and the oud player on thursday nights, everything was simply perfect. Unlike the elitist etiquette it was carrying in the past, the new sursock is a museum with such a varied rich program that one can safely say : finally Lebanon has a great modern and contemporary museum that is for all Lebanese.

It is more than clear to me that it is through the arts , and institutions like sursock museum in particular,that the Lebanese will be pulled together.
That’s exactly why i chose people from all walks of life, all over lebanon to work on bits of my above design in their preferred medium : embroidery, crochet, nawl ,patchwork, etc
Later all the parts would be gathered to form back the original picture ,symbolising our desire to stay united as a nation despite the storms surrounding us.

My thanks to each and everyone who is helping me on the project!
I am quite excited to see the final result.



Desert Storm Submission to OSIRIS_REX ,Desert Storm ,mixed media painting on photo paper , 2010 ,roula sorour[/caption]

We’r all at some point in time explorers trying to go beyond , to reach new frontiers by asking the same question , how can we make the world a better place to live in? No matter who we are, from astronauts ,engineers, architects, to artists, teachers and everything in between, including migrants looking for a safer place to live , we’r all seeking better futures and new horizons. With our aging and depleted planet , and with mass migration  reaching epic proportions, space exploration is needed more than ever before. Good luck from the bottom of my heart to @OSIRISREx and everyone envolved in the mission to explore the Bennu asteroid!!