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Exclusive Exhibition Explores Complex History of Middle East Region:

 Landscape of Memory: Seven Installations from the Barjeel Art Foundation (Sharjah, UAE)

January 30–June 4, 2023
Works by Artists with Roots in Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Europe, United States

CHESTNUT HILL, MA (December 2022) — The McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College will present the exclusive exhibition Landscape of Memory: Seven Installations from the Barjeel Art Foundation (Sharjah, UAE), which comprises works created between 1998 and 2011 by renowned artists Adel Abidin, Sadik Kwaish Alfraji, Marwa Arsanios, Mona Hatoum, Lamia Joreige, Maha Maamoun, and Basim Magdy. The exhibition will be on display in the Daley Family and Monan Galleries from January 30 to June 4, 2023.

The exhibition is the first to present this assemblage of inventive installations, which explore the rich and complex history of the Middle East region. Drawn from the collection of the Barjeel Art Foundation in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, the works probe questions of causes and effects of war, personal and national identity, exile and belonging, and memory and commemoration in films, paintings, sculptures, photographs, and multimedia displays. 

“The McMullen is pleased to invite our audiences to engage with seven multimedia installations from the outstanding collection of the Barjeel Art Foundation, which examine the role of memory in shaping understanding of our identities and concepts of home,” said Inaugural Robert L. and Judith T. Winston Director of the McMullen Museum of Art Nancy Netzer, a BC professor of art history. “A Portal provided by Shared_Studios with immersive audio and visual technology will connect small groups with others throughout the world to participate in dialogue about the artists’ works and exhibition themes in real time.”

Landscape of Memory: Seven Installations from the Barjeel Art Foundation (Sharjah, UAE)

With roots in Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Europe, and the United States, the seven innovative artists provoke reflection on what it means to remember and the landscapes their memories inhabit. 

In Cairo, Basim Magdy’s My Father Looks for an Honest City reenacts a stunt of ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes the Cynic that features his own father, and Maha Maamoun’s Domestic Tourism II splices together decades of video footage of Giza’s pyramids. Baghdad sets the scene for both Sadik Kwaish Alfraji’s The House My Father Built, a large-scale visualization of the artist’s first painful visit home following his father’s death, as well as Adel Abidin’s rumination on the lonely consequences of war in his Memorial. Lebanon’s Acapulco beach resort and the streets of Beirut are host to Marwa Arsanios’s and Lamia Joreige’s respective installations that recall false promises symbolized by modernist architecture and the rupture of violence on the cyclical nature of time. The lights of Mona Hatoum’s Plotting Table raise the specter of conflict on an international scale. 

As part of Landscape of Memory’s installation, the Monan Gallery will house a Portal from Shared_Studios. The Portal is an immersive, high-definition internet video connection that joins small rooms across the globe to provide a sense of spatial continuity, allowing participants to engage with one another. 

[Media Note: A selection of press images and captions is available here. Please email Kate Shugert at the McMullen Museum with questions.]

Exhibition Curator and Organizers

Organized by the McMullen Museum in conjunction with the Barjeel Art Foundation, the exhibition has been curated by Boston College Political Science Department Professor of the Practice Kathleen Bailey, director of the University’s Islamic Civilization and Societies Program.

“The Middle East is a region that has been touched by internecine conflict, outside intervention, interstate warfare, environmental degradation, and climate change, which have provoked migration and a refugee crisis that has persisted over several generations. It is also a region of perseverance, humanity, and hope,” said Bailey. “The work of the artists included in Landscape of Memory encapsulates this history by evoking universal feelings of identity, memory, home, displacement, and loss, while also posing the question of who we are as humans when faced by the devastation caused by conflict. The installations depict a complex and provocative reality of loss and grief, but also of rebirth and compassion.” 

Major support for Landscape of Memory has been provided by Boston College and the Patrons of the McMullen Museum. The Shared_Studios Portal has been underwritten by the Islamic Civilization and Societies Program, the University Council on Teaching, and the Institute for the Liberal Arts at Boston College.

Artists’ Biographies

Adel Abidin is a multimedia artist who works in Amman, Jordan, and Helsinki, Finland. Informed by his cross-cultural background, Abidin explores intersections of identity, visual art, and politics to challenge viewers by “extending the[ir] mental borders” to contemplate themes of personal responsibility in the face of global turmoil.

Sadik Kwaish Alfraji lives and works in Amersfoort, Netherlands, where he found political asylum in the early 1990s. Initially drawn to abstract art as a way to conceal his opposition to Saddam Hussein’s Ba'athist regime, Alfraji’s works are highly personal. His paintings, drawings, and video animations probe “the problem of existence” to reflect upon themes of loss and exile while also offering viewers a sense of the redemptive power of hope and shared humanity. 

Marwa Arsanios, a researcher, artist, and filmmaker, explores mid-twentieth-century politics in her multidisciplinary works. Based in Beirut, Lebanon, and Berlin, Germany, Arsanios’s projects interrogate themes of industrialization, urbanization, and gender relations. Often practicing collaboratively, Arsanios’s installations, performances, publications, and videos go “beyond places” to present globalization (and its pitfalls) as a consequence of modernist ideals.

Mona Hatoum is a multimedia and installation artist of Palestinian heritage. She is now based in London, United Kingdom. “Conflict and contradiction” emblematize much of her practice, which vacillates between local and global themes. Hatoum often subverts expectations to reveal commonalities and shared truths, encouraging visitors to offer their own “expansive imaginative interpretation(s)” when viewing her work. 

Lamia Joreige, a filmmaker, artist, and co-founder of the Beirut Art Center, frequently uses archival material to fashion narratives that “rethink the connection between historical reality and fiction.” With the Lebanese wars and their fallout as a focus of her imagery, Joreige grapples in her works with the elliptical, fractured nature of time and the human urge to create a shared sense of memory from world events.

Maha Maamoun, a photographer, filmmaker, and curator, takes as inspiration for much of her artistic practice her home city of Cairo. Through her films, Maamoun examines the role cultural landmarks play in a collective psyche and how they can be (re-)appropriated for alternative historical narratives. “Emotional chronolog[ies]” feature broadly in her work, demonstrating how memories of the past are powerful vehicles for current and future renderings of Cairo’s place in a national imaginary.

Basim Magdy, working in Basel, Switzerland, as a filmmaker and multimedia artist, blends absurdist humor with personal reflections and historical allusions that challenge conceptions of memory. Observing “you can’t even put time on a ruler,” Magdy playfully piques viewers’ conceptions of past, future, and present in works that frequently depict his native Egypt.

Barjeel Art Foundation

Barjeel Art Foundation, founded by Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, is an independent, UAE-based initiative established to manage, preserve, and exhibit an extensive collection of modern and contemporary art from North Africa and West Asia. With the guiding principle of fostering critical dialogue with a focus on artists with Arab heritage internationally, the foundation strives to create an open-ended inquiry that responds to and conveys the nuances inherent to Arab histories beyond borders of culture and geography.

Accompanying Free, Public Events 

In-person and virtual public programming is planned for the general public and museum Members. For more information, and to sign up for those events that require advance registration, please visit the McMullen Museum Events Calendar. More events will be added leading up to this exhibition; visit the McMullen website and subscribe to the McMullen mailing list for updates.

A forthcoming series of virtual events includes: Publication Highlights by BC and guest scholars, Into the Collection presentations on rarely seen works from the McMullen’s permanent collection, Members’ Crash Courses on art historical movements, and Museum Current lectures with museum leaders and researchers. 

Additional Digital Resources 

Visit McMullen From Home for recordings of all lectures as well as an archive of virtual walkthroughs, digital exhibition catalogues, podcasts, interactive spotlights, and more. View and search the McMullen’s permanent collection database.

McMullen Museum of Art

The McMullen Museum aims to cultivate learning, celebrate artistic excellence, explore the visual traditions of diverse cultures, and inspire transdisciplinary faculty and student research based on the visual arts. The McMullen offers exhibition-related programs and resources for diverse audiences of all ages on campus, in the Greater Boston area, and beyond.

The Museum mounts exhibitions of international scholarly importance from all periods and cultures of the history of art. In keeping with the University’s central teaching mission, exhibitions are accompanied by academic catalogues and related public programs. The McMullen Museum of Art was named in 1996 for the late BC benefactor, trustee, and art collector John J. McMullen and his wife Jacqueline McMullen. In 2005, the McMullen Family Foundation provided a lead gift to renovate and build an addition to the Museum’s new venue at 2101 Commonwealth Avenue. Designed in 1927 in the Roman Renaissance Revival style by architects Maginnis and Walsh, it originally served as the home of Boston’s cardinal archbishops. The renovation was completed in spring 2016 and opened to the public on September 12, 2016.

McMullen Museum Hours and Tours

Admission is free; wheelchair accessible. Located at 2101 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02135, on BC’s 65-acre Brighton Campus. Hours during this exhibition: Monday–Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday–Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.; the Museum will be closed: April 7, 9, 17 and May 29, 2023. Contact:, 617.552.8587. All events are free. For directions, parking, and program information, visit

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