Akram Zaatari

Dance to the End of Love


In Tate Modern

Akram Zaatari born 1966
Video, 4 projections, colour and sound
Duration: 22min
Purchased with funds provided by the Middle East North Africa Acquisitions Committee 2015


Dance to the End of Love 2011 is a video installation by the Lebanese filmmaker and photographer Akram Zaatari comprising four projections with sound and lasting twenty-two minutes. It is made up of found YouTube footage of Arab youths that have filmed themselves and uploaded their films on the internet. Referring to this work and other related video pieces, Zaatari has noted that ‘all of these films were produced on the eve of what is today referred to as the “Arab Uprising” [or Arab Spring]’ (quoted in MUSAC/MUAC 2011, p.73). Seen from this perspective, the work explores the potential of the internet, and specifically of social media platforms such as YouTube, as spaces that are both intimate and public, as well as the production and sharing of individual experience in parallel with major political and social events.

The low-resolution videos are shot with mobile phones in countries such as Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Saudi-Arabia and Oman. At the beginning of the work, the viewer is presented with videos of boys using pistols or playing at firing missiles, followed by scenes of drag racing and stretches of road with cars performing driving stunts on two wheels. Other videos on alternate screens show half-naked muscled men presenting posed routines such as bodybuilders might and aspiring singers performing songs in front of the camera. Further scenes show men dancing or departing to the sound of popular melodies, or reveal Arab men kissing and fondling each other in a manner that blurs the boundary between friendship and homosexuality. The soundtrack is emotive and is used to shape a common narrative that expresses masculine power, feelings of affection or the difficulty of separation.

The viewer is presented with numerous heterogeneous images of personal and public male rituals. Performed in private spaces or for very small audiences, these personal acts are then publicly broadcast via YouTube to millions of people around the globe. This representation of unconstrained masculine behaviour and male-only social practices among boys and men ultimately becomes a kaleidoscopic view of linked images from the Arab online community, which remains even today a highly masculine environment.

Zaatari has said of the work:

These clips represent people’s chance to be in public, to ‘be on TV!’ The web enables us to hear all those voices, all those desires screaming out from remote rural places, from villages and cities, wanting to be admired, loved, wanting to be heard and seen. So by putting themselves on YouTube, they inscribe themselves in public like engraving your name on a trunk in the old days or like making graffiti on a wall. One makes fascinating encounters amidst a lot of boring stuff.
(quoted in MUSAC/MUAC 2011, p.125.)

With Dance to the End of Love, Zaatari continues his exploration of the theme of male bodily presence, building on earlier works such as the video Nature Morte 2008 (Tate T12891), but here he expands his enquiry into communication technologies and the documentation of social practices and configurations of male subjectivity via the medium of the internet. This is a development from many of the artist’s previous projects (for example, Objects of Study/The Archive of Studio Shehrazade/Hashem el Madan/Studio Practices 2007, Tate P79396P79512) which have explored the formation of regional identities in the Arab world via photographic archives. Zaatari’s wider practice is concerned with the state of image-making today and involves the study and investigation of practices related to the production of images, which function as personal memories and histories while also defining a social, political and cultural context. Concerned not only with the image itself but also with its distribution and routes of exchange, Zaatari collects and preserves photos, videos and visual documents from the entire region of the Middle East and North Africa and from Arab communities around the world.

Dance to the End of Love was exhibited in the Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo in 2011, the Liverpool Biennial in 2012 and at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 2013. The work exists in an edition of five plus two artist’s proofs; Tate’s copy is number one in the main edition.

Further reading
Karl Bassil and Akram Zaatari (eds.), Akram Zaatari: Earth of Endless Secrets, exhibition catalogue, Kunstverein München 2009.
Agustín Pérez Rubio (ed.), Akram Zaatari: El Molesto Asunto; The Uneasy Subject, exhibition catalogue, MUSAC, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Castilla y Leon, MUAC, Museo Universitario Arte Contemporaneo, Mexico City 2011, pp.73–5, reproduced pp.125–7.

Vassilis Oikononomopoulos
July 2013

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