Welcome to our new-look Tate Etc. On the cover of this issue there is a sculpture by Gaudier-Brzeska, whose works feature in Tate Britain’s exhibition The Vorticists: Manifesto for a Modern World, alongside a photograph of René Magritte – himself taking a photograph, outside the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. It is an apt image, as Tate Liverpool’s exhibition of Magritte reveals how the artist sourced his images from photographs, magazines and advertising. The picture was taken in 1966, several months before the start of the Six-Day War between Israel and neighbouring states Egypt, Syria and Jordan.
Several decades on, and Israel is watching extraordinary events unfold across the Middle East. The political upheavals in Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and Syria had not yet happened when Tate Etc. invited four panellists to discuss art in the region. One of the questions asked was: is contemporary art from the Middle East more political than from elsewhere? How might they answer this question now? And how will artists from these countries, and beyond, respond to and process such turbulence and uncertainty. Time will tell. However, for one man this will no longer be possible. Ahmed Basiony was a promising young Egyptian artist who was, tragically, shot dead by a sniper in Tahrir Square, Cairo, on 28 January. Here, we publish an image from one of his last performance works. For those who can, the process of documentation is one possibility. As Simon Baker explains in his introduction to Tate Modern’s forthcoming series of new displays New Documentary Forms, works by an increasing number of artists are concerned with politics at a global level – from the political upheaval as seen in Guy Tillim’s Congo Democratic to the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and the Middle East referenced in Luc Delahaye’s series History. These artists feel a need to bear witness to the world. One wonders, if Magritte had been in Jerusalem a few months later, whether his camera would have documented a very different reality from that which he saw.
Bice Curiger and Simon Grant