When things get political in the art world sometimes it can get uncomfortable – the work is so drenched in hidden messages that it’s like playing hide and seek with a mountain. So it’s a relief to gaze upon the work of Akram Zaatari who manages to pass comment but deal with it in such an intimate and close way, you feel much more informed about the world.
Akram’s work is anchored in the Arab world, so it’s no surprise that he was the founder of the Arab Image Foundation formed in 1997 that tracks down photographs from North Africa, the Middle East and Arabic communities from all over. In his first solo show, the artist uses this wealth of image and video material to explore the lines between the private and the public, by displaying human interactions through different technological forms, like professional studio shots and private Youtube videos.
Not only is the work visually striking but it’s the narratives behind these found artefacts that deepens Akram’s work. Take the kissing images from the 1950-70s, where we see same sex couples only because the conservative values held by those in Arab societies frowned upon any public interaction between men and women if they weren’t married.
Showing now at the Liverpool Biennial, Akram’s work is truly a fascinating insight into a culture that’s riddled with restrictions, significant governmental power and tradition.