Art Review: Light From The Middle East @ V&A

The latest photography exhibition from the V&A is a collection of 95 photographs by 30 talented artists from across the Middle East.

Art is a product of society so it’s no surprise that many of the works reflect both the role of women in the Middle East and political events past and recent. There are many powerful images here, such as mothers holding up portraits of sons lost in the Iran-Iraq war and a scrapbook with pictures of all 145 cars that have been used as car bombs in Beirut.

It’s not all socio-political imagery and there are some works that persist on aesthetics alone. Ahmed Mater’s use of a cubed magnet and iron filings to recreate pilgrims circumambulating the Ka’aba in Mecca is ingenious and Tal Shochat’s fruit trees in bloom in front of a black cloth strike a stark contrast with the natural world.

However the most impressive works are those that combine politics with aesthetics such as a film of aerial photographs of desert landscapes. As the camera zooms in, radio chatter and what sounds like gunfire can be heard. The artist has left the sounds ambiguous so it’s interesting to hear what different people can make out and how this fits in with their view of the Middle East.

Another favourite is by Amirali Ghasemi who has photographed the unsanctioned private parties that take place in Iran. As these parties are illegal he has concealed identities by removing all areas of exposed flesh. But by doing this he has stripped them of their ethnicity and the innocuous nature of the party becomes plain to see.

The Middle East’s art scene may still be developing but there are some very talented photographers on display in this exhibition.

Light from the Middle East: New Photography is on display in the Porter Gallery of the Victoria & Albert Museum until 7 April. Entrance is free.

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