States of the Arts


Spun of the Limits of My Lonely Waltz

by Diana Al-Hadid

View an image of the artwork →

The first steps involved in the creation of My Lonely Waltz were exactly that: steps. Diana Al-Hadid danced around the floor of her studio, paint dripping from the soles of her feet. Where each mark was made, a spire was built. As with the religious buildings it emulates, the work’s structural organisation was created with music in mind. It pays homage to the organ, the instrument embedded within the walls of a Gothic cathedral. Al-Hadid reinvents the intricate architecture here on her own terms, the flying buttresses rising from seemingly subterranean depths.

Words by John Wadsworth

The Dream

directed by Mohammad Malas

View a still from the film →

In the early eighties, Mohammad Malas visited Lebanese refugee camps to find out what Palestinian refugees contemplated in their sleep, and documented over four hundred interviews. Using only a fraction of this footage, The Dream exposes the psychological impact of Lebanon’s sprawling civil war. Whether evoking victory, death, or personal rejection, the dreams shared a longing for peace. No end to fighting was near. The Sabra and Shatila massacre of 1982 left Malas stunned and unable to complete the film for five years; its first screenings took place within the confines of the camps it depicts.

Words by Hugh Maloney

The Static and the Dynamic

by Adonis

View an image of the author →

The Static and the Dynamic constitutes Adonis’s most thorough scrutiny of Arab Islamic culture, spanning several volumes and taking the literary tradition of a vast, ancient demographic as its subject. The controversial work advocates a move away from traditionalism, which Adonis believes has hindered artistic diversity and innovation in the Arab world. Instead, he argues that an ideology heralding ‘dynamic’ individuality should be cultivated, both to counter creative stagnancy and to release Arab artists’ untapped potential.

Words by Hugh Maloney

Layaly al-Ons fi Vienna

by Asmahan

View an image of the musician →

After migrating from Syria to Egypt in her childhood, Asmahan quickly entered the public eye, where she stayed for the rest of her short life. ‘Layaly al-Ons fi Vienna’ is one of her most enduring pieces, a utopian ode that transforms the Austrian capital into an Arabic paradise. The text speaks of a couple’s companionship, clinking glasses, and dancing, its pastiche waltz rhythms and second-person narrative welcoming the listener into the merriment. Captured on film, Asmahan’s charisma and yearning vibrato live on in surviving stage performances.

Words by Hugh Maloney

More to discover

Spun on the Limits of My Lonely Waltz: Visit Diana Al-Hadid's website here. Samuel Jablon has interviewed the artist for BOMB Magazine and Hyperallergic, as has Fawz Kabra for Ibraaz.

The Dream: Visit the Abbout Productions website here. Read an interview with the director on the Doha Film Institute site.

The Static and the Dynamic: Read an interview with Adonis by Maya Jaggi for The Guardian. Read a passage about the author as part of Roger M. Allen's entry on Arabic literature in the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Layaly al-Ons fi Vienna: Watch a performance of the song here.

Question of the day

Which Syrian artworks would you recommend, and why? Let us know on Facebook, Patreon, or Twitter.

Safwan Dahoul’s dream-inspired, Cubist-like paintings of a woman experiencing and expressing the confinement and struggles felt in times of crisis. The works are smooth in texture, and often monochromatic. (→)

– Deradoorian, musician (The Expanding Flower Planet) (via The Brief →)

'Elegy', a poem by Faraj Bayraqdar. Incarcerated for fourteen years, Bayraqdar has described poetry as the antithesis of prison. In 'Elegy', wounds read as manifestos. (→)

– Emma McKinlay, Silent Frame Sub-Editor (via Patreon →)

Read more: States of the Arts (Asia)