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What if? Manaf Halbouni’s art inspires debate 

Manaf Halbouni in the rooftop studio at the Federal Foreign Office

Manaf Halbouni in the rooftop studio at the Federal Foreign Office, © Auswärtiges Amt

25.10.2018 - Article

The German-Syrian artist is the third Artist in Residence to use the Federal Foreign Office’s rooftop studio in 2018.

Photo of the artwork “Monument”: Three up-ended buses outside the Frauenkirche in Dresden
Photo of the artwork “Monument”: Three up-ended buses outside the Frauenkirche in Dresden © Manaf Halbouni

Manaf Halbouni’s work explores current (foreign) policy issues. He made his name in the international art scene with “Monument”, an installation comprising three buses placed on their ends in the square outside the Frauenkirche in Dresden and by the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. In this way the Damascus-born artist transported images familiar from the war in Syria to Germany, thereby creating an anti-war monument. He drew his inspiration from pictures of wrecked buses which had been used by inhabitants of Aleppo to protect against snipers.

What if?

During his three months in residence, Halbouni will continue work on his project “What if?” This project looks at a future that might have been ours had history taken a different course in one particular year in the past. Having postulated that the industrial revolution began not in Europe, but in the Ottoman Empire and the Arab region, Halbouni has his fictitious generals and dictators making strategic plans to conquer the world, marking their moves on old maps and appearing in video installations. He is also writing the biography of one such fictitious general, Yusef Hadid. Halbouni has said that his prime occupation during his period of residence at the FFO will be writing.

FFO Artist in Residence

The FFO Artist in Residence programme has been run by the Federal Foreign Office in cooperation with the Galleries Association of Berlin (lvbg) since the year 2016. Each year, three artists are selected by an independent jury of experts. Each artist gets to use the rooftop studio at the Federal Foreign Office for three months and receives a grant for their period of residence. They are also given the opportunity to present their work at public events, which are announced on this website. At the end of each programme cycle, a catalogue is published of the artworks created during the year. The residency is primarily aimed at artists who come from abroad or focus on global topics in their work.

Five people looking at artwork by Manaf Halbouni
Five people looking at artwork by Manaf Halbouni  © Holger Biermann/lvbg

The other FFO Artists in Residence in 2018 were the installation, video and performance artist Yvon Chabrowski and the painter, photographer and filmmaker Walter Yu.

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