19 Oct 2013 – 16 Nov 2013

PNI, London


Achievements in Swiss Summit, 2013

Inaugural Summit, Morschach 2013 1
Digital C-print photograph
84.1 × 118.9 cm (33 ⅛" × 46 ¾")
Edition of 3 plus II AP

Installation view: Achievements in Swiss Summit, 2013

Installation view: Achievements in Swiss Summit, 2013

Installation view: Achievements in Swiss Summit, 2013

Inaugural Summit, Morschach 2013 5
Digital C-print photograph
84.1 × 118.9 cm (33 ⅛" × 46 ¾")
Edition of 3 plus II AP

Inaugural Summit, Morschach 2013 2
Digital C-print photograph
84.1 × 118.9 cm (33 ⅛" × 46 ¾")
Edition of 3 plus II AP

Installation view: Achievements in Swiss Summit, 2013

Inaugural Summit, Morschach 2013 9
Digital C-print photograph
84.1 × 118.9 cm (33 ⅛" × 46 ¾")
Edition of 3 plus II AP

Installation view: Achievements in Swiss Summit, 2013

Achievements in Swiss Summit, 2013 restates the bloc’s commitment to an artistic union. The show is an auspicious occasion that marks the diplomatic protocols observed, ceremonial pomp, and accomplishments made during the GCC collective’s first meeting in Morschach, Switzerland. This show represents the official Communiqué of the cooperative: a High Level Strategic Dialogue.

At the kind invitation of the host country Switzerland, the collective convened and exchanged their views on regional issues in addition to topics in the agenda of the summit. At the Royal Protocol Lounge, the delegates exchanged cordial talks about the latest regional developments and the agenda of the Swiss Summit.

The Meeting was held in a spirit of friendship, openness and cooperation, reinforcing the strong brotherly and sisterly relations of the GCC. The delegation reaffirms their common desire to enhance and diversify these strong relations in the artistic field.


17 Oct 2013

GCC :: Achievements in Swiss Summit, 2013

GCC is a new art collective made up of Future Brown member Fatima Al Qadiri (who we interviewed for Oyster #98), as well innovative Gulf artists Abdullah Al-Mutairi, Amal Khalaf, Aziz Alqatami, Barrak Alzaid, Khalid al Gharaballi, Monira Al Qadiri, Nanu Al- Hamad and Sophia Al Maria. Coming together under the name GCC, which is modelled on the Arab States' governmental body of the same name, the multidisciplinary 'bloc' aims to realise "closer relations and stronger bonds" between the artists and their respective fields. Artists became diplomats when the group gathered for a 'Swiss Summit' recently — the output of which makes up the body of their upcoming exhibition in London. We spoke to the GCC about the group's official communique and the "high-level strategic dialogue" therein.

What is the GCC?
GCC is a collective (bloc) of 9 artists from Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain, based on a Gulf Arab regional government body of the same name.

What was the goal of the Swiss Summit?

The goal of the Swiss Summit was to grandstand, shake hands, pose, drink, eat, and expedite the process of solving the problems of the world.

What was discussed by the delegates present?

Achievements past, present, and future were discussed. Also brotherly and sisterly relations.

Are you pleased with the outcome? What was learnt through the dialogue?

Yes, very pleased. We managed to achieve our sublime objectives.

What does the future of GCC hold?

Number 1. Now.

GCC 'Achievements in Swiss Summit, 2013' 19 October — 16 November 2013
(Preview 18 October 6:30-8:30pm)
@ Project Native Informant
17 Brook's Mews Mayfair, London

Jerico Mandybur Oyster Magazine 

20 Oct 2013

GCC :: Achievements in Swiss Summit, 2013

31 Oct 2013

GCC :: An Overview of Frieze on the Fringe

Superficially diverse but elementally connected –if for nothing more than their positioning outside of the official programme –a handful of things worth doing beyond Regent’s Park during Frieze week criss-crossed the London city map. In fact, geographical location had almost as much to do with an event’s significance as it did the event itself. Emerging art from the dynamic South London cluster started the week with Harry Sanderson’s Unified Fabric exhibition at Arcadia Missa and Jesse Darling’s play on the notion of Frieze event exclusivity with her Haus party –art as presentation and piss up –at the centre of it.

Closer to the well-to-do west but not quite there was Moving Image London, on the South Bank and in the Bargehouse and possibly one of the most exciting exhibitions by sheer volume and diversity of video works from across the globe, as well as the unforeseeably controversial National #Selfie Portrait Gallery huddle on the top floor. In the upmarket commercial district of Mayfair, the GCC art collective’s Achievements in Swiss Summit, its Rolls Royce joyrides and location at Project Native Informant assuming the pan-regional political pose of a Gulf Arab delegation. Wrapping up the week of outer-events and perceivably speaking to its artists’ proximity to making the leap to Frieze Proper soon, the Sunday Art Fair at Westminster University’s Ambika P3, literally down the road from the official site, showed interesting works from ripening, nearly ripe, artists set to complete the art market cycle.

But in the meantime, a moment for the underground. Down here a ring of sound and images has Harry Sanderson’s DIY render farm at Unified Fabric surrounded; the super computer and the labour behind it literally placed at the centre of videos looking at the problem of the image. Among them is Hito Steyerl’s ‘STRIKE’, exploring the artist’s position in relation to the screen and Clunie Reid’s ‘The More or Less of Miley Cyrus’, interrogating representations and their source in an uncomfortably familiar image.

Then there’s Darling’s Haus. As a relative outsider, the prospect of a Camberwell residence packed with strangers was an intimidating one to say the least, but appropriate to the invite-only setting of “post-fordist scene colleagues” the event consciously caters to. A house party but also a showcase of video works and performances, its gesture to a Frieze-emulating fake-exclusivity was realised by a guest list and actual bouncer with an entry stamp reading “neoliberal singularity”. Darling’s ongoing refusal to “frame” her work in the ‘white cube’, as she iterated in a recent aqnb interview, reflects the anarchic nature of London art as “gallery-as- brand-as-dj-as-person”, while one busting for a wee is confronted by a ‘performative’ toilet; a couch keeping the bathroom door ajar for your viewing pleasure. Precious privacy is mercifully granted a floor up with one that shuts but the option of keeping public, as a nudge to contingency, with an in-house camera inviting patrons to contribute toilet selfies, beneath a mirror with text that reads “PLEASE FUCK #frieze”.

Downstairs, Lead Pipe, a “metal band” featuring a shirtless Arcadia Missa co-curator Tom Clark on drums, as well as artists Charlie Woolley, Harry Burke and Paul Kneale, play among Leslie Kulesh’s artforum chain decorations, while a hand written poster on DJ Imran Perretta, aka Madboy Zimba’s deck (singular) announces studio visits around his corner of the lounge room (#fuckfrieze). There’s also the promised stack of “good” video art –the “bad” being screened in the perpetually rammed kitchen that I don’t dare enter –called The basis of all structures is the placing, very carefully, of two bricks (Faust was right, have no regrets) curated by Takeshi Shiomitsu. I’m not sure how ‘good’ The Armando Iannucci Shows episode called ‘Twats’ is in itself but the (homo)eroticised initiation of a young protégé into the business world by puffing on his first official phallus in Annika Larsson’s ‘Cigar’ suggests the commentary’s in the context.

The same could be said for the Frieze week art interactions in general, where perceptions of legitimacy are established by a series of ritual gestures and arbitrary signifiers determining social value. Achievements in Swiss Summit exposes said charade as a Gulf Arab “delegation” of nine artists –including Fatima Al Qadiri, her sister Monira, Sophia Al Maria and Khalid Al Gharaballi, among others –descend on Mayfair to congratulate themselves on their oblique accomplishments, buried in political jargon and described as “a High Level Strategic Dialogue”. What the specifics of that dialogue is, is anyone’s guess but it’s in the ceremony surrounding it that the empty concession to economic self-interest is exposed: a display case of glass trophies, proud symbols of accord, and large-scale photos of delegates in thobes, shaking hands, drinking tea and signing papers in the idyllic backdrop of a Swiss village. Here, ‘delegates’ exchange “cordial talks” and discuss a nebulous agenda, while visitors ride the Rolls in circles around the gallery to a looping recording of the collective’s official charter, hijacked from their Gulf Cooperation Council namesake. Meanwhile, in the same way that the chaotic Haus party in Camberwell knowingly celebrates what Darling calls its “post-fordist network of friendly/collegial affect & etc”, so too does the GCC hold on to its in-group interests of art associations, friends and family in a brilliantly-executed and pointless PR exercise.

Perceivably reflecting the outsider perspective of the GCC set –as an exhibition set apart by its location in Mayfair and its ‘delegates’ transplanted from the Gulf to the Swiss mountains –so too does the green triangular display of the Maraya Video Archive at the multi-level Moving Image art fair present a similar vantage point. It features video works by three UAE-based artists, Alaa Edris, Nermine Hammam and Karim Al Husseini under a title explicitly referencing the geopolitical nature of their presence. Between Edris’ expressionistic montage of pre-confederation British film documentation and personal footage in ‘Kharareef’ and Al Husseini’s poignant mixed- media narrative on the dispersal of his family’s Palestinian roots across the globe in ‘Dew Not’, the display not only illustrates their experience as unique but as a fundamentally, and problematically, alien one. It’s very proximity to Constant Dullaart’s stunning ‘Niagara Falls, Special Economic Zone PRC, HD VIDEO’ –a single shot video of said miniature natural wonder at China’s ‘The Windows of the World’ theme park in Shenzen focussed on an unaware couple posing for photos –exposes the problem of the artist as outsider looking in. Those issues of patronage and intervention it raises are echoed in the intrusion of a Mountain Dew delivery truck and a ship marked “UN” in Al Husseini’s video, pointing toward a type of occupation, beyond the Israeli kind and to a corporate and humanitarian one.

Hence, the Maraya Video Archive display’s situation between Cliff Evans’ play on Jasper Johns’ work of the same name, ‘Flag’, and Jonathan Monaghan’s CGI animation, ‘Mothership’. One, a digital simulation of its familiar stars and stripes made up entirely of drones, watching its audience and awaiting orders to strike. The other, a more insidious system of control realised in its ubiquitous popular cultural tropes and the entertainment industry’s art of emotional manipulation and propaganda by littering the surreal landscape with images of Marvel superheroes, London city discworlds and that flying ‘mothership’ propelled by a Fed Ex engine.

As anecdotal evidence of a world view externally shaped, Eve Sussman and Simon Lee’s ‘Seitenflügel’, a floor down, tricks my eyes into thinking its a large-scale projection of an iPhone interface from a distance but turns out to be a stylised view of apartment windows inhabited by the artists’ Berliner neighbours. More than an insight into our everyday voyeurism, said incidental confusion for a smartphone is a telling illustration of modern life as State control via the consensus rule of an inward and outward-looking screen. In some ways the National #Selfie Portrait Gallery, curated by Kyle Chayka and Marina Galperina subverts that system in 16 commissions from emerging artists. As a showcase of short-form video contributions based around the digital self-portrait, or “selfie”, artist Jennifer Chan mediates her recent feline phase, also performed on twitter, by literally drawing the ‘Cat Ears’ of its title on a pixelated shot of herself saying “my dick”, while ever-prolific Darling presents herself nude and in a sunbed, all Žižek quotes and apocalyptic self-obsessions vocalised through a pitched-up voiceover (“like me ya know I jus wanna look good naked”) in ‘Lil Icarus’. Paul Outlaw and Jennifer Catron literally devour each other, in the form of busts fashioned from food, in ‘Succulent’. Anthony Antonellis mediates himself, to himself, through his macbook screen, flesh fading into his keyboard, while Daniel Swan’s self is represented by the dazzling cover of a smartphone facing outward in Selfie Video Loop.

Pronouncing this form of self-mediation a “democratic artistic medium”, the N#SPG press release assumes the concept of liberal freedom –from political autonomy to access to technology –isn’t still a privilege afforded a lucky few, here demonstrated in a collection of works by EU and US-based artists only. Again, it’s a hard reality physically realised by their positioning on opposite ends of the same room and in view Al Husseini’s ‘Dew Not’. Meanwhile, a general public still hostile to the dynamic net art community, the consciously exhibitionistic nature of National #Selfie Portrait Gallery especially, was aptly summarised in a tweet by fellow ‘selfie’ contributor Petra Cortright. A link to the 700-plus comments (“each more LOL than the next”) on a Yahoo News article on the exhibition with the ‘narcissistics’, ‘not arts’ and ‘I could do thats’ liberally heaped on the resounding thumbs down from the Yahoo.com readership.


This very focus on ‘real art’ and what legitimises it is a recurring theme on the Frieze Fringe, resonating through to the Sunday Art Fair as it establishes its place in the hierarchy of cultural value. The Ambika space is less ‘white cube’ and more “vast concrete construction hall”, speaking to the nature of the fair, down the road from Frieze London and showing artists just outside or halfway in to the big leagues. The ICA: Off-Site video showcase features Sophia Al Maria and Fatima Al Qadiri’s ‘HOW CAN I RESIST U’ and Martin Arnold’s unsettling ‘Hydra’ video loop, an animation reduced to its eyes, teeth and salivating tongue, making reference to the sexualised nature of children’s TV and resembling the creepy Cheshire Cat of Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. Katja Novitskova’s ‘Branching IV’ and ‘Approximation VIII’ digital print cut outs and Avery Singer’s acrylics on canvas, grey and ungraspable geometric forms, in ‘Exhibitionist’ and ‘Dancers Around an Effigy to Modernism’ keep things abstract, expressing a contemporary tension between overtly political art concerned with the exploitation behind image production –most explicitly illustrated by Harry Sanderson’s Unified Fabric –and a growing concern with lofty philosophical concepts, potentially in response to imminent environmental catastrophe, even human extinction.

That’s a possibility George Henry Longly attempts to counteract in his rather dazzling marble tablets that look like they could survive the ravages of time in a way that a MOV file won’t. Respectively engraved with “GHL”, “SORRY”, “Don’t be an Asshole”, among other things, and studded with gilded tubes of YSL “Touche Éclat” complexion highlighters and silver plated “poppers”, Longly speaks to said fatalistic outlook by evoking a sense of knowing what the problem is, being helpless in resolving it and doing what you do in the meantime. 

Jean Kay AQNB 31 October 2013

6 Oct 2015

GCC :: Kaleidoscope Highlight

Myriam Ben Salah Kaleidoscope No. 25 Fall 2015 

1 Apr 2014

GCC :: The Aesthetics of Nation Building

Curator Christopher Y. Lew joins artist collective GCC to discuss the inspiration and impetus behind their practice: image-sharing, global Whatsapp conversations and contemporary culture of the Arab Gulf region.

The artist collective GCC has been making work that is both inspired by and addresses the contemporary culture of the Arab Gulf region. Comprised of eight delegates—Nanu Al-Hamad, Khalid Al Gharaballi, Abdullah Al-Mutairi, Fatima Al Qadiri, Monira Al Qadiri, Aziz Al Qatami, Barrak Alzaid, Amal Khalaf—the GCC is named, in part, after the intergovernmental body that helps bind the region. For their inaugural series of exhibitions, the collective focused on the notion of achievement, focusing on the rituals that mark accomplishment as well as the physical objects that embody them. They have created a series of Congratulants based on trophies exchanged in the Gulf as well as videos examining ribbon-cutting ceremonies and installations that reference the spectacular cities that have been recently constructed in the region. The GCC’s visual language is not one of irony or hyperbole, but rather a way of framing culture that reveals the ambiguity and nuance of how people live today. By utilizing new mediums like HD and 4K video, in addition to appropriating traditional forms like news radio and miniature model building, the GCC span a range of artistic practices. They are rooted in the legacy of identity politics while engaging with new ways of relating images and objects. With members trained in architecture, design, music, and of course art, the collective embraces an interdisciplinary way of working that produces works that are both coherent and concise in their concept and execution. They make use of visuals that are largely known to the late-capitalist consumer—advertising and brand management that is employed by global business and nations alike.

Christopher Y. Lew: How did the GCC come about?

GCC: Our members have worked together on publications, exhibitions and biennial projects, so our collaboration stretches back for some time. In early 2013, a group of us were asked to submit a proposal to the first Kuwait Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. We understood that the pavilion would need to negotiate national interests, so that subject was already at the forefront of our conversation. The project didn’t pan out, but we realized that we see eye-to-eye on most things, so the discussion about all of us working collectively started. We formalized it a short while later in the Art Dubai VIP lounge. The Venice proposal, which we titled A Space for National Achievement, became the basis of our first solo show at the Sultan Gallery in Kuwait.

CYL: Can you talk a bit about the process? How do you all worked together and develop the works and the exhibitions?

GCC: We have this vast collective image and idea bank that we’ve been building for a while without the right platform, and GCC, with our combined skills, makes it possible to utilize this. There’s a lot of conversation, constantly, 24 hours on WhatsApp and in person through global summits. So far we have met in Switzerland, Kuwait, and New York. On WhatsApp, half of the dialogue is about real work and the other half is just people having conversations about god knows what. These random conversations have generated things as well though, so, in a way, they’re both work-related, but the summits are where we really develop our projects.

CYL: The ideas come from the conversation?
GCC: There’s a lot of image sharing, YouTube videos, screenshots, and very important Instagram research.

CYL: I realized we haven’t discussed what the GCC refers to.

GCC: The letters are not what convey the message; it’s not an acronym for us. We look at the word GCC as an image, like a .jpeg file, not as a text. What is also nice about the name is that it’s an acronym for so many things. It keeps it extremely anonymous. It could mean Glendale Community College or Grupos Cementos de Chihuahua. It gives us a bit of a shield so that we are not just referencing political bodies. Though it has been interpreted that way.

For example, when we did A Space for National Achievement at The Sultan Gallery in Kuwait, the audience was much smaller than we expected. We found out from a major collector that many of her collector friends avoided the show because they thought it was an actual GCC-sponsored event. We were kind of happy with that. It was flattering. We conveyed the information we wanted to convey. Maybe it was too accurate.


CYL: You’ve said before that you are examining the contemporary culture from the Gulf region. Can you elaborate?

GCC: Most of these countries invest a lot of money and resources into branding: there’s the image they project internationally and then there’s the one that is understood within the country. They have an interest in representing the Gulf in a certain way. And it becomes a very homogenous image somehow. But there are environments, aesthetics, and rituals happening around us that are so alluring and need to be addressed.

From the beginning we were always interested in invisible aspects of the culture. Invisible based on how easy it was to find on the internet, that’s how we characterize it as invisible. These rituals and processes are somehow everywhere, yet under the radar, taken for granted, not examined, not addressed in any kind of way that is not literal. They are not important enough for Instagram, or at least not in a central way.

For example, why is the ribbon cutting ceremony, a relic of the Austro-Hungarian Empire best convertible car seat, so important right now, right here? Or the culture of the red carpet ceremonies, coming from America, from awards ceremonies like the Oscars. That actually comes from Rome or Ancient Greece, but celebrated through pop culture. These objects and rituals start to play a role in our work, and when you look at them from a bureaucratic or governmental level, you start to connect what’s going on in the Gulf with what it means to live in a situation that’s super neo- liberal/feudal.

In the present state of Gulf countries, the State itself becomes a brand, a corporation, so it’s also about this merger between late-capitalism and this very old tribal state. It’s about how these things merge and create new languages. If you look at the subject matter we’re playing with here—if you put it in a vacuum, without context—they become something the whole globalized world can relate to, but what we’re interested in is this process where it passes through a sort of filter and becomes something of a vernacular.

CYL: Which the GCC conference table does in a physical way.

GCC: It’s glaring in a way because that table is a frankenstein. Because of where the motifs come from; ideas of officialdom and luxury and all these things and how they transform the look of that table. It’s a key reason why we are concerned with the ephemeral as it relates to experience and architecture. So many of these symbols of power, of authority, are mediated by architecture. This hexagon gets remade for each GCC summit which is held in a different country and it’s always so opulent. The delegations sit behind it. The hierarchy is set before people even walk in the door. That’s something that’s been interesting to us, how environments shape collective and individual experiences. Just the way that the decorative aspect of officialdom is managed through some hazy memory of something, of an Empire table someone saw in France, a boardroom meeting chair, the proportions of a banqueting hall, all of that merging and creating something new.

CYL: Moving the conversation in a different direction, I have been thinking about the Arab Image Foundation, a collective started by Walid Raad, Akaram Zaatari, and other artists. In the late ’90s, the collective was using photography to deal with the history of Lebanon and the loss of memory through the civil war. Here you are as a different collective, very much of the 21st century, dealing with a project that’s not dissimilar, focused on specific regions and their respective contemporary concerns.

GCC: The urges are similar. Lebanon, which suffered through an event, a singular event which was the impetus for that project. For us it’s a continuation, a historical timeline, an ongoing thing, and we are interested in these objects and aesthetics because of that. For Lebanon, a lot of the ideas are about the past, memory, and things like that, while we’re trying to deal with the future and the present. It’s a different way of looking. But you could also think about the past while viewing our work. Or you could relate it to politics, the extended reasons why these things exist. We’re not directly going to talk about the past. We want to talk about now and why now exists.

One thing that is fascinating for us about the region is that there are parts that are encased in dust, where aesthetics have been frozen in time. Materials have been frozen in time. They have miles of dust on top of them and are unshakeable. Then you have rapid acceleration, the corporate “mall-ification” of this region, which is spiraling out of control. The “Dubai-ification”. Every time you go back there are new words, new practices. Your grandma is on Instagram. You can’t keep up. As someone who is away from the region and comes back, you feel left behind; people are already way ahead of you. There are new rituals. But then there are parts of the region that just won’t change, like the Edith Piaf song played at the Ministry of Defense. During the Kuwait show, a friend came to the exhibition. There was this music from a YouTube video we found, which included a ribbon-cutting segment, and which we used for a piece in the show. Our friend works for the Ministry of Defense and he said “This is my life, every day.” That particular music is played in the lobby of the Ministry of Defense, just incidentally. This type of example goes back to earlier attempts at modernization, especially in places like Kuwait. Just this summer the Kuwaiti government started using e-mail, for internal purposes. Everything will probably get printed out anyway, and stamped. And that’s part of what’s interesting too, these governments and bureaucracies are capable of such scale and yet are still mired in the Jurassic trappings of bureaucracy.

There’s obviously the dichotomy of the dusty and the highly developed, and how those can exist together. But there’s also places and aspects of the culture within Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar which are not necessarily part of this storyline. There’s the land reclamation in Bahrain in particular. There is the way in which the specific timeline of when oil was introduced in each country that defined and shaped taste, sensibility, architecture. And how later on...we don’t want to call it reverse colonialism, but how the Arab Gulf has extended itself into places like London or Paris, and how that affects its relationship with Europe and the rest of the world.

CYL: I think that you’re poised between projects like the Arab Image Foundation, which revolves around the archive, and a way of making that is about future and present ways of disseminating images and objects.

GCC: Speed and velocity are important. We were talking about it as a group, trying to think that maybe it was about the element of time. In the CO-OP video, it is as if the past and the future collapsed into the present. We are creating encounters for the viewer. Creating these worlds that deal with elements of history and the present, and projections into the future.

If we accelerate this culture, what is the end result? If there’s an element of linear speed in this conversation then there needs to be a terminus for this journey. There is a beginning and an end, so what is that end? I think we’re hurtling towards the end. We’re trying to reach outer space or orgasm.

Another thing that is interesting about the rapidity of our trajectory is that it is mirroring what is going on right now in Dubai. This “we want to be number one, right now” attitude, in which “we want the future right now, there’s no time to waste.” It’s really

strange that it turned out this way. So we’re kind of representing this acceleration that’s really happening in the Gulf, architecturally and culturally. At the beginning, we were trying to reflect reality, but now reality is reflecting onto us.

CYL: Language also is important to what you are doing. It doesn’t just create context for the work but it becomes another material. Can we talk about how language enters the work, and how the GCC is presented through language as well as imagery.

GCC: We address language in the same way as the rest of our subject matter. For us, it is a comprehensive subject or source, and we approach it in a very similar way. We appropriate and re-contextualize this language. Again, like how these words exist, if they’re taken out of the GCC context, they can be relatable to everyone else. Especially the use of English, a language that has been imported, but here it has passed through a filter and has become something else, something local.

CYL: The titles of your work relates to that.

GCC: Most of the writing we’ve done is in this way, a kind of culling, and a kind of collage. We are also moving towards more abstract language, the language of PR, the language of selling real estate, language of selling leisure and lifestyle options, the language of the performance of labor. For example, the photographs of the Swiss summit are a universal language of government officials grandstanding and pretending to work. This is the result of the government acting like a corporation, using the same marketing tools. And the governments of the Gulf, in their own way, take as their guideline the rituals of foreign government bodies. That then trickles down and becomes our guideline.

When we think about the use of language in the work, it’s very similar to how a corporate entity speaks to its audience, this sort of business-friendly, PR jargon, but wrapped in a style that is super personal and private. It’s a performance in a sense. A lot of our work deals with reality as an illusion, this dream of a Gulf coastline, unrealized buildings, the performance of labor during government summits as well as the idea of a single unified Arab Gulf, which in reality, Qatar is now on the fringes of this cooperative because of one too many diplomatic stunts.

When the Peninsula Shield, which is the GCC military wing, suddenly came into Bahrain to storm the protest in 2011, we were talking about it, and thinking, “Since when is there an army, since when has the GCC as a body affected our life and our world?” That was a moment when we were discussing what that union is, how it makes sense, and what it would mean to have a union. Everyone knows that it’s a show union, not a real union. All this time everyone thought it was a defunct thing, not real. Then it became so real. It became real when the military arm manifested itself in Bahrain.

Though it is real in other ways, to think about it outside the context of where we live, there are millions of people who actually believe in this union. And taken at face value, their efforts, through the use of soft power, have wrought some sort of result. By producing these regionalist pop songs and media productions and things like that, people have grown up on it. It’s a reality for a lot of people.

CYL: What lies in the future?

GCC: This is a question we’ve been asking recently. This year we don’t have a second to breathe. Ideally we would like some reflection. We need another summit like the Swiss summit—where we were removed from an urban environment—and are stuck and simmering in a jungle or on a mountain.

CYL: So you mean vacation? [laughs]

GCC: Yes. What was really successful in Switzerland was that there was a lot of cured meat and alcohol. We have so many other proposals we want to do. We want to do a film...It’s about deciding what we want to do, maybe outside the context of a gallery or a museum show.

Christopher Y. Lew is Associate Curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art. He is the former Assistant Curator at MoMA PS1 where he organized GCC: Achievements in Retrospective.

Christopher Y. Lew DisMagazine