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Guest Lecture: Roger Benjamin on Exhibiting Biskra, 28 Sept 2016

Anon, Famille pres de Sidi Okba, vers 1911, autochrome lumiere, coll. Serge Kakou, Paris (detail).

Anon, Famille pres de Sidi Okba, vers 1911, autochrome lumiere, coll. Serge Kakou, Paris (detail).

  • 18 Sep 2016

History of Art cordially invite you to a guest lecture by Professor Roger Benjamin (University of Sydney), on Weds 28 September 2016 at 6.30 pm, in West Wing 9, Main Quadrangle, UCC. Prof Benjamin will speak on Exhibiting Biskra Art, Photography & Tourism in an Algerian Oasis.

Roger Benjamin has curated the exhibition ‘Biskra: Visions of an Oasis’ in conjunction with Algerian authorities for the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, 23 Sept. 2016 - 22 Jan. 2017.

Biskra-Roger Benjamin

Anon, Famille pres de Sidi Okba, vers 1911, autochrome lumiere, coll. Serge Kakou, Paris.

From the time of the seizure of the oasis by the French army in 1844 until today, the once-famous desert tourist town of Biskra has excited a myriad of pictorial representations, from paintings and hand-drawn maps to postcards and stereoscopic photos, to newsreel films and Technicolor romances.  The exhibition has been sparked by responses of European avant-gardists who visited around 1900: André Gide for letters (his The Immoralist), Henri Matisse for art (Blue Nude, Souvenir of Biskra), and Bela Bartok for music (phonographs of Arab song that influenced his later work). For the first time a detailed image of this place of aesthetic revelation, where luxury and squalor jostled, is revealed in the cross-cultural richness of its contested histories, colonial and postcolonial.

Roger Benjamin is an Australian art historian who trained at the University of Melbourne and Bryn Mawr College, Philadelphia.  He has written widely on French modernist art, the history of French Orientalist painting, and contemporary Aboriginal art.  Benjamin’s early publications include Matisse’s “Notes of a Painter” (Ann Arbor, 1985), and ‘Matisse in Morocco: a Colonizing Esthetic?’ (Art in America, 1990), an early postcolonial critique of modernist art. In 1995 he co-curated a major Matisse retrospective for Australia (Queensland Art Gallery).  His exhibition catalogue Orientalism: Delacroix to Klee (Sydney, 1997) is an influential survey that brings international Orientalism into the 1930s. A decade of research culminated in Orientalist Aesthetics: Art, Colonialism and French North Africa, 1880-1930 (Berkeley, 2003), for which Benjamin received the prestigious Robert Motherwell Book Award in 2004. His Renoir and Algeria (New Haven, 2003) was organised for the Clark Art Institute before travelling to Dallas and Paris. Benjamin’s books on contemporary Australian art include Juan Davila (with Guy Brett, Melbourne 2006) and Icons of the Desert: Early Aboriginal Painting from Papunya (Cornell, 2009). Benjamin has held teaching posts at the University of Melbourne, the Australian National University and University of Sydney, where he was Director of the Power Institute from 2003-2007. Benjamin took up a fellowship at the Clark Art Institute, Massachusetts in 2012, and between 2013 and 2016 was the grateful recipient of a senior research fellowship from the Australian Research Council.  His project, entitled ‘Orientalism of the Mediterranean Shore: Art and Place from Tunis to Marseille’, has resulted in a first book, Kandinsky and Klee in Tunisia (University of California Press, Aug 2015). In September this year his exhibition ‘Biskra: Visions of an Oasis’ opens at the Arab World Institute in Paris. Roger.Benjamina@sydney.edu.au.

Admission is free and all are welcome

Download the poster here: Roger Benjamin on Biskra (879kB)

For further information please contact:

Dr. Mary Healy
Lecturer in Contemporary Art History, Theory and Gallery Studies,
Department of History of Art,
3 Perrott Avenue,
University College Cork, Ireland.
Email: mary.healy@ucc.ie

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