Title Tamáss
Location Barcelona; Rotterdam
Publisher Fundació Antoni Tàpies; Witte de With
Periodicity 2 issues
ISSN T1: 84-88786-61-1; T2: 90-73362-57-1
URL Fundació Antoni Tàpies
Published Since 2002-2004
Indexed Holdings 2002-2004


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Periodical's Overview

“Contemporary Arab Representations is a long-term project which includes seminars, presentations of works by different authors--visual artists, architects, writers and poets--performances and publications, with the aim of encouraging production, circulation and exchange between the different cultural centers of the Arab world and the rest of the world. The project thus aims to tackle heterogeneous situations and contexts which may sometimes be antagonistic or conflictive, to acquire more specific knowledge of what is going on in certain parts of the Arab world at present, to look at the complex dimensions of aesthetics in relation to social and political situations, and to help to think more deeply about the roled played today by cultural practices in our own countries.”


“From this point of view, Tamáss seeks to become a stable space for debate and exchange of ideas, images and projects amongst the different parts of the Arab world and elsewhere.”[1]

Selected Subject Headings

  • Arabic poetry - Egypt - history and criticism
  • Beirut - intellectual life - 20th century
  • Cairo - Egypt - intellectual life - 20th century
  • City planning - Lebanon - Beirut
  • City planning - Egypt - Cairo
  • Egypt - intellectual life - 20th century
  • Globalization - cultural aspects - Lebanon
  • Israeli-Palestinian conflict
  • Lebanon - intellectual life - 21st century
  • Motion pictures - Egypt
  • Rural life - Egypt
  • Suicide bombers - Lebanon
  • Urban renewal - Lebanon - Beirut
  • Vending stands - Egypt


In 1981 Edward Said wrote: “By using the skills of a good critical reader to disentangle sense from nonsense, by asking the right questions and expecting pertinent answers, anyone can learn about either “Islam” or the world of Islam and about the men, women, and cultures that live within it, speak its languages, breathe its air, produce its histories and societies. At that point, humanistic knowledge begins and communal responsibility for that knowledge begins to be shouldered.”[2]

What was going on in the cultural field in a variety of Arab urban locations seems to be the question that Catherine David, a cultural producer in the art field,[3] wanted to ask in the early 2000s.

The question was placed to Beirut, Cairo and to Iraq and its diaspora; by asking it David ignited a project that spanned a number of years: Contemporary Arab Representations. The answers took the form of three public “presentations” in a number of European art venues, and crystallized in two volumes that we present here: Tamáss.

Each volume is dedicated to a city or region: the first one to Beirut/Lebanon; the second to Cairo. We are not aware if the third presentation on Iraq ever became a publication in this series, but there are online traces of its presentation in Barcelona.[4]

Each printed volume is a collection of essays and visual projects, a snapshot of the particular milieu that David focused on, trying to probe “the complex dimensions of aesthetics in relation to social and political situations;” what we encounter as readers is an amalgam of thoughts and ideas on architecture and urbanism, war experiences, modernist receptions, alongside experimental literature, cartoons, video scripts and interviews with artists; this is, we encounter an intellectual milieu very much in synch with the homogenized critical discourses of the Western Metropolis, if we were to keep a distinction so instrumental on David’s paying attention to these locations.

The paradox we encounter is that a project that set out to map the complexities of realities flattened by mainstream media achieves its purpose by bringing to us intellectual landscapes that are difficult to distinguish from any of the ones depicted in the pages of many of the Metropolitan academic journals we index in our database. This is obviously not a problem. To expect an isolated autonomous cultural landscape would be non-innocent or just plain ignorant, but what appears is the sobering realization that the globalized networks of cultural production, even if critical, are bound to clone themselves regionally.

While perusing these two volumes, the question also arises: If the system and infrastructures of art are used to produce this knowledge, why don’t the results differ from what other systems of knowledge production provide? Is there space for aesthetic specificities nowadays?

Despite these unresolved questions, Tamáss remains a pertinent document for those interested in nuancing their understanding of two intellectual landscapes as mediated by David and the authors included by her; it is also a valiant attempt to enact Said’s hoped for goals of finding “respect for the concrete detail of human experience, understanding that arises from viewing the Other compassionately, knowledge gained and diffused through moral and intellectual honesty.”[5]

No one ever said that just with moral and intellectual honesty one would get great objects of knowledge, yet we still believe these are possible to find. David asked her question and presented what she found, one step on a longer path.

To peruse the indexed contents of Tamáss, please log into the database.


[1]Catherine David. “[Presentation]”, Tamáss, no. 1 (2002): 10-11.

[2]Edward W. Said. Covering Islam: how the media and the experts determine how we see the rest of the world. New York: Pantheon Books, 1981: xix. The italics are ours.

[3]"David studierte spanische und portugiesische Literatur, Sprachwissenschaft und Kunstgeschichte in Paris. Von 1981 bis 1990 war sie Kuratorin am Staatlichen Museum für Moderne Kunst, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, ab 1990 Kuratorin der Nationalgalerie des Jeu de Paume in Paris sowie mehrerer internationaler Ausstellungen. David ist Chefkuratorin der Musées de France. Von 1994 bis 1997 war Catherine David künstlerische Leiterin der Documenta X in Kassel. 2002 bis 2004 war sie Direktorin des Witte de With, eines Zentrums für Gegenwartskunst in Rotterdam (Niederlande). 2009 organisierte sie die Retrospektive zu Ehren des iranischen Photografen Bahman Jalali in der Fundació Antoni Tàpies in Barcelona."de Wikipedia

[4]In the 2006 PDF a forthcoming Tamáss 3 is announced; “an archive open to the public” with documentation of "public readings, testimonies and analyses proposed by the various participants," "image banks" as well as an Internet project including blogs and websites devoted to Iraq were also on development. In 2012 we have been unable to find them.

[5]Ibid., xxxi.