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Arts and Culture | LUCIS and RCMC film screening and panel discussion

Last Skies: Avian Imaginaries in Video Art from the Middle East

Thursday 19 September 2019
Free entrance
Museum Volkenkunde
Steenstraat 1
2312BS Leiden
Grote zaal (can be found at the first floor)

This program is organised by LUCIS & Research Center for Material Culture (RCMC) and is curated by Nat Muller (Birmingham City University).

Image: Heba Y. Amin (As Birds Flying, 2016)

Where should we go after the last frontiers? 
Where should the birds fly after the last sky?
Where should the plants sleep
After the last breath of air?

(Mahmoud Darwish, “The Earth is Closing on Us”)

This screening program presents video works by some of the most exciting artists from the Middle East for the first time in the Netherlands. Drawing on avian imaginaries, in which birds operate as protagonists and tropes, these works comment on regional geopolitics, belonging, heritage, and history in unruly times. Disaster – manmade or other – looms darkly on the horizon. In these videos, past, present and future are muddled, human and nonhuman narratives and agency intertwine, and bird’s-eye views offer alternative perspectives: from the ruins of Pergamon, petrified museological artefacts, and aerial views of Jerusalem and Teheran, to the weaponisation of spy birds and alien bird-human encounters. The videos in Last Skies offer speculative takes on contested pasts and uncertain futures in which human responsibility is continuously scrutinised. After the screening, two of the artists will join international experts on speculative fiction and people-bird relations for a panel discussion.

Featuring works by: Benji Boyadgian and Behzad Khosravi Noori (The Owls, The Queen and the Maquettiste, 2018), Sophia Al-Maria (Mothership, 2017), Ali Cherri (Petrified, 2016), Heba Y. Amin (As Birds Flying, 2016) and Hera Büyüktaşcıyan (Neither on the Ground, nor in the Sky, 2019).

The screening program is followed by a panel discussion with Ali Cherri (artist), Ben Greet (independent researcher), Benji Boyadgian (artist), Tasnim Qutait (SOAS), and Dan Hassler-Forest (Utrecht University). Curated and moderated by Nat Muller (Birmingham City University).

Images by courtesy of Benji Boyadgian, Behzad Khosravi Noori, Sophia Al-Maria, Ali Cherri, Heba Y. Amin and Hera Büyüktaşcıyan.


  • 19.0019.15 Opening by Judith Naeff (LUCIS) and Sarah Johnson (Curator Middle East and North Africa)
  • 19.15–20.20 Screenings 
    - Benji Boyadgian and Behzad Khosravi Noori, The Owls, The Queen and the Maquettiste (2018)
    - Sophia Al-Maria, Mothership (2017)
    - Ali Cherri, Petrified (2016)
    - Heba Y. Amin, As Birds Flying (2016)
    - Hera Büyüktaşcıyan, Neither on the Ground, nor in the Sky (2019)
  • 20.20–20.30 Break

  • 20.30–21.30 Panel discussion with Ali Cherri, Ben Greet, Benji Boyadgian, Dan Hassler-Forest, Nat Muller, Tasnim Qutait

Private viewing museum depot

Want to know more about the role of birds in Middle Eastern culture? You can join the curators of the Volkenkunde Museum, Sarah Johnson and Erdogan Aykaç, for a private viewing of bird imagery before the screening. 

Session 1: 15.30–16.00 hrs.

Session 2: 16.00–16.30 hrs.

Please note that we have limited space available for the two sessions. 

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