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By Christina McPhee

Christina McPhee:

December on -empyre- soft-skinned space : "Crusades and Art as Illegality and Provocation”

Please join guest moderator Ana Valdés (SE) as she engages with a group of activist artists, curators and scholars, including Susan Meiselas (US), Cecilia Parsberg (SE), Jan-Erik Lindstrom (SE), Raul Ferrera-Balanquet (MX), Loretta Napoleoni (UK) and Dahr Jamail ().

As Ana writes:

"The Crusades were the expansion of Europe, stretching its territories North and South, to colonize and spread the Christian Word, meanwhile conquering new markets, new source of raw material, new peoples and new lands. The historical metaphor oj the Crusades is still alive concerning and in presentday Middle East, both as a memory and in relation to contemporary conquests, as well as in the rhetoric of empire.

Today artists, writers and theorists merge in the world, document it and, instead of trying to conquer it, show passion and compassion, denounce, take part, engage themselves. Since Emile Zola wrote "J'Accuse" and Pablo Picasso painted "Guernica", a constant stream of artists has been exerting their right to dissent and the right to question power, the status quo and existing norms.

The walls in Palestine, Tijuana, Ceuta and Melilla are not only symbolic; they build the shape of Fortress Europe, not only the geographic, but the mythological Europe, the supposed cradle of Modernity. The Crusades were the clash and the confrontation. Today's artists and intellectuals search its meaning, study its effects. Films, photos, texts and installations talk about jails, fences, workers with precarious jobs paperless immigrants, political turmoil and mayhem. Fine Arts is today the arena of political discussions and activist practices.

I've asked some friends and colleagues to join me during one month to discuss our practices and our engagements, inspired by the above, under the framework of -empyre-. "

-- Ana Valdés, writer and activist

initiator of Crusading http://www.crusading.se, in partnership with Jan-Erik Lundström, BildMuseet in Umeå, http:// www.bildmuseet.umu.se

Guest biographies:

----------------------------------- ------------------------------------- -->Ana Valdés is a writer, social anthropologist and activist, working with Gender, Class and Race issues in cyberculture. She has published several books and started in the year 2000 the network Equator, http://this.is/Equator, together with the visual artist Cecilia Parsberg. Since 2005 she runs together with the BildMuseet in Umeå, http://www.bildmuseet.umu.se the Crusading network. Ana Valdés texts deal with borders and multiple identities. Some titles: “The Alphabet Garden”, Serpent’s Tail, “Columbus’s Egg”, Faber and Faber. She was a political prisoner for four years during the Uruguayan dictatorship.

----------------------------------- ------------------------------------- ->Susan Meiselas is a documentary photographer and member of the cooperative Magnum Photos since 1976. She is the author of Carnival Strippers, Nicaragua, Kurdistan In the Shadow of History and Encounters with the Dani. She is best known for her documentation of human rights issues in Latin America. Meiselas has had one-woman exhibitions in Paris, Madrid, Amsterdam, London, Los Angeles and New York. In 1992 she was made a MacArthur Fellow.

----------------------------------- ------------------------------------- ----->Cecilia Parsberg lives and works in Stockholm, Sweden. She is a visual artist who works with relational concepts, and is educated at Valand Academy of Fine Arts, Göteborg University, with a post grad Diploma from Dundee University. Throughout the nineties her work dealt with power and sexuality, how power structures permeate our daily lives. Her gaze changed from the outsider to the participating: the image exist between us, the task of the artist is to “activate the image”. The theoretical concept The Action was articulated through five art works in South Africa, during three years. The last five years, she has been articulating her art projects as real political posture. Cecilia argues that this sphere is a possible place for artist's work. An account of her work and earlier exhibitions can be found at http:// this.is/Parsberg

----------------------------------- ----------------------------------- >Jan-Erik Lundström is the director of BildMuseet, Umeå university, Umeå, Sweden, a museum of contemporary art and visual culture. He is equally involved in curating, organizing, lecturing and writing. Among his latest exhibitions are Politics of Place, Killing Me Softly (Tirana Biennial), Projects for a Revolution (Mois de la Photo, Montreal), Double Vision (Prague Biennale), Same, Same, but Different and Människor i Norr(Peoples of the North). He was the chief curator of Berlin Photography Festival, 2005, where he produced the exhibition After the Fact, a major survey of documentary practices in contemporary art. And he will be the chief curator of the 1st Biennial of Thessaloniki in 2007. He is the author of numerous books, including Nordic Landscapes, Tankar om fotografi (Thoughts on Photography), Irving Penn and Horizons: Towards a Global Africa. He has been guest professor at HISK, Antwerp, Belgium and at the Kunstakademie, Oslo, Norway. Lundström is a prolific international lecturer and writer, contributor to symposia internationally and to cultural magazines such as Glänta, European Photography, Paletten and tema celeste.

----------------------------------- ------------------------------------> Raul Moarquech Ferrera-Balanquez was born in Havana, Cuba in 1958. MFA in Multimedia and Video Art, University of Iowa, 1992. Interdisciplinary artist, writer, Fulbright scholar and executive curator of Arte Nuevo InteractivA, a leading new art exhibit and laboratory in Latin America. He heads the Multimedia Department at the Superior School of the Arts of Yucatan, México.

----------------------------------- ------------------------------------> Loretta Napoleoni is the author of Terror Incorporated and Insurgent Iraq. She is an expert on financing of terrorism and advises several governments on counter-terrorism. She is senior partner of G Risk, a London based risk agency. As Chairman of the countering terrorism financing group for the Club de Madrid, Napoleoni brought heads of state from around the world together to create a new strategy for combating the financing of terror networks. Born and raised in Rome, in the mid 1970s Loretta Napoleoni became an active member of the feminist movement and a political activist. She was a Fulbright scholar at Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington DC and a Rotary Scholar at the London School of Economics. As an economist she worked for several banks and international organizations in Europe and the US. In the early 1980s she worked at the National Bank of Hungary on the convertibility of the florin that became the blue print for the convertibility of the ruble a decade later. Ms Napoleoni is also a journalist and has worked as a foreign correspondent for several Italian financial papers. Her work appears regularly in many journals and publications, including several European newspapers. She lectures regularly on the financing of terrorism. She has written novels, guide books in Italian and translated and edited books on terrorism; her most recent novel, Dossier Baghdad, is a financial thriller set during the Gulf War. She was among the few people to interview the Red Brigades in Italy after three decades of silence.

----------------------------------- ------------------------------------> Dahr Jamail is an independent journalist who has reported from occupied Iraq for 8 months. He has reported from Syria, Jordan, Turkey and recently from Lebanon during the 34-day Israeli assault on that country. He has reported for The Independent and the Guardian in the UK, the Sunday Herald in Scotland and Inter Press Service. His dispatches from Irak can be read on www.dahrjamailiraq.com.

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