QR Codes for Syria

Róza El-Hassan, artist and activist born in Budapest, of Hungarian and Syrian origin, was asked to write about the present situation of Syrian museums, artists, art spaces and cultural institutions for CIMAM's Contemporary Art Museums Watch after her presentation with Shadi Al Shhadeh Syrian Voices at CIMAM 2012 Annual Conference Museums Beyond the Crises, 12-14 November, SALT, Istanbul.

"It is hard to write about Syrian cultural institutions and artists in the moment when the country is under shelling and going through a lot of clashes day by day. It is difficult to write about past, present and future. What is definite is that we need to support the civilians’ community. What happens, when there are cities living under shelling? (...) My earlier initiatives with Syrian activists started as research projects. In the second phase I would like to support those who use non-violent weapons like a poem, a blog, a video a painting by showing their works in international shows and lectures, by creating a future foundation for art and education."

by Róza El-Hassan

I call museums and the Venice Biennale to distribute the QR codes of non violent Syrian pages in form of wall paintings on the sides of the pavilions, on bags, objects and websites.

Akram_Raslan_QR Codes for Syria.png
Akram Raslan

February 2011: an anti-regime graffiti was found on the wall of a school in Daraa. Nobody knows who made it. Next day some children from the school are accused of being the ones who made the drawings. They were detained and tortured. Non-violent uprisings start in March 2011. The government does not fulfill people's demands of a democratic change in the system. Six hundred days of bombing follow, hundreds of thousands of people are detained, seventy thousand people are killed, twelve thousand die under torture. Seventy thousand people dead. Millions of houses destroyed or damaged.

Following a war crime, it usually takes less than ten minutes for a drawing or montage to appear online. The methods of expressions are fast: pencils, brushes, cameras and computers are running hot. The expression of Syrian art is immediate and strong.

Please save my child – a painting. Please save my husband – a blog entry. Please save my friend – a drawing. We love freedom. We love life. The kiss by Klimt painted on wall of a destroyed house by Tammam Azzaz. And other works in Saraqeb like the light and elegant Arabic graffiti with a message for an ultimate will for a better future.

These messages are appropriately expressed with urgency. Hundreds of groups and individuals publish them daily on internet. Some of the messages are hidden behind abstract QR codes created with all the subversive tools of critical expression. Art is rich and splendorous in times of change.

I call museums and the Venice Biennale to distribute the QR codes of non violent Syrian pages in form of wall paintings on the sides of the pavilions, on bags, objects and websites.

QR codes are simultaneously efficient ways to access these realms with the help of a mobile phone and an internet connection. You take a picture with your mobile and another picture appears. No language and text is in-between. The choice to activate it or not is within the viewer. It is up to each to decide if she or he wants to see the hidden reality behind the structure.

Finally however, we would like to ask you to pay special attention to one particular website: the one belonging to the Syrian cartoonist Akram Raslan. He lives in Hama, Syria, but was arrested by the Syrian regime on October 2, 2012. Nobody knows of his fate, not even his family. His case stands for hundreds of people who disappeared since March 2011, since the beginning of the Syrian revolution in detainment centers. We call for release of all imprisoned civilians.

© Róza El-Hassan
Art for Syria Initiative
2013 February, Budapest

This is just a small selection of facebook pages and individuals : anonymous artists from Syria and Syrian artist living abroad.

Kartoneh From Deir Eezoarكرتونة من ديرالزور
Messages written mainly on a black chartboard with colored charcoal and grafitties based on Arabic writing and street art with strong colors. The sentences and signs appear in the dark background as a strong piece of conceptual art-work. Deir Ezzor is a city under siege in Eastern Syria at the Euphrates river. It is geographically isolated because it is in the eastern corner of the country and surrounded by Al Assad forces.

ANA New Media Association
A documentary website with the clearest concept, only video documentary with short description. No analysis or personal remarks. The minimalist simplicity of the style gives a reason to select this documentary website among the artist's websites.

Syrian Revolution Arts | فنون الثورة السورية
One of the most important pages with design, conceptual works and paintings.

Artist. Black and white photographic compositions on the border between documentary and surrealism.

Le patrimoine archéologique Syrien en danger الآثار السورية في خطر
A facebook page mapping the destruction on Syrian Historical heritage site, and demanding their protection.

Syria Art
Syrian Artists. Most of the paintings on this website are made by artist with rather academic background. Some of the paintings are good others are bad, still the website shows a continuity between art before and during the revolution. We see, that academic painters and sculptors started to create much more expressive compositions during the revolution. The website is not dedicated to the political message, ethnic, or religious identity, but rather to distribute Syrian painting and plastic arts.

أثر الفراشة - Butterfly Effect
The Butterfly Effect: coffee place in Cairo opened by a Syrian actress. On the weekend it is a theater and workshops for displaced and injured.

Zaytoon - زيتون
Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). Italian and English language education for young Syrians in Cairo. Lectures and panel discussions. Guest lectures in changing locations in various institutions for Syrians on social theory, art and new media. Video archives, texts on art theory.

Syrian Voices Mediation and Art أصوات الوساطة السورية والفن
Independent Platform for Art theory, Art, Culture and Social Responsibility and Freedom in Syria.