Autonomy Of Self - Exhibiting Artists in Conflict

Rejecting violence with the lens in former Ottoman territories.
Joy Stacey
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United Kingdom
1 Team Member

P21 Gallery presents 'Autonomy of Self', a publicly funded group exhibition bringing together film and photography from across the former Ottoman territories to explore how individuals are using the human image to refuse violence and conflict.

"For political oppositions, democratic representation merges with visual representation. For people, possessing political agency means possessing the ability to be seen, not only heard"

- Lina Khatib, Image Politics in the Middle East

Opening April 16th 2015

P21 Gallery, London, Kings Cross                                     

The Concept

Autonomy of Self unites individuals contending with conflicts across Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa in their shared history through the Ottoman Empire. Conflicts in Bosnia, Crimea, Armenia, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Egypt and Tunisia are considered in the artworks. Each has faced the consequences of the collapse of the Empire and the destruction of interventions from the UK, US, France and Russia, and the implications of these actions resonate in the identity of these countries today.

The exhibition is inspired by, and a response to the writings of theorist Ariella Azoulay.

The Artists

Joy Stacey (Image from 'The Tourist')

Joy Stacey is the curator behind Autonomy of Self, and the exhibition concept was developed as a progression from her work developed in Palestine; The Tourist. Stacey is an artist and curator based in the UK, with a Masters in Photography from the University of Brighton. 

Armenoui Kasparian Saraidari (Image from 'Tracing Back')

Armenoui Kasparian Saraidari is the descendant of Armenian refugees and was born in Greece. She is an MA Photography graduate from Central Saint Martins, currently studying for a Research Degree (PhD). Her research focuses upon photographic archives and their relation to memory and identity, specifically in relation to her family and the Armenian Genocide.

Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige (Image from 'Khiam')

Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige collaborate as filmmakers and artists, producing cinematic and visual artwork that intertwine. For the last 15 years, they have focused on the images, representations and history of their home country, Lebanon and questioned the fabrication of imaginaries in the region and beyond. Their artworks have been shown in museums, biennials and art centres around the world, in solo or collective exhibitions, and are part of important public and private collections. The artists live between Beirut and Paris.

Sadik Kwaish Alfraji (Image from 'Born April 9th')

Sadik Kwaish Alfraji was born in Baghdad and is based in the Netherlands. He is a visual artist, print maker and designer, and studied art and philosophy. He has exhibited internationally and his work is held in collections across the world.

Moufida Fedhila (Image from 'Super Tunisian')

Moufida Fedhila was born in Tunisia and Lives and works in Paris and Tunis. Fedhila graduated from the École Européenne Supérieure d'Art de Bretagne, and studied philosophy at the Sorbonne University and theatre at the University of Caen before moving to Paris to be trained in film directing. She practices drawing, painting, cinema, photography, poetry as sound, installation and performance.

Nadia Mounir (Image from 'Soutk' [Your Vote] )

Nadia Mounir is an emerging lens-based artist living and working in Cairo. Her work explores the Egyptian uprising and the impact of it as it unfolds.

Femen (press image, ©Getty Images)

Femen is a controversial feminist protest group founded in Ukraine in 2008. The organization has become internationally known for organizing topless protests against sex tourism, religious institutions, sexism and other social, national and international topics. The organisation describes itself as "fighting patriarchy in its three manifestations - sexual exploitation of women, dictatorship and religion”.

Aims and Goals

This exhibition aims to encourage and promote knowledge and debate on several levels. Visitors will be invited to consider the major themes running through these works, such as the significance and legacy of the Ottoman Empire and colonialism, the intricacies and history of contemporary conflicts, responses to all types of violence, and the strength of the voices of those facing it. 

Autonomy of Self seeks to encourage understanding of the power of those deemed powerless, and to encourage knowledge and debate around the political and visual representation of those facing the consequences of global politics. 

The show calls for the audience to revaluate understanding of human rights by exploring how individuals are responding to a lack of them, caused by their state or statelessness. It also draws attention to how the lens operates as a democratic tool.

All the artworks will be documented and the events will be recorded so that as much as possible of Autonomy of Self will be made available online.

What We Need and What You Will Get

We are fundraising for the production costs of the exhibition and we need your generous donations to help us carry out this exceedingly important exhibition. There are a multitude of exciting rewards that we have put together for you, and any funds we make beyond our target will go towards our Public Events Programme. (Read more about these events at the bottom of the page).

Your kind donations will be spent as follows:

Printing Costs - £2,700

Wall building (1 sculpture and 4 video instalations, construction, panel hire and removal)- £4,000

Website design - £600

Video Production - £500

Shipping - £100

Lighting - £350

Transport - £300

Audio Visual support - £1,000

Paint, nails and related supplies - £500

Vinyls for wall captions and front windows - £700

Translation - £250

Total - £11,000

Risks & Challenges

Our challenge is to raise the full funds in time for the opening on October the 23rd. We are applying for a variety of grants, funds and donations, and P21 Gallery has a strong track record of success doing so. In the extremely unlikely event of funds not being raised in time, the exhibition will simply be rescheduled, and your funds will not go to waste.

Other Ways You Can Help

If you would like to help us achieve our goal in other ways then please share our fund on social media!

We are also currently in the process of compiling the public programme to accompany the exhibition, and seeking support in all varieties be they in media promotion, partnership, collaboration or assistance with funding.

If you are interested in any form of collaboration or support, please contact the curator Joy Stacey at

If we exceed our goal...

If we raise more than our target then the money will go to producing our programme of public events!

Public Events

Throughout the 7-week exhibition, a series of corresponding public events will be carried out to encourage a wider audience, and academic and public debate around the issues discussed in the show. This is under development and the following have been confirmed:

Exploring Armenia, with Louis de Bernieres, Nouritza Matossian and Armenoui Kasparian Saraidari


Louis de Bernieres is an internationally acclaimed best-selling author, best known for his novel Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. In 2004 he published his ‘magnum opus’ (-British Library), Birds Without Wings, which explores the impact of war through the eyes of a small Turkish town during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. De Bernieres will read an extract from this novel in which he explores the rounding up and removal of the Armenian community through the eyes of his characters.

Armenoui Kasparian Saraidari is exhibiting her artworks on the Armenian genocide and exodus within the exhibition, and will lead the conversation with de Bernieres to explore his writing and the recording and accounting of memory associated with the genocide.

The event will then be open to a Q&A, and followed by acclaimed writer and director of the Armenian Institute Nouritza Matossian, who will present her film 'Heart of Two Nations: Hrant Dink'. The film records conversations between herself and journalist Hrant Dink who was assassinated in Turkey in 2007.

Screening of '1395 Days Without Red' by Šejla Kamerić, courtesy of Artangel

An elegant young woman makes her way through an empty city. At every crossing she stops, looks and listens. Should she wait or should she run? Should she wait for others or take the risk on her own?

The city is Sarajevo, and the route the woman takes became known as Sniper Alley during the siege of the city endured by its citizens for 1395 days between 1992 and 1996. The woman, played by Spanish actress Maribel Verdú, is reliving the experience of the trauma of the siege. It is her individual journey through the collective memory of the city.

The Siege of Sarajevo lasted for 1395 days. The citizens were bright colours, for fear of alerting their movements to the snipers watching from the hills above.

Memories of Lebanon and Tunisia: Transformed Cities and the Family Album, with Leslie Hakim-Dowek (Plymouth University) and Dora Carpenter-Latiri (University of Brighton)

Leslie Hakim-Dowek was born in Beirut and immigrated to Britain at the beginning of the Lebanese Civil war. She trained at Camberwell School of Art in Fine Art and at the Slade School of Art (Fine Art/Painting). Her work is now mainly lens-based and sometimes combined with text and oral history methods. Hakim-Dowek is a senior lecturer at the University of Portsmouth and a member of Ottoman Cosmopolitanism research group.

Dr Dora Carpenter-Latiri was born in Tunisia and has lived and studied in Paris. A photographer and researcher, she has a wide knowledge of the Arab world, with periods in Sudan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. She began teaching at the University of Tunis in 1994 and moved to the University of Brighton in 1997, where her experience in North Africa led her to research in the interface between France and the Maghreb. Her publications deal with language and intercultural issues, migration, representations of minorities in film and literary productions, memory and first person narratives, and she is a member of Understanding Conflict research cluster.

Symposium with International New Media Gallery

Founded in 2012, the International New Media Gallery (INMG) is an internet-based museum showcasing the latest moving image, photography, and digital art. Recent exhibitions have included acclaimed artists such as Thomson & Craighead, Ursula Biemann, and Amy Balkin. The INMG’s aims are to expand and increase art audiences, evolve the nature of gallery going, and explore the latest art historical debates, and is founded and run by young emerging academics.

INMG are developing a symposium to correspond with the artworks and themes of the exhibition.

The Gallery

The P21 Gallery is an independent London-based non-profit organisation established to promote contemporary Middle Eastern and Arab art and culture. The two-story venue in central London has been identities recently designed by the award winning Egyptian architect, Professor Abdul Halim Ibrahim, as a place where contemporary artistic statements are experienced and appreciated by a global artistic community. The facilities at P21 are planned to maximise the potential of contemporary art as a discourse, through multimedia exhibition spaces on two levels with supporting facilities for public functions in addition to workshops for training and education. In addition, the P21 Gallery hosts a reference library, meeting rooms, a lecture hall as well as a specialised café. In short, it provides for a much needed meeting place in the heart of London.

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This campaign ended on September 15, 2014
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    Calling all students! We are offering discounted portfolio reviews with the Curator for students. MUST have a student card.

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    Poster, Nadia Mounir's 'Soutk'

    Have your own piece of the Egyptian revolution with your own poster from exhibiting artist Nadia Mounier's 'Soutk', to paste in your own home streets! See the original work at, and you will also be named as a backer on our website.

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    Have your photo taken wearing the Super Tunisian cloak as part of artist Moufida Fedhila's exhibit. Choose an artist's postcard to go with it.

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    Louis de Bernieres signed book

    'Captivating and compelling. A masterpiece' - Independent on Sunday Read this stunning novel about life in Turkey while the Ottoman Empire came to and end. Have your own copy of 'Birds Without Wings', kindly signed by our guest speaker, renowned best-selling author Louis de Bernières!

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    • Recognition of support on adverts, catalogue, outdoor and indoor graphics, flyers, press release, website and in annual report • Customised presentation at your business • Invitations to Private Previews for exhibitions • 40% facility rental discount for employee or client entertaining • Exclusive curator-led tour for employees • Sponsorship opportunity to host Free Day for the community

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