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Superconversations Day 37: Sam Samiee responds to Global Ultra Luxury Faction (G.U.L.F.), "On Direct Action: An Address to Cultural Workers"


Public Space, Private Time

Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, upside down, Architecture by Frank Gehry.

To reply to a richly considerate text that makes the right connections and is not afraid to turn every stone, I not only feel I am reflecting on my very own situation but also, now that I have been given the chance to make a few comments, I will repeat a few points that seem to be missing from the media narrative in regards to the issues at hand.

So now that “we believe that a shift is beginning to occur” the question remains open to everybody who wants to get her hands dirty: how does one want to organize events based on the possibilities given to a person or a group in specific situations?

My personal situation puts me among the privileged ones in the northern side of the Persian Gulf. Beyond the shame or guilt for not being among the underprivileged yet having a voice in here, I can just raise an alert for those who have been, especially if culturally, for the sake of delivering and leveling the agencies of those sharing this world, we can easily fall in the trap of choosing a story, a narrative, a solution, which satisfies in one way or another our egoistic narcissism, which itself stands historically with no access to the pain of the other, problems and the concern of the other.

In considering art, culture and workers of every field, it seems that the craving for ‘New Relational Modes’ can be heard from every corner, yet, if one includes colonial history, the Ottoman Empire and the making of the new states mentioned in the text, the formation of the Western world and its relation and imposition of its provincial relational modes (including art), one thing that is easily avoided are the non-Arab Muslim cultures of the same region, and their historic relational modes that pass through the art-highway. What makes us close our eyes to the position of art for Urdu, Persian and Turkish speakers? It is for another debate to consider whether the semi-democracy / semi-dictatorships of the mentioned cultures allow these already-established relational modes that have survived the shock of the new and have never fell into the trap of binary opposition of Modern/traditional, or if that very modus operandi, in spite of colonial pressure and corrupt domestic issues has brought them to the semi-dictatorships that catastrophes such as UAE’s labour disasters do not occur in a direct relation to the imported Western cultural industry.

Above all what about Shahrzad? Wasn’t she always already under the threat of violence? Didn’t she provide a sustainable art form that, despite all the palaces and castles having been destroyed, the most sustainable form of art has survived? Democratic more than anything else, as Borges argues, inclusive of all to all, yet open-ended? What about the politics of mourning? What if in my world it is time to cry for the millennial loss of cultural labour? What if in my neighbors’ house it is time to think about the role of authorities?

The irony is that, when we are replying to and reading this in the northern coast of the Persian gulf, people are going to ask, “what time is it in your world?”

More ironic is what Iqbal, the father figure of Pakistan says in the “Persian Psalms” that I will try to translate into simple English:

In this meadow of birds hearts, time is another time
On the branch it is another and at nest as well

Look at yourself how you complain about the world
If you look differently you see a different world

If all the times your eyes see good
The path to the winehouse, the path of the sage, is different

Send my greetings to the leader of the Karavan and tell her
Although the path is the same, the Karavan is a different one.

Sam Samiee is an Iranian Amsterdam-based painter and essayist, currently a resident artist in the two-year program at Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten.


The governments and private entities that are funding the construction and furnishing of these museums are often caught red handed in supporting Sunni extremism all over the world. I would personally take GULF way more seriously if their analysis of art + politics went deeper to penetrate the hidden structures which need/use art to camouflage their much nastier operations than inhuman labour conditions.