UCSC to present symposium on Arab film and visual culture

Unfixed Itineraries poster
UCSC professor of Film and Digital Media Peter Limbrick
UCSC professor of Film and Digital Media Peter Limbrick

Artists and scholars from Lebanon, Morocco, Egypt, Syria, Canada, Europe, and the U.S. will converge at the UCSC campus on October 25-26 for Unfixed Itineraries, a two-day symposium on film and visual culture from Arab worlds.

Unfixed Itineraries will include film screenings, panels, and presentations, as well as the opening of a concurrent exhibition of visual art at UCSC's Sesnon Gallery that will run through December 10.

The UCSC symposium will coincide with a retrospective film series by acclaimed Moroccan filmmaker Moumen Smihi--curated by UCSC film and digital media professor Peter Limbrick--beginning on October 10 at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley, and continuing until October 27.  

Limbrick, who is organizing the UCSC symposium with UC Davis history professor Omnia El Shakry, will introduce several screenings at the Pacific Film Archive and will take part in an onstage conversation with Smihi in Berkeley on October 24.

Smihi--a foundational figure of the “New Arab Cinema” of the Maghreb (Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia) that began in the 1970s--will also be a participant at the UCSC symposium.

Limbrick said that the Unfixed Itineraries symposium will encourage innovative perspectives on Arab film and visual culture, emphasizing their multifaceted nature.

“Rather than homogenize something like ‘the Arab world,’ for example, we want to stress the multiple worlds that have been made by the diverse histories of the region,” Limbrick noted. “Instead of taking for granted the meaning of the word ‘Arab,’ our event questions the kinds of fixed narratives that produce rigid categories and identities.”

“And by refusing the common tendency in the West to reduce Arab art to the realm of either the political or the religious, we also want to affirm the inspiring, arresting pleasures of the aesthetic, the sensory, the intellectual, and the social aspects of film and media from the region,” Limbrick added.  

Limbrick noted that the symposium includes opportunities for both viewing film and media, and for engaging in scholarly, critical debates with artists--rather than just about them.

In addition to several film screenings and the Sesnon exhibit, the symposium will also include discussion panels featuring internationally renowned scholars and curators alongside artists.

“We tend to get a very limited sense of the Arab world from the media,” Limbrick observed. “In fact, there are long traditions of art, culture, and criticism that are incredibly rich and often unrecognized.”

“It’s difficult to get a sense of these rich histories without special events like this,” he added. “We are so lucky to be in a university where students can see films, video installations, and photographs that aren’t so easily accessible otherwise.”

The two-day symposium is free and open to the public.

Unfixed Itineraries will take place on Friday, Oct. 25, from 9.30 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday, Oct. 26, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at UCSC’s Digital Arts Resource Center, Room 108. A concurrent exhibition of visual art will run at UCSC's Sesnon Gallery from October 25 through Dec 10, with an opening reception at the gallery on Friday, Oct. 25 from 5 to 7 p.m. All events are free and open to the public. For more information, visit the Unfixed Itineraries web site.

This event is presented by the UCSC Film and Digital Media Department, with support from Porter College, the UC Humanities Research Institute, the UCSC Arts Research Institute, the Arts Dean's Fund for Excellence, the departments of Film and Digital Media and Feminist Studies, the Center for Documentary Arts and Research (CDAR), the UC Davis Division of Social Science, the UC Davis Institute for Social Sciences, and the Centre Cinématographique Marocain.