Staging Public Memory: A Conversation

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New York University

Collaborating with members of the UAE community, Marysia Lewandowska’s Cinema Island project helps us understand the importance of arts institutions in bringing media archives and private memory to public attention. Inside a chain-link, shiny cinema pavilion, we encounter oil-company documentaries intercut with home movies by Emiratis, which are narrated by voices of women today, exploring an open-ended staging of public memory. Whereas professional images produce orientalist narratives of modernization, often including only Emirati and British men, private film footage allows more complex stories to emerge. That way, as Lewandowska notes, “all the members of the family are included.” The voices of women point to what cameras cannot capture. Cinema Island initiates discussion on archives, memory, and history.

— Dale Hudson, Film and New Media Program, NYUAD

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