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Manaf Halbouni’s artistic practice is informed by a participatory approach that spans a wide range of media often incorporating objects and materials sourced from every day. Largely motivated by his Syrian and German roots as well as his experience of currently living in Dresden, Halbouni’s works stand as a critique of the global political system, migration politics, mainstream media and the constructed notions of nationality and borders with a comic touch.
Coinciding with his residency at Cultural Academy Tarabya, Home Game presents newly produced works, most of which are the product of his stay in Istanbul and are inspired by the city. Home Game, taken from sports terminology, plays with the idea of a hometown; Halbouni asks what it is constituted of, turns it upside down and sheds light on its shortcomings.
The two sculptures Halbouni created with a decorative metal material that he encountered in Istanbul smash the word “watan”, meaning hometown in his native Arabic. The utopic idea of belonging to one piece of land, a politically constructed notion, is scrunched into a ball, almost like rubbish. A lightbox illuminates a photograph that Halbouni took on his daily bike ride near a refugee camp in Dresden. The right wing movement named ‘1% (Einprozent)’ graffitied Arabic inscriptions onto walls near refugee camps vandalizing them with the words ‘Go Back Home’, to which someone later added ‘NO’.
As a continuation of his previous What If? series – an imagined dystopia in which the industrial revolution of the 19th century took place in the Ottoman Empire and the Arab world instead of Europe – Halbouni created new maps during his stay in Istanbul. An imaginary general, Joseph Hadid, who holds the hegemonic power in this dystopia, is impersonated by Halbouni himself in a newly conducted interview. Reversing the directions of colonization and rethinking borders, Halbouni carries this mind game a step further to dismantle the map of the world as we know it and rethink a new world order.