Bidoun Library at the Serpentine Gallery, London

Literacy expert, Dr. Frank Laubach, works late into the night on Afghan reading primers (March 1951). Here, he sits on a table to make the most of the lone lightbulb in his dim hotel room.

12 July – 17 September, 2011

The term ‘Middle East,’ by most accounts, was coined in an English newspaper at the turn of the century. Since then it has continued to exist more concretely as an object of discourse than a geographical region, and as such it is seen more coherently perhaps from the outside than in. The Bidoun Library is an attempt to survey this imagined territory through its manifestations in printed matter. Its strategy is in the consideration of books, periodicals and printed matter as objects; subject to the incentives of material production and beholden to complex and historically contingent objectives. It does this by collecting and arranging in one place, not the most apt or excellent materials on the Middle East, but those which are cheapest.

While in London, the Library will address two pivotal world events, each of which has launched thousands of cheap publications onto the market: the revolution in Egypt and the de-accessioning of British public libraries. To coincide with the production of Bidoun magazine’s summer issue, the Library has attempted to collect every book printed, and every newspaper and periodical founded, since the Egyptian revolution of 25th January 2011—from cheap novellas about the last days of Hosni Mubarak, to teen magazines and previously-banned political treatises. This material, along with publications found in London during Bidoun’s residency on the Edgware Road, will be placed amongst the Library’s eclectic catalogue of comic books, children’s films and political treatises.

The summer issue, Bidoun’s 25th to date and built around the revolution of January 25th, will be launched at the Serpentine this summer. A series of public talks, screenings, and a shaabi Egyptian dance party/wedding in the Serpentine Pavilion will also be held through Bidoun’s residency. Speakers include Hisham Matar, Nawal El Saadawi, Ahdaf Soueif, Sonallah Ibrahim, Slavs and Tatars, and more.

Saturday, July 16
Hisham Matar
Sackler Centre of Arts Education, 3pm

Author of In the Country of Men and Anatomy of a Disappearance, Hisham Matar was born in New York City in 1970 to Libyan parents, Matar spent his childhood first in Tripoli and then in Cairo. He has lived in the UK since 1986.

Monday, July 18
Rania Stephan: The Three Disappearances of Suad Hosni
The Gate Cinema, Notting Hill, 7pm

Former Edgware Road Project artist-in-residence Rania Stephan returns to present the UK premiere of her film The Three Disappearances of Suad Hosni (2011), which recently won the Sharjah Biennial Prize. The film’s non-fiction narrative reflects on the life and death of Egyptian actress Suad Hosni, who committed suicide while living on Edgware Road in 2001.

Friday, July 22
Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, 8pm

Bidoun Projects present an evening of loud Egyptian Shaabi music, dancing, readings, and an actual wedding, all at the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2011. This event is commissioned by the Serpentine Gallery as part of the Edgware Road Project.

Saturday, July 23
Nawal Al Saadawi
Sackler Centre of Arts Education, 3pm

Author of over forty-seven books, Nawal Al Saadawi is a pioneering Egyptian activist, psychiatrist, feminist, and political activist. Her books include Women and Sex, Memoirs from the Women’s Prison, and God Dies by the Nile. Saadawi’s life in struggle has seen her incarcerated in the 1970s for speaking out against the corruption of the Sadat regime, forced by Islamists to flee Egypt for eight years in the 1990s. She was among the protesters in Tahrir Square in 2011.

Saturday, July 30
Samandal: Picture Stories From Here and There
Sackler Centre of Arts Education, 3pm

Samandal is a Beirut-based trilingual magazine dedicated to comics, cartoons, and other picture stories. The goal of Samandal is to provide a platform on which graphic artists from Lebanon, the Middle East, and the world may experiment with various combinations of word and image for the benefit of a polyglot international audience… that loves comics.

Saturday, August 6
Slavs and Tatars: Molla Nasreddin, The Magazine That Woud’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve
Sackler Centre of Arts Education, 3pm

Artist collective Slavs and Tatars present Molla Nasreddin: The Magazine that Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve, a new book examining the history of that legendary Azeribaijani periodical, arguably the most important Muslim satirical political magazine of the 20th century. For the book’s UK launch, Slavs and Tatars will present Molla Nasreddin: Embrace Your Antithesis, including: a discussion of the book’s historical context; a case study of the complex Caucasus region; and an exploration of the issue of self-censorship, then and now. Guests will be offered their choice of red or white tea, alluding to Communism and Islam, the two major geopolitical narratives between which Molla Nasreddin — and Slavs and Tatars — navigate.

Saturday, August 13
Michael C. Vazquez : The Periodical Cold War: Tales from the Bidoun Library
Sackler Centre of Arts Education, 3pm

In the 1960s, an array of state-sponsored international magazines fought pitched battles — against imperialism or communism and/or their own governments — across the entire length of the first, second, and third worlds. Bidoun Senior Editor and librarian Michael C. Vazquez presents an illustrated lecture on pivotal moments in periodical diplomacy, with especial focus on Transition (Kampala, Uganda), Tricontinental (Havana, Cuba), and Lotus: Afro-Asian Writing (Cairo / Beirut / Tunis).

Saturday, August 20
Ahdaf Soueif
Sackler Centre of Arts Education, 3pm

Based in London and Cairo, Ahdaf Soueif is a critic, activist, translator, and novelist whose works include In the Eye of the Sun, Mezzaterra: Fragments from the Common Ground and The Map of Love. Winner of the 2010 Mahmoud Darwish Award for her work on Palestine, Soueif comes from a family of activists and writers who have been some of the key protagonists of the Egyptian revolution. In this seminar on writing and the revolution, Soueif will be discussing her work and sharing her experiences of activism and authorship over the past two decades.

Saturday, August 27
UK Libraries: Struggles for the Knowledge Commons
Sackler Centre of Arts Education, 3pm

A panel of leading activists reflect on the current struggles around the closing of public libraries in the UK.

Saturday, September 3
Sonallah Ibrahim
Sackler Centre of Arts Education, 3pm

In 2003, Sonallah Ibrahim — the author of Zaat, Stealth, The Smell of It, and The Committee, among other books — publicly refused a prestigious literary award given to him by the Egyptian ministry of culture. It was only the latest inspiring outrage from this novelist and writer, who’d been imprisoned for five years under the Nasser regime for his leftist politics. Ibrahim remains an outspoken critic and force of legend in Egypt.