4 – 21 May 2016

Opening Night | Thursday 5 May, 6 – 8pm

Panel Discussion: Iconoclasm, Fever + Anxiety | Tuesday 17 May, 6pm – 8pm

Azza Zein

Sea of Corners examines parallels between museums and digital archives. How can artwork occupy space in unexpected corners of the white cube?

By adopting diverse processes of concealing aspects of found digital images and unusual display, the artwork draws on the poetics of fragmentation, erosion and use of precarious material to reveal the complexity of archiving systems. In recent works such as Digital Fever (2014) and The Verb Is Intransitive (2015), Azza Zein explores the approximation of images as well as the gestures of painting in working with found images of destroyed museums, Google earth shots of looted sites as well as the Red List of stolen artefacts that museums cannot acquire.

What is Iconoclasm? How do we understand Iconoclasm from a contemporary perspective? What does Iconoclasm tells us about our own visual culture? Join us for a fascinating discussion with artist AZZA ZEIN, leading heritage theory researcher Dr ANTONIO GONZÁLEZ ZARANDONA, and BLINDSIDE coordinator MARTINA COPLEY about the image, the crisis of the image and other philosophical questions around iconoclasm and the destruction of art.

IMAGES | Azza Zein, Digital Fever, 2014, detail, mixed media, dimensions variable | Azza Zein, Sea of Corners, 2015, photographs and oil painting in a digital collage, dimensions variable | Images courtesy of the artist. 


Sea of Corners examines the parallels between digital and museum records. Examining the complexity of archiving systems, Azza Zein asks why the museum sector is bound to a linear narrative.

According to Zein, when both the artefact and its documentation are displayed in the public domain they become, “traces of a moment where objects and under layers have become free to tell a narrative, many narratives.” Both the original artefact and its photographic reproduction narrate a moment prepared for public consumption.

The moment, preserved by the archiving system as physical object and digital record, highlights the power of the archive to capture and convey stories of conflict, triumph and civilized progress. However, the archive can also be used as a means of intimidation, or as propaganda to grant political leverage. Think of the conflict in Iraq, the Bosnian genocide, ethnic cleansing in World War II and the archive of pixels that has encapsulated these atrocities to illustrate human history.

Archives of all types including law, war, natural disasters and anthropology are framing devices used to educate museum audiences and construct seemingly clear and enduring public narratives. There are gaps. 

The work in Sea of Corners makes direct reference to such misplaced recollections of Beirut – the cultural cleansing, desecration of historical landmarks and removal of entire sites.

When an archive delves into the trauma of war there’s little doubt as to the confronting nature of newspaper documentation, images, objects, replicas and online footage. The Internet is an elaborate territory that can be used to inspect the archive. Digital archives steeped in individual voices and uncensored affliction reveal aspects of society often shamelessly excluded from the discussion panels found in museum chambers.

Zein’s mixed-media approach illustrates the fragmentation of knowledge itself. This series of collages juxtaposes the properties of the human figure, museum interiors and artefacts of cultural significance to indicate the disintegration of memory, buildings and landmarks.

Painterly assemblages, made of wood and foam are symbolic of combat. Referring to modern-day conflict overseas, Zein remarks on the decomposed buildings with concrete, foam and MDF all fighting “to become visible along metal cords.” ????

Has western society formed an attraction to the fragmentation of history? If it’s possible for museums to have the power to educate the public with historical evidence, is it possible that they’ve excluded many other narratives? With the use of low-resolution documentation, Zein captures interiors and objects permanently. Even if this physical item or space was destroyed, the digital archive instantly forms another powerful narrative. Does that make a jpg or a laser-jet print in a catalogue as significant as the original item?

Modern and ancient archaeological eradication, as Zein indicates, is a history that often runs parallel to the white-walled womb of the museum. Excavations, raids and atrocities aren’t actions that can be overlooked. Despite efforts to rewrite history, most events were documented and now exist within the ceaseless bind of the pixel. This is a sea of corners.



Between geometry and behaviour / A Random Walk / Inside a target zone / Code of misconduct or appropriate tone / A glass of mint lemonade / Here or in Damascus / Spilled on a worn out carpet / A cloth line fallen on the floor / A disconnected phone cord / The repeated error on the screen / Few coins lying on a table / A poem or few bored lines / Between Geometry and a random walk lies a behaviour.

Tautologies can be strange, beautiful, unintuitive. In a way, they are the beginning and the end of models and math. The axioms and the theorems. Both the beginning and the end are tautologies.

If these models are anyway copies of themselves, or of a flow of thoughts isn’t the model, the copy, the first manifestation of a thought, the first trace?

A model is a model of “something.” Is that “something” the origin of the thought process; or, do we work backwards: first the model, and then abstracting about what it is a model of.

Can you uncover the axioms from your theorems...shouldn’t a tautology be reversible?

Tautology is a machine: It constantly creates more tautological arguments! Tautologous-ness is a hereditary property. There is always an ancestor image for the image.

So the first incompleteness theorem is basically saying that even if a formal system is augmented with a statement that cannot be proved within the system then there will still be some other statements that cannot be proved?

Are we stretching the analogy?
Perhaps the beauty of conceptual art is that it works in an informal system and tries to uncover its primitive tautologies.

So the moment we allow tautology ... thought becomes a reproductive machine. The minimal has the seeds of excess. The excess is incomplete. 


Dr Zarandona is an Associate Research Fellow at the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalization, Deakin University, analysing the destruction of heritage in Iraq and Syria. His research interests concern iconoclasm, heritage destruction and the history of archaeology.

Azza Zein is a Beirut-born, Melbourne-based artist whose practice examines parallels between museums, digital archives and interplay of different systems of abstraction.