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Comfort Zone I (Home)

From January 16 to February 23, 2019

Panel Discussion
Exhibit Opening

January 16, 2019 at 6pm
January 16, 2019 at 7pm


Daniel Berndt


Basma Alsharif, Khalid al Gharaballi and Setareh Shahbazi


The Gallery at VCUarts Qatar


Sultan Gallery Kuwait, Galerie Imane Farès and Gypsum Gallery

Image caption: Khalid al Gharaballi, ‘screen_’, 2016, oil on canvas, 80cm x100cm. Courtesy of Khalid al Gharaballi and Sultan Gallery Kuwait.

Comfort zones are forms of concessions, which we allow ourselves in times of global political uproar, violent conflicts, economic instability and in an era of increasing natural disasters. However, to be comfortable is mostly a privilege that comes with the right amount of wealth and access to education; and is often linked to other determinant factors such as race, gender or nationality.

The exhibition reflects on comfort on different levels taking the notion of home and privacy as a point of departure. Bringing together the works of three international artists from different artistic backgrounds it addresses the comfort zone quite literally, as an allegory for the nation state and the establishment of borders or a form of escapism and as an (imaginary) place to which we want to retreat from the, often, overwhelming reality of our everyday life.

A panel discussion about the exhibition takes place with the artists and curator on January 16, 2019 before the opening reception of the exhibition.

Basma Alsharif, 'Home Movies Gaza', HD Video (color, sound), 24 mins 10s - 16:9 format, 2013, ©Basma Alsharif, Galerie Imane Farès

Never Neutral

By Daniel Berndt

You might have heard this before: “Magic only happens outside of your comfort zone,” “The only thing that is stopping you from where you are to where you want to go is your comfort zone” or “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.“ These and similar phrases have become the mantras of our neoliberal day-and-age that praise self-optimization, not only in business motivation-speak, but in all kinds of everyday scenarios, in which we are encouraged to improve our performances, and to be more innovative and efficient. In order to thrive and accomplish something in our lives, we are supposed to step out of our comfort zones.

A comfort zone is the state of mind in which things feel familiar and soothing to us. In our comfort zones, we are at ease; we have the feeling that we are in control of things. It’s the place where we like to withdraw to, a place where we can fully be ourselves or just be ourselves enough. In that sense our comfort zone is our personal safe space, a coping tactic to negotiate and to come to terms with the constraints of our lives.

Curator Daniel Berndt, 2019, ©Raviv Cohen, VCUarts Qatar

The comfort zone is never a neutral, hermetically closed territory. It demands a good amount of moral flexibility and a will to compromise. How can anyone otherwise be comfortable with the fact that comfort for some is often based on the discomfort of others?

Setareh Shahbazi, 'Spectral Days series', C-type print, 2012, ©Setareh Shahbazi
Setareh Shahbazi, 'Spectral Days series', C-type print, 2012, ©Setareh Shahbazi



Basma Alsharif is an artist/filmmaker who was born in Kuwait of Palestinian origin, and raised between France, the US and the Gaza Strip.

She has a BFA and an MFA from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She developed her practice nomadically between Chicago, Cairo, Beirut, Sharjah, Amman, the Gaza Strip, and Paris. She works between cinema and installation, centering on the human condition in relation to shifting geopolitical landscapes and natural environments.

Major exhibitions include the Whitney Biennial, les Rencontres d’Arles, les Module at the Palais de Tokyo, Here and Elsewhere at the New Museum, Al Riwaq Biennial Palestine, the Berlin Documentary Forum, the Sharjah Biennial, and Manifesta 8. Basma Alsharif was shortlisted for the Abraaj Group Art Prize, received a jury prize at the Sharjah Biennial 9 and was awarded the Marcelino Botin Visual Arts grant. She is represented by Galerie Imane Farès in Paris, distributed by Video Data Bank and Arsenal, and is now based in Cairo.



Khalid al Gharaballi is a Kuwaiti artist who is based in Kuwait City.

After first establishing an artistic collaboration with fellow Kuwaiti artist and musician Fatima Al Qadiri based in New York City, he relocated to Kuwait City in 2012 to help co-found the artist collective GCC, alongside Aziz Alqatami, Monira Al Qadiri, Barrak Alzaid, Amal Khalaf, Nanu Al-Hamad, Fatima Al Qadiri, and Abdullah Al –Mutairi.

In 2016, in tandem with his work with GCC, Khalid al Gharaballi established his solo practice. As part of the duo practice with Fatima Al Qadiri, and as part of GCC, his work has been exhibited at MoMA PS1 in New York, the Sharjah Art Foundation, the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Sultan Gallery in Kuwait, the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing, the New Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. He also participated in the Berlin Biennale 9, Manifesta 11, the 4th Marrakech Biennale, and the 78th Whitney Biennial. His solo work centers on documenting the urban and domestic landscapes of his native Kuwait.



Setareh Shahbazi is an Iranian artist who is based in Berlin.

She studied Scenography and Media Arts at the State Academy for Art and Design in Karlsruhe and spent the following years living and working between Beirut, Tehran and Berlin. Her solo shows were held at Tarahane Azad, Tehran (2017); Gypsum Gallery, Cairo (2013 and 2016); 98weeks Project Space, Beirut (2010); Contemporary Arts Forum, Santa Barbara (2008); Galerie Sfeir-Semler, Hamburg (2006); Montgomery, Berlin (2006) and at Karlsruher Kunstverein (2004).

Her work has been part of various international group shows, including Nottingham Contemporary, UK; Sharjah Biennial 13; UAE; Kadist Art Foundation, Paris, France; Kunsthaus Wien, Austria; Beirut Art Center, Lebanon; Asar Gallery, Tehran; Program, Berlin, Germany; Kunstverein Frankfurt, Germany; Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut; House Of World Cultures, Berlin; Fondation Cartier, Paris and Rooseum; Malmö, Sweden.

A one year German Academic Research Service (DAAD) residency brought her to Beirut for the first time in 2003 for a collaboration with the Arab Image Foundation. She was subsequently invited for residencies at the Townhouse Gallery, Cairo (2005) and Villa Romana, Florence (as a guest artist in 2011). Shahbazi was a shortlisted artist for the Abraaj Group Art Prize in 2015. Setareh Shahbazi’s work is represented by Gypsum Gallery, Cairo.


Daniel Berndt studied art history, philosophy, and social anthropology at Freie Universität Berlin. He was a PhD Fellow of the Photographic Dispositif graduate program at Braunschweig University of Art, and was a research associate at the German Literature Archive Marbach in the context of the research project Politics of the Image.

From 2009 to 2012, he worked for the Arab Image Foundation in Beirut as its Research Center Coordinator. His writing has appeared in Ibraaz, Springerin, Aperture and Frieze amongst other publications. His book, Wiederholung als Widerstand? (Repetition as Resistance?), on the artistic (re-) contextualization of historical photographs in relation to the history of Palestine (analyzing works by Akram Zaatari, Lamia Joreige, Walid Raad, Emily Jacir and Yasmine Eid-Sabbagh), was published in 2018 by Transcript Verlag.

Public Programming

Jan. 15, 2019 ― 12:30 to 13:30 PM

Tea time in studio with artist Setareh Shahbazi and sophomore and junior students from Painting and Printmaking.

Jan. 16, 2019 ― 9:30 to 12 PM

Studio visits with artists Khalid al Gharaballi and curator Daniel Berndt at the Painting and Printmaking department

Jan. 16, 2019 ― 6 to 7 PM

Panel discussion moderated by Dr. Bahaaeldin Abudaya with artists Khalid al Gharaballi and Setareh Shahbazi, and curator Daniel Berndt

Jan. 16, 2019 ― 7 to 8 PM

Opening reception with artists Khalid al Gharaballi and Setareh Shahbazi, and curator Daniel Berndt

Jan. 17, 2019 ― 10 to 12 PM

Art History class talk with artist Khalid al Gharaballi and curator Daniel Berndt about "What it means to curate today?"

Jan. 17, 2019 ― 12:30 to 13:30 PM

Qatar Foundation Art Trail: Guided Tour with artist Khalid al Gharaballi and curator Daniel Berndt


Basma Al-Sharif, "Home Movies Gaza," 2013
Video Excerpt

Photo Gallery

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