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In Focus: Simone Muscolino

By Anna Nigmatulina

If you have a social media account, then you’ve probably experienced being sucked into the vortex of Reels, Tiktoks and shorts. The addictive nature and prolific success of this short-form video content says one thing – this format of consuming media is here to stay.

Simone Muscolino’s Moving Postcards present the same compelling nature: these digital postcards were, in the words of the artist, “more than a photograph and yet, not quite a video”. They captured, through the combination of micro-video loops and audio fragments, the mood and atmosphere of a particular moment in time – in this case, that of Qatar between 2010 and 2012. This innovative technique aimed to transform the viewer experience and the art of storytelling through non-linear and interactive video content.

The Moving Postcards Project displays a curated collection from among the hundreds of postcards in the work of the Director of Art Foundation and Associate Professor Muscolino’s foundation-level students – Qatari and expatriate – who attended VCUarts Qatar in those years. The project started as a curious and personal practice during Muscolino’s travels worldwide, before being developed into a teaching technique, an “exercise to teach students the transition from photography to video and how to work with audio through the cutting and combining of various elements,” explains Muscolino. Extending the practice to the students, Muscolino was able to explore Qatar through the eyes of its residents.

“I have been experimenting with the technique since around 2004. When I arrived in Doha, I continued to shoot my moving postcards both for personal interest and to present examples to the students. I was new here and I was curious.” Muscolino asked his students to show him a side of Qatar he couldn’t explore himself. “Show me things that I don’t have access to, show me places, show me your reality, show me whatever you’re comfortable to share with me, but show me your outlook of Doha and how you live here and what you do and how you entertain yourself, how you spend time with your family.”

And now it is showcasing fragments of a Doha that doesn’t exist anymore because 10 years have passed since.

–– Simone Muscolino
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The students responded “with a bravery that only students have,” and submitted work that was intimate, powerful and captivating. Now, ten years later, they present a time-capsule of a different, simpler life with the nostalgic feel of retrospect. A close shave at a barbershop, a quiet moment with elders at a majlis, sorting pearls in a jewelry shop, ordering shawarma, a mother’s prayer – these are some of the postcards that leave the audience with a taste and feel of a more invisible, more private part of Qatar, its culture and its people.


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Moving Postcards Project_Gilded Ghutra_2010-2012(1)

The earliest curation of the collection was for Tasmeem Doha 2011, where the loops were edited together as part of the motion graphics identity for the Biennale. This project was Simone’s first collaboration with Michael Hersrud, his now long-time friend and partner in their initiative, Sonic Jeel. “We wanted to have a specific soundtrack for the video, and we asked John Burrow to work on it. John is a versatile musician dedicated to experimenting with software and electronic music devices, and at that time, he was based in Doha. That work came just before the Moving Postcards Project, and somehow, we consider it the beginning of Sonic Jeel. We curated John’s track into our Zekreet album to celebrate the relevancy of that experience.”

In 2012, the Doha Film Institute chose to showcase the Moving Postcards Project during the Doha Tribeca Film Festival, and allowed Muscolino to develop the project into an installation. The project provides glimpses into the landscapes and customs of a country in motion through the eyes of those who know it best. And this, in the words of Muscolino is what artists do. They translate reality “into something else… Sometimes it’s a bit literal, sometimes more abstract, but you translate your experiences, the way you observe and feel the reality around you.” The Moving Postcards was showcased with Qatar Museums at Al Riwaq and Katara, and showcased in Berlin and St. Petersburg.

 

Muscolino and Hersrud continue their research and exploration with Sonic Jeel, celebrating the interplay of the sonic and the graphic towards a new generation of interdisciplinary makers. This is exemplified in their collaboration at Al Koot Fort with Assistant Professor and New Media Artist Hadeer Omar, titled “And Thereafter”. The installation presented an immersive journey of Qatar’s heritage site through remixed sound recordings, lights and video projections.

Hadeer Omar + Sonic Jeel at Al Koot Fort ©Hadeer Omar
@muscolino
@sonicjeel
Simonemuscolino.com

Simone Muscolino is an Associate Professor and Director of the Art Foundation program at VCUarts Qatar and one of the initiators of the sound lab Sonic Jeel. He is a multidisciplinary designer engaged in a research practice focused on audio-visual culture and time-based media. He served as a visiting professor and video consultant at Interaction Design Institute Ivrea, where he was also one of the project leaders of e1 (Exhibition Unit), a design unit active on various projects for public and private clients. He co-founded and partnered Interaction Design Lab, a Milan-based company working in the crossover between technology and design. He has taught at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, the NABA fine art academy in Milan, the Strelka Institute in Moscow, the IED design school in Rome, the Domus Academy of Milan, and the Fachhochschule University of Applied Science in Düsseldorf. Simone’s work and installations have been exhibited at venues such as the Venice Biennale, Milano Triennale, Victoria & Albert Museum in London, NYC WantedDesign, Providence RISD Museum, Kraftwerk Berlin, Manege Central St. Petersburg, Beijing Biennale of Architecture, Fire Station Gallery in Doha and Al-Riwaq Doha Exhibition Space.

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