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April 19th, 2006
Wed, Apr. 19th, 2006 11:06 am

Did I tell you that I was asked, earlier this year, to guest-present a guide to the Berlin Film Festival on Arabic cable network Al Jazeera? I'd have done it in a flash, despite the attendant risk of being bombed by Bush, but I happened to be in Japan at the time, bubbling in sento baths.

If the people from Bidoun asked me to contribute to their "platform for ideas and open forum for exchange, dialogue and opinions about arts and culture from the Middle East", I'd jump at it. It's my favourite new magazine. Bidoun was started in 2003 by Lisa Farjam. It's based in London, and seems to overlap, staffwise, with publications like Frieze and Cabinet. (Incidentally, I attended Cabinet magazine's interesting Ruination: a symposium on debris, decay and destruction on Monday night at The Kitchen.)

What initially appealed to me, browsing Issue 7 of Bidoun at Universal News on Broadway (under the watchful eye of the store's Arab owners), was the fashion spreads. Well, they were more August Sander-type social documentary shots than fashion shoots, to be honest. But Bidoun seemed to agree with me that construction workers (immigrant labourers in Dubai, as it happened) and eccentric old people were the most interestingly-dressed people around.

I also liked understated photos of hotels in Tehran, Istanbul, Cairo, Damascus and Khartoum. I liked the feeling that these people had a similar sensibility to me, and yet knew cities I've never been to, cities which rarely feature in the snake-eating-its-own-tail itineraries of the art and style press, a tribe who wear down to deep ruts the same old paths from Tokyo to Berlin to Paris to London to New York. All this plus articles on pirates, Iranian road movies, a piece by comedian Ali G, and an interview with Hisham Bharoocha of Black Dice. What's not to love, my bedouin bros?

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