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Umm Kulthum faints on stage – The Cyprus Pavilion


Paperback: 80 pages
Publisher: Sternberg Press, 2021
Language: English

Faint on stage? Umm Kulthum never did. It was the people who swooned when she sang. What if, overcome by the power of her song, the singer herself had passed out? What would have ensued during the sudden silence? Umm Kulthum faints on stage is the title Polys Peslikas coined for one of the paintings in his exhibition “The future of colour” at the Cyprus Pavilion during the 57th Venice Biennale in 2017. In this book, the title opens the stage for words to silently resound in the place of the work: stories and thoughts invited by Peslikas’s paintings.

A retrospective meditation on the exhibition, this book aims to weave together the experience, motion, and feeling of what took place in the Cyprus Pavilion and the city spaces it occupied over the course of the project—Nicosia, Venice, Berlin, Oslo, London, Limassol. Initial versions of the interview, story, and poem reproduced in this volume were presented as part of the Cyprus Pavilion exhibition in the form of a broadsheet newspaper designed by Nienke Terpsma: a piece of punk existentialist poetry by the artist group Neoterismoi Toumazou; an interview of celebrated ceramist Valentinos Charalambous by pavilion curator Jan Verwoert, conducted during a visit to Nefertiti’s bust at the Neues Museum in Berlin; and a short story by New York–based artist-writer Mirene Arsanios echoing the 1980s childhood experience of temporarily living in Cyprus with her family while fleeing conflict in her home country of Lebanon. Verwoert provides a contextual essay about the work of Peslikas.

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