Saturday, December 31, 2005

Samarra: an Islamic archeological site under fire

A note was sent yesterday (through the H-Islamart mail list) by Professor Alastair Northedge, who is co-directing an archeological project in the Iraqi city of Samarra... I already posted a note about this project and the importance of this site... Samarra's monuments including the Malwiyya became part of the war scene... and, therefore, another casuality of the war in Iraq...

Northedge's note is published here along with the Washington Post's article that she's referring to:

A new article in the Washington Post on December 25th brings us up to date on the situation at Samarra. According to this article, "On July 26, Walsh was riding with a patrol down the main street past the spiral minaret ... Not long before, the Antiquities Ministry had required him to remove his sniper team from the minaret, making it more difficult to prevent insurgents from planting bombs in the streets below."The author confirms what I wrote in September, and says "In late August, Army engineers used bulldozers to build an eight-foot-high, 6 1/2-mile-long dirt wall around the city, threatening to kill anyone who tried to cross it."We do not yet have satellite imagery to show the precise alignment of the berm, but the fact that it cuts through the archaeological area both north of the spiral minaret, and south of the limits of the modern city is self-evident. The quantity of earth bulldozed from the remains to construct the berm is not difficult to calculate, and must necessarily have damaged a wide area.


U.S. Seeks To Escape Brutal Cycle In Iraqi City
3rd Try at Pullout Depends on Police
By Ann Scott TysonWashington Post Staff WriterMonday, December 26, 2005; Page A01
SAMARRA, Iraq -- On one of his last days in Iraq, Sgt. Dale Evans looked out over the turbulent city from a rooftop tower piled high with sandbags, manning a machine gun. Below him, rows of Bradley Fighting Vehicles stood at the ready. Dusty streets were lined with coiled barbed wire and abandoned houses pockmarked from gunfire -- a protective no-man's land around a base that U.S. commanders describe as their "battleship" in downtown Samarra.
This month, Evans and his company from the 3rd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, will leave Patrol Base Uvanni, beginning a third attempt in as many years by U.S. forces to hand this Sunni city over to Iraqi police. It's a major test for the U.S. military in Iraq, and one U.S. commanders here say they can't afford to fail.

Since 2003, Samarra has come to symbolize the trials and errors of U.S. strategy in Iraq -- a cycle of military offensives, lulls and new waves of lethal insurgent attacks.
In recent months, U.S. forces have resorted to draconian tactics to try to drive insurgents from Samarra and keep them out. In late August, Army engineers used bulldozers to build an eight-foot-high, 6 1/2-mile-long dirt wall around the city, threatening to kill anyone who tried to cross it. Entry into Samarra was limited to three checkpoints. Since then, attacks have fallen sharply, and voter turnout was high for the Dec. 15 national elections.
But no one here is sure the relative calm will last. The military received reports that at least one local election worker was killed last week.
One of the toughest challenges the U.S. military faces in Samarra and other Sunni cities is building local police forces, a top priority for the U.S. command in Iraq in 2006. Homegrown police are vital to fighting an insurgency, military experts agree; they know the tribes, neighborhoods and back alleys. But for the same reason, they and their families are highly vulnerable to insurgent threats. In Samarra, 10 police officers have been assassinated in recent months. About 800 policemen are on the payroll, but only 100 to 150 show up for work, according to their American trainers.
At Patrol Base Uvanni, a three-story school surrounded by concrete barricades, Evans, 35, of San Antonio, said that as the U.S. military recruits police, insurgents are recruiting, too. A day before, the base was rattled by insurgent mortars -- a regular event. Evans's advice for the far smaller contingent of U.S. troops that is coming to Samarra: "Watch your backside. It's kind of rough."
Sixty-five miles north of Baghdad, on a bend of the Tigris River, Samarra was troubled even under the government of Saddam Hussein. Founded in the 9th century as a base for the Abbassid army, the city became best known for its spiral minaret, markets and -- in recent years -- crime. Things grew so bad that Hussein built a bypass around Samarra on Highway 1, Iraq's main north-south artery.
"There were a bunch of ruffians extorting money from travelers," said Capt. Rich Germann, a military intelligence officer with the 3rd Battalion, based in Samarra. Today, the insurgency in Samarra also has a strong criminal element, Germann says.
After the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, successive military offensives brought only short-lived security to the city of 200,000, which repeatedly fell back into the grip of insurgents. Local police were killed, fled or simply walked off the job. Following the last U.S. military sweep into the city, in October 2004, U.S. troops built several small police outposts inside the city using trailers barricaded by cement slabs. Those, too, failed.
"They created a police station in a box," said Maj. Patrick Walsh, the operations officer for the battalion, part of the 3rd Infantry Division. "There were too many out there. Insurgents overran them, and police died."
When Walsh's battalion took over Samarra in February, the city had "zero" police, he said, apart from a sergeant guarding an armory of 20 rifles and small contingents at the hospital and Golden Mosque. Officials said the Iraqi Interior Ministry sent two battalions of Special Police commandos from Baghdad to help quell the violence, and attacks dropped off from dozens each week to less than two a day. But last spring, half the commandos were pulled out on another mission, and violence quickly escalated.

On May 23, insurgents launched an all-out assault on Patrol Base Uvanni. Three mortar shells pounded the base, followed by two cars packed with explosives that crashed into the outer wall, blowing it up and knocking down a barrier. Then two suicide bombers rushed toward the breach but were shot down by soldiers on the school roof.
"I had just woke up and saw dust all over," recalled Spec. Tony Ngo, 20, of San Jose, Calif., whose platoon rushed out to reinforce the guards. It was one of repeated attacks on Uvanni in which insurgents tried to "ambush us from all corners," including with machine-gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades, Ngo said.

By July, Samarra was clearly "starting to slip," Walsh said. "It was a neutral-to-bad news story."
On July 26, Walsh was riding with a patrol down the main street past the spiral minaret headed to Uvanni. Not long before, the Antiquities Ministry had required him to remove his sniper team from the minaret, making it more difficult to prevent insurgents from planting bombs in the streets below. Suddenly, a Humvee in the convoy was blown up by a buried 155mm artillery round, detonating the fuel tank and setting it on fire. Walsh managed to pull one soldier from the blazing vehicle, but it was too late for another, who burned to death.
"I got mad," said Walsh, of South Bend, Ind. Over the course of three weeks, six battalion soldiers died in attacks. "That was the catalyst," he said, for what was called Operation Great Wall.
Using bulldozers and armored earthmovers, Army engineers encircled Samarra with a wall of dirt, sealing off the many small roads that insurgents used to move weapons into the city. Signs warned that anyone trying to cross the berm would be met with deadly force -- and some were, according to battalion officers.
The wall sent a panic through Samarra that a major offensive was imminent. "We helped spread that rumor," Walsh explained, "to get people to leave, so citizens of Samarra would be more inclined to give up the insurgents. Cooperate, or we'll clear the city." Tens of thousands fled, reducing Samarra's population to about 70,000. Half the working police force quit.
Meanwhile, in a change of tactics, soldiers began taking up unpredictable, covert positions in houses and abandoned buildings. "We got more sneaky," said 1st Lt. Adam Hurley, 24, of Raleigh, N.C., whose soldiers shot insurgents as they were placing artillery rounds in freshly dug holes.
"We had to do some deep-seated military operations," Walsh said. "We had to take a step back versus going forward. We took one step back, instead of destroying the city."
After Samarra was walled in, attacks in the city dropped sharply, from seven or eight a day last summer to one or two now, according to the military. Since October, only one roadside bomb has exploded on the main portion of highway running past Samarra, and there has been only one car bomb, in contrast with two or three a month previously.
The security has come with a cost. Long lines of vehicles sit idle at the city's three checkpoints, where crossing can take as long as an hour. "It completely disrupted the city market," said Hurley, adding that farmers especially suffered. While thousands of residents have returned to the city, the population is still down by about a fourth from a year ago.
Now, the U.S. military is embarking on a gradual plan to cut its forces and pull out of the city -- a plan that ultimately depends on a local police force that trainers say is undermanned and years away from being up to the task.
In a new police headquarters in Samarra's barricaded government Green Zone, a block from the old one that was gutted by insurgent bombs, a few police officers sat around on the roof. Only one sits in a guard tower, his hands folded on his lap. Beds with blankets were situated under an awning, and Islamic prayers wafted from a cassette player.
Two battalions of special police commandos returned to Samarra from Baghdad in December to bolster the local police but plan only a short stay. "Right now the police are capable of defending themselves," the commandos' chief, Col. Bashar Abdullah Hussein, asserted between cell phone calls in his office. The commandos will be in Samarra "not more than three months," he said.
But Capt. Barry Humphrey, who trains local police, says the vast majority of policemen don't come to work, and those who do often put in only a few hours. Several hundred idle police are on the payroll under a patronage system tolerated by the current police chief.
"The biggest problem we have so far is accountability of people," said Humphrey, 30, of Montgomery, Ala. With competent leaders, he estimated it will take two years to generate the planned local police force of 1,200 men.
On a foot patrol Dec. 2 in a violent part of Samarra called Abu Bas, Humphrey was with a police patrol when two men in black robes and head scarves flew around the corner and opened fire. They shot one policeman in the forehead and shoulder. But instead of taking cover, five police officers went forward in pursuit. Ultimately, the attackers were caught trying to escape through a checkpoint. To Humphrey, it was a small step forward.
"This time," he said, "some of them did shoot back."

Friday, December 30, 2005

Contemporary Architecture in Tunisia (2)

Universal Studios, Orlando (USA)

Sidi Bousaid, Tunis (Tunisia)

"Medina", Hammamet (Tunisia)

"Medina", Hammamet (Tunisia)

"Medina", Hammamet (Tunisia)

In Hammamet, a coastal touristic city-region south of Tunis, a new project was recently built; it's called: "Medina". I visited "Medina" in Summer 2004. And I thought immediately of it as a key project summarizing the major trend that has been dominating many Tunisian contemporary monuments for at least two decades now. The principal idea driving this major trend can be described as following: whereas "classical Islamic architecture" in Tunisia is clearly very hard to define there is, in effect, a populist image of such a "Tunisian Islamic architecture", and it's exactly this populist-fabricated-image that is inspiring the "creativity" of our contemporary architects. Here there are many issues at stake: how can we explain such a populist image? what is the stratigraphy of such an image? why does it matter NOW for Tunisian architects to be inspired by such an image?... etc.

Let's first talk about Hammamet's "Medina". The main goal of the project is obviously to serve foreign tourists since Hammamet, and especially the fast-growing area "Yasmine Hamamet", is mainly filled with hotels usually hosting foreign visitors. Still the project targets Tunisian visitors as well: Hammamet is only 60 Km away from Tunis, a trip that would take at most 60 minutes. The basic idea structuring the project is a visual summary of Tunisia's architectural history with a special emphasis on the Islamic part (the majority of the monuments repeat well-known "Islamic" models and the "city" walls and gates imitate also specific examples of Islamic mouments). This visual summary is encompassed within the enclosed walls of a seemingly harmonious "city" (which is the literal Arabic meaning of "Medina").

So to put it in its context this is above all a touristic project. The overall intended impression is easy to capture for a western visitor as we see in this piece: "Hammamet Tunisia:Disney or Vegas?" . In other words a city-wonder-kind of thing (besides Vegas and Disney other examples from the US come to mind: Universal Studios, Sea World, Hershey's...) So the first specific point about the project, which is not necessarily the case for other similar projects in Tunisia, is its strong connections with a universal touristic model. In other words "Medina" is a Tunisian wonder-city as Vegas is an American one. Putting aside this generic element "Medina" is made out of a local "Tunisian school" that has its own conditions and imagination.

This not the first fabricated "city" in Tunisia. This is also not the first fabricated "city" that is meant to embody a certain sense of a fabricated local identity. The French established such a tradition by the end of the 19th century: the famous now Sidi Bousaid, a northern small suburb of Tunis. Then, when the new rulers of Tunisia were organizing the 1889 "World Exposition" at Paris, they chose to represent their new colony with an architectural model directly inspired from a building in this small village. From that time on the small village of Sidi Bousaid was gradually metamorphosed: Originally the location of the burial of a local saint, whose name became the village's name, and which was a small residence of a small community of peaseants and fishers (with some small monuments, a fountain for instance, built during the Ottoman period as it's attested from some inscriptions) has became a model-city of an "oriental" Tunisia. The French simply decided to invent a new Sidi Bousaid with specific standards including almost everything: colors of paint (blue and white, not necessarily the colors of "traditional" housing, if ever painted), the structure and models of windows and doors... Creating a harmonious picture that does not reflect a specific reality: it was rather reflecting an idealistic tiny urban paradise very well established in the French minds: We are talking here about the Romanticist # Orietalist (mostly French) century; an oreintalist dream of a quite-dreamy-exotic package of urban life. When they did not find it they simply decided to create it.

The French went. But Sidi Bousaid stayed in the minds of the ex-colonized as the "real" representation of them; here we'll be entering a new historical phase of illusion that continues up until now, what we can call: Self-Orientalism.

What seems to be Neoclassical (in our case a return to a certain "Islamic-classical" architecture) is in effect self-orientalist.

What seems to be Neoclassical is, ironically, post-modern.

But if the convergence between post-modernist and neoclassical architectures is a universal trend, and Tunisian "post-modernist" architecture is no different in that sense, the convergence between neoclassicism, postmoidernism, and self-orientalism is definitely a Tunisian (and we can fairly say "Islamic") case.

The major paradox facing Tunisian contemporary architecture is the following: is it possible to enter a "post-modernist" phase if the modernist experience is practically absent?

(To be conitnued)

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

"Prophet's Portrait" revealed

The famous photograph "portrait of the prophet" widely known in Iran is now being revealed(by two Swiss ethnologues in the November issue of "Etudes Photographiques") as a photograph taken in Tunisia by the two German/Austrian photographers Rudolf Lehnert and Ernst Landrock. The story was reported in the Swiss newspaper "La Liberte" (December 27, 2005).

Here is a link to the two photographers' work (the typical oreintalist-commercial photography spread all around the Islamic world in the beginning of the 20th century; both of these photographers worked in Tunisia between 1904 and 1914):

Monday, December 26, 2005

Contemporary Architecture in Tunisia (1)

The reconstruction of Bab Souiqa (old Tunis) 1980s

This is the first of a series of notes I'm going to write about a subject I've always wanted to write about: contemporary architecture in my home country Tunisia as an example of contemporary architecture in the Islamic world.

First, I must say something about architectural reviews in Tunisia. it's really sad that even though there are enough indications pointing towards some new trends in the Tunisian architetcural landscape very little has been written on it. It's even fair to say that we don't have what we might call a tradition of reviews on contemporary architecture; of course we can't include in such a category the very vague, mostly amateurist, and, after all, very few essays that are being published from time to time in the various local magazines and newspapares. Here something seems to be clear enough so that it's really hard to miss it: if there are any specialists in this field (that is the field of the history of contemporary architecture in Tunisia, and I know there are really very few people who can be rightly considered so) they don't write critic reviews... and that's why we don't have "architetcural criticism"... as by the way it's almost difficult to say that we have "art criticism" in Tunisia... but that's another subject I'll talk about it another time.

Second, even in the academic arena it's difficult to say that we have people teaching such a subject: The Ecole d'Architecture (now located in Sidi Bousaid, a northern suburb of Tunis) does not have a serious focus on the very subject of the history of arhcitecture. The same can be said about the interest on history of art in the Tunisian Ecole des Beaux Arts. Even though both were supposedly made on the model of their French counterparts they did not "copy" an essential element in the French model that is its attraction to the learning of the history of art and architecture as an essential mean in the overall formation of an "architect" or an "artist"... On the other hand the few historians of art or architecture in Tunisia (who are teaching in the various schools of Sciences Humaines) are more focused on pre-contemporary issues... besides unlike what many might think, there is no single department in any Tunisian university emphasizing solely the field of the history of art and architecture, in addition to the field of archaelogy... All the courses being teached about these topics are possible only through the various departments of history (there is a new "department" of archeology in the University of Qayrawan but it gives only a Bachelor degree and that's why it can't be technically considred a department)... This stands in contrast with Tunisia's rich past in art and architecture and with other countries in the region... For instance in Egypt they do have such departments (Cairo University and American University in Cairo). In other words the very limited conditions of the field as whole (history of art and architecture + archaelogy) must have affected the subfield of comtemporary architecture...

(To be continued)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Photography Portfolio in O'Kane's website

Professor Bernard O'Kane, who wrote extensively on Persian art and architecture, and currently Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture at the American University in Cairo, has some photos of Islamic architecture in his website (which is part of the AMC)... another visual source of Islamic architecture on the web...

The mosaics from a Synagoue in Roman Hammam Lif

"Tree of Paradise" an exhibition of mosiacs at the Brooklyn Museum; an art review was written about it in yesterday's NYT (see links below).

But first I'd like to add some notes: Naro was the Roman name of Hammam Lif, a coastal Tunisian city. A synagogue was found there by the French with one of the oldest examples of Jewish mosaics, that is 400-600 AD. These artworks are important for many reasons; from the point of view of Islamic art they are important because:
-This is a comparative case where the prohibition of figurative representations in the religious discourse does not implement a total disregard for figurative representation by those who adhere to that religious discourse; moreover figurative representation could even be one of the forms of visualizing such a religious discourse... Islamic art shows similar patterns...
-This is important notably for North Africa including Tunisia: here we have one of the largest collections of mosaics in the world dating mainly from Roman and Byzantin times (roughly I BC to mid VII AD)... The mosaics of Naro are important because they are among those that date from late antiquity (from which we don't have the majority of mosaics) and, therefore, they are so close to the Islamic period, which brings to mind meanwhile the several archeological indications showing the persistence of mosaics even during the Islamic period: the Fatimid palaces at Mahdiya, where I took part in its excavations in the season of 1999, mosaics floor paved some sectors of the palaces area... The highly symbolic language in the mosaics of Naro provide a major example for those in al-Mahdiyya, which are planer but certainly symbolic as well...

Links to the NYT review and the Brooklyn Museum description of the exhibition:

Another review was published in Archaeology with more pictures of Naro mosaics:

Links to websites providing visual examples from the collections of mosaics in Tunisia:

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Chartier on authorship (le droit d'auteur) "Le Monde"

An interview with Professor Roger Chartier, a major historian who taught me two years ago... He is a leading historian of the book and the questions of authorship...,1-0,36-722516@45-1,0.html
Roger Chartier : "Le droit d'auteur est-il une parenthèse dans l'histoire ?"
LE MONDE 17.12.05 12h51 • Mis à jour le 17.12.05 14h46

Le droit d'auteur apparaît aujourd'hui comme une évidence. Mais comment s'est-il imposé ?
La première véritable législation en France est la législation révolutionnaire de 1791, reprise en 1 793. C'est un compromis qui traduit la préhistoire de la propriété littéraire. Avec, d'un côté, un certain nombre de philosophes du XVIIIe siècle qui considèrent que la propriété d'un individu sur les oeuvres est illégitime, voire scandaleuse : qui pourrait prétendre s'approprier des idées qui sont utiles au progrès de l'humanité ? C'était la position de Condorcet.

Et, de l'autre, les efforts de longue durée d'écrivains comme Diderot, ou de dramaturges comme Beaumarchais, pour faire reconnaître le principe de la propriété première, originelle des auteurs sur leurs oeuvres. Ce qui devait entraîner que quiconque se portait acquéreur de l'oeuvre jouissait d'un même droit de propriété, mais devait la rétribuer à un juste prix.
La législation révolutionnaire reconnaît la propriété des auteurs et de leurs ayants droit, mais elle limite la durée de celle-ci de façon qu'une fois tombée dans le domaine public l'oeuvre puisse être publiée par qui le veut. Nous sommes restés sur ce compromis, avec une durée de protection variable, qui, au cours des XIXe et XXe siècles, a eu tendance à s'allonger, passant de dix ans en 1793 à soixante-dix ans aujourd'hui.
La possibilité de vivre de sa plume marque-t-elle une rupture ?
Une grande rupture puisque, pendant longtemps, la cession d'une oeuvre à un libraire éditeur n'était pas rétribuée par de l'argent. Au XVIe siècle, par exemple, l'auteur recevait quelques exemplaires du livre, qu'il pouvait offrir en dédicace à des patrons susceptibles de lui accorder des gratifications, des pensions, des emplois : une rémunération indirecte, en somme. François Ier et Louis XIV fonderont le système des pensions royales sur cette idée.
Même au XVIIIe siècle, les rétributions monétaires restent très faibles. D'où deux stratégies : celle de Diderot, qui multiplie les travaux en collaboration, comme l'Encyclopédie, ou celle de Rousseau, qui, on le voit dans le cas de La Nouvelle Héloïse, vend trois fois la même oeuvre à trois éditeurs différents en ajoutant une préface, ou en se tournant vers l'étranger. Or la juste rétribution suppose que le libraire soit assuré de son bénéfice. C'est pourquoi les débats se sont concentrés sur les régimes de publication, la défense des privilèges de librairie. Et, paradoxalement, dans ces discussions, ce sont surtout les libraires et les imprimeurs qui se trouvent impliqués.
Le fait qu'au nom des auteurs les débats actuels opposent des intérêts économiques divergents — majors du disque, industriels des télécommunications, consommateurs — n'est donc pas nouveau ?
Non. Quittons un peu la France. En Angleterre, la propriété des manuscrits appartenait aux libraires et imprimeurs de Londres, qui, depuis 1557, disposaient seuls d'un droit de publication. Une fois qu'ils avaient acquis un manuscrit, ils en étaient les propriétaires, comme d'une maison ou d'un champ. Ils pouvaient le vendre, le diviser, le donner en héritage... Les auteurs n'avaient pas leur mot à dire.
En 1709, la monarchie anglaise a décidé de limiter la durée du copyright à quatorze ans et de permettre aux auteurs de garder pour eux le copyright. Les libraires de Londres ont donc mobilisé des stratégies de défense, dont l'une a été d'inventer l'auteur moderne : en effet, si eux-mêmes disposaient d'un droit perpétuel, expliquaient-ils, c'était au nom du droit imprescriptible mais transmissible de l'auteur qui leur avait cédé un manuscrit. L'auteur n'est donc qu'un instrument stratégique dans le combat des libraires londoniens contre la législation royale, une législation soutenue par ceux qui en tiraient profit : les libraires écossais et irlandais.
Entre les internautes, qui revendiquent le libre accès au bien culturel, et les créateurs, qui défendent leur génie propre et la viabilité d'une industrie, retrouve-t-on là encore des débats familiers ?
Effectivement, l'idée d'une gratuité d'accès à la culture a été portée par tout un courant des Lumières, avec, au premier rang, Condorcet comme nous l'avons dit. Mais cette préoccupation est présente même chez ceux qui veulent fonder la propriété littéraire.
Le raisonnement de Fichte, en Allemagne, est remarquable. Il dit qu'un livre a une double nature : matérielle — l'objet — et spirituelle. L'objet appartient à celui qui l'a acheté. Mais le contenu spirituel ? Il y a les idées qui appartiennent à tout le monde, mais il y a aussi la forme, cette manière d'énoncer des idées, d'exprimer des sentiments propres à l'auteur. Ce dernier élément est, selon lui, le seul qui puisse justifier la propriété littéraire.
Le débat se focalise aujourd'hui sur la musique. Comment les différents arts ont-ils nourri le débat sur la propriété intellectuelle ?
Le théâtre, en tout cas, a pesé de façon essentielle. Quand Beaumarchais, lors de la polémique qui l'oppose aux Comédiens-Français, crée la Société des auteurs dramatiques, il réussit pour la première fois à faire établir que l'oeuvre n'est pas vendue une fois pour toutes, qu'elle peut entraîner une rémunération à chaque représentation, avec un pourcentage sur la recette.
C'est paradoxal puisque l'écriture théâtrale n'existe que parce qu'elle devient une représentation qui implique de nombreux concours. Ainsi, la forme la plus "collaborative" de l'écriture va être le fondement de l'appropriation la plus singulière de la propriété littéraire, sous la forme de la proportionnalité des droits. Elle va peu à peu s'imposer pour tous les écrits.
Quel regard portez-vous sur l'examen de la loi (le texte intitulé "Droit d'auteur et droits voisins dans la société de l'information" doit être discuté à l'Assemblée nationale, mardi 20 et mercredi 21) destinée à protéger le droit d'auteur, qui sera menacé par l'avènement d'Internet ?

La situation actuelle lance un défi de type technique aux catégories esthétiques ou juridiques qui, à partir du XVIIIe siècle, sont le fondement de la propriété littéraire et du droit d'auteur. Ce fondement suppose, en effet, une identité perpétuée de l'oeuvre, qu'elle ait été publiée dans une édition, ou dans une autre, à dix exemplaires ou à mille, qu'elle ait circulé par l'écrit ou la parole.

Pourquoi ? Parce que si l'oeuvre est l'expression du langage, du style de son auteur, ou, dans le vocabulaire de Diderot, "ses propres pensées, les sentiments de son coeur", il en est le premier propriétaire. Son droit dépend de cette essence de l'oeuvre, rapportée à cette manière irrémédiablement singulière qu'a un individu d'utiliser des idées communes, d'employer un langage partagé.
Or le texte électronique est un texte ouvert, malléable, polyphonique. Il est toujours l'objet possible d'une transformation. Se dissout donc ce qui permettait de reconnaître l'oeuvre comme oeuvre, donc d'en revendiquer la propriété. Apparaît la question fondamentale : comment reconnaître l'identité perpétuée d'une oeuvre dans un support technique qui ne donne ni frontières ni identité stables au texte ?
Ensuite, se pose le problème de la reproduction gratuite ou payante de la musique ou des textes, autrement dit la question plus classique de la contrefaçon. Il focalise l'attention car il concerne beaucoup de monde. Mais il est second par rapport à la mobilité électronique des oeuvres, qui efface le principe même de leur possible propriété par leurs auteurs.
Né avec l'invention de l'imprimerie, le droit d'auteur pourrait-il mourir avec Internet ?
Avec l'imprimerie se sont établis des contrats entre les auteurs au XVIe — le mot pouvait désigner un traducteur, un commentateur, un éditeur — et les libraires-imprimeurs. Mais cela n'impliquait pas que soit reconnue explicitement la propriété de l'auteur sur son oeuvre. Plutôt une sorte de récompense. Ces contrats ont toutefois créé un monde nouveau, à l'intérieur duquel s'imposera progressivement l'idée d'une propriété originelle de l'auteur, ce qui permettra à certains écrivains de vivre de leur plume — ou du moins de l'espérer. Tout cela au terme d'une longue évolution.
Aujourd'hui, le monde de la technologie électronique fait que la position d'auteur peut être immédiatement inscrite dans la position de lecteur. Sur un même écran, on reçoit un texte et on compose le sien. L'oeuvre n'est plus fermée ni fixée : Roméo peut épouser Juliette, et y survivre. Il y a une proximité entre lire et écrire, écouter de la musique et la produire, qui est rendue infiniment plus forte qu'auparavant. Nous sommes donc face à une innovation technologique qui bouleverse cette sédimentation historique, laquelle a conduit à la définition esthétique et juridique des oeuvres.
C'est pourquoi la question se pose : le droit d'auteur est-il une parenthèse dans l'histoire ? Peut-on entrer dans un monde de circulation des oeuvres situé à distance radicale de tous les critères esthétiques et juridiques qui ont gouverné la constitution de la propriété artistique ou littéraire ? Ou, techniquement et intellectuellement, ces critères restent-ils considérés comme légitimes, et il faut alors faire un effort pour qu'ils puissent s'appliquer à une technologie qui leur est rétive ?
C'est la grande question, à la fois juridique (qu'est-ce qu'une oeuvre ?) et culturelle (qu'est-ce qu'un auteur ou un créateur ?). Je me garderai d'y apporter une réponse : chaque fois que les historiens ont fait un pronostic sur l'avenir, ils se sont lourdement trompés.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Prof Fuat Sezgin live in al-Jazeera TV

Professor Fuat Sezgin, one of the major scholars of the history of science and technology in the Islamic world, currently the Director of the Institute of Arabic-Islamic Sciences at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany. He is schedueled to appear live in one of the programs (Bila Hudud/Without Borders) of the popular Arabic speaking channel al-Jazeera: Wednesday, Dec 21 at 19:05 GMT. He is expected to be speaking about the "Muslims' contribution in the world's history of science and technology"... According to the announcemnets he will be speaking about fields susch as medicine, astronomy, cartography...
Below is the link to the Institut für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften at the University of Frankfurt, which has entries (in English and German) that include materials from Islamic history in fields such as astronomy and time-keeping:

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Samarra Project first volume in the next 2 months

Professor Northedge, one of the two main scholars working on Samarra Archeological Project, left the following comment below (under the topic of Samarra: a forgotten imperial site)
"Thanks very much for the mention of our work. You may be interested to know that our first major volume, "The Historical Topography of Samarra" is coming out in a month or two.Anyway congratulations on your new blog. I hope you will be controversial, and there will be a lot to debate. Alastair Northedge "

Monday, December 12, 2005

"Livres de Parole" an exhibition including Korans at the BNF

Old and wonderful Islamic manuscripts from the collections of the Bibliotheque Nationale de France are displayed at Francois-Mitterand petite galerie as part of an intra-religious exhibition "Livres de Parole: Torah, Bible, Coran" (Nov 2005-April 2006)...The manuscripts can be seen in a virtual exhibition:

Thursday, December 08, 2005 is open is open... very nice collections in display... From Tunisia the Raqqada (Qayrawan) collections of Qurans is particularly ineteresting... Among the displayed objects: ivory caskets from the Nacional Museo/Madrid and the Victoria and Albert Museum/London, Iznik ceramics from Sultanahmet/Istanbul, the wooden panels from Cairo Museum of Islamic art, glass works from Damascus National Museum... and even art works from Medelhavmuseet of Stockholm...
Nice idea!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005 A Virtual Museum of Islamic art in Tunisia

The INP (Institut National de Patrimoine) of Tunisia is organizing along with Museum With No Frontiers a virtual museum of Islamic art. The "live" transmission would start in December 9th. Here is the link:
According to the official website Akhbar Tunis the exhibition is going to display about 850 pieces: the sum of 50 pieces from 17 collections all around the world (Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Palestine, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Sweden, UK, and Germany)... It seems some great collections won't be displayed (France and the US). Still this is a great project.
Here is Akhbar Tunis' report for those who can read Arabic:

تقديم المشاركة التونسية في المتحف الافتراضي "اكتشف الفن الإسلامي"

تم اليوم الثلاثاء بمقر المعهد الوطني للتراث بالعاصمة تقديم المتحف الافتراضي"اكتشف الفن الإسلامي" الذي أنجزته منظمة متحف بلا حدود ضمن برنامج المتاحف الافتراضية وذلك بالتعاون بين 17 متحفا من 14 بلدا متوسطيا وأوروبيا.

ويمول هذا الانجاز الاتحاد الأوروبي في إطار برنامج التراث الأورومتوسطي الذي انشأ في إطار مسار برشلونة سنة 1994 ويهدف بالخصوص إلى تعزيز التعاون الثقافي بين بلدان الاتحاد الأوروبي و12 بلدا من شمال إفريقيا والشرق الأوسط.

وسيفتح المتحف الافتراضي أبوابه للزوار من جميع أنحاء العالم يوم 9 ديسمبر 2005 على الموقع الالكتروني "دوبلفي دوبلفي دوبلوفي نقطة ديسكوفرى اسلاميكارت نقطة اورغ ".

ويقدم الموقع التراث الإسلامي في حوض المتوسط إلى جانب مجموعات الفن الإسلامي المحفوظة في المتاحف المشاركة من تونس والجزائر والمغرب وفلسطين ومصر والأردن وسوريا وتركيا واسبانيا وايطاليا والبرتغال والسويد والمملكة المتحدة وألمانيا.

وابرز السيد محمد الباجى بن مامى المدير العام للمعهد الوطني للتراث بالمناسبة أن مشروع المتحف الافتراضي هو باكورة عمل مشترك انطلق منذ سنة 2004 بين 120 خبيرا من مختلف البلدان المشاركة في المشروع والذين حددوا مواضيع هذا المتحف وانتقوا المعروضات.

وأكد على الأهمية البالغة التي يكتسيها هذا المشروع باعتباره يساهم في التعريف بالحضارة الإسلامية ويبرز مدى تأثيرها في الحضارات المتوسطية وخصوصا الأوروبية إلى جانب دوره في تعزيز التبادل والحوار بين الثقافات والشعوب.

من جهتها قدمت السيدة افا شوبار رئيسة منظمة متحف بلا حدود مختلف مكونات الموقع الخاص بالمتحف الافتراضي «اكتشف الفن الاسلامي» مشيرة إلى أن الزوار سيتمكنون من اكتشاف الفن والعمارة الإسلامية من الفترة الأموية إلى نهاية الإمبراطورية العثمانية وذلك عبر 81 مسارا افتراضيا .

وأضافت ان المتحف يحتوى على 850 قطعة أثرية من جميع المتاحف المشاركة حيث انتقى كل متحف 50 قطعة من مجموعته ورشح المعالم والمواقع الأثرية للعرض مع شرح مفصل لكل قطعة او معلم معروض وسيتوفر الموقع باللغات العربية والانقليزية والفرنسية إضافة إلى اللغة المحلية لبلد كل من المتاحف المشاركة.

وتم بالمناسبة تقديم المشاركة التونسية في المتحف الافتراضي من خلال القطع والمعالم التي انتقاها متحف الآثار الإسلامية رقادة بالقيروان والذي تولى التنسيق بينه وبين أربعة متاحف تونسية أخرى هي متاحف باردو وسيدى قاسم الجليزى والمهدية والمنستير.

يشار إلى أن منظمة متحف بلا حدود أنشأت في أوائل التسعينات في فيينا وقد انتقل مقرها رسميا سنة 2002 إلى بروكسال ويعتمد برنامج «متحف بلا حدود» على مبدإ تقديم الفن والثقافة والتاريخ بهدف فتح الحوار بين الشعوب.

وقد أنجز هذا البرنامج عديد المشاريع الريادية في عدة بلدان أوروبية ومتوسطية من بينها تونس وذلك من خلال إطلاق مسار معرض"إفريقيا 13 قرنا من الفن والعمارة في تونس " وطباعة الدليل الخاص به باللغات الاسبانية والايطالية والفرنسية.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Mytheography: Or propagating myths through maps

It is well established that ideological discourses find their ways even into "modern" and "accurate" maps... Here is the newest example in the NYT
Mapmakers and Mythmakers
Published: December 1, 2005
MOSCOW, Nov. 30 - Bruce Morrow worked for three years on the shores of Lake Samotlor, a tiny dot of water in a maze of oil wells and roads covering more than a thousand square miles of icy tundra in Siberia.
From the maps the Russians gave Mr. Morrow, he could never really know where he was, a misery for him as an oil engineer at a joint venture between BP and Russian investors. The latitude and longitude had been blotted out from his maps and the grid diverged from true north.
"It was like a game," Mr. Morrow said of trying to make sense of the officially doctored maps, holdovers from the cold war era provided by secretive men who worked in a special department of his company.
Unofficially, anyone with Internet access can take a good look at the Samotlor field by zooming down through free satellite-imaging programs like Google Earth, to the coordinates 61 degrees 7 minutes north latitude and 76 degrees 45 minutes east longitude.
Mr. Morrow's plight illustrates how some practices that once governed large regions of the former Soviet Union may still lurk in the hallways where bureaucrats from the Communist past cling to power. Not only do they carry over a history of secrecy, but they also serve to continue a tradition of keeping foreigners at bay while employing plenty of people made dependent on Moscow.
The misleading maps also reflect the Kremlin's tightening grip on Russian oil, one of the world's critical supplies, and one that is to become even more important in the future with plans for direct shipments to the United States by 2010 from ports in the Far East and the Arctic.
The secrecy rule over maps is enforced by the Federal Security Service, or F.S.B., a successor to the old K.G.B. It was written at a time the Russians were suspicious of virtually all foreign businesses and fearful of a missile strike on their Siberian wells.
Those days are gone. But as the Russian government reasserts its control over strategic industries - particularly oil - it is not letting up on the rule.
The doctored maps belong to a deep-rooted Russian tradition of deceiving outsiders, going back to the days of Potemkin villages in the 18th century and perhaps earlier. During the cold war it was called maskirovka, Soviet military parlance for deception, disinformation and deceit.
For decades, government bureaucrats created false statistics and misleading place names. For instance, Baikonur, the Russian space center, was named for a village hundreds of miles away. Accurate maps of old Moscow's warren of back alleys appeared only after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Even now, Mr. Morrow and his colleagues can use only Russian digital map files that encrypt and hide the coordinates of his location. Officially, only Russians with security clearances are permitted to see oil field maps with real coordinates at scales greater than 1:2,500.
"It was totally futile," Mr. Morrow said of the false coordinates on his F.S.B. maps, created through an encrypting system. "None of us was particularly keen on pushing it. There were rumors if you do that, you end up in the slammer."
A spokeswoman for the F.S.B. confirmed that it controls maps around sites deemed important for national security, including oil fields. Asked whether the easy availability of accurate maps on the Internet made such continued secrecy obsolete, she said the agency was interested only in national security and would not elaborate on its practices.
Foreign business executives, though, say there is a secret behind the secret maps, and it has little to do with national security.
The rules are not only a way to maintain control over a strategic industry, but also form a subtle trade barrier and are a convenient way to increase Russian employment. After all, TNK-BP, the 50-50 joint venture where Mr. Morrow works, pays scores of cartographers to encode and decode the maps, said Frank Rieber, a former engineer there. The rules cover all oil companies, but are particularly pressing for TNK-BP.
They provide a livelihood to hundreds of F.S.B.-licensed cartographers. Oil companies either outsource the work of stripping and restoring coordinates to independent institutes, or employ Russians with security clearances to do the work, as TNK-BP does.
The map orientations are shifted from true north - the top of the map could be pointing slightly east, for example - and the grid does not correspond to larger maps.
"It makes us pull our hair out," Mr. Rieber said.
Yevgenia M. Albats, author of a 1994 book on the K.G.B., "The State Within a State," said the spy agency's interest in oil field mapping is just anther way of asserting its influence on society and business here, though one increasingly made obsolete by the Internet.
"The F.S.B. knows about Google Earth as well as anybody," she said. "This doesn't have anything to do with national security. It's about control of the cash flow."
The agency is guarding the wells as much from foreign business executives as from foreign missiles these days, she said. The laws about oil field secrets are used to persuade TNK-BP to replace foreign managers with Russians, more susceptible to pressure from the authorities, Ms. Albats said.
"Russians are easier to manipulate," she continued. "They don't want to end up in Khodorkovsky's shoes," she said, referring to the former chief executive of the Yukos oil company, Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, now in a Siberian penal colony serving an eight-year sentence. He was convicted of fraud and tax evasion after falling out with the Kremlin over taxes, oil-export routes and politics.
The F.S.B. has also pursued scientists who cooperate with foreign companies in other industries. Last winter it charged a physicist, Oskar A. Kaibyshev, with exporting dual-use metal alloy technology to a South Korean company. Mr. Kaibyshev objected in vain that the technology had already been discussed in foreign journals. The case is pending.
On Oct. 26, F.S.B. agents arrested three scientists at a Moscow aerospace company and accused them of passing secrets to the Chinese. Another physicist, Valentin V. Danilov, was convicted of selling technology for manned space flights to the same Chinese company last year, though he also protested that the information was available from published sources.
At the same time, the Kremlin is using oil to recapture status lost with the collapse of the Soviet Union, which explains the close attention paid to the industry by the security services.
Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov told a Parliament committee in October that energy exports were Russia's most powerful diplomatic tool in relations with other nations, according to a report in the newspaper Nezavisimaya.
BP bought into the Tyumen oil company, or TNK, in 2003. Friction over the use of oil field maps existed from early on, geologists at the company said, but intensified this year. The issue has risen to high levels in the government, with a faction that embraces foreign investment protesting that the F.S.B. is hobbling the work of Western engineers who come to help this country drill for oil, providing technology and expertise in the process.
In October, Andrei V. Sharonov, a deputy economic and trade minister, said F.S.B. pressure on the oil venture over the classification of maps had disrupted production in western Siberia, an article in Vedomosti reported.
It quoted Mr. Sharonov as saying that the agency was pressing TNK-BP to replace Western managers with Russians. A spokeswoman for Mr. Sharonov declined to comment.
An F.S.B. spokeswoman denied any ulterior motives in policing oil field maps.
Engineers call the practice a nuisance, but say it has not disrupted production. The licensed cartographers are skilled in accurately translating between real and false coordinates, and so far, they do not know of any major mistakes, they say.
In a telephone interview from his home in Santa Barbara, Calif., Mr. Morrow, who worked as an engineer for TNK-BP from 2002 until May, said he left partly because he became frustrated with the police controls. He guided a reporter to Lake Samotlor on Google Earth.
The lake lies just north of Nizhnevartovsk, a city on the Ob River, as it loops in silvery ribbons through a background of dark green Siberian wilderness. In the middle of the lake is an island, like a bull's eye.
"That was the folly of it," Mr. Morrow said. "You could get this information anywhere. The bureaucracy got in the way of common sense. But that didn't make it any less illegal, or any less inconvenient."

Thursday, December 01, 2005

What some Arabs like to hear about Islamic art

This is an Arabic translation of one of Titus Burkhardt's notes on Islamic art in his book on "Sacred Art". The translation appeared in al-Quds al-Arabi (Dec.1st). Burkhardt, a Swiss art historian, is someone who really does not give much attention to empiric findings... he likes the very abstract, little based, and generic statements that can fit anywhere... Sadly that's precisely why he is loved by many in the Arab World... The following is a good example of both: Burkhardt's empty statements and the kind of passionate abstract jargon that some Arabs like to hear (and translate) when they think of Islamic art...

في أسس الفن الإسلامي: علي الفن ان يتوافق مع القوانين المتأصلة في الاشياء
القدس العربي
تعريب رضا حسحس
الله جميل يحب الجمال قول للنبي (ص)ان الوحدة في ذاتها محسوسة بشكل بارز، ومع ذلك فهي تعرض نفسها للعقل الانساني فكرة تجريدية. ان هذه الواقعة واضافة الي بعض الاعتبارات المعينة المرتبطة بالعقلية السامية تشرح الطابع التجريدي للفن الاسلامي. لقد تركز الاسلام علي الوحدة ، والوحدة لا يمكن التعبير عنها بمصطلحات اي صورة من الصور.مع ذلك فان تحريم الصور في الاسلام ليس هو تحريماً مطلقاً. فالصورة المسطحة متسامح بها كعنصر في الدنيوي شريطة ان لا تشير الي الله، ولا الي وجه النبي، ومن جانب آخر فان الصورة التي تُسقط ظلاً يجري التسامح معها بشكل استثنائي حين تُصوَّر حيوانا مؤسلباً كما يحدث ذلك في عمارة القصور او في الحلي والمجوهرات. ومن وجهة عامة فان تصوير النبات والحيوانات الخيالية اللاواقعية هو امر مسموح به بصريح العبارة، لكن في الفن المقدس فان الاشكال الوحيدة المسموح بها هي الاشكال النباتية المؤسلبة.ان لغياب الصور في المساجد غرضين، الغرض الاول هو غرض سلبي ويعني استقصاء حضوراً قد يضع نفسه مقابل حضور الله، والذي يمكن اضافة الي ذلك ان يكون مصدر اثم بسبب عدم كمال الرموز جميعها. اما الغرض الثاني الايجابي فهو الذي يؤكد تعالي الله لكون الجوهر الالهي لا يمكن مقارنته بأي شيء آخر مهما كان.ان للوحدة حقا جانبا مشاركا بقدر ما هي synthesis اي تركيباً للمتعدد ولمبدأ التماثل، انها من هذا الجانب كون الصورة الإلهية تقتضي الوحدة وتعبر عنها بطريقتها الخاصة، لكن الوحدة هي ايضا مبدأ التمايز لأنها وبسبب وحدتها الجوهرية ان كل كائن كونه متميزا عن كل الآخرين بمنحي كونه فريدا ينأي عن الالتباس والاستبدال. يعكس هذا الجانب الأخير للوحدة وفي غاية المباشرة تعالي الوحدة السامية ولا تبدليتها وتوحدها المطلق. وفقاً للصيغة الجوهرية للاسلام لا يوجد معبود آخر غير الله، لا اله الا الله ، ومن خلال التمييز لمستويات مختلفة للواقع يجتمع كل شيء تحت القبة اللانهائية للوحدة السامية، وفي الآن الذي يجري الاقرار فيه بالمتناهي بما هو عليه فانه سيتوقف عن اعتباره موازياً للامتناهي، ولهذا السبب بالذات فان المتناهي يعيد دمج ذاته باللامتناهي.من وجهة النظر هذه فان الخطأ الجوهري هو اسقاط طبيعة المطلق في النسبي وذلك بالاسناد الي النسبي استقلالا لا يخصه، المصدر الاول لهذا الخطأ هو المخيلة، او بدقة اكثر هو الوهم . ولهذا السبب كان المسلم يري في الفن التشخيصي اعلانا آثماً ومعديا للخطأ المذكور. ففي رأيه ان الصورة تعرض نظاماً من الواقع في داخل نظام آخر. والوقاية الوحيدة والفعالة ضد ذلك هي الحكمة التي تضع كل شيء في مكانه الصحيح. اما فيما يخص الفن فهذا يعني ان كل ابداع فني يجب معالجته وفق قوانين حقل وجوده، وينبغي جعل هذه القوانين قوانين جلية، فالعمارة علي سبيل المثال يجب ان تظهر التوازن الساكن وحالة الكمال للأجسام اللامتحركة متمثلا في الشكل المنتظم للكريستال.يحتاج هذا القول الأخير حول العمارة الي بعض من الاسهاب. يلوم البعض العمارة الاسلامية بكونها قد اخفقت في ابراز الجانب الوظيفي لعناصر البناء كما تفعل عمارة عصر النهضة التي تعزز عناصر التحميل وخطوط التوتر، وبالتالي فانها تضفي علي العناصر البنائية نوعاً من الوعي العضوي. لكن وفقا للمنظور الاسلامي فان القيام بذلك لا يعني ضمنا سوي الارتباك بين نظامين للواقع، وافتقاراً للاخلاص الفكري، ان كانت الأعمدة النحيلة قادرة علي ان تحمل ثقل القبة، ما الفائدة اذن من الاسناد اليها علي نحو مصطنع حالة من التوتر الذي ليس هو في الحقيقة من طبيعة الجماد؟ومن جانب آخر فان العمارة الاسلامية لا تبحث عن الغاء ثقل الحجر وذلك بمنحه حركة متعالية كما يفعل الفن القوطي، فالتوازن الساكن يتطلب الثبات ولكن المادة الخام فيما هي عليه تكون قد تخففت واصبحت شفافة بنقش الارابسك المحفور وبمنحوتات في شكل المقرنصات التي تعرض الافا من السطيحات للضوء وتضفي علي الحجر والجص خاصية الجواهر الثمينة. ان قناطر قصر الحمراء علي سبيل المثال او بعض المساجد في شمال افريقيا تهجع في هدوء كامل وفي ذات الوقت تظهر وكأنها منسوجة من رعشات وضاءة. انها اشبه بضوء متبلر، ماهيتها ـ كما يمكن للانسان القول ـ الأعمق ليست من حجر بل النور الإلهي، العقل الخلاق الذي يهجع بسرّانية في كل الاشياء.هذا يوضح بأن موضوعية الفن الاسلامي ـ اي غياب الدافع الذاتي، او ما يمكن للمرء دعوته بـ السراني ـ لا علاقة له بالعقلانية. وفي كل الاحوال ما هي العقلانية سوي كونها تحدد الذكاء علي مقاس الانسان وحده فقط؟ ومع ذلك هذا هو بالضبط ما يفعله فن عصر النهضة من خلال ترجمته العضوية التجسيمية الذاتوية للعمارة. ليس هناك سوي خطوة واحدة ما بين العقلانية والهوي الفردي ومنها باتجاه المفهوم الآلي للعالم. لا يوجد شيء من هذا النوع في الفن الاسلامي، فجوهره المنطقي يبقي دوماً جوهراً منطقياً لا شخصياً، ونوعياً. ان العقل حقا وفقا للمنظور الاسلامي هو فوق كل سبيل قبول للحقائق المكشوفة للانسان. وهذه الحقائق ليست باللاعقلانية ولا كونها عقلانية فحسب. وفي هذا تكمن نبالة العقل وبالتالي نبالة الفن، ولذلك فان القول بأن الفن هو منتوج العقل او منتوج العلم كما يفعل معلمو الفن الاسلامي لا يعني ابدا ولا بأي معني كان أن الفن عقلاني وينبغي الحفاظ عليه خلواً من الحدس الروحي، بل العكس تماما، لأن العقل في هذه الحال لا يشل الإلهام بل انه يمهد السبيل باتجاه الجمال الفردي.ان الفارق الذي يفصل الفن التجريدي للاسلام ويميزه عن الفن التجريدي الحديث يمكن ان تكون قد تمت الاشارة اليه هنا. يجد الحديثون في تجريداتهم استجابة اكثر فورية واكثر طلاقة ابدا واكثر فردانية وفقا للدوافع اللاعقلانية الآتية عن طريق اللاوعي. بالنسبة للفنان المسلم، ان الفن التجريدي هو تعبير لقانون يظهر بقدر ما يمكن من المباشرة الوحدة في التعددية. ان كاتب هذه السطور القوي في خبرته بالنحت الاوروبي بحث مرة أن يأخذه احد معلمي التزيين في الشمال الغربي لافريقيا ـ اي المغرب ـ مساعدا له. ماذا ستفعل؟ قال له المعلم: ان كان عليك تزيين جدار مسطح كهذا؟ سأضع تصميما من شجيرات الكرمة وأملأ تعرجاتها والتواءاتها برسومات لغزلان وأرانب. الغزلان والأرانب وحيوانات اخري موجودة في كل مكان في الطبيعة . اجاب العربي: لماذا تعيد رسمها اذن. ـ اي رسم هذه الحيوانات ـ ؟ لكن ان ترسم ثلاث اشكال هندسية لورود ـ واحد من هذه الاشكال باحد عشرة جزءاً واثنان بثمانية وان تصلهم في الأعلي بطريقة بحيث تملأ هذا الفضاء، تماما. هذا هو الفن . ويمكن القول ايضا ـ وهذا قد تم توكيده من قبل معلمين اسلاميين ـ بأن قوام الفن هو صياغة الموضوعات بطريقة متطابقة مع طبيعتها، لأن لهذه الطبيعة مضمونا فعليا من الجمال لكونه آتيا من الله . وكل ما علي الانسان فعله هو ان يطلق هذا الجمال ليجعله مرئيا. وفقاً للمفهوم الاسلامي الأكثر عمومية ليس الفن اكثر من نهج في تعظيم المادة وتشريفها. ہہہان المبدأ الذي يطالب بأن علي الفن ان يتوافق مع القوانين المتأصلة في الاشياء التي يتعامل معها ليس أقل احتراماً في الفنون الصغري كما في صناعة البساط علي سبيل المثال، وهي الحرفة الخاصة بالعالم الاسلامي. فالتقيد بالاشكال الهندسية وحدها الوفية للسطح المستوي للتكوين وغياب الصور المدعوة كما ينبغي صورا قد اثبت أنه ليس عائقاً للخصب الفني، لا بل العكس هو الصحيح، اذ ان كل قطعة ـ ما عدا هذا الكم الكبير المنتج للسوق الاوروبية بشكل خاص ـ من هذه القطع تعبر عن بهجة خلاقة.ان تقنية البساط المنسوج عقدا ربما هي ذات اصل بدوي بالضبط. فالبساط هو الاساس الحقيقي للبدو، وفي البسط البدوية الاصل باستطاعة الانسان العثور علي العمل الأكثر كمالا والأكثر اصالة. ان البسط ذات المنشأ المديني غالباً ما تظهر بعضا من التنميق المصطنع الذي يجرد الاشكال والألوان من قوتها الفورية وايقاعها. ان فن صناعة البساط اليدوي يفضل تكرار الاشكال الهندسية المرسومة والمحددة بقوة، ويفضل كذلك التناوبات المفاجئة للتناظر المائل. تفضيلات مماثلة تكاد ان تكون تفضيلات في كل عموم الفن الاسلامي، وهو امر ذو مغزي فيما يخص الروح التي تعلن عنها هذه التفضيلات، فالذهنية الاسلامية تظهر علاقة علي المستوي الروحي ما تظهره الذهنية البدوية علي المستوي السايكولوجي: احساس حاد بهشاشة العالم وايجاز للفكر والفعل وسجية للايقاع، وكلها سجايا وخصائص بدوية.عندما فتح واحد من الجيوش الاسلامية الاولي فارس، وجد في القاعة الملكية العظيمة لستيسيفون سجادة ربيع هائلة الحجم بتزيينات من الذهب والفضة. لقد اخذت مع غنائم اخري الي المدينة حيث جري قصها بكل بساطة الي العديد من القطع بقدر ما وجد من اصحاب قدامي للنبي.ان هذا الفعل الظاهر من تخريب للنفائس لم يكن متطابقا مع قواعد الحرب فقط كما اعلنها القرآن، بل قد اعطي تعبيراً ايضا للشك العميق الذي شعر به المسلمون تجاه كل عمل للانسان الذي يبحث عن ان يكون مطلق الكمال او خالدا. سجادة ستيسيفون كانت قد صورت وعلي نحو من الصدفة الفردوس الأرضي، وتقسيمها بين رفاق النبي لم يكن خالياً من المعني الروحي.ينبغي القول ايضا بأنه رغم ان عالم الاسلام والذي كان متماداً الي حد ما مع الامبراطورية القديمة للاسكندر، ويتضمن العديد من الشعوب ذات التاريخ الحضري الطويل، ومع ذلك فان الامواج الإثنية (العرقية) التي جددت دوريا حياة هذه الشعوب وفرضت عليها سيطرتها وتفضيلاتها، قد كانت ذات اصول بدوية دائما، العرب والسلاجقة والاتراك والبربر والمغول. من وجهة عمومية فان الاسلام ينضم بصعوبة مع ترسيخ مديني وبورجوازي.آثار الذهنية البدوية يمكن العثور عليها في العمارة الاسلامية حتي، رغم ان العمارة تخص الثقافات الحضرية أولا بأول، ولهذا فان للعناصر البنائية كالأعمدة والاقواس والمداخل بعضا من الاستقلال رغم وحدة الكل: اذ ليس هناك من استمرارية عضوية بين العناصر المتنوعة للبناء، وان صدف وجود حالة من تلافي الرتابة ـ رغم ان الرتابة ليست دائماً بالأمر الذميم ـ فانه لا يجري تجنبها عن طريق التمييز التدريجي لمجموعات عناصر متشابهة بقدر ما يتم ذلك عن طريق تغييرات قاطعة واضحة المعالم. المقرنصات من الجص المعلقة من السطوح الداخلية للاقواس واشكال الارابسك التي تسجّد الجدران تبقي حياً بعضا من ذاكرات الاثاث البدوي بما في ذلك البسط والخيام.ان المسجد البدائي في شكل قاعة فسيحة للصلاة وسقف ممتد افقي بدعائم من أيكة دعائم النخيل يقرب من البيئة البدوية. حتي عمارة مرهفة كعمارة جامع قرطبة بقناطره المنضدة فانها تذكره بأيكة النخيل. اما الضريح ذو القبة وقاعدة مربعة فانه يتوافق في ايجازه للشكل مع الروح البدوية.القاعة الاسلامية للصلاة وعلي خلاف مع الكنيسة او المعبد لا مركز لها تتجه العبادة نحوه، فتجمّع المؤمنين حول مركز والذي يميز المسيحية يمكن رؤيته في زمن الحج الي مكة، فقط في الصلاة الجماعية حول الكعبة. في كل مكان آخر يتجه المؤمنون في صلواتهم نحو ذلك المركز البعيد الخارجي بالنسبة لجدران المسجد.لكن الكعبة ذاتها لا تمثل مركزاً مقدسا يمكن مقارنته بالمذبح المسيحي، ولا تتضمن ايضا اي مركز يمكن ان يكون داعماً مباشرة للعبادة، لكونها فارغة وفراغها يكشف عن ملمح اساسي للموقف الروحي للاسلام. بينما العبادة المسيحية تواقة للتركيز علي مركز محسوس ـ لكون الكلمة المجسدة هي مركز في المكان وفي الزمان معا، وبما ان القربان المقدس لا يقل عن كونه مركزا، فان وعي المسلم للحضور الإلهي قائم علي الشعور باللامحدود، فهو يرفض كل موضعة للمقدس ما عدا الذي يعرض نفسه في شكل فضاء بلا حدود. ومع ذلك فان المخطط المتحد المركز ليس بالأمر الغريب بالنسبة للعمارة الاسلامية، لأن هذا هو مخطط الضريح المسقوف بقبة. ان الطراز البدئي لهذا المخطط قد انوجد في بيزنطة كما انوجد في الفن الاسيوي حيث يرمز الي وحدة السماء والارض، الجسم المستطيل الشكل للبناء متطابقاً مع الأرض، والقبة الكروية مع السماء. تمثل الفن الاسلامي هذا الطراز بينما اختزله فيها الي انقي وأجلي صيغة: ما بين الجسم المكعب والقبة القوطية القوس تقريبا طبل ثماني الاضلاع عادة ما يُدخل. ان الشكل الكامل والواضح علي نحو بارز لمثل هكذا بناء يمكن ان يهيمن علي الفساحة اللامحدودة لمنظر صحراوي كامل. كضريح قديس. انه مركز روحي للعالم حقا.ان النزعة الهندسية التي تؤكد نفسها بقوة كبيرة في الفن الاسلامي تتدفق مباشرة من نوع التأملات الأثيرة للاسلام، والتي هي تجريداً لا اسطورية. فضلا عن ذلك لا يوجد رمز افضل في النظام البصري للتعقيد الداخلي للوحدة. للممر من الوحدة التي لا تتجزأ لـ الوحدة في التعددية او التعددية في الوحدة : من تواليات الاشكال الهندسية المنتظمة المتضمنة في داخل دائرة او من تعددية السطوح المنتظمة المتضمنة داخل كرة.القيمة المعمارية لقبة تستريح علي جسم رباعي والمتصلة بطرق متعددة مختلفة كانت قد تطورت بوفرة في البلدان الاسلامية لآسيا الصغري. لقد اشيد هذا الاسلوب علي فن البناء بالآجر ومنه فان العمارة القوطية بكل تأملاتها الروحية قد تكون قد تلقت بواعثها الأولية. ان احساس الايقاع الفطري المتأصل في الناس البداوة والروح الهندسية وهما القطبان اللذان تحولا الي نظام روحي يحددان الفن الاسلامي بكليته. وجدت الايقاعية الهندسية تعبيرها الأكثر مباشرة في علم العروض العربي الذي وسع تأثيره وصولا للتروبادور الشعراء الجوالة المسيحيين، بينما يخص علم الهندسة التأملي التراث الفيثاغورثي فقد تم أخذه بشكل مباشر من قبل الفن الاسلامي.
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